Inspiring news and podcast interviews for the athlete in all of us 50+ who wants to stay strong and fit.

Ed Whitlock running in Milton Evergreen Cemetery. Photo Credit Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

 

“The distance runner is mysteriously reconciling the separations of body and mind, of pain and pleasure, of the conscious and the unconscious. He is repairing the rent, and healing the wound in his divided self. He has found a way to make the ordinary extraordinary; the commonplace unique; the everyday eternal.” ― George SheehanRunning & Being: The Total Experience

It is with deep sadness that I read of Ed Whitlock’s death. He died on March 13, just a week after his 86th birthday, and only months after he set his most recent world record, running the Toronto Marathon in 3:56:33. In the process, clocking out miles at a 9 minute per mile pace, he shattered the previous record for men over 85 by more than 28 minutes.

Whitlock was a perennial hero to all of us who run and his ability to obliterate records as he grew older was both inspiring and disconcerting. How he went about doing so well was both mysterious and painfully obvious.

I think everyone gets the inspiring aspects of his accomplishments. He is perhaps most famous for his 2:54:49 marathon at age 73. But what many forget is that over the course of a long, medaled career he set age group records at distances ranging from 800 meters to the half-marathon to the vaunted marathon. His marathon mile splits in his 80s rival my current 5k mile times. It’s deeply humbling. And perplexing. What can we learn from this extraordinary man and his accomplishments?

After college Whitlock did little running due to family, work and an Achilles tendon that was a constant bother. But when he came back into the sport in his 40s he did so in an impressive but oddly unassuming way. He had no coach. He followed no specific training program or regimen. He ate no special diet nor performed any special exercises, stretches, visualizations or took any other esoteric measures to run well.

He raced in 20-year-old shoes and jerseys that seemed to have been lost in the bottom of a closet drawer for decades. He claimed to take no special joy in running, of being in nature. He ran to compete and quickly dismissed ever having experienced a running high. He showed no pretension of exercise induced insight.

I wanted to interview him for The Age Stronger Show and was hoping, as have so many others, for some glimpse into that both ordinary and inexplicable greatness, some way of accessing it and borrowing from his learning and experience in order to infuse my own meager efforts with greater purpose and strength.

From what we can tell whatever secrets he may have possessed were open, transparent and maybe, because of their unappealing ordinariness, too quickly dismissed in a rush to easier antidotes.

We know, for example, that Whitlock was blessed with uncommon but not blinding speed. In college he ran a 4:34 mile so, while he may not have been world-class fast, he commanded much better than average velocity.

But unlike the rest of us, after a long hiatus from running, once he began again his times were extraordinary for his age and continued to improve relative to his unfortunate peers. He ran a 1:20:33 half-marathon at age 68. When he was 75 he clocked an 18:45 5k and ran 44:22 for the 10k at age 82. At age 85 he ran the mile in 7:18:55, setting yet another world record.

To put these accomplishments into perspective it’s worth remembering that in 1908 the world record for the marathon, held by American Johnny Hayes, was 2:55:19. Whitlock bested that time with a 2:52:50 when he was 69. He then set a world record of 2:54:49 at age 73. He’s still the only septuagenarian, at least as far as I know, to have run under three hours in a marathon.

At only 5 foot 7 inches and weighing less than 110 pounds Whitlock was hardly an imposing figure. With his slight built-for-speed frame he hated hills and didn’t like the wind. He loved flat courses.

To train he’d ride his stationary bike for five minutes before walking two blocks to the Milton Evergreen Cemetery where, weather and injuries permitting, he ran for two to three hours a day along lanes abutting historic tombstones. We can only wonder if those ever present reminders of mortality quickened his pace. Each loop took no more than 5 minutes. He didn’t use a stopwatch or count his laps. He just ran for his allotted time. He claimed he didn’t like the drudgery of running yet somehow in workmanlike fashion he ran there day after day slowly increasing his volume until it rivaled the mileage of professional athletes in their 20s and 30s.

We know from extensive physiological workups that he had an extraordinary constitution and that as he aged his body managed to maintain what most of us lose only too fast. His VO2 max of 54 was off the charts for someone in their 80s. His body didn’t shed muscle like his fellow runners, and aches and pains aside, he proved remarkably durable.

He also did not like doctors, which we don’t know but may have contributed to his untimely death from prostate cancer.

If there are lasting lessons from his remarkable life it may be that we all have gifts but they require us, in our own way, to make the most of them. There is no one way to age stronger.

What worked oddly enough for Whitlock would most certainly not work for me. Yet from his life I still draw inspiration. His get it done attitude towards training is motivational and reassuring. We’re reminded that even the best among us need to consistently work hard to achieve. And just knowing he was capable of such magnificent accomplishments at increasing age forces me to let go of preconceptions about what is possible, for myself, and for all of us.

Do you know of an inspiring older athlete who might be good to feature on Age Stronger?

Please let me know in the comments section.

 

 

 

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
Denis Diderot

It is so much more difficult to live with one’s body than with one’s soul. One’s body is so much more exacting: what it won’t have it won’t have, and nothing can make bitter into sweet.
D. H. Lawrence

I spent most of my youngest days growing up in Kansas. I remember little of my education there except the almost endless days of sitting at a tight wooden desk watching the window and what beckoned outside. I do remember one fall day that was dedicated to learning about our state and, while much seemed mundane and only marginally interesting, I was both fascinated and irritated by the state’s motto: Ad astra per aspera.

To the stars through difficulty. What a disappointment. As a motto it didn’t seem particularly inspiring, and why give difficulty such a prominent, assumed role in such an otherwise noble aspiration?

But then, of course, I grew up. Thinking back on that motto I have a new appreciation for not only its sentiments but for its unwavering truth. What I’ve wanted to achieve, whatever distant illumination I might have aspired to, resided across a chasm of difficulty.

I don’t want to belabor this personal disappointment. Many of you have understood it well before I and have had either the wisdom or stern discipline to do what I’ve too often rebelled at undertaking.

Which brings me oddly enough to exercise.

I’ve loved exercising, for sport and pleasure, but mostly for pleasure. I’ve loved long ambling runs on high mountain trails and bike rides that floated across endless plains.

But as I’ve aged those indulgences have come at a higher price. A two-hour run, when I can still attempt it, risks injury and necessitates days of recovery while long bike rides likewise demand a certain amount of preparation, to say nothing of long recovery naps.

The commitment and consistency and the volume of effort needed to sustain even a basic level of athleticism seems to be slipping farther away each day. I’m resigned to that fact, that difficulty.

Yet it seems that within this difficulty itself there is a partial and admittedly temporary solution. According to an increasing amount of research, most recently advanced by the esteemed Mayo Clinic, there is a way of still seeing the starlight. But as you may have suspected that view requires what many will be reluctant to provide.

I’m talking, as you probably guessed, about HIIT, which stands for high intensity interval training. Pronounced ‘hit’ this form of exercise strips activity of all its leisurely affections and lays bare what is required to slow down the processes of aging while dramatically improving physiology and athletic performance.

The rub? Well, it’s not much fun. In fact, it works in direct linear proportion to how willing you are to make it difficult, really difficult. Before you stop reading and hurry off in search of an easier prescription, let me just say there is some good news.

You can gradually increase the difficulty and I can attest with some hard won experience that your body, probably much like mine, is a crazy thing. After some acclimation, which is both wise and necessary, your body, if not your mind, may begin to actually crave this high-spirited if short-lived exuberance. Or, maybe it won’t.

But if you can cajole your body to try, and then tease it to stay with it, magic happens, or at least as close to legal athletic and age reversal magic as we can currently get.

Yesterday I talked with 36 year old Matthew Robinson PhD, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Oregon State University and a former Mayo Clinic researcher. As a Colorado State University undergrad he was a competitive mountain biker who became intrigued with what happens to muscles as they age. “I wanted to have a better understanding of how muscles change and what are some of the metabolic consequences of aging,” he told me.

Teaming up with noted Mayo endocrinologist K. Sreekumaran Nair M.D., PhD, he authored an acclaimed study that recently appeared in Cell Metabolism. You will no doubt be hearing a lot about their findings, which are already making waves in academic and athletic circles. (The New York Times finally woke up to this story after you read about it here first.)

While the gist of the study is fairly straightforward it’s their conclusions which require some parsing, particularly if you aren’t a bio-gerontologist or have a degree in biochemistry.

The researchers assembled 72 non-athletically trained adults and divided them into two age groups, a young group (18-30) and an older group (65-78) with a median age of 69. It’s this older group that we are, of course, most interested in.

Each group took part in one of three different exercise protocols for a 12-week period. One group did strength training with weights, another group did a combined strength-training and cycling regimen and the last group did high intensity cycling.

The high intensity cyclers only worked out for three days a week. After a warm-up they rode hard for four minutes and then had a three minute recovery. They did this four times for a total high-intensity workload of only 16 minutes per workout.

“I was most interested in how muscles renew themselves,” said Robinson. “One of the theories of muscle aging is that as muscles get older their proteins accumulate damage as part of normal cellular processes.” This damage he said is like rust on a car. The big question he wanted to answer is, can intense exercise figuratively remove some of this rust and improve the protein turnover process?

The short answer is yes. But what was most surprising is how much the older group improved and the significance of those improvements. “What was most striking was how robustly the older group responded to the exercise interventions,” said Robinson. Improvements were seen across the board with all three exercise protocols but the high intensity exercisers saw the greatest benefits by far. “We anticipated they would have gains but we thought it would be a blunted response,” he said. Instead the older exercisers had similar gains in a number of variables, mirroring those experienced by the younger people.

This study, as have others, demonstrated that muscles continue to adapt well to exercise. What this study demonstrated is that this improvement can be tied to ribosomal protein enhancement leading to strengthened mitochondrial function. I didn’t understand the significance of that until Robinson explained, “Mitochondia are important contributors to supplying muscular energy. They play an important role in aerobic performance.” Our mitochondria lose their robustness as we age and this loss of functioning contribute to a lack of strength and athletic performance.

In essence, what was discovered is that this kind of training provokes a strong anti-aging response. Consider that for a moment. There are currently no valid, clinically proven anti-aging compounds that you can safely take. None that I’m aware of. But by undertaking a high intensity exercise program you can literally turn back the clock on a number of core metabolic functions.

The older exercisers improved functioning in these areas by 69 percent. According to Robinson this put them, by the end of the study, at the same level as were the 18-30-year olds before they began exercising. “The exercise training was able to normalize mitochondrial function to a younger age. These exercises increased the body’s machinery for making new proteins. And this is very beneficial for aging,” he said. You should also note that the less vigorous exercisers demonstrated far fewer benefits.

Now here’s a scary bit of news. A control group, which did no exercise for 12 weeks was also monitored and the testing was done with such a high degree of clinical accuracy that they could measure how this group had aged during that time. So the saying, use it or lose it, was quite literally true.

The older groups also increased lean muscle mass by nearly a kilogram (2.2 pounds) over this short time period, which is also significant because as you know we start losing muscle mass in our 30s, a process called sarcopenia that accelerates as we age. The gain in muscle was “quite remarkable” according to Robinson.

According to Dr. Nair, combining HIIT training with two or three days of strength training may be an ideal way to slow down the effects of aging.

Coach and author Joe Friel, in his book Fast after 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life, offers similar prescriptions and cites a number of older athletes who have maintained stellar levels of performance, to say nothing of V02max, by incorporating interval training.

What this study does is really two fold. It points to some of the most vital metabolic processes that govern aging and limit athletic performance. It furthers demonstrates how they are affected by intense exercise and it suggests that as athletes we can benefit by increasing our dosage.

The concern, for me and my older friends, is that such intensity may lead to injury. “It’s true that as intensity increases the risk of injury goes up,” says Robinson, “so you really need to consult with your physician before undertaking anything like this.” It’s telling, however, that none of the study participants, who all eased into the training, suffered any injuries. And while intensity is going up, volume, or the amount of total time spent exercising dramatically goes down. That’s where my friends, who not only enjoy being fit, but crave being out for an extended period of time, could get into trouble.

One last thing: The HIIT group saw significant improvements in insulin sensitivity, which could lower diabetes risk and help facilitate weight loss.

So I wonder, if they could create a pill that would do away with the difficulty, would you take it?

Look for new posts every Saturday.

To make sure you don’t miss a podcast or post please consider entering your email address. 

Turns out a number of folks who have listened to the podcasts (thank you, btw) would like to leave iTunes reviews and are not sure how to do that.

So, here are a couple of links that explain the process far better than I could, either in a comment or by email. (p.s. if you know of an even better link/explanation, please let us know.)

From Ontracktips

From Wikihow

It looks like Age Stronger readers who have Macs are not having much difficulty because iTunes is already installed. If you use an iPhone, it’s fairly straightforward. But if you use a PC then when prompted you will want to add iTunes to our listening arsenal.

If you have any additional questions, please let me know in the comments section and thank you again for your perseverance!

Chris Carmichael, 56, out of the saddle and climbing strong. Photo by John Segesta.

Long before Chris Carmichael became Lance Armstrong’s coach and friend he was an accomplished professional cyclist and a successful and sought-after coach.

In 1984 Carmichael made the Olympic Team and in 1986 he was part of the first American team to ride in the Tour de France. And then in 1992 and again in 1996 he was the U.S. Olympic coach.

But it was his association with Lance Armstrong, perhaps the sports’ greatest talent that brought Carmichael to an even larger international stage. As Lance’s coach he played a significant, if at times disputed role in Lance’s success. And when Lance confessed that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs Lance’s reputation and career came to an abrupt if not tragic end.

Carmichael survived those dark times. As a cyclist he was used to bumpy roads and taking spills, sometimes at high speeds. And while there may have been some road burn, like the professional, like the champion he is, he was able to get up and ride strong again.

Today, Carmichael Training Systems is a world-leader in endurance athletic performance development. The company’s coaches are among the best anywhere and its coaching philosophy and methodology are cutting-edge.

If it weren’t, top performers like Greg Daniel, the 2016 U.S. Pro Road Race Champion and Mara Abbott, a 2016 U.S. Cycling Olympian as well as Katerina Nash, a three-time Olympian and World Cyclocross Bronze medalist would not be working with the company.

And let’s not forget client Kaci Lickteig, the 2016 Western States Endurance Run Champion, of one of the toughest and most prestigious ultra’s in the world. Kaci, by the way, was also the 2016 Ultrarunner of the Year.

Craig Alexander the two-time Ironman World Champion was a client. And the list goes on and on.

I first met Chris and interviewed him years ago for a local magazine and it was a privilege to interview him again. The timing was good too. He and co-author Jim Rutberg, an acclaimed coach and one of Carmichael Training Systems early employees, were on the eve of releasing the third edition of The Time Crunched Cyclist.

Well, I just got my copy today and I’ve already poured over the ultra-distance cycling event training programs. I thought I knew what I was doing, (I’m training to do the Triple Bypass) but it looks like I’ve still got a few things to learn.

I’m also signing up for Carmichael’s very generous offer of an essentially free month of world-class coaching. It costs a buck. If you want to give it a try, I mean, for a buck why not? Then here’s the link. The Coupon Code is: STRONGER1

In this interview Chris and I cover a variety of topics from what’s new in The Time Crunched Cyclist to special considerations for recovery by older athletes to some good and disappointing news for people who like to eat, on body weight and performance.

If nothing else, listen to Chris’ harrowing story of being attacked by ‘ponies with teeth’ i.e. two large dogs while out for a mountain bike ride. It’s right at the beginning of the podcast.

As always I really appreciate your listening and support. If you like what you hear please leave a review on iTunes. As a new podcast doing that is a huge, I mean HUGE help in getting the word out.

I’d also love to hear what you think about the site and podcasts. If you have any topics that you’d like covered, or any inspiring athletes, coaches, trainers or researchers you’d like interviewed please let me know, here or on Twitter.

Thanks in advance and remember to help each other age stronger.



Show Notes & Resources

Age Stronger special: one month of Carmichael Training Systems for just $1.00. Use coupon code STRONGER1 (btw in case you are wondering, I don’t receive anything for this recommendation. I’m just happy to do it.)

Being knocked off bike and attacked by ‘ponies with teeth’

Why come out with a new edition of The Time Crunched Cyclist and what’s been updated?

New nutritional information and recipes from cycling chefs Michael Chiarello and Matt Accarrino

New time crunched ultra-cycling distance training plans for events like Leadville 100 and the Breck Epic

Tips for doing an ultra event with just 6 to 8 hours of weekly training and how to deal with time limitations.

How does the Time Crunched Cyclist help athletes who are already doing lactate threshold training?

How can the nutrition plan take you to the next level?

The impact of weight loss, even just 10 pounds, on endurance fitness.

What more to do if you are already eating healthy?

How the ‘time crunched’ approach applies to older athletes

Arrhythmias in older athletes.

Knowing when to call it a day, a good day.

The importance of proper recovery.

Normatech Compression Boots and how they work.

What Chris puts in his homemade recovery drink.

Importance of skin care for older athletes.

Challenges of coming back from injury.

Unavoidable injuries and those we inflict on ourselves.

Exercising while sick.

Robert Marchand, setting a new world record at age 105.

Wait… we’re all going to die?

Choosing to be an athlete as you age.

Professional cyclists pushing the age barrier.

Joop Zoetemelk, winner of the 1985 UCI Road World Championship at age 40.

We’re all athletes, some of us are in training, some of us aren’t.

Thoughts on future performance gains by aging athletes.

Chris’ new bike, the Pinarello F10

What does a time crunched cyclist read? Some of Chris’ current reads: Jim Harrison, Rick Bass, Cormick McCarthy, For inspiration: Bill Walton’s Back from the Dead

Changing his mind about the New England Patriots.

The Lance Armstrong question.

Why drug enforcement won’t truly solve the problem.

To learn more about Chris and his company Carmichael Training Systems

The Mavic Haute Route Rockies

 

Patrick Cox, a confidant of Noble Prize winning scientists and top biotech CEOs.

Patrick Cox calls it flipping the demographic pyramid. And as he explains it, the effect and extraordinary consequences slowly sink in. The western world and parts of the developing world are rapidly aging while birth rates globally are plunging.

Simply put, this means there are fewer young people to support a growing population that is living longer, but not necessarily healthier lives. The costs of providing healthcare to this burgeoning population is threatening to bankrupt governments across the world.

Cox says there is a solution. And it does not involve giving workers time off and paying them to have sex, in the hopes they will sire more young children, like the Swedish town of Övertorneå has recently proposed.

As tempting a solution as that might be, there is a better way according to Cox. A biotech insider and publisher of both a free and an investment-level newsletter, Cox has become one of the most esteemed and respected reporters on the rapidly transforming world of biotech and its implications for aging and population economics.

Over the years Cox has become a confidant of biotech CEOs and Noble Prize-winning scientists. He’s written extensively on what he’s learned for USA Today, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal among others. And he’s been a sought-after guest on programs like CNN’s Crossfire.

In our free roaming conversation Cox explains the rapidly changing global demographic shift and offers a startling fix.

Increase healthspans, he says, so that aging populations can remain healthy and active longer and their societal impact can be mitigated by prolonged productivity.

He also delves into a new class of drugs called rapalogs that you’ll surely be hearing more about in the near future. He talks about the supplements he’s taking and his exercise regime. And he gives us new insights into the powerful benefits of fasting.

Cox was a delight to interview and I hope you enjoy and benefit from the conversation as much as I did.

If you enjoy this episode, please take a moment and give it a rating on iTunes. I know this is a big ask but it really helps to get great guests. And it also makes the show more visible to others who might like to join us in aging stronger. Thanks in advance!



Show Notes & Resources

Use Patrick Cox’s free Tech Digest to keep up-to-date on biotech developments. It’s a great read and an amazing free resource.

Transformational Technology Alert, Patrick Cox’s industry insider’s guide to cutting-edge biotech company and product information. A real value, especially if you are or want to become a biotech investor.

Poem by Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (discussed with Patrick prior to recording of podcast)

Warren Thompson’ Population Problems

The global impact of increasing lifespans and dangerously low and continually decreasing birthrates on the U.S., Japan, Ireland, Singapore, Portugal, most of Scandinavia, Germany and France.

The U.S. experienced it’s lowest fertility rate in history in 2016.

The implication of ‘Peak Babies’ to the developed world.

India’s population is still growing but for only another 15 years or so.

How this affects what economists call the ‘Dependency Ratio’ i.e. how many working people are contributing to the economy versus those considered dependents.

What’s really driving the increase in health care costs?

Why with the Dependency Ratio declining we’re ‘pretty much hosed’ unless we fix this problem.

Why Patrick is skeptical that Trump will be able to increase revenues to offset projected increases in medical costs.

The two-part solution to this problem.

Heritage Foundation predictions that all these systems (Social Security and Medicare) will go bankrupt.

Why social benefit costs are unsustainable and will lead to a national and global fiscal crisis.

The implications of being in the 21st century with a 19th century health care model.

Why treating disease is no longer the best option.

Nir Barzilai, MD at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine

The study of Metformin as an anti-aging compound

Geroprotectors, compounds that delay the onset of age-related disease.

Why drug companies have no economic interest in seeing such studies go forward.

Brian Kennedy at the Buck Institute

Will Metformin show a slowing of biomarkers that represent aging?

Intrestingly, Metformin is not the most effective aging protector known

Promising compounds that not only slow aging but in older animals provide rejuvenation.

The change in how aging is being viewed by bio-gerontologists.

Is aging really non-reversible cellular damage?

How this view among leading scientist has changed.

How systems failures lead to what we call aging.

Rapamycin discovery.

Use of Rapamycin for organ transplants.

How Rapamycin increases healthspan by about 15 percent in animals.

The difference between longevity and healthspan and why this is an important distinction.

What is the goal of biogerontologists?

The role of genes in being what’s called a super-ager.

The cholesteryl ester transfer protein and longevity

How the expression of just one gene can protect from Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other disorders associated with aging.

How this could be a solution to our national health care problems.

Patrick’s grandmother and the trajectory of her health.

Oliver Wendell Holmes poem, The Deacon’s Masterpiece and how it relates to healthspan

Half of all health care expenses are spent at the end stages of life.

How traditional preventative medicine actually raises health care costs.

How geroprotection is different and how it can save health care.

What is on the horizon regarding the use of Rapamycin?

Novartis and what the Buck Institute is doing.

Spinoff Mount Tam Biotechnologies

Getting the benefits of Rapamycin without the side-effects.

Why they are not focusing on anti-aging but are looking at lupus instead.

Hopes for the next FDA chief.

Patrick Cox article in Forbes on how next biotech chief could revolutionize the industry and save the economy.

The FDA candidates

Japan’s move forward for progressive approval for regenerative medicine.

The impact progressive approval could have on how quickly a new drug gets to market.

Why including genetic engineering and not just stem cell research is important.

The 23 year old bio-technology that is restoring spinal injury patients to health.

Dr. Michael West, the father of regenerative medicine.

What happens when you give Rapamycin to an older animal, like the equivalent of a 65-year-old mouse?

The two major coming revolutions: geroprotection and age-reversal.

Salk Institute’s successes at cellular age reversal.

The profound potential social disruption of age reversal.

How quickly will such drugs become available and useful to those of us who are in our 60s or older?

Under appreciated importance of Vitamin D

GrassrootsHealth, a Vitamin D resource service

What is Patrick doing personally to slow down the aging process?

Why he takes Nicotinamide Riboside

The role mitochondria play in aging.

What CoQ10 and Oxaloacetate do in terms of aging

How does Patrick decide on whether to take drugs that are not yet on the market?

Anatabine Citrate, its effect and why it was taken off the market.

Roskamp Institute

Why does Patrick fast?

Dr. Valter Longo’s research on fasting

The fasting mimicking diet

Implications for athletes.

Our two genetic states, feast and famine.

The problem with the ketogenic diet.

What we can learn from evolutionary biology.

How this could work as a co-therapy for cancer patients.

How the fasting mimicking diet differs from intermittent fasting.

The potential impact of a fasting mimicking diet on cancer.

Patrick’s personal dead lift record (set on the day of our interview).

How strength training improves cognition and neurogenesis.

The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 by Dr. Jonathon M. Sullivan

Patrick’s new book: The Methuselah Effect: How the Trend Toward Longevity is Accelerating… And Soon will Turn your World Upside Down

The single biggest potential disruptive effect on human history is not AI, but the possibility of age reversal.

The Buck Institute as a healthspan resource.

Almost everything you learned in college about human biology has been proven wrong.

Why Patrick is a huge advocate of first person shooter video games.

The end of mortality as we know it? And why we need to start thinking about that possibility now.

 

Bob loves running the Garden of the Gods’ hills.

Bob McAndrews, who turned 77 this past November, loves to run up mountains.

He has run up 14,115-foot Pikes Peak literally hundreds of times. Often he’ll hitch-hike down and some of the stories he tells about the tourists who drove him down would make your knees shake.

He’s run the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent 24 times, winning his age group 11 of those times. He has set a number of age group records, one of which still stands.

Bob ran up Mount Washington, one of the toughest climbing events in running, coming in second in his age group. After the age of 60 he posted age group wins on Pikes Peak, La Luz Ascent in Albuquerque, the Vail Hill Climb and Turquoise Lake in Leadville. He’s raced internationally and successfully competed with the world’s best mountain runners.

At 77 he continues to run local races often beating the winners in age groups much younger than him.

Bob has become a mountain running legend.

I’ve known Bob for a long time, ever since my second year in college. And, over the years we’ve shared many a trail and a few races along the way. During his fastest years I shied away from training with Bob (unless he was injured or recovering from some debilitating effort) because his pace and intensity would almost inevitably take me too far out of my body’s comfort zone, leading to injury, occasionally, or more commonly, exhaustion.

But these were small prices to pay for our long talks ranging from world events to the impact of culture on running performance to the latest odd-ball running regimen currently in vogue.

Sometimes our conversations veered to personal or business problems and Bob, with insight and compassion, was a ready listener and thoughtful adviser.

The only topic I studiously avoided was racing. From our very first runs I learned, painfully, that any mention of a past or future race would send our pace skyward and I would soon be in deep oxygen debt while Bob effortlessly continued his racing saga or strategy.

What has made Bob an inspiring friend, not only for me but for a host of local and regional runners, is that he’s a real runner. He’s not just someone who runs. He’s a student of the sport. He can talk intelligently and at length about atrial fibrillation, which has slowed him down, V02 max and what you need to do to increase your lactate threshold. He’s an expert on injury and recovering, which he does spectacularly well.

It’s a real privilege to bring you our conversation on many of these topics on the inaugural edition of The Age Stronger Show.

I hope you find it as enjoyable to listen to as it was to record.

Your comments and feedback are not only welcome and important but are vital in order to make the show better.

Please take a moment (it would be a huge help) and share what you liked most about the show and if you have some encouraging suggestions for improvement, I’d like to hear those too.

If you enjoy this episode, please take a moment and give it a rating on iTunes. I know this is a big ask but it really helps to get great guests. And it also makes the show more visible to others who might like to join us in aging stronger. Thanks in advance!

Below you’ll see an outline of some of the topics we covered and some of the resources mentioned.



Show Notes & Resources

Victor Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning

Triple Crown

History of running at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Atrial fibrillation

Culture, sports and running

Tarahumara runners in Mexico

Running and autoethnography

Running, aging, Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey

Becoming a mountain runner

Dealing with the loss of speed and competitiveness

As an older athlete dealing with injuries and illness

How Bob’s training has changed as he’s gotten older

Bob’s weekly training schedule

The importance of speedwork.

The Pikes Peak Road Runner’s Winter Series, using it to get fit

Cherry Creek Sneak

Staying trim

Thoughts about mortality

The role of running in staying intellectually alive

The effect of having a physiological dependency on running

Inspiring running books by George Sheehan, Amby Burfoot and Joe Friel

Running and culture. The Kenyans, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and U.S. running

cultures.

How Japanese corporate sponsorship helps older runners

How the Pikes Peak Marathon needs to change to accommodate older runners

Peakus Interruptus, quitting at the top

Why he switched to Hoka running shoes

Why use so many different kinds of shoes, including Icebugs and Micro Spikes and how this may help avoid injury

Legacy as a runner

Bob’s running journals and how he uses them

The other dreaded “C” word

Recapturing lost fitness

Hopes for Cherry Creek Sneak and Bolder Boulder

Times he’d like to run and things that can upset the best laid plans

Running the Pikes Peak Marathon Ascent at age 80

How you are your own experiment

Training plans and milestones for upcoming races

Cross-training, strength training. How much he exercises per day

Still running at 90?

How he feels right now

Younger running friends

Enough said. Time to get out for a run

 

Robert Marchand, 105 sets new world record bicycling 14 miles

Robert Marchand, 105, sets new world bicycling record.

The French not only know how to live. Some of them are world-class at aging, both gracefully and vigorously.

On January 5, 2017 Robert Marchand, at the amazing age of 105 set a new world record and demonstrated something even more amazing. As if that were possible. He proved that you can actually improve exercise performance as you age.

This is startling because we’ve all been told, and have indeed experienced, how age slows us down, robs us of muscle, stamina and speed. But it appears that under certain circumstances, and with the right kind of training, the effects of age can be forestalled and even overturned, at least temporarily.

Marchand, after setting the one-hour record when he was 101 underwent a series of tests by Veronique Billat and her exercise science colleagues at the University of Evry-Val d’Essonne in France. Their tests created a benchmark against which they could measure subsequent performances. The results of these fascinating tests and subsequent follow-up were published as Case Studies in Physiology: Maximal Oxygen Consumption and Performance in a Centenarian Cyclist in The Journal of Applied Physiology. Clicking will link you to the abstract. If you are a fitness nerd (like me) you can access the full report via Google Scholar.

So Marchand sets a world record at 101 and then at the age of 103, just two years later, he set another world hour record, averaging 17 miles per hour, a performance improvement of 11 percent.

For those two years he trained 5,000 km per year (about 3,100 miles). About 80 percent of his riding was done at what was referred to as a “light” effort, a 12 on a scale of 1-20 with 20 representing an all-out effort. The rest of the time he trained at a considerably more vigorous pace, a 15 on the same perceived exertion scale. His cadence was measured at a rate of 50 to 70 revolutions per minute.

Over this period his body mass did not change, i.e. he did not gain weight or add muscle yet his VO2max increased by 13 percent. This is a fitness measure commonly thought to steadily decline after the age of 50. Peak power output also increased from 90 to 125 watts, an increase of around 39 percent. This was attributed not so much to his ability to pedal harder but to an increase in maximal pedaling frequency, which he boosted to a range of 69 to 90.

His maximal heart rate of 137 also did not change, which by most theories on aging should have declined. It remained steady while maximal ventilation increased from 57 to 70 liters per minute, an increase of 23 percent. Respiratory frequency increased 8 percent. So it appears the increased amount of intense exercise allowed him to consistently take in more oxygen and at a higher rate.

The scientists were as amazed as anyone to see that it was possible for someone so old to increase performance and VO2max simply by changing training protocol to include higher intensity work.

And for his record on January 5, at the age of 105 he managed to pedal at a pace of 14 miles per hour. I’ve been riding for years and there are many days when I would have been happy to have averaged 14 miles an hour.

After his world record he said he was disappointed with his time and feels that with a little more training he could do better. Spoken with the spirit of a true athlete.

Looking at the photos of him on the track I think one thing that could help is to have a major cycling brand sponsor his effort and get him an actual time trial bike along with some more aerodynamic gear like helmet, etc.

Maybe Marchand is truly a once in a generation phenomenon. But maybe not. There are a number of older, very talented athletes pushing age and performance barriers every year. Marchand may be just the beginning of a new era of human endurance and performance.

 

How will you choose to age?

You’re getting older. We’re all getting older. And you have questions. Important questions about how to navigate these next years, however many we’ve been granted.

Maybe, like me, you are wondering, how can you ensure you are capable and aware and able to actively and vigorously participate in life during this time?

The thing is, I don’t have the answers. I’m not a coach, a psychologist, a scientist or an athletic trainer. I don’t have a program to sell you, a course for you to take or some surefire way of losing weight or staying sexually active forever. I can’t recommend any supplements or trick exercises. None of that.

What I do have is my commitment to finding and engaging with the most informed, the smartest and most inspiring age-focused people in the world. I believe we’re going to need all of these people, all of their wisdom and knowledge, to figure this out.

On this journey I look forward to bringing you the age stronger explorers, the thinkers, the crazies, the ones who are leading the way on this journey. I want to talk with and learn from those who have successfully struggled with what we’re struggling with now.

I’ll be looking across the world for those who can help us be better today and stronger tomorrow.

I do have some little experience doing this sort of investigative work. For the past 15 years I’ve been part of the associate faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership doing Executive Presence research. There I’ve had opportunity to interview some of the world’s top educators, business leaders and many of our nation’s senior military officers. I’ve researched their work and asked them challenging questions about what they do, hope to accomplish and the legacies they yearn to leave.

Before that I was editor of a state-wide sports magazine and then publisher and co-owner of a large regional magazine and book publishing company. We produced monthly magazines and internationally award winning outdoor adventure guides.

So as I think back on it I’ve spent much of my adult life doing research and interviewing people to get at the real story behind the story. I’ve learned not to accept easy answers or be content with overly complex or confusing information.

Now for Age Stronger I want to find those people who can share with us their hard-won knowledge, cutting-edge research and first-hand experience about how to age in a way that maximizes our ability to perform as humans, as parents and grandparents, as athletes, and as conveyors of wisdom gained through personal experience.

I’ll be bringing to Age Stronger my curiosity, my skepticism, and my determination to know more and do more. Hopefully, in that process I can help you avoid the truly stupid, avoidable mistakes—some of which I seem to have made already—as you’ll discover as we get to know each other better.

As I look around I see a world in great flux, filled with often contradictory information about how to age, what we should be doing and what we don’t need to be doing. What foods we should be eating, what exercises we should be doing, on and on.

And the thing is, what little we think we know is constantly shifting. What was thought to be brilliant last year is now believed to be the worst thing you could possibly do. More than ever, and especially if you are acting on this information, you need to be very careful about what you believe and what you choose to do.

Now I know this shaky, changing landscape isn’t for everyone. It’s much easier and popular to have “answers.” We all want a guaranteed program that we can simply follow (although very few of us actually do). It’s so nice and reassuring to have certainty. We all love it. I want that too but with a dash of skepticism.

As much as I might want to believe that any one bit of research or any one finding is true I want to hold that knowledge as conditional wisdom, something that is true for now.

This isn’t religion. It’s a journey, another stage of our lives. And like most true journeys of exploration new things will be popping up and taking us off the path we were on. The maps we’ve held dear and trusted will no longer be enough. Like any other explorer we’ll need to figure out which guides to trust and then we’ll have to deal with the discomfort of finding a new way.

For many years I was a cardio-junkie. I did triathlons, ran mountain races like the Pikes Peak Marathon, rode my bike, raced a bit and enjoyed long tours like the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, Ragbrai, Triple-Bypass and others. But as I’ve gotten older (I’m 63 now) I’ve discovered I need to be doing much more, like mobility exercises. And to my dismay it’s clear I’m losing muscle mass. So I need to be lifting weights. Ok. But how much? How does lifting differ at my age from what a much younger person or older person might need to do? What areas do I need to target and how much do I need to do to meet my athletic and life objectives of not becoming prematurely weak (ok, weaker) and decrepit. I may not know the answer right now. Maybe you do (if so, let’s talk). But I’m determined to find that out and much more.

Another thing: Getting older can be a bit lonely. Friends who run, bike, hike and swim with you drop away for a variety of reasons. Some retire and move to be closer to family. Some retire and move away to play in warmer lands. Some drop out due to illness or injury and most sad are the ones who precede us to that ultimate destination.

So those of us left need to hang together, to encourage and motivate each other. Not just for ourselves but for the generations coming along behind us. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve discovered what a powerful motivator how we live can be for others. Our lives, what we do, ripples out in ways we can scarcely comprehend. Sorry to be so metaphysical but I think that’s true. So we need each other and others need us to take this journey, to age stronger and enjoy a vigorous life longer.

I hope we can take part in this aging stronger journey together. I look forward to your company.