South Franklin Circle wellness member Bill Cloninger at the National Senior Games

What follows is a recap of South Franklin Circle wellness member Bill Cloninger’s experience at the 2013 National Senior Games, held in Cleveland July 19-August 1.

Bill’s incredible journey to the games started with the wellness team at South Franklin Circle, who designed a training program that helped him lose 100 pounds and improve his blood pressure. 

For more information about South Franklin Circle’s community wellness programs, please call (440) 247-1300, toll free 1-888-574-1906 or click here.

Wednesday, July 24 – Race Day One – 10K Time Trial:

When I pull into the South Mastick Picnic Area parking lot (the race venue) I see that my friend Debby Young  has picked the prefect spot to park our RV we’ve rented that will serve as our home base at the Time Trial Venue.  We have a direct view of the start tent and are right next to the Bike Authority repair tent.  Great job Debby!  My coach Tracey Drews is here from North Carolina.  She’s competing in the women’s cycling events 50-54 age group.  Tracy and I unload a tent canopy and bike rack and set up the warm-up area.

9:30 a.m.-First Rider Off:  The Time Trial start order is by age.  Paul Miller, age 95, from Normal, Illinois is the first racer.  His bib number is #1 (mine is 211).  I watch his start. He is amazing. His pedal action is quick and smooth and he appears to be moving out at a good pace.  What an inspiration!!!  Carol Collins, age 92, starts second.  She is riding a small-wheel bike, but heads out looking strong.  Later when asked what she thought of the 10K (6.2 miles) course, she immediately replied, “It was 20 miles too long!” to laughs all around.

Tracey and I go over the race plan. We go over the bike position tips from the wind tunnel test. Simply put, keep your head down as much as possible.  Each second spent with my head down saves me 10 watts of power need to overcome wind resistance.

At 11:00 a.m. I start my warm-up routine-50 minutes of warm up for a 15 minute race.  I’ve found that at my age it takes a little while to get all my pieces and parts moving together smoothly, so I take the time.  The object is to roll up to the start sweating and ready to go.

Frank Ondus and Rob Lucarelli from South Franklin Circle show up to cheer and support my effort.

I look at the start clock across the way.  It’s time for me to head over.  Put on my helmet and head out.  Tracey reminds me to “have fun.”  I ride down to the start and set my bike in my start gear.  Four guys are in line ahead of me.  I’m ready.  Here we go…

Five…Four…Three…Two…One… and I’m off!  I have a good strong start. I’m feeling strong. Concentrate on head position. Past the two-mile mark, I start to feel I’ve gone out to hard, which I did. Just before the Rocky River bridge (2.6 miles in) I hear a race official on a motorcycle shout out “No drafting. Separate!” Craig Manchen, who started 30 seconds after me, has caught up with me and is right behind me riding in my slipstream.  Man-he is fast!  This is a strange feeling- I have not been passed by another racer in the last two years.  It’s a little demoralizing.  OK Bill, buck up and let’s finish this race strong. Make the turn around and head back.  I’ve settled down and am just chugging away.  Pass my 1k-to-go mark, then 500k, over the rise to the finishing straight.  Hear Debby ringing the Swiss Cow Bell.  FINISHED!!

What’s my time?  Don’t know.  I don’t pay attention to time when I ride, just power and cadence.  My official time is 15:13, but there are many complaints that the timing isn’t accurate.  I’m a little disappointed.  It turns out that I’ve placed 17th out of 62 registered.  Considering where I’ve come from this is a terrific result.  I did my best and other guys were just faster.  Craig Manchen, who passed me half way through, finished third overall.  There are guys that are really fast.  I’m close but not there yet.

Now I need to go into my recovery routine: cool down, eat and change into comfortable clothes and compression leggings to speed recovery.  Tomorrow’s a new day.

Thursday, July 25 – Race Day Two – 5K Time Trial: 

Same routine as Wednesday.  I arrive at the Rocky River Reservation at 8:00 a.m.  Debby has the RV parked in the same spot. Parking spaces are coned off.  Great site.  The warm up are is already set up.  This is wonderful.  Tracey arrives and unpacks.  We go over yesterday’s race.  I did go out way too hard and my time suffered for it later in the race.  I need to do a better job of controlling the emotion of the start and the initial adrenalin rush.

Tracey noted that Craig Manchen, who passed me midway through the race, picking up 30 seconds on me, only finished 40 seconds or so faster than me.  That means that he slowed down significantly during the second half of the race when I was going slower.  His race profile was similar to mine, both losing significant time during the second half.

It’s another beautiful day.  At 10:30am a reporter from Longterm Living magazine, stops by to do an interview.  The RV is perfect for this.  At 11:00am I start warming up.  Tracey goes over today’s race plan and reminds me to settle down after the start and then build to the finish.

At the appointed time, I head over to the start.  It’s the same routine.  Today’s race is a just out, with the finish at yesterday’s turnaround spot.  The starter tells me that we can use the whole road.  This means I can ride over to the far left of the road in the left hand curves, and to the far right hand side on the right hand curve, making the course slightly shorter.  This is different than I have practiced, I’ll try to take advantage of it.  However, it also means I’ll need to look up more, losing a little aero dynamic advantage of a low head position.

The count down and I’m off.  Good strong start, better that yesterday.  I hear Debby’s bell as I charge past.  Now settle down and ride the plan.  At one mile, I hit my numbers (power and cadence).  This is fun taking the inside of the curves, straightening out the course.  I feel like I’m flying down the road.  This is really fun.  Pass the 1K to go marking on the pavement.  Then on the Rocky River bridge Craig Manchen passes me again, at 500 meters to go.  He is REALLY FAST!  I cross the finish line just a few seconds behind him, which means he beat me by 33 or 34 seconds.  On the ride back to the start, I chat with him, congratulating him on a great race.  He says his time was 6:02 (super fast – more than 30 mph) which would make my time 6:36 or so.  This can’t be right.  My personal best is 7:00 on a 5K.  I admit I did well today, but not in the 6:30s.

My official time is recorded at 6:15.  This is bogus.  There is a significant timing problem.  But we all feel that our relative placement is accurate, the times are fiction.  One racer had an official time of 5:04 which is a Tour De France Time Trial class time.  No way Jose!

I placed 15th out of 62 registered, in the top 25%.  No bad for a guy that was 100 lbs. overweight and badly out of shape just 3 years ago.

After her race, Tracey reviews the data file from my Bike computer.  According to my computer my race time was 7:22, equal to my best time this year, but not 6:15.  I rode the race we planned and it was a very good result.

We celebrate the end of this great adventure with a champagne toast and much talk of “getting ’em next time”–Minneapolis in 2015.

Read Bill’s parting thoughts on his journey along The Road to the National Senior Games

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