The Road to the National Senior Olympics part 4

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.

Bill has graciously agreed to share his road to the National Senior Games with us.  In these first few posts, Bill describes his experiences during a week of cycle training in Brevard, North Carolina this past April.

Part Four:  Assault on the Carolinas

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I’m up early as usual; grab some coffee and a banana from the hotel continental breakfast buffet. Fixed some oatmeal in the microwave for breakfast and started getting ready.  I want to get over to the start area around 8:00 a.m.; parking is going to be an issue.

Now my big dilemma-what to wear? The start will be cold-48 degrees at 9:00 a.m. But by 2:00 p.m. it will be in the low 70s and sunny.  I decide on my cycling tights (I’m afraid of getting cold), my California Death Ride jersey and a jacket.  The California Death Ride is a famous cycling event in the Sierra Nevada Mountains over five alpine passes.  The Assault on the Carolinas is similar in its emphasis on climbing.  The jersey will give me something to talk about.

I arrived at the start area with plenty of time and got a good parking spot.  Met a nice Canadian couple in their 50s who made the trip from Toronto to participate in the ride. We chat and they oblige me by taking my picture as I’m doing a double check on my bike before heading out on the four-to-five-hour ride.

The 65-mile course I’m riding has three main climbs: the Walnut Hollow Road hill which I climbed twice on Tuesday; a climb up to the “Eastern Continental Divide”; and the big climb up to Caesars Head.  My strategy is to conserve as much energy as possible early in the ride so I have something still “in the tank” for the Caesar’s Head climb.

The start is chaotic as I expected.  The safe way to stay out of trouble is to either ride at the front or ride at the back.  I choose to stay back and conserve energy.  Sure enough about 3 miles into the ride, the course makes a sharp right hand turn.  As I pass there are four cyclists off in the ditch on the left.  They didn’t quite make the turn and rode off the road.  I hope they aren’t hurt.  Event staff are there already helping them.

At the base of the first hill, I look up and see the road filled with cyclists. At some points they are five-to-six wide.  Some are walking their bikes up the hill.  I stay to the left and get into my climbing rhythm and chug up the hill.  It seems easier than it did on Tuesday and soon I’m over the top.  The next hill is over the Continental Divide-streams on one side drain into the Atlantic, the other into the Gulf of Mexico.  I stop at the top of this climb and have a passing cyclist take my picture.  Now it’s down into South Carolina and the traverse across to the base of the Caesar’s Head climb.

At the rest stop at the base of the Caesar’s Head climb, I get some more water, eat a Power bar and take off my jacket as it is starting to get warm.  A cyclist comes down the hill and lets the officials at the rest stop know that someone has thrown tacks on the road near the top of the climb and warns us to be careful.  A car is dispatched to get up the hill and swept the road, where the tacks were noted.  On that “cheery” note, I start up the 6.5 mile climb.  My strategy has paid off. I just settle into my climbing rhythm and start motoring up the hill.  In the next 40 minutes I pass about 30 cyclists and no one passes me.  I’m climbing faster than I did on Tuesday.  This is FUN!  I could not have done this without Frank’s help over the off-seasons on strength building and conditioning.

After getting some more water and eating another Power bar, I head downhill back into North Carolina and toward the finish line in Brevard.  I finish feeling strong after four hours and 33 minutes of riding-a respectable time for an old guy!

At the finish area, I grab some food and water and discuss the day’s riding with Tracey.  It was a fun time and I want to do it again next year.

It has been a full week. I feel that I have advanced significantly toward my goal of medaling at the Nationals Senior Games.  There is still a lot of significant work ahead.  But now I know with certainty that I can do this. The goal is within reach.  The plan is in place.  It is now just a matter of doing the work.  As Woody Allen has said “80% of success is simply showing up.”  I intend to show up and do the work.

My first training race is early in May. I will write more as it gets closer.

Read Part 5 of The Road to the National Senior Games

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