The Road to the National Senior Games Part 7

Bill Cloninger, a wellness center member at South Franklin Circle, will be competing in the National Senior Games this summer in Cleveland. He is competing in the cycling 5K and 10K time trials. 

When Bill joined the SFC wellness center in 2010, he could barely walk a mile without getting winded. With the help of SFC VP of Wellness Frank Ondus and his staff, Bill is 100 pounds lighter and off blood pressure medication. He follows a strength training regime developed just for him, and began cycling.  For more background on Bill and his South Franklin Circle wellness success story click here.

Ohio State Senior Games in Canton June 25 and 26

The Ohio State Senior Games are this week in Canton.  On Tuesday, June 25, the cycling 10K time trial takes place at Marlington High School east of Canton, and the 5K time trial is the following day.  The Games officials say there are 55 participants in this year’s cycling events.  This is slightly less than last year’s games, where I placed sixth and seventh in the 10K and 5K time trials.

These races are a major checkpoint in my training for the National Senior Games.  I’m viewing these races as a “training exercise”–a chance to go through my pre-race routine in a real race day situation.  Since the races are on consecutive days, the same as the Nationals, I will also get a chance to practice my recovery protocol which starts the minute I get off my bike from Tuesday’s race until I arrive at Marlington High School for Wednesday morning’s race.

While it is a training exercise, I still want to do well.  I want to be in the top finishers in my age-group (60-64 years old.)  The primary training purpose of these races is to set a new baseline in terms of pacing my effort over the race distance.  Ideally, I want to be able to finish strong, but be completely spent right after crossing the finish line.  We are currently working on a progressive pacing plan that gradually increases my effort over the course, so with each mile I get faster.  These races give us an opportunity to test our race plan and help determine the focus of my last four weeks of training.

Tuesday, June 25 – 10K Time Trial:

I get up at 5:00 a.m., have breakfast, and do some stretching to wake-up and get moving.  I arrive at Marlington High School at 7:30, and drive the 10K course, mentally rehearsing the race, visualizing my racing line and going over race tactics.

I check in at race headquarters, get my race packet and see that my start time is at 9:19.  In this time trial each racer will start at one minute intervals and race against the clock.  I head over to the high school parking lot, unload my equipment, and set up my pre-race area.  Taking my time, I check out my bike, making sure it is just the way I want it.  Then at 8:30, I start my 40-minute warm routine on the bike which is mounted on a trainer.  Then I head over to the starting queue.  I want to arrive at the start still warm and sweating from my warm-up.  I drink lots of water to make sure I’m well hydrated.  This is a short 15-to-16-minute race at top speed, so I will not have water with me.  This morning it is HOT & HUMID, more typical of Florida than Northeast Ohio.

During my warm up, several fellow racers I’ve met over the last year or so come by to chat.  They are complaining about the headwind.  For the first kilometer or so this morning’s race is straight into a 12-to-15-kt headwind.  All we can do is grin and bear it. We wish each other good luck and a safe race.

I head over to the starting queue right on time.  Once there, it’s all about taking deep breaths and relaxing.  The racer in front of me is off.  My bike is in the right gear to start.  The starter is counting down… 5…4…3…2…1 and I’m off sprinting.  It was a good string start.

I settle down in my aero-position and focus on riding the race as planned.  The key today is not to go out too strong as there are two tough hills in the second half of the course.  I pass the racer that started in front of me at about one third of the way down the course.  I stay focused and am hitting the cadence and power wattage numbers in my race plan. At two kilometers to go, I bump up my effort and charge up the long hill before the last flat 700 meters.  Once on the finishing flat, I sprint to the finish line.  My time is 15:22–much faster than I thought.  Going into the race, with the headwind and the hills I was anticipating a time closer to 16 minutes.

I’m very pleased. I rode my race as planned and had plenty of “gas” left to finish strong.  I’ll have to wait for the result ranking.

The results are posted. I finished third and win a bronze medal.

I was 20 seconds out of first. At the speeds we were traveling that equates to about 100 ft difference (over 6.2 miles) if we had started together, instead of staggered.  It was a good race.  We have good data.  I learned a lot.  Felt good and I figure I’m right on track for the Nationals at the end of July.

Now home and rest up and recover for tomorrow’s 5K time trial.

After a nap, I head over to South Franklin Circle.  Part of my recovery routine is to go through the SPY routine (Stretching/Pilates/Yoga) that Michelle Kalinyak (former SFC Wellness professional) put together for me.  This counter acts the natural shortening of muscle fibers that occurs after strenuous exercise and helps restore flexibility, balance and overall wellness.

Wednesday, June 26 – 5K Time Trial:

Severe thunderstorms came through the area overnight.  This morning the skies are gray and the roads are wet.  As I drive to Marlington High School, it starts raining.  Wet roads and skinny tires are not a good mix.  The organizers have told us that the race will go on in the rain, but will be cancelled if there is lightening in the area during race time.  I hope it clears.

I arrive at check in and find that they do not have me listed on today’s start list.  It is a clerical error on their part. They can’t slot me into the “normal” start position I should have had for reasons sensible to them but unfathomable to me.  I will race last, starting 61 minutes after the start of the race, the last racer of the time trial.  I will be starting right after the 70 and older women racers start.

It is still raining, lightly, and I wait in the car…

After waiting a bit, I start my warm up routine on my trainer right next to the time trial course.  This way I can watch my fellow racers finish as I’m warming up.  Most of the way through my warm up an older racer (I guess 80s) stops by and asks me why I use a trainer instead of going out on the road.  I tell him that the trainer enables me to have a better and more focused warm up. Going out on the road is more hit or miss.  He is also competing at the Nationals and wants to use a trainer because once the race starts he doesn’t think he can get out on the road as it will be closed for the race.  The Nationals starting time will span over 6 hours with close to 300 racers participating. Using a trainer to warm up is essential at the Nationals.

The rain stops…

I finish my warm up and head over to the start queue.  The head starter gently warns me not to ride to close to ladies in front of me, as I will surely pass many of them, and “don’t scare them” as you go past.  With those words of caution, I get ready to start my race.

5…4…3…2…1… and I’m off. Within 700 yards I pass the lady racer who started a minute before me.  In the next mile or so I pass two others.   All in all I passed five racers who started in front of me.  I finish with a time of 7:58.  That was good enough for second place on the day and a Silver medal in the 5K Time Trial, to go with the Bronze medal for the 10K Time Trial won yesterday.

I later find out that I’m the only racer in my age group to win medals in both time trials.  It was a good State Games for me.  And as important, we have good data from which to finalize the Nationals plan.

Read Part 8 of The Road to the National Senior Games

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