Cycling, hiking, skiing with Andrew Graham

Andrew’s personal story can be found on the “About Andrew” page.

50+ years in 50 seconds:

hiking on a frozen Brainard Lake, elevation 10,300

Athlete:  Andrew Graham
Home residence:  Colorado
Age:  58
Basic Biometrics:  5’11”, 165 lbs
Occupation when not participating in your sport:  Sales guy, commercial fitness industry
Sports/activities in order of time and preference:  Cycling, strength training, snow skiing, hiking and snowshoeing 
Current injuries:  None
Past injuries, fully recovered:  A few bike accidents, mostly just road rash and pride.
Past injuries that effect today:  Several head/neck impacts prior to 25 that can sometimes (rarely) become inflamed if I move my head too quickly.
Age when I stopped recovering quickly from injuries:  40-ish.
Medications I currently use:  Occasional allergy meds, mainly for those damn Colorado cottonwood trees.
Medications I have been able to stop using:  does not apply
Supplements I currently use:  Protein power, vitamin D, magnesium, DHEA, turmeric, daily probiotic
Dietary choices: Since the pandemic, my mileage has greatly increased, so I have literally been eating anything and everything within reach.  I still eat a carb heavy dinner on days prior to a big ride but try to eat more balanced on non-training days.  Still a meat eater for now, have not been able to give up my burgers, the chicken in my grain bowels, or my wife’s roast.  
Greatest achievement of being a 50+ athlete: Completing my very first Hincapie Fondo, completing any of the challenging courses through the Colorado Rockies, and still being able to improve as a cyclist at this age. AND – one quick addition – I now have the added pride of being a brand ambassador for Pactimo. When living in ATL, I was already familiar with them, but when I discovered their kits designed specifically with the mountains in mind, I knew these guys would be my Colorado brand of choice.

Specific to the sport of Cycling

Resting at the RMNP visitor center, elevation 11,700

How do you fuel your rides? 
In the bottle:  nuun tablets plus a few ounces of coconut water.  
In the pocket:   mainly I consume those little waffles, or a few Heavenly Hunks (from Costco).

Aero bike or climbing bike?  
For the mix of very flat roads and very mountainous roads, my preference is a very light bike with aero features.

Your next bike? 
Not sure. I recently purchased a slightly used BMC Teammachine and absolutely loving it. Next will have to be a versatile gravel bike, and then a fat tire bike, and then….

Favorite training / tracking app: 
Wahoo for training, strava for tracking

Deeper Dive

Why?  What motivates you to put yourself through this suffering?  
The sprint answer:  because I still can, and that feels great at this age.  Vanity certainly plays a role, it’s nice to look like an athlete for as long as I can.   But probably the biggest motivation is the joy of being in community with others and being outside.  I love being in the mountains!  And I think athletes of any age will agree – there is no greater stress relief than being really, truly physical exhausted.  Exercise is my therapy.

The long climb answer:  Beyond the vanity of physical appearance as I approach 58 – and that motivation only goes so far – the bigger motivation is overall health:  not needing prescriptions for diabetes, blood pressure, etc.  Being able to move without pain is a massive motivator.  I have great fear of being that older gentleman going through the security scan at the airport, being told to put his hands overhead, but he stands in a stoop and can barely lift his arms above his shoulders.  I want to be functional as long as possible.   As long as I live in Colorado, I want to be functionally capable of enjoying the entire Colorado lifestyle. 

But maybe the primary reason I get on that bike when the weather is not ideal is simply because I still can.  And not just “can”, but I can still improve.  I don’t want to accept my age as a limitation of what I can or cannot physically achieve.  If feels so good to discover a sport at an older age and realize I can keep going, keep training, keep improving even as I approach sixty.  So much in life is out of our control, but I control what I eat, how I train, how I learn to improve all aspects of each of these sports.  Socially, I can find community no matter where I travel or live.  All I have to do is join a few group rides and start a conversation.  Cyclists are incredibly welcoming people.  All backgrounds, affiliations, nothing matters but the bike and how you ride.  And…what you eat, what’s in your bottle, every single specification about your bike, your components, your cycling kits.  We are an obsessed bunch.

walking on the frozen Bear Lake in the RMNP

How do you feel – physically and emotionally – when you miss several days of training?  (not including planned recovery days)
Hate it! Emotionally, I’m more inpatient. Physically, I get very restless and my sleep suffers. From a relationship standpoint, my wife will often just put my cycling shoes in front of me and say “go”.

What achievements are you most proud of?   The Sprint Answer:  just being “able”.  Moving without pain.  I’ll be 58 soon, and I remain very healthy, lots of energy, and the desire to push myself (physically & mentally) have not diminished.  And – being able to just barely stay on the wheel of a group of cyclists who are much younger!  

The long climb answer:  I don’t enter a lot of competitions, I train mainly to compete against myself and to enjoy the company of others – on the bike, on the mountains, or in the gym.  But what makes me proud – even thrilled – is being at the top of a hard climb and knowing that I’m still physically able to ride these roads, climb these hills.  And of course, I’m super pumped every time Strava tells me I set a new PR on a particular road or climb.

Off the bike, I’m such a rookie on skis, but I absolutely love being on top of a mountain on all that powder, gliding down those slopes, with the feeling of flying all the way down, back to the lift chair.  Skiing can be exhausting, but I don’t know of many more enjoyable experiences than flying down a snow-covered mountain on a cold, sunny day.   

In the gym – I have no desire for “big”, my only desire is function.  Mobility.  Strength training is my laboratory for better preparing my body to handle the stress of my sports.  Strength training is also injury prevention – and hopefully, a faster recovery from injuries.

Let’s discuss injuries or medical conditions that effect your training and/or goals:
Sprint Answer: dna
Long climb answer: does not apply

Any family history you’ve been able to avoid? 
Diabetes on my mother’s side. No real genetic issues on my father’s side, more lifestyle issues. Chronic back pain that’s plagued him as long as I can remember. My mother took great pride in being slim, but she was also physically weak, which caused more health issues as she aged.

How healthy were your parents at your age?  
Not very. Neither of my parents were very active when my age. And growing up in the south, I cannot say our meals were the most nutritious.

The health benefits of training:  is that a focus?  Or just a happy and beneficial outcome?   
When younger, “healthy” was never the focus. I trained or played sports purely for fun or aesthetics. But since I crept past 40 – the focus has definitely shifted to quality of life. Movement without pain, preventing weight gain, and of course – mental health.

Is your family supportive?
Yes…but sometimes reluctantly.   My wife is proud of how I’ve progressed, but sometimes jealous of the time I spend with the “mistress”. (her name for my bike) And maybe I’ve called her one too many times with a mechanical issue and had to request a pick up.

How much time do you dedicate to training on an average week?
Prior to covid, I was on a plane at least every other week.   I have not traveled since the end of March, so I’ve had a LOT more time to ride.   Pre-covid, I would average 115-120 miles per week.   Now I’m averaging almost 200, so spending approximately 10-12 hours on my bike each week.   When ski season starts, I’ll try to ski at least 1 day per week, for maybe 3-4 hours on the mountain.   We get out for a good hike just a couple of times per month.   And of course, I strength training 3 days per week, for 40-45 minutes per session.   So yeah, I remain pretty active.

Any “non-exercise” forms of preventative care?
Huge believer in prevention. I try to get a movement efficiency screen (or Functional Movement Screen) from an accredited provider at least once annually. The way we train, any musculoskeletal imbalances can quickly progress into painful issues that keep me off the bike – so I try to identify them early and plug in any necessary corrective exercises. My wife and I also have a blood panel analyzed twice annually for hormone and nutrient levels.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Really wish I had stared cycling at a much younger age.  My old Schwinn was shelved after college and probably didn’t ride again for at least 15-20 years.  My advice to my younger self:  spend more time with your boys while you can, and find a cycling community to join while you’re still in your 30’s.

What advice would you give any 50+ individual that believes their athletic days are better left in the past?
That mindset is complete crap.  Getting in shape, staying in shape is not easy, but the rewards for staying disciplined are immense.   I cannot wait to ski with my grandkids, or introduce them to cycling these Colorado roads, or joining them as they summit their first 14’er.   I see no reason to slow down at this time.

I cannot sprint as fast as I could in my 20’s, but otherwise, I really haven’t regressed on just about any physical challenge.   I can still do the same sports (except sprints) and have kept my strength pretty steady over the years.

4 thoughts on “Cycling, hiking, skiing with Andrew Graham

  1. I have also been accused of having an “affair” with my bicycle…and not just by my wife!

    For the record, I have never had to call my wife to pick me up from a ride…altho I did have to call my brother to pick me up when I was in high school, after my bike literally cracked in half mid-ride!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s