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