Peak Fitness Event

07.10.2013 | 10:23 am


A Note from Fatty: The 2014 Team Fatty Gear pre-order is in full swing. Check out all the goods over at Twin Six, and then buy until it hurts. Please. I’m so hungry.

I have some good news (for me), and some bad news (for me). Let’s start with the good news, shall we? Here goes:

I am the fittest I have ever been.

That’s a bold claim, but I’m willing to stand behind it. I am light. I am strong. I have excellent speed. I have fantastic endurance. I am uninjured. 

And while I am certainly be beaten by some of the fastest riders in the area, and while it’s never even been a remote possibility that I’ll ever succeed in any kind of mainstream racing — much less in a mainstream sport — the fact is I have posted times that put me in the top twenty of many of the iconic local climbs (like the Alpine Loop climb, or the North Suncrest climb, or Squaw Peak, or the Little Cottonwood Canyon climb)

Somehow, at age 47, I have become a better athlete than I ever have been at any other point in my life.

Which leads me to the bad news, which is that I’m almost certainly experiencing a Peak Fitness Event.

Peak Fitness Event, Defined

“What is a Peak Fitness Event?” you might quite reasonably ask, since I’m pretty sure i just made the term up (at least for what I mean by it).

Well, your Peak Fitness Event is the point in your life where you are the fittest you have ever been, and — this is the bad news part — more fit than you ever will be again. In other words, your Peak Fitness Event is the moment when you are literally in the best shape of your life.

For most jocks, the Peak Fitness Event (PFE for short) occurs sometime in high school, or possibly college. They participate in team sports while they’re young and get in shape easily and no matter what they eat they don’t gain weight. 

Then they get jobs, have surgery on their knees, adjust their priorities, and supplant their participation in sports in the real world with the viewing of sports on television.

As a person who lettered in debate in high school, I did not peak quite so early. In fact, apart from a brief stint as a pole vaulter in junior high (due to Bruce Jenner worship), the occasional racquetball game was pretty much the extent of my exercise until I hit my mid twenties. Then it was endurance rollerblading for a few years (yes, I can admit it), and then — finally — cycling.

A Very Helpful Chart

All of which leads us to now, and to my premise: I am currently experiencing a PFE. Which is to say, I am — possibly for the first time in my life — pretty much about as fit as I can be.

The problem is the whole “forty-seven-ness” of my fitness. Meaning that I managed to hit my ceiling of potential fitness a few years after that ceiling started its ominous and inexorable descent, the final result of which is certain to be me crushed like a bug, kind of like that trash compactor scene in Star Wars, but rotated ninety degrees. 

In other words, my maximum possible fitness has started a downward slope, which has collided rather nastily against my actual fitness, for the first time ever. Here, let me show you, using a very scientific and accurate chart, which I created using sophisticated software and copious quantities of well-vetted data:

Peak fitness

Here, the blue line represents how fit I could be, in an ideal world. The red line shows how fit I actually have been at various ages (the dotted red line is my very optimistic projection for my future fitness).

You see what’s happened here? Just about the time I finally get this whole exercise and food and cycling thing nailed, my body has the gall — the unmitigated gall  – to go and start betraying me. For example, I took four ibuprofen tablets when I woke up this morning just out of habit.

The New Aspirations

Still, I remain optimistic. For one thing, there’s the possibility that I’m not quite at my PFE yet. Like, maybe I can get a little faster this year, and maybe even a little faster next year. But you know…I kind of doubt it. I mean, Kenny — who is a mere two years older than I am — suddenly started being vulnerable in races pretty much two years ago

In case you have trouble with math, I think this means that Kenny — my archetype for fast riding — hit his PFE about two years ago (perhaps a year early due to an adulthood of excessive beer consumption).

So no. the potential of having one more year before my PFE really happens is not my real reason for being optimistic.

Rather, it’s the possibility — rapidly becoming a probability — of being the Grizzled Veteran Racer (GVR). The GVR is the guy who, in spite of being in his sixties or seventies (and sometimes, awesomely, eighties), shows up at races, lines up, and gets it done. 

He isn’t the fastest guy on the course. He doesn’t need to be. The fact that he’s out there, still training, still racing. His mere presence is inspiring — he’s the guy who all the racers in their forties look to and say, “I hope I’m that guy in twenty years.”

You know the guy.

Well, I figure I’m roughly thirteen years away from being that guy. I look forward to regaling you with stories of my glory days.

Meanwhile, I am busy. Very busy indeed, in fact. You see, now that I’ve realized I’m hitting (or will shortly hit) my PFE and am headed for the Long Taper (which is my new euphemism for old age), I have come to an important epiphany:

I need to get as many KOMs on Strava as I possibly can, as soon as I possibly can.

Before it’s too late. 


  1. Comment by Jim Tolar | 07.10.2013 | 10:34 am

    I have one word for you wrt PFE and the Long Taper…


    Try it. It will change your life (in a good way).


  2. Comment by kyle. | 07.10.2013 | 10:35 am

    i had a peak in high school, but now that was water polo and track. now i’m shooting for another (different? lesser?) one with cycling & road/trail running. hopefully i’ll be the gvr my self someday.

  3. Comment by MattC | 07.10.2013 | 10:45 am

    Fatty, you are definely onto something here. I think I hit my PFE 2 years ago, and being completly honest, most likely 3. And now every ride I do I have to compare my pathetic current times to my PR, which I haven’t been close to in these last few years, and likely won’t ever again (that is a sad sad thought).

    However, I watch Greg ride and it gives me hope, becasue he is still getting stronger, and has been on an upward trend these last 3 years (which was the last time I bested him on the bike). Actually I think he owes me bigtime, cuz it appears to me that my crushing him on that ride (you know which one) was what set him on the course to never again have little bro beat him. Personally I think he’s doping, but I can’t prove anything.

    ANYWAY…Fatty..what is your secret? I mean, you live in a place with actual WINTER! Are you riding EVERY SINGLE DAY? Is it your SS riding that is doing it? HOW have you reached your PFE this year? Please share (also I pose the same question to THE Hammer…sheesh…do you have a trainer set up in the hospital or something? Are you slipping into the blood supply-room and augmenting your RBC count in the dark of night? WHAT are you doing to be SO STRONG?)

  4. Comment by MattC | 07.10.2013 | 10:46 am

    Fatty..can you add a spell check to the comment section PLEASE? Definely…stupid keyboard.

  5. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.10.2013 | 10:55 am

    Fatty, I am sorry to report, acting as your Engineering advisor, that there is some good news and bad news contained within your bad news.

    The good news is that your technical analysis is spot-on.

    The bad news is that the location of the peak and the shape of your maximum possible fitness curve (“Potential”, in blue,)is wrong. I am afraid, in fact, that there are two things wrong with your curve.

    First, the peak for endurance eventing is at or about age 37.5. You peak is clearly to the right of this age, closer to 42.75. This matters more than you may care to admit.

    Second, and more tragic, is that the peak of your curve should be an inflection point where the curve changes from concave downward to convex upward. The second half, in other words, should look more like an Olympic ski jump, and less like a freestyle DH jump. It should be asymptotic to some final level of fitness that is roughly the equivalent of a 97 year old grandma on a recumbent in the park.

    The silver lining of this free-of-charge expert analysis is that with your curve, you are destined to die a sudden and shockingly tragic death at the age of 81.3.

    With the curve I have described, you can grow a beard, buy the ‘bent with rear-view helmet mirror, buy the front pocket jersey, and slowly fade into the sunset.

  6. Comment by Micha O | 07.10.2013 | 10:58 am

    Look on the bright side: you are only 6 years older than Jens Voigt, and he is still kicking butt!

  7. Comment by TK | 07.10.2013 | 10:59 am

    Pat McQuaid says the sport is clean and I can’t ask you if you’ve been doping.

  8. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.10.2013 | 11:09 am

    BTW, that was a 3-wheeled recumbent in the park.

  9. Comment by Chris | 07.10.2013 | 11:17 am

    I went to State with the Academic Team in Future Problem Solving (somehow our solutions never got traction or you wouldn’t be having this kind of problem, we solved them ALL) and really never participated with any sports team other than to be a punching bag and impromptu unofficial four-eyed training rabbit.

    Now, as all my former classmates are wallowing in their middle age and rubbing their bald pates (no offense Fatty!) I am enjoying a brilliant for-the-first-time comeback as a mountain bike “racer.” I skipped my 20th HS reunion to throw myself at the LV 100 last year (DNFFed at 87 miles) and am going back this year to smear my almost 40 yo self all over the course again. Hope to see you there!

  10. Comment by MtlDan | 07.10.2013 | 11:21 am

    You describe it perfectly. I hit my PFE at age 50 when I got to spend a year in a place without a winter. Found a great club that did long, fast rides in the hills 3 times a week. I was my lightest ever (same weight as in high school) and super fit. Came back to Montreal and set PRs on all my favorite local rides. PRs I’ll never come close to again.

  11. Comment by MtBikeGuy | 07.10.2013 | 11:31 am

    I’m with kyle. Definitely hit a peak in high school, at least for “short” distance running. I’ll never beat my best mile time from high school track. But as a 38 year old, I’m definitely in better overall shape – much better at longer distances, multi-sport (triathlon), and physically stronger.

    As for CrossFit, I have a friend (age 39) who’d been doing that for a few years. Then suddenly about 6 months ago he had a string of injuries in CF which led to him concluding that it’s mostly for younger people in their 20s. The joys of getting old.

    Hey Fatty, when are we going to get those last few 100 MoN race reports you promised a few weeks ago? Always fun to read.

  12. Comment by Michael | 07.10.2013 | 12:44 pm

    I dunno. I heard a competitor radio podcast a few years back from a RAAM cyclist (Michael something) who said he’d set a new personal best for how much distance he could cover in 24 hours (I want to say it was 530 miles or so) at the age of 55.

    Then there’s Ned. Has he gotten slower? I think his times at Mt Washington have improved, haven’t they? I know he’s killing it at cyclocross every year. He’s the best example of a lifelong high-performance cyclist I can cite. Other pros probably have other reasons for getting slower–I mean, if Laurent Jalabert is slower, it’s probably because he’s no longer using PEDs, y’know?

    I kinda wonder if cycling’s an exception, at least until you experience significant muscle denervation when you get really old. It’s all concentric muscle contractions, low impact, little muscle damage–the standard rules might not apply. In Kenny’s case, is he riding as much as ever? Or did life get busier and eat into his training schedule?

    You might just keep getting faster for the next few years, Fatty.

  13. Comment by DC commuter | 07.10.2013 | 12:48 pm

    Endurance rollerblading…I’ve lost all respect for you.

    I’m shocked and disappointed…that you ever had respect for me in the first place. – FC

  14. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 07.10.2013 | 1:03 pm

    Endurance RollerBladding!!!!! We want pictures! No, Really, We want pictures.

    I think I found one. And with hair!:220px-Roller_skating_c_1905.jpg

  15. Comment by Jim Tolar | 07.10.2013 | 1:33 pm

    @MtBikeGuy, I started Crossfit 6 months ago at age 61 and I still think it’s a good regimen. Use it or lose it.


  16. Comment by Wife#1 | 07.10.2013 | 1:38 pm

    I’m going to hazard a theory and say that you have not actually peaked yet. And my guess is that it will be not next year, but rather the year after. Here’s my thinking…

    Your new thin self has discovered more power and speed, but you actually have not learned how to fully use that power to maximum efficiency-yet. It seems like you are peaking because it’s so much better than it was, but you have not been using the new superpowers long enough to have mastered them.

    Next, while you will continue to have a great year next year, it will not actually be as good as this year, but that will be more psychological than anything. You’ll be resting on your laurels a bit and also will have convined yourself that you already peaked and you are doing great for your age.

    Year three… 49 rolls around, the last one before the big 5-0. You’re still light and you have maintained a strong fitness base. That coupled with the extra years of wisdom about learning how and when to best use your power and speed (and the desire to go out of the 40’s on a high note), means you will go totally beserk and have your most kick-ass year ever – crushing all your previous records.

    Angels will weep. Mainly because they were fired by Rapha after you continued to wear Twin Six FC gear.

    That sir, year 49, will be your PFE.

    Well, until you hit 59 and it happens all over again.

    Course let’s keep the really important thing in mind, as a woman, Hammer has all of her BEST years still ahead. She is just starting to peak, and women peak a long time.

    Boy are you in trouble.

  17. Comment by Corrine | 07.10.2013 | 1:42 pm

    Being on the other side of 50 I can relate. I am still delusional enough to think that maybe I can still improve and I still believe I am. . .or I hope I am. At the same time I have already become a GVR as the younger women seem to be SO impressed that I’m still racing. You know, “Wow, I can’t believe you just did that 200 mile race. You are my hero!” You don’t have to win as you get older, people are impressed just that you are out there competing. So, see you in Leadville next month. Feel free to say, “Wow, I’m so impressed you are trying to do this race!”

  18. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 07.10.2013 | 1:54 pm

    Welcome to middle age, where everything is downhill from here. Sounds like many of us can relate, having already hit and passed our PFEs. I can definitely relate. I know that each spring it is harder and harder to get the back back outdoors and work up to any level of condition, in spite of time on the stationary bike during the winter.

    GVR-hood seems something to be revered, a status few achieve, and something to be anticipated and worked toward with a certain relish. Imagine yourself at the line several years in the future, with folks around you looking over in admiration and respect.

    More power to you, Fatty.

    Ride on.

  19. Comment by Frank | 07.10.2013 | 1:58 pm

    There are sports that can extend your primeship. Take up darts! Snooker is great! And Shuffleboard! How’s that for a Triathlon! And for an extra added bonus, these are sports that can be performed in a bar!

    But seriously, how hungry are you?

  20. Comment by Christina | 07.10.2013 | 2:00 pm

    I bet I can beat Clydesteve on my three-wheeled recumbent.

    I often say how grateful I am that I lettered in drama, speech and debate and orchestra. I never, ever have to live up to how fit I was in high school. Instead, I get to PR all the time. Thanks, chubby-nerdy 16-year-old me!

  21. Comment by eclecticdeb | 07.10.2013 | 2:06 pm

    Boy howdy, I can sure relate! Now that I actually have the time to train (teenager getting ready to launch), my body has decided to start falling apart.

    First it was the shoulder — though to be honest, that might have had something to do with being hit by a car — then it was the back seizing up, now it’s the classic “Patellofemoral Syndrome” rearing it’s ugly head in new and painful ways. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t try to stay active, my tendons would tighten up and I’d be shuffling along like a (gulp) 51-year old.

    And I agree with Wife #1 — pretty soon the Hammer is going to OWN you. :-)

  22. Comment by off-roadie | 07.10.2013 | 2:23 pm

    I think GVR is the greatest accomplishment a cyclist can attain. Dozens of bad-ass scars, gnarly collar bones, and the legs of a greek-god!

  23. Comment by UpTheGrade SR,CA | 07.10.2013 | 2:55 pm

    Ain’t cycling wonderful, where you can peak at 47 or later? I happen to be 47 this year and most group rides I go on are with much older guys who whup my butt, though I’m catching up! I’m looking forward to peaking in my mid 60’s when maybe I’ll be able to take these guys who will be in their 80’s by then – something to strive for.

  24. Comment by Steve | 07.10.2013 | 3:01 pm

    I hit my PFE at age 37 running sub 40 10ks and then tore up a knee playing softball. Recovered some then tore up the other knee (ACL) skiing. I have never been the same, but at age 62 I have lost some weight and am biking faster then I have in several years. It is still enjoyable.

  25. Comment by MattC | 07.10.2013 | 3:13 pm

    There’s so darn many uber-fit fifty-something guys out there that I don’t stand a chance. The only thing I’ve got going for me is that my family is long-lived…SO if I can still ride a bike in my 80’s, I stand a VERY good shot at atually making podium in any race I do (though if Greg is there it will likely be 2nd place, darn it).

    Are KOM’s done by age groups by chance? Just asking…

  26. Comment by JJay | 07.10.2013 | 3:42 pm


    Read the book “Younger Next Year” bu Chris Crowley. He is a retired attorney, avid cyclist and writes about excercise, diet and maintaining peak conditioning until 80. Good read.

  27. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.10.2013 | 4:00 pm

    @Christina – Please do not beat on me with your 3-wheeled recumbent.

    I will say, however that I was faster last weekend than everyone in the club ride with 2- or 3-wheeled recumbents.

    Of course at a mere 59 I was one of the younger riders.

  28. Comment by NYCCarlos | 07.10.2013 | 4:38 pm

    … did I just read that you … rollerbladed?! I need to go take a shower now. I feel dirty.

    Every so often I mention this in my blog; it always weirds people out. For about three years, I rollerbladed to and from work (at WordPerfect Corp), twelve miles each way, with my work clothes and lunch in a backpack. I got down to around 148 pounds — lighter than I am now. I also developed the massive quads I’ve since maintained. I wouldn’t go back to rollerblading anymore, but it definitely gave me a leg up on most novice cyclists when I switched over to biking. More here. – FC

  29. Comment by Michael | 07.10.2013 | 5:22 pm

    For some reason, it looks cooler if you use poles and hinged blades:

    Don’t you think?

  30. Comment by Al Pastor | 07.10.2013 | 5:37 pm

    If you look reaaaaly carefully at that awesome graph, you’ll see a bunch of sine waves…

  31. Comment by cdban66 | 07.10.2013 | 5:48 pm

    You don’t have to out race them, just out last them.

    Good Luck with that.

  32. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 07.10.2013 | 6:00 pm

    As a 62 year old amateur athlete (running, rowing, cycling), I bumped up against that curve a while back. I raced the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in 2011 and you know who won the road race *overall*? And took KOM for both the road and MTB race? 56 year old Ned Overend. Beat all the young guys. And who beat all the younger women? 52 year old Jeannie Longo. True, I never reached that level, but those types are my inspiration nevertheless. You can’t do anything about the downward blue curve, but you can, as you have shown, at least stay with it. I am optimistic also. Great post.

  33. Comment by Dave T | 07.10.2013 | 8:01 pm

    Yes well I peaked around 30 followed by several years of slow weight gain hit bottom around 7 years ago lost 60+lbs since then. I’m now almost back to my weight at 30. Every ride new PR’s seems like I’m on my second curve. I’m thinking next year might be my new peek.

  34. Comment by AKChick55 | 07.10.2013 | 11:38 pm

    Hey @Michael – are you in Anchorage? Holly Brooks is one of my athletic idols. She is breaking the traditional mold of nordic skiing by coming into the sport a bit later than most as in she qualified for the Vancouver Olympics and is currently training for next year’s Olypmics. She is amazing.

    The Hammer gives me hope that maybe someday, I can shed some of this chub and be sleek and fast (well, at least fast for me). I agree with Wife#1 – women peak for a long time (at least I hope we do!).

    On another note, summer has temporarily returned to Alaska (well, Anchorage – Fairbanks has been in the 70’s and 80’s). Planning a 50 miler this weekend from Willow to Talkeetna. Will be fun. Temps will be around 75 to 81 and there should be some fresh pavement. :) I should be able to see Denali on the ride if it isn’t hazy.Might have to post a picture of this amazing place I live. Someday, Fatty, you and the Hammer must visit. I will be your tour guide (I know all the fun places to go and all the yummy places to eat).

  35. Comment by Eric | 07.11.2013 | 11:15 am

    It gets worse.

    When you are 35, you are competing against all of the 35-year-olds out there. That gives you a broad distribution. Fast forward 10 years, and the number of people that participate has dropped, but the drop is mostly at the low levels of skill/fitness. So, the competition gets more select (“a very select group of riders”) as you get older.

    I found this out the hard way playing over 40 indoor soccer. Those guys are animals.

  36. Comment by John | 07.12.2013 | 1:59 am

    That’s the danger of being an over-achiever – you reach your potential way too early, resulting in a long, demoralizing decline from the PFE onwards. The secret is not to improve too fast (and/or start from a low base). I’m “planning” to reach my PFE at about 80, which gives me almost three more decades of enjoying PBs on the way to GVR-hood.
    Get better more slowly – improve for longer!

  37. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 07.12.2013 | 9:40 am

    Personally I am glad to be reaching a peak fitness. Not the fact that I may be peaking, but… If I can get this guy, who was a pretty nonathletic kid, to approach what my maximum potential at any point in my life could have been, I call that a win.

    I also think its cool to say I am in the best shape of my life and have it be from my own blood, sweat and tears and not some bottle of palm oil or other crack pot scheme.

  38. Comment by Kukui | 07.12.2013 | 4:38 pm

    It’s time to buy a fast sports car to compensate for the loss of speed leading up to the Long Taper.

    With a bike rack, of course…

  39. Comment by GregC | 07.12.2013 | 6:51 pm

    For me, my available time to ride took a significant bump up when I stopped coaching and refereeing my kids sports as they got older. As I got fitter, I enjoyed cycling more and rode more. There is a fine line between a passion and an obsession- sometimes we have to do a reality check to see where we are (and where we want to be with that work- family- cycling tradeoff). Riding on a regular basis with much younger and faster people has been a significant motivation for me to keep pushing hard and drop a few lbs. The downside is that every year I’m tracking my max HR decline, yet my times get faster, which seems backwards. I attribute my continued improvement to better equipment, better training and nutrition- who knows where my PFE is. I think the other key is staying healthy. And yes, I do relish kicking Matt C/ Marsupial Matt’s hind end on a regular basis too!

  40. Comment by Michael | 07.12.2013 | 8:03 pm

    @AKchick55 – I’m not in Anchorage, but I did live there at one time, and I was in town last year when Holly won Mt. Marathon. It’s pretty remarkable what that APU team is doing, and it seems like no one in the lower 48 is aware of it at all.

    When I was in town last year, I borrowed an old ’90s steel mt bike and was riding up one of the hills in Eagle River when I started passing teenagers on XC-ski-type roller blades working their way up the hill. Evidently, it was one of the local high school teams squeezing in a set of hill repeats (and getting a car ride back down to the bottom—sweet). It made me want to move my kids to Alaska and get them involved in the XC-ski scene.

    Please do post your Denali pics if you get a good some good ones!

  41. Comment by Camp Software | 08.1.2013 | 6:24 am

    This is a keeper! Good info! fatty I hope you keep writing more blogs like this one. I appreciate you sharing this with the rest of us fatty.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.