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.