Cycling with Mark Silver

Delta – we love to ride, and it shows!

Mark is a pilot for Delta Airlines and a Boulder County cyclist, and I am not sure which title he uses first when introducing himself.   Deservingly proud of both parts of his life – I can tell you he talks about cycling and his bike collection more than he talks about flying. 

Mark is witty, always humorous, even in the middle of a difficult climb.  He is the kind of guy you ride with that makes you laugh even if he is suffering.  And if you find yourself searching for a witty, or maybe inspirational quote related to cycling, he’s your man.   Mark has a history of collecting his favorite cycling related quotes and is happy to share.  One of his collected quotes that I identify with: “power meters are for reminding you of your eternal un-remarkableness”.   Or for those who are not quite addicted to their bike just yet: “Ride for at least 30 minutes each day. If you’re too busy to do that, you’d better ride for an hour!”                                                                                                                                                             

But while he might be lighthearted in conversation, he is very competitive on the bike.  Quick example:  he recently lost his “local legend” status on Strava on a short local segment, so immediately went out and rode that segment three times to reclaim his legend.  And like most of the cyclists I know – he hates to be caught from behind.

50+ years in 50 seconds

Athlete:  Mark Silver
Home residence:   Longmont, CO
Age:  60 since last August
Basic Biometrics:  6’1”, 185   resting HR:  53
Occupation when not participating in your sport:   Delta pilot
Sports/activities in order of time & preference:  cycling, running (faster now than when younger)
Current injuries:  none
Past injuries, fully recovered:  Past back pain.  Sitting too long in the cockpit, back locked up when getting up. 
Past injuries that effect today:   None.  Very proactive to keep his back healthy.   Normal pains every now and then.
Age when I stopped recovering quickly from injuries:  early 50’s
Medications I currently use:   dna
Medications I was able to stop using once I started training:  dna
Supplements I currently use:  collagen, a daily multi-vitamin and vitamin c
Average hours of sleep:   I average about 7 hrs a night, sometimes as little as 5 hrs when I’m on the road, and seldom more than 8 hrs
Do you track the quality of your sleep?   Not really.  I generally fall asleep quickly and rarely get up during the night (but when I do, I can easily identify the reason, as in chugging a bunch of water close to bedtime).
Greatest achievement of being a 50+ athlete:  getting up in the morning pain free and being able to eat like an 18 yr old.  No physical limitations.  I can still hike the Grand Canyon without worrying if my knees and hips can tolerate the workload.

Pike’s Peak – elevation 14,111 ft

Specific to Cycling…

How do you fuel your rides?  
In the bottle (hydration):  mostly just water.  
In the pocket (food):  gels, cliff blocks.  For longer rides, I include fig newtons and PB & honey sandwiches.

Aero bike or climbing bike?   
All around.

Dream bike? 
Riding it now! Custom carbon road bike from Alchemy.   Also really fascinated by the old, tall penny farthings.

When you started riding:  rode a lot in high school, and while in the Air Force, but then did not get back on the bike until 35.  I was Inspired by a cycling colleague, and that was 25 years ago.

More than one bike?  (for non-cyclists: the correct number of bikes to own is N+1)  
12 bikes overall!  Including 6 road bikes.  I just like riding.  The joy of being on a bike.   

Your next bike?   
Recently found a ‘94 Litespeed titanium that I couldn’t say no to, but my next will be a classic steel road bike.

Types of riding you most enjoy:
85% road riding, 10% gravel, 5% “city touring” in most cities where he lands.

Do you prefer training solo or with a group?  Why?    
It depends! The majority of my training is solo, just because job/family obligations generally give me a narrow window of opportunity for squeezing in a ride.  I’m always thrilled when I’m out on a solo ride and just happen on another rider who’s going my way, and at about my pace. 

I’ve had awesome group rides and shitty group rides. The best group rides are generally with people I’ve ridden with before, I’m familiar with their riding styles, can trust them to ride close, and somewhat evenly match in ability.  The shitty group rides I’ve been on were ones where I got stuck in a slow group, didn’t know anyone (and nobody wanted to make an effort to talk), or on the opposite end, the guys who want to hit zone 5 as soon as they clipped in, or the groups where riders have to ride 2-3 abreast, regardless of traffic, or just have generally marginal bike handling skills. 

Favorite training / tracking app?  Strava for tracking cumulative total of rides, spreadsheet for mileage tracking and to include notes related to the ride.  (It’s his “pilot’s log book”, but for cycling)

Strava:  just enjoy the ride, or go “PR hunting”?    Mostly enjoying the entire ride, but an occasional PR hunter.  Probably won’t match PR’s from my younger years!

Indoors:  would rather not, but when absolutely necessary, I will do timed intervals on rollers. 

Great irritant related to cycling:  getting caught from behind

Something non-cyclists should know about cyclists:
Borrowing from one of his collection of quotes: “if you’ve never done it, I can’t explain it to you.  If you have done it, I don’t need to explain it to you”.   With all of our spandex and lycra that you think looks ridiculous, the clothing does actually serve a function.   Plus, somehow…we think we look cool.  

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Deeper Dive

Why?  What motivates you to put yourself through this suffering?
The sprint answer Clears my mind.  Cycling is my therapy, my stress reliever.  But what motivates me while on the bike?  Seeing someone way ahead of me.   I have to chase that bunny down. 
The long climb answer: Still chasing demons from my youth.   Growing up, everyone played the usual field sports of baseball, football and soccer.  I was not good, at all.   When I played baseball, I was always put in the outfield and would pray the ball would not come my way.   I always told myself “I suck at sports”.  It was much later in life I realized I just hadn’t found my sport, yet.  Then I found cycling.  Discovered I can tolerate high levels of pain, suffering.   Cycling allowed me to prove to myself that I could be good – very good – at something.  Emotionally, this feels good.    

What achievements are you most proud of?  
The Sprint Answer:   every single PR on Strava.   Generally, my PR’s remain in the top 10% of those segments. 
The long climb answer:   remaining pain free at 60.   Eating what I want.   Not afraid of taking on almost any physical challenge.  Climbing Pike’s Peak each summer. (14,111 above sea level)  And very proud that I can do about 99% of all of my own bike maintenance. 

“Cycling allowed me to prove to myself that I could be good – very good – at something.  Emotionally, this feels good.”

Let’s discuss injuries or medical conditions that effect your training and/or goals:
Sprint Answer:   dna
Long climb answer:  always, always do core training.  Years ago, my back locked up after sitting for a very long flight.  Since, I have been incredibly consistent with training the core.   Today – no pain, no discomfort of any kind.

Nutrition / diet:  has fitness in general, or cycling specifically effected how you eat, drink, etc?
I consider every day as a potential game day, so I constantly try to eat like I’m fueling my body for sport.  I still love comfort food (a great burger with fries is my all-time favorite) and because of the miles I put in on the bike, I can indulge occasionally without worrying.  I suffer on the bike, so I can enjoy my time off the bike.

Any family history you’ve been able to avoid? 
Dad had high blood pressure and my brother does today, but I do not.

How healthy were your parents at your age?  
When parents were 60 – dad was a bit overweight.   He did the “normal” amount of activity – swimming, short walk, shoveling snow.  But not involved in athletics.

The health benefits of cycling:  is that a focus?  Or just a happy and beneficial outcome?   
If you asked me: “if cycling made you fat, would you still do it”?   I could only say yes, absolutely.  I love cycling.  If cycling was bad for me, if I knew it could potentially shorten my lifespan, would I still ride?   Yes.  Mental health is huge.  Physical health benefits are huge, but secondary.

How do you feel – physically and emotionally – when you miss several days of training?  
Miserable. Not just physically, but mentally. I need these rides for mental health as much as physical.

Is your family supportive?
My wife completely understood that I was “chasing demons” when I first discovered cycling.   In the early years, it became an obsession.  I received this advice from a marriage counselor:  “you’re having an affair with your bicycle”.   I am still obsessed…but a bit more moderate. 

How much time do you dedicate to training on an average week? 
A minimum of 5-7 hours each week.

Any “non-exercise” forms of preventative care?   (massage, chiro, personal trainer, blood work, etc)
Not sure what the “non-exercise” forms of preventative care are, but I do periodically get a full body massage (would like to step that up to once a month!)  I have been to a chiropractor twice and an acupuncturist once – ever.  Probably never going back.  I did go to a specialist in Boulder for about a year who used the Egoscue method …basically body alignment exercises (think a combination of yoga, Pilates, and core workouts).  I get a physical exam every six months as a requirement for my pilot license, along with an annual EKG and blood work.

What advice would you give your younger self?
I felt so down on myself when younger, so I would say to him: “Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine.   Life is a marathon, don’t worry about the high school sprint.  Relax, find your thing.   Find what you enjoy”. 

What advice would you give any 50+ individual that believes their athletic days are better left in the past?   
If you start any sport, be realistic about your goals.  Don’t be obsessed with anyone else, only what you want to achieve.  And be realistic about your current status.   Take it slow.  Also important to understand you don’t have to give up all of your favorite food and drink to make changes to your activities.   Just get started. 

My advice if you decide to become a cyclist:  When you’re riding hard – ride hard.   But when you ride easy – ride easy.  Do not look at your average speed or worry about any stats.  Seriously recover. 

Any final hard-earned wisdom you’d like to share to the 50+ crowd?
For the inactive:  Don’t wait until you have a medical “wake up call” to be more active!
For the already active:  don’t try to crush it ALL the time.  Learn to moderate.  

A little 50+ wisdom that has nothing to do with the bike comes from another quote Mark has collected:
“In my 20s and 30s, I cared what people thought of me.
In my 40s and 50s, I DIDN’T care what people thought of me.
Now in my 60s, I realize people aren’t thinking about me anyway!”

Just do your ride.  Enjoy. 

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Questions for Mark?
Include any questions in the comment section below and I’ll forward his reply.

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