Saturday, November 13, 2010

Back to Work

Monday the 8th of November was my first day at work in 4 months and 1 week. That's 130 days of not wearing a pager. The time off was valuable in many ways and has provided memories that will last the rest of my life. I had 2 major goals in taking the time off; prepare for the US National and World Championships and, just as important, to see if I could not work. Historically, I have not done well with down time. I probably have some element of ADD. To my surprise, I had no problem whatsoever not working. At no time did I feel antsy about not doing something. I did not feel guilty for not accomplishing something. Trish and I stayed busy with lots of travel and obviously exercising, but still, there were times with nothing to do. I loved it. I read 6 books, had time to connect with friends and spent lots of time with my dad. All in all, a spectacular time off.

My first day back to work was a bit of a shock. I was a little out of sync and inefficient. My first operation, a pacemaker, happened on day 2. It all came back very quickly. I guess after 30 years of doing something it is fairly ingrained. By weeks end I had seen nearly 100 patients and done 6 operative procedures. Friday night after seeing my last patient I had the familiar deep fatigue I had not felt for 130 days but have known far too many times in my career. Despite that, I am happy to be back at work. It is a gift to feel wanted and appreciated and I felt both on my return. I felt it from patients and colleagues, alike.

My training will drop off substantially over the next month but will then pick up. I will start to train for the Argus Cycle Tour, a 110 KM road race in CapeTown, South Africa in early March, 2011. I have high hopes of winning my age group. Hopefully, things at work will stay at a dull roar and allow for quality training.

This may be the last entry in this blog for a while. I don't want to bore people with the mundane happenings of my work life. Looking at the stats section of the blog, I note that the blog has been looked at more than 1500 times. Truly amazing. Someone from Germany read it this week. How does that happen? I don't know anyone in Germany. Anyway, to all of you who have read along, sent good wishes and just been there with me throughout this epic, I am truly appreciative.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Friday, November 5, 2010

Heading Home

Driving in Lisbon is notoriously difficult. A week ago, Mike Brodsky, a good friend from internship and residency called me from Lisbon. He had been in Anadia watching my races and then headed south with his son, Merrick, to Lisbon. Shortly after arriving there he was arrested for making an ilegal left turn. The cop spoke no English and he, no Portugese. Ultimately, he was let go. He phoned me to warn me. Armed with that info and that of our guide books advising not to drive in the city, we parked the car at the hotel on our arrival and took cabs for the rest of the week. I could write a short book on Lisbon. Fascinating city with great views and culture. Spent an enchanting morning in the Gulbenkian museum, a wonderful private collection of art. This vies with the Borghese museum in Rome as my all-time favorite.

But what I want to tell you about is returning our car after dropping off family and luggage at the airport. I was alone, fortunately, and had 2 + hours till our flight for London left. The drop off point for the car was no more than 1/2 mile from the airport. Though I had the paper explaining (in English) how to get there, I could not fine the place. Time is running out. I have made the circuit around the departure area in the airport 3 times. I stopped a cabbie in the middle of the street to ask directions and finally a cop who was giving some poor guy a ticket. He explained I needed to go across a bridge and then head back as I was on the wrong side of the highway. So, I finally find the place and am now 45 minutes later than I had arranged. The person to whom I was to give the keys and title to the car (This was officially my car as I had leased it) had already left and gone home. I left the keys and documents with the doorman and asked him how I get back to the airport. I understood his universal shoulder shrug and headed out on foot. Crossing several major throughways I finally made it to the departure area, having sweated through my shirt and sweater. Not a problem. It's only about 24 hours till I get home.

But I've told you about the end without relaying data from the Points Race. The race was Sunday 10/31 at about 2:00 PM. We had gotten to the track early and I felt confident as I had found .25 Euros on the street walking into the velodrome. Maybe confident isn't the right word. I was no longer nervous and was so tired from everything that had gone on before that I decided this was just another race against a bunch of 60 year old guys. I ended up 3rd and got the Bronze medal. It was a good race. Very fast. I could not use my tactic of gaining a lap on everyone as the speed was just under 30 mph for the whole race. No way I could get away. So, I had to sprint for points and was able to eke out 3rd.

Standing on the podium was a thrill. I can't imagine what it would be like to stand there and hear the US national Anthem. Looking out into the crowd of spectators (maybe 40 people) I saw Trish and my Dad and they were beaming. That was really all I needed.

I will be back next year. I learned a huge amount and know what I have to do to win. We'll see what happens.

To all of you who have been reading along and sending your good wishes and Karma I say thank you.

Larry Wolff

Saturday, October 30, 2010


A lot has happened since I last wrote. There really are 2 stories here to tell; the bike racing and the trials of day to day survival here.

I will start with the daily struggle issue. The "villa" ultimately proved too much to handle. On Wednesday night we returned from the track near midnight. The place was ice cold. My father slept with all his clothes on. When I went to the washroom Thursday morning there were a minimum of 30 flies coating the shower curtain, towels and sink. I stripped down to take a shower, but, alas, no water. Someone was taking a shower downstairs. So, no shower. I had not really rested since arriving in Portugal. Between the 2 1/2 hours of driving daily back and forth between the residence and the track and the fact that the villa was uninhabitable I had gotten virtually no rest. I was worried about my father. He does not complain but I knew he was miserable. The situation was untenable.
Speaking of the velodrome, yesterday racing had to be temporarily suspended as they wiped water from multiple area of the track. It was raining and the roof leaks. Badly. Water was dripping into large puddles in the spectator seats and on to the track itself. I got some good pictures of the crew climbing up the banking of the track on ladders trying to wipe it down and dry it. The track is visually beautiful but the thin veneer hides a crumbling infrastructure.

So you get the idea of how difficult it is to concentrate on racing and concentration is key to doing well.

On Wednesday AM we had qualifying heats for the 2 KM pursuit, my main event. There were 11 riders in my category so one rider would ride alone. Of course, that turned out to be me. I was in the first heat with no one to ride against. This can be good if one does not have to pass the other rider, but, may also be bad for I had no one to race against. Anyway, I had a reasonable ride and posted the 3rd fastest time at 2:35.581. I was out of 1st place by 0.4 seconds.

The final rides happened that night some 12 hours after the AM ride. The men with the 2 fastest times rode against each other for gold and silver and I rode against the 4th fastest time for the bronze medal. I lost my race by 0.9 seconds to David Mulica which put me in 4th and out of the medals. As it turned out, both of our times were faster than the gold and silver times ridden that night. So it goes. A word about David Mulica: He rode on the 1972 US Olympic cycling team and competed in the olympics. Today he is an MD in Denver, Colorado practicing with Kaiser. He is a true gentleman and has become a friend. If I had to lose I am glad it was he I lost to.

Thursday night was the scratch race. This is a 20 lap drag race. First one across the line wins. For the first 18 laps I was never worse than 3rd place. I did a lot of work. Way too much trying to break away. With 2 laps to go the field surged ahead and I could not respond. I sat up with half a lap to go and soft pedaled in coming in last. It was OK, I learned alot.

Tomorrow night is the Points race. I must say I do not have the same level of enthusiasm I had a week ago. I am tired and feel a bit defeated. People tell me that one´s first trip to the Worlds is about experience and not to expect too much. I am trying to keep everything in perspective.

Mark Altamirano is a track cyclist living in San Francisco. He is here competing and has been a valuable friend and aide to me. He has helped me warmup and called out my time splits in the pursuit. He does not know how much I appreciate his TLC.

Portugal is a physically beautiful country producing wonderful wines and people. The culture is rich while the country is very poor. I don´t mind leaving my hard earned greenbacks here. Having said that, what I am shelling out for fuel is mind boggling.

Hopefully the next entry will have some humor and more upbeat news.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


We arrived in Lisbon after 2 pleasant flights from San Francisco to London and then on to Lisbon. Once here we picked up a brand new Peugot with just 3 KM on the odometer. We had to get diesel as the tank was empty. I figured I'd fill it up so started with 20 Euros. That of course bought me about 15 liters which brought the gauge up about 1/4. Holy mackeral. I did the math: Fuel costs 1.20 Euros/litre which is about $7.20 /gallon. That was surprise #1.. Surprise # 2 was the distance our "villa" is from the velodrome. Over 100 KM, taking about 1 1/4 hour each way. I guess that would be OK if our "villa" had heat and toilet paper, which, of course, it does not. My father said we are camping out. I told him at least we have indoor plumbing but he relayed that he needed a stick to get the TP to go down. It's a long story of how we ended up here at the villa, but that's for a later time.

Surprise #3... A cup of coffee here is about one tablespoon full. It's tasty and strong, but not enough.

The track is the most beuatiful I have ever seen. Silky smooth and nuclear fast.

Today we had our 500 meter time trial. This is not my event but I am pleased with my performance. My goals were to not hurt my back and to get a PR. My start was straight and without my usual wobble. The first turn was fine. The second saw me moving up track out of the sprinter's lane. Twice I nearly lost control of the bike. In the end, my time was 40.485 seconds, good enough for 11th place (of 19) and 0.7 seconds faster than my best time to date. The race was won by fellow countryman Reid Schwarz in a blistering 36.97 seconds. He has spent the last 7 years with a starting coach helping him perfect his start. In this race, the start really is key. Team-mate Mark Rodamaker took the silver

Tomorrow is my big event; the 2 KM individual pursuit. I am as trained as I can be, so we'll see what happens. There are some really fast guys here. I am happy to be here rubbing elbows with these elite athletes and especially glad to have my dad here to help keep things humorous.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Friday, October 22, 2010


It's 4:00 PM and we are sitting in the British Airways lounge awaiting boarding of our flight to London then to Lisbon. The car was packed getting here. I alone have 5 bags, not including my carry on. I strapped both my road bike and track bike (both boxed) to the top of the car driving from Sacramento to San Francisco. Ten years ago I took a 2 week trip to Africa and took only a carry on. This bike racing makes for lots of schlepping.

So far everything has gone smoothly. Lots to "worry about" still. Will the bikes and gear make it in one piece? Will the rental car be large enough for all our stuff? How far is our residence from the track? Will there be enough time to warm up etc., etc., etc. And then, how will I feel with jet travel, different food and, the harshest of all hardships, a different pillow.

I want to win in Portugal. After all, that is the stated reason for a 4 month sabbatical from work and all the financial hit that entails,; not to mention , hundreds of hours training. As I sip (gulp) my Merlot (it's free) my concerns seem to be melting away. They will be gone 15 minutes after I take a Lunesta (sleeper) on the plane.

Hopefully I will have internet connection in Portugal. I may have to find a Starbucks to get on line.

To those of you reading this and wishing me good luck, a giant Thank You. I will try and make you all proud.

Larry Wolff

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Such a Fan

With the fog rolling in, covering the field at El Camino High School in South San Francisco on a cold night in early November, 1967, the bleachers were filling with student-body, family and friends anxious for the football showdown between the El Camino Colts and my team, the Westmoor Rams. This was a big deal; our very first night game and a league game which had consequence on the final league standings.

As the starting right defensive end I had a clear shot at the quarterback as he dropped back to pass, deep in his own territory. I lowered my shoulder into him forcing a fumble which we recovered. The stands erupted with a roar that cut through the blanket of heavy, wet air. Only one voice was clear and distinct and heard above all others. That was the German-accented voice of my father yelling "LARRY!!!". It made me smile then as it still does today.

The significance of that play and that night is best appreciated in the context of what transpired the preceeding 3 years. As a freshman, sophomore and junior in high school I was a second string bench warmer despite playing my heart out and getting the tar knocked out of me daily at practice. Those years I saw little to no playing time on game day. Despite that, my father did not miss a single game. Ever. He even came to some of our practices. He knew how painful it was for me to do so much work and not be able to play. He remained and remains supportive. Always.

So we fast forward 43 years as we prepare to leave for Portugal and the Master's World Track Cycling Championship. My dad and his wife are accompanying Trish and me to Portugal and he will be in the stands as I race and I can already hear him yelling.

Such a fan.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making Plans

Someone said "Life is what happens while you are busy making plans."

We leave for Portugal in 2 weeks and there are more than 100 things that must be done before we step on the plane. I have started a list of the myriad objects I will take along. Thermarest pad to stretch and relax on at the track, 2 sets of cleated cycling shoes, 2 helmets, 4 skinsuits, stationary trainer, etc., etc. I need a haircut. Prescription meds need to be filled and picked up. All of this happens against the backdrop of daily living and all of it's demands as well as training, which has reached a fever-pitch. Thank God for Trish who keeps all of this happening with some semblence of order and calm.

Underlying and ever-present in all this is anticipation. I have learned through life that anticipation is often the very best part of anything. As a five year old, one month before our family vacation to Lake Tahoe, my father made me a calender. Each day we would put an X through the day and on the last day when we would leave for Tahoe the calender had a little pocket which when opened revealed a one dollar bill. In 1955 one dollar easily represented 10% of a daily wage. I still see that dollar bill and smile. The anticipation of the week-long vacation and what I could do with that dollar was beyond exciting.

I anticipate the upcoming month with mixed emotions. I am anxious to spend 2 weeks with my family and celebrate my Dad's 85th birthday while in Portugal. I look forward to visiting a new country for us and all the experiences that entails. The cycling season is a long one and I relish being able to go out for a bike ride with no specific training plan in mind; just to go out for the sheer joy of riding. At the end of the month however, I return to work and face the politics and bureaucracy of a rapidly changing hospital enviornment. On the other hand, there are many, many patients I have missed and whom I look forward to seeing.

So, while I am busy making all these plans, I am trying to savor every minute of every day. All of this will pass and become a memory. My father has always told me "Don't wish it away." I know he is right.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We leave for Portugal one month from today. That means three more weeks of hard training before my taper begins. My training involves riding my bike(s) 2-3 hours per day at variable intensity levels and with variable amounts of climbing. Without having taken a leave from my practice, I could not do this. For that leave to have occurred I needed backup and am so fortunate to have 3 colleagues, Gearoid Oneill, Arash Aryana and Peter Jurisich who stepped up, without complaint, and covered my practice. I am forever indebted to them or at least until they want me to take more call.

The value of rest to a training athlete cannot be over-emphasized. Especially as we age, our bodies need more time to recover from the trauma of training allowing for new muscle fiber developement and increased strength. The rest I am able to enjoy by not having the stress of work allows me to train that much harder. Training is a lonely endeavor and is obviously necessary for improvement.

My goal when I started training for the world championship a year ago was to not only win the worlds, but,more importantly, give myself the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the process of training. That goal has been realized and I feel very lucky to have the support system and the physical abilities that have allowed that to happen.

So, while it may sound like I am complaining about the solitary hours I spend spinning the pedals, I am not. Nonetheless, training at times takes me to my aerobic and muscular limits. In the end, I guess that's the point.

More to come from Portugal.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Race to Discover

One of the nice things about writing a blog is that one can write whatever they want about anything they want. The thread of this blog to date has concerned itself with my bicycle racing and the journey to the World Championship in Anadia, Portugal, to be held the last week of October, 2010. Todays installment is a digression and deals with a question I have asked myself many times over the years. The question is why do I do what I do?

Until my knees went bad about 5 years ago, I ran (slowly) marathons and climbed a few big mountains. People would ask, "Why do you do this?" My standard answer was "I don't know." The truth of the matter was that I never seriously asked myself the question; it seemed too much work to try and figure out the answer.

In April of 2008 I rode in the Sea Otter Classic road race, a highly competitive 43 mile race through the hills surrounding the Laguna Seca Raceway. This course had lots of climbing with nearly 5,000 feet of vertical gain. I am not a good climber given a suboptimal power to weight ratio (power too low/weight too high). Ascending the final 2.6 mile climb out of Barloy Canyon I was in 7th place and very nearly spent. Pushing upwards I passed 2 riders putting me into 4th place. The first three riders were about 30 seconds ahead and out of sight as the course is circuitous. About 500 meters from the top and the end of the race I saw the shadow of a following rider on my wheel. Though I thought I was at my limit I was able to apply a bit more pressure to the pedals and he quickly dropped back. He "cracked" in cycling parlance. I took 4th in the race and was thrilled.

That night was a sleepless one for me though I was beyond tired. The vision of the chasing rider's shadow falling back reran through my mind like a broken record. Why was I so excited by this? The question haunted me throughout the night. Then, an AhHa moment. An epipheny. The thrill of what had happened had nothing at all to do with the other rider. It had to do only with me. While I thought I was at my limit, there was, in fact, more gas left in the tank. The question of why I compete was answered for me that night. It has nothing to do with bling or accolades from others. It is about discovering what is left in the tank and trying to extract every last bit of whatever. Like the practice of medicine or learning the Talmud, the process of self-discovery is unending and is a reward in itself.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Points Race and More

I tried to write this piece last night but could not get on the internet.
Yesterday (9/4/10) broke sunny and warm with not too much wind. I had a points race scheduled for about 7:30 PM. Trish and I went to see The American, with George Clooney, mostly as a distraction, to escape the heat and to sit down. It worked.

Got to the track and had a good 1 hour warmup. It was just getting dark when the race started. The track is beautifully lit.

The points race is a mass start race. There were 11 of us starting. All the competitors line up along the top rail at the straight away in single file. A whistle blows and we all roll forward and start pedaling. This is a neutral lap; racing has not yet started. When the group is all bunched up after that lap, a gun goes off and the race is underway. In our age group the race is 40 laps long which comes out to 10 KM (250 m track). Only every 10th lap counts. Thus, there are 4 sprints at 30, 20, 10 and 1 lap to go. The first rider across the line at these sprint points gets 5 points. Second place gets 3 points, 3rd place gets 2 points and 4th place gets 1 point. If a rider laps the field he gets 20 bonus points.
What happens between the sprint laps does not count for anything.

Going into this race i knew I had the fastest 2 km time as I had already won that event 2 days earlier. The amount I won by was the thickness of my riding shorts so I knew I was not going to overpower my main competitor, Barry Messmer, from Colorado. Mr. Messmer had a team-mate in the race who was not much slower in the 2k pursuit. I had lots of suggestions before the race on how to do this. I am not a good sprinter. My strength lies in endurance. I knew that I could not let either Colorado guy get away. They individually kept attacking off the front in between the sprint laps. I just stayed on their wheel. I garnered a few points in the first 3 sprints but with 10 laps to go I was in 4th place on points. Typically after a sprint lap riders veer uptrack to rest as the sprint is so exhausting. Just after the 3rd sprint they all went up and i went to the bottom of the track (called the black line, representing the shortest distance around the track). It was now or never. I accelerated and kept going as hard as I could maintain. I had a 15 meter gap by the time Colorado #1 realized what I had done. He was uptrack and boxed in and by the time he could start to chase I had a 30 meter gap. The gap stayed at 30 meters for a couple of laps and then he started to fade back. It took me 8 laps or 2k to finaly catch and lap the field, giving me 20 points and putting me into the lead. I hung with the pack in the last sprint and won the race. Without question, the sweetest victory of my cycling career. Trish told me that people in the stands were standing and yelling for me. I heard and saw none of it. This race takes lots of focus and is painful.

Today we had the 500 meter time trial. I really suck at the 500. Like I said, I am not a good sprinter. I got 7th place. That turned out to be important, however, as there is an award called the Best All Around Rider or BAR. A first place in an event gives the rider 9 points and spots 2 through 8 get lesser points. Anyway, the 2 firsts and one 7th place were enough to get me the BAR in the 60-64 year old group. Got an engraved beer glass for it. Woo Hoo.

Tomorrow Trish and I head home. I am tired. I need to go take a shower. We're going out to dinner and I am going to have more than one drink.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Nationals

Today, 9/1/2010 is my 60th birthday. I always think of my late mother on this day for when I was born it was 103 degrees in San Jose (A/C had not yet been invented) and she labored, for sure. While it is not 103 degrees here in Frisco, Texas it is an unpleasant 95 with near 100% humidity.

Trish and I arrived 2 days ago without incident. Yesterday was terrible. Hot, humid, windy. The track was open for training. After 14 minutes of warming up on the track I heard the unmistakeable, sickening sound of air hissing out of my rear tire. I had punctured. Changing a tubular tire is not like changing a clincher, which takes me about 5 minutes on a bad day. No, a tubular requires a tire that has been pre-strtched and glued, a process taking days to a week. Then the tire is glued on to the wheel. I was lucky to have Mark Rodamaker here. He is a world champion track rider and kenw enough to bring 4 extra tires, ready to go. He replaced the tireand I was good to go. Getting dinner was a major fiasco, taking literally hours. I won't bore you with the details.

Today was a new day. Still ridiculously bad weather, but, what the hell, it's my birthday. Had a light breakfast at the hotel and headed to the track.

Had an excellent warmup for 1 1/4 hour then did my race. I had a wobbly start and because I started on the backstretch immediately hit the headwind. I passed my pursuit man at 6 laps and had to swing very high on the track as he was riding wide. That cost valuable time. I ended up with the national jersey and gold medal, winning overall by 0.065 seconds. That margin of victory I credit to the extra small skin suit John Elgart suggested I wear and lent me. Thank you, John.

A huge debt of gratitude goes to my coach Warren Geissert. He is involved and truly cares and is so much more than a coach. Thank you, Warren

Last and certainly not least the biggest thank you of all. It is reserved for my partner in life, my soul mate, my everything. Those who know Trish know that I "married up." I know it too. She is always there. I am a lucky man.

There is more racing to come later in the week. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Enroute to the World Championship

At the request of multiple friends, this blog has been established to allow them to follow my training for and ultimate racing in the Masters World Track Championship in Anadia, Portugal at the end of October, 2010.
I'm new to blogging and could not have set this up without tons of help from life-long friend Larry Sullivan. He lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon with his wife Risa and cats Penny and Emily.
He is a computer geek, chef, real estate broker and all around great friend. Larry, thanks for your help in doing this.
The race I am training for, the 2 km individual pursuit, takes place on a velodrome, a 250 meter wooden track banked at 43 degrees and covers 2000 meters or 8 laps. This is called "the race of truth" as it pits one rider against the clock. No strategy here. No drafting, etc. Just as fast as one can cover the distance. Doesn't sound like much. 2 km is about 1.2 miles and 2:30 should be good enough to win the world championship. It's harder than it sounds and while there are not a ton of competitors in my age group (60-64 years) they are the best in the world.
My trainig for this started about a year ago under the tutelage of Warren Geissert, my coach and friend. Warren is himself a U.S. National track sprint champion and has an uncanny coaching ability. His style has been to bring me gradually along with faster and harder workouts improving my strength, endurance and lactate tolerance.
August 7 and 8 saw us at the Hellyer velodrome in San Jose for the California State Masters Track Championship. I was fortunate to take gold in the 2 km pursuit and the points race, a different type of race which has a mass start, ie, multiple riders starting on the track at the same time. I will also be doing this race in Portugal as well as the pursuit. I'll explain how the points race works in a later post. I don't want to put people to sleep too early.
August 30 Trish and I leave for Frisco, Texas for the U.S. National Masters Champioship. I'll write more then as an update.
Thanks for reading