Functional Age versus Actual Age

Functional Age is the relative age of how a person looks, acts, thinks, feels, and performs compared to their Actual Age. Everyone knows people that appear and act older than their actual age, as well as some that seem younger than their actual age. Actual Age cannot be changed, but Functional Age can be changed. Pushing your RESET button and deciding to make the shift in your attitude and fitness level are the primary tools for reducing Functional Age. Younger thinking and performance usually follow the shift in attitude and fitness. As hard as I find it to believe and admit, I will be turning 60 in 2015. To make a statement about Functional Age versus Actual Age is relative to the attitude, fitness, mindset, and performance, I decided to take up mountain bike racing in 2015. A few months ago, I was challenged, encouraged, and recruited by team director, Weston Wheat, to join the Wild Rockies Race Team to race in mountain bike endurance races. Accepting the challenge meant committing to training and racing. Mountain bike racing had been on my LEAP list for several years, but had never been a priority. Training started in January along with entering several races.

Race and Event Schedule

After committing to do join the Wild Rockies race team, I looked at available endurance races / events that I could schedule, allowing me to compete about once a month, April through October. Listed below are the events I have committed to, and registered for in 2015:

  • April 11: Barking Spider Cross Country Race at Reynolds Creek near Murphy, ID; sponsored by the Wild Rockies Race Series.
    • The Barking Spider is a cross-country event not an endurance event. Since I have never raced, and it is one of the early races in the season, I thought it would be a good way to get some racing event exposure.
  • May 16: Boise to Stanley, ID; sponsored by the Boise Aeros.
    • This is road bike event to be used as training. The distance is 130 miles with approximately 9,700 feet of vertical climbing, which makes it a great training ride.
  • June 6: Knobby 9 to 5 in McCall, ID; sponsored by Knobby Tire Race Series.
    • The race lasts for eight hours, between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Winners are determined by who can complete the most laps during the eight hours. Depending on the course difficulty, I hope to complete between 70 and 100 miles in the allotted eight hours.
  • July l8: Tahoe Trail 100 in Lake Tahoe, CA; sponsored by the Leadville Series.
    • This is actually a 100K race, which equates to about 60 miles. There are two things that make this race attractive: the date is about 30 days before the Leadville 100 race; it is a qualifying race for the Leadville 100, so a good finish will allow me to move up in the starting order at the Leadville 100.
  • July 25: 4 Summit Challenge, Cascade, ID.
    • This is a road bike fundraising event that used as training. The challenge covers 74 miles and a lot of vertical feet, making it another great training event for the Leadville 100.
  • August 15: Leadville 100, Leadville Colorado; sponsored by the Leadville Series.
    • There are three significant challenges to the Leadville 100. First, it is 100 miles on a mountain bike with strict time cutoffs if you want to complete the race. Second, there is approximately 13,000 feet of climbing. Third, this race takes place at high altitude. The lowest elevation on the course is approximately 9,700 feet above sea level; the highest altitude is Columbine Mine at approximately 12, 600 feet above sea level.
  • September 9: Smoke “n” Fire 400, Boise, ID.
    • This is an ‘underground’ race without sponsors or awards. It is a personal challenge event that I dropped out of last year due to a mechanical malfunction. (See Blog Series here). To date it is the hardest physical challenge I have done. The race covers 424 miles with 40,000 vertical feet of climbing while carrying an extra 25-30 pounds of equipment, food, and water on the bike.
  • October 9-11: Moab Rocks, Moab, Utah; sponsored by TransRockies Series.
    • This is a three-day stage race covering different routes in the world-famous mountain bike mecca of Moab, UT.

First Race

The Barking Spider Cross Country Mountain Bike Race, a Wild Rockies Race Event, was held at Reynolds Creek, Idaho, nestled between the Snake River and the Owhyee Mountains. I had first-time and race day “fluttters” rolled together as I prepared for the start of the race. There are three distances for the race based on which group you register with. Category 3 is the beginner class, and they do one lap on the course which is between 9 and 10 miles long. Category 2 is the sport class, and they do two laps covering a distance of 18 to 20 miles. Category 1 is the pro / elite class which does three laps making their distance 27 to 30 miles. I could have entered the beginner class, as I had never raced before. Most people start in Category 3 until they are forced to move up to Category 2 after they win 3 to 5 races. In a moment of insanity, I decided it wasn’t worth the one hour drive to only get to do one lap, so I registered for the Category 2 sport class and two laps. Instead of torturing myself for nine miles, I got to endure 18 miles. When the results were announced, I found out that I took first place in my age group for Category 2 racers. The first question I asked was if I was the only contestant in my group. The list of participants wasn’t that small, but close. Three people entered and started the race in Category 2 for my age group. One dropped out somewhere in the second lap, and I had a faster time than the other one. One of the few advantages of age is revealed in mountain bike racing. Due to the demands of the sport, the fields dwindle dramatically for the age 60 and over divisions. Having finished the race and learning I can compete in my age group, I am going to research some other cross-country and enduro races I might be able to add to my 2015 schedule.


After some research and discussion with other riders, I decided to purchase and follow the training plans offered by LW Coaching for racers 40 and older. The most significant difference in the Over-40 Training Plans is that more rest is built in to allow for older bodies to recover. I selected three plans to “stack” on each other, meaning completing one plan and following it with another. Based on my event and race goals, I elected to do the three programs listed below:

  • 12-Week Mountain Bike Base-Building Plan
  • 12-Week Mountain Bike Personal-Record, 100-Mile Race Plan
  • 12-Week Mountain Bike 3 to 5 Day, Bike-Pack Race Plan

The next step was to pick the events that I wanted to peak for, and then work backwards to schedule the start of each 12-week program.

Training Ride: April 12, 2015

Jeff Wallace and I set out on a mountain bike training ride, hoping to cover over 50 miles and 6,000 vertical feet of climbing as part of our training regime. We started late morning at about 10:30 to allow for some increase in the temperature. Morning temperatures for Boise were forecast for the high 30’s, and we would be climbing to higher altitudes. The ride ended up being the longest, having the most climbing, and was the hardest ride of the year to date. Our route ended up covering 64 miles with approximately 8,800 feet of climbing. The hard part was the result of wet and soft dirt roads compounded by multiple sections covered by snow. The snow didn’t become a problem until we reached the higher elevations on the Pine Creek Rd. (See photo one: Don standing in front of snow covering the road that we just pushed our bikes through.) Once we rode beyond the shadow of Mores Mountain, we thought we were through with snow; we were very wrong. The Boise Ridge Road also had long sections in the shadow of Mores Mountain that contained much deeper and longer drifts. (See photo two: snow-covered road behind me that we already hiked and pushed our bikes across. There was no end in sight looking ahead from this point either.) I learned that bike shoes have no insulating qualities. It didn’t take long for our feet to go numb walking in the snow. We did find a small patch of bare dirt in the snow field section that gave us a good place to rest and take in some nutrition. (see photo three: Jeff Wallace laying on the ground in sunny bare spot amidst the long trek through the snow.)




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