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Intelligent Cycling Training for Senior Cyclists

Improving Seniors' Pacing

Don't Be a Fried Rabbit!

by Rex Farnsworth

Rex Farnsworth is a long-time friend of Coach John Hughes and former client. For many years Rex rode with the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club and is a veteran of many brevets and Paris-Brest-Paris

Cyclists can be divided into two groups: faster riders called rabbits, and slower riders called turtles. Since almost all of the physical characteristics that make a rider fast deteriorate with age, rabbits tend to be younger and turtles tend to be older. Regardless of grouping, all cyclists thrive on catching and devouring a fine rabbit.

As a cyclist ages, he is faced with a ever shrinking set of catchable rabbits. But all is not lost. One key physical attribute remains nearly undiminished with the years: endurance. This sets up an interesting opportunity for old turtles to competitively hunt young rabbits if the event is long enough. Ultra-marathon cycling events provide golden opportunities to compete on a level, endurance playing field where a clever turtle can still enjoy a fine rabbit dinner. Here's how it works.

Preparing the Rabbits. Since turtles are clearly not pre-event favorites, mental preparation of the rabbits is essential. Arrive early and allow ample preparation time. The following are time-proven techniques to improve the overall success of the hunt. Remember, unless a rabbit makes a mistake, he is going to be tough to catch.

  • Stimulate competition among the rabbits such that there is an all-out battle early on. Your goal is to help the rabbits indiscriminately deplete their glycogen stores, the sooner the better.
    • “You know, I believe you can beat John if you can stay with him up that first climb.”
    • “When was the last time you beat Sally?”
    • “Have you noticed how strong Gary has gotten? You need to watch him today.”
  • Point out minor problems with the rabbits' position, pedal stroke, or bike. Get them focused on frivolous problems.
    • “I've noticed your left knee juts out at the top of your stroke.”
    • “How long have you been bobbing up and down when you stand?”
  • Bring up old injuries for them to worry about.
    • “How's the tendonitis.”
    • “Do you still get bad saddle sores?”
    • “How're your neck and shoulders? Still having lots of pain?”
  • Play on their fears.
    • “Looks like you've put on a little weight.”
    • “It must be hard to climb carrying all that food and water.”

Handling the Early Miles. The early event miles are wonderful — for the rabbits, but not so wonderful for the turtles. Rabbits love to speed between controls and to spend time socializing and recovering when they get there. Turtles also ride as fast as they can between controls (which is not too fast); however, turtles take short stops in order to pickup time on the resting rabbits. These conflicting tactics set up repeated passing of the turtles by the rabbits as they fly to the next control. Turtles have learned to use these meaningless, early passing for further rabbit preparations. Here are a few things you can do during these early miles to increase your chances of dining on rabbit later.

  • Stir up the rabbits with a few jams/jumps of your own. Be sure your jams are just long enough to elicit the desired rabbit behavior and absolutely no longer. Once stirred up, the rabbits will hammer for hours while you drop back to watch the fun.
  • Plant additional mental seeds for later harvesting. Try these catchy phrases.
    • “You're a little off your pace today aren't you?”
    • “Your stroke is not as smooth as usual. Are you feeling OK?”
    • “I think John is really putting time on you?”
  • Identify and mark selected rabbits for future reference. Visualize how you will catch/pass them as the event unfolds. Such marking is very satisfying even though you may never see the rabbit again.
  • Learn to handle rabbit comments as they pass with your best turtle smile. (Note: It is very had to differentiate between a turtle smile and a sneer.) Remember that some of the comments may be sincere.
    • “I sure hope I can climb like that when I'm old.”
    • “Not bad for an old guy.”
    • “You are really riding strong today.”

What's For Dinner? Eventually it will be time for dinner. Like shrimp (see Forest Gump), rabbit can be enjoyed in endless variety limited only by your imagination. Here are a few classics.

Fully Bonked Rabbit. This is the classic dish characterized by a near lifeless rabbit desperately attempting to reach the next control. He is a victim of rabbit wars and has indiscriminately consumed all of his glycogen. The meat has an unusual burned taste thought to result from extensive lactic acid soaking. This is an easy dish to devour with little risk of the rabbit turning on you.

Fricasseed Rabbit. This dish is characterized by a demoralized rabbit experiencing a potpourri of painful show-stoppers (total pain can be measured on a scale of 1 to 10). Just about everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. This rabbit has assorted aches and pains including such things as numb hands and wrists, knee/hip tendonitis, muscle cramps, neck and shoulder pain, and aching/blistered feet. He is not having fun. The meat may have an off taste, which some believe is residue of aspirin or ibuprofen. When anticipating a meal of Fricasseed Rabbit, remember that such a rabbit is not necessarily bonked and can easily transition into a Born Again Rabbit just long enough to spoil your day.

Ground Rabbit. This rabbit has butt rash, and is contemplating the eternal question: Why me Lord? Like pain, rash can be quantified on a scale of 1 to 10. He generally uses creative cycling positions, stands up a lot, displays unusual pedaling styles often executed with bowed legs. Ground rabbit is not for everyone. The meat sometimes tastes like talc or butt balm. Check for white, dusty looking shorts especially in the pad area. This is another dangerous meal. Your approach may be just the thing to divert the Ground Rabbit's attention from his rash to beating you.

Fried Rabbit. Now here is the granddaddy of all rabbit dishes. This rabbit has been totally hammered and tenderized by the entire event. He may have survived multiple bonking sessions, has one or more Fricasseed Rabbit symptoms totaling at least a 7, and is probably running about a 9 butt rash. Occasionally a Fried Rabbit will be exceptionally tasty if its face is salt encrusted and it is drooling (but not excessively). When considering a Fried Rabbit, be concerned about dehydration as evidenced by extensive redness of the face. Such dehydrated rabbit may be dry and hard to swallow.

These classics all have variations such as old, young, male and female. For example, tender, young, female fried rabbit. (Note: as I get older, a rabbit is a rabbit and I'm no longer bothered by gender or other gentlemanly considerations.)

Where's the Rabbit? When approaching the dish du jour, be careful. Several things may go wrong that can positively ruin the dish as well as your day, and leave you asking the Wendy's question: Where's the Rabbit?

Deceptive Rabbit. Some rabbits will do anything to avoid being a meal on wheels. If they see you closing, they will create a deceptive reason to stop thus denying you the undisputed satisfaction of a clean pass. If they can get stopped early enough (like before there is any one-on-one passing competition) the question will remain as to who was really stronger on that day. Typical deceptions for stopping (and for diminishing your meal) are: checking for bike problems, stretching, eating, drinking, dropping the chain, faking a cell phone call, and peeing (this excuse is seldom used by female rabbits).

Stunned Rabbit. Even though your approaching meal may show all the signs of a Fully Bonked Rabbit or even a Fried Rabbit, the rabbit may be only stunned. Your approach may be just the stimulus to unstun the little feller, and revive him to full Frisky Rabbit status. Devouring a Revived Rabbit is way too tough and may set you up to be someone else's Stewed Rabbit. A Stewed Rabbit is a turtle that has failed an attempted pass and is thoroughly cooked in his own juices and disappointment.

It's Time for Dessert. Here are a few ideas to add enjoyment and fulfillment to the end of a perfect meal. It is your turn to speak up.

  • “How are you doing?”
  • “Isn't this a great day?”
  • “Don't you just love these long brevets?”

As for me, nothing complements a rabbit main dish like a good belling. It is deeply satisfy as well as a final measure of fulfillment. Having no shame or conscience, I use my handlebar bell to administer the coup de grace. I generally give one ringy-dingy for ordinary Fully Bonked Rabbit, and two or even three ringy-dingies for my all time favorite: young and tender, salt encrusted Fried Rabbit.

Footnote: Once belled, some rabbits develop psychological complications and dreading that carry over to future events. It never hurts to do a little warm-up belling during early rabbit preparations.

Other columns for seniors.

Anti-Aging — 12 Ways to You Can Slow the Aging Process. 106 pages for $14.99 from

Examples of Senior Cyclists

Elizabeth Wicks broke the senior women’s age 65 to 69 record at Calvin’s 12-Hour Challenge in 2013 and the W70-74 record in 2014. I coached Wicks. Here is her 2013 training program.

Peter Lekisch was the first 60-year-old rider to finish the solo Race Across AMerica in 2001 in 12 days 20 hours 50 minutes. I had the pleasure of coaching Peter. Here is his training program.

Cycling Past 50: A 4-article bundle of 98 pages for older cyclists for $15.96 ($4.00 savings) from The bundle includes:

  1. Healthy Cycling Past 50: What happens as you age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into your daily life to stay healthy and active for many years. Includes three balanced exercise programs for older cyclists. 20 pages for $4.99 from
  2. Off-Season Conditioning Past 50: How to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of growing older. Includes two 12-week programs for older cyclists. 26 pages for $4.99 from
  3. Healthy Nutrition Past 50: What an older cyclist should eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance. 20 pages for $4.99 from
  4. Performance Cycling Past 50: How older cyclists can train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging. Includes 9 week and 12 week programs. 17 pages for $4.99 from .

Cycling Past 60: A 2-article bundle of 47 pages for senior cyclists for just $8.98, a 10% discount from The bundle includes:

  1. Cycling Past 60, Part 1: For Health: If a senior exercises correctly, you can slow the effects of aging; if you exercise incorrectly, you can speed up aging. Includes three well-balanced exercise programs for senior cyclists. 24 pages for $4.99 from
  2. Cycling Past 60, Part 2: For Recreation: Builds on the information in Part 1 and uses the concept of “Athletic Maturity” to design six more rigorous programs for more athletically mature seniors. Pages for $4.99 from

Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond. A 3-article bundle of 100 pages for seniors for just $13.50, a 20% discount from The bundle includes:

  1. Fit for Life: The article shows how you can exercise in different ways to be fitter for life as a senior and have fun. It provides a variety of exercise options available to you to strengthen your body's functions that keep you alive and help to keep you fit for life, including the aerobic, skeletal, muscular, neural, core and balance systems. 40 pages for $14.99 from
  2. Peak Fitness: The article contains four specific programs for seniors to improve fitness in one or more of the following ways: Improved Endurance, More Power, Faster Speed and / or Higher Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max.) 41 pages for $4.99 from
  3. Training with Intensity: The article describes five progressively harder levels of training for seniors and gives 3 to 5 examples each of structured and unstructured workouts for each level of training, a total of almost 40 workouts. 27 pages for $4.99 from

Coach Hughes other articles from