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.