Little Rickety – Part 2

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I’m not sure why every once in a while I feel like venting my frustration with my body.  I think as an athlete, it isn’t that uncommon, but it really isn’t that common to make the issues so public. This website thing really exposes many topics that I would never have guessed would become a topic for public conversation.

I’ve hung out with elite level athletes my whole life.  And I can’t think of one that just goes about their business quietly, keeping their health worries to themselves.  Actually, it sometimes is “worse” with athletes that are trying to get to the elite level.  Sometimes those guys are so consumed with their quest that it is nearly impossible not knowing every chink in their amour.

Anyway, I always find the comments section interesting.  I usually have no idea what direction a comment thread will go.  Many times it takes a 90 degree turn and ends up being about something that has virtually nothing to do with what my topic is.  That is fine.  That is one of the best things about social media.   New ideas and thoughts aren’t created by run-of-the-mill thinkers.

But yesterday, I found it interesting that so much of the comments got on the topic of age and addiction.  Not that there were off base, it was that I don’t think that some of the issues I’m having have anything to do with either.

All athletes, at least all successful ones that I’ve met, have an addictive personality.  Most the successful people I’ve met in general, have this trait.  I’m not saying you have to have an addictive personality to be successful or happy in life, but in the society we live, many of our leaders and sports figures are very driven.  I don’t take it as a slam.  It is what it is.

But the age thing, to me, seems to always consume everyone.  

Okay, I’m pretty old to be doing what I’m doing.  That is a given.  But I don’t pay much attention to that.  I don’t feel that much older than the guys I race with and don’t take it into consideration when I’m competing.

Let’s look at what I was complaining about yesterday.  Broken fingers, stiff neck, aching from broken hip and torn rotator cuff.  All these things could and do happen to guys that are half my age.  Actually, if I had a website from the day I started racing, this stuff would have been on it when I was a teenager.

Bicycling did an article on me nearly 20 years ago, with a photo pointing to all the broken bones and injuries I’d had in my life.  It was substantial.  Collarbones, wrists, legs, shoulders, ribs, you name it, I hurt it.  That is one of the downsides to this sport.  Moving fast and then stopping abruptly is not good for the human body.  Hitting the ground, cars, trees, other cyclists, or just about anything can, and will eventually, be very bad for your short term health.

Okay, I’ve had a streak of bad luck recently.  Twice the past two months I’ve crashed.  The first time, my own fault at Cyclo-Nationals.  The 2nd time, breaking a crankarm.  Both times I broke things.  Really, I think I got out of both crashed fairly unscathed.  I’m not sure about what is going on with my neck, but breaking a few fingers and cracking some ribs isn’t that high on the injury list.  But, it is enough to bother me racing and for sure, in general life.

But, I’m not convinced that age has anything to do with any injury I currently have.  I fell on wet pavement and broke my hip.  Tons of people filled out the questionnaire on my website and it isn’t an age deal.  That could have happened at 20.  It just happens that I was in my 50’s.  Same thing with my rotator cuff being destroyed.   Obviously, as you age, your rotator cuff can become compromised.  But, that wasn’t my issue.  I fell extremely hard, on rutted ice and slid a whole hill pretty much only on my shoulder.  Not good.  But not age related.

Did you see that Lindsey Vonn is done again for this season?  She has had her fair share of injuries.  She was getting knee surgery in Vail, at the Steadman Clinic, when I was doing rotator cuff surgery there.  Think everyone is saying that she is too old for sport?  Some are.  But, they are off base.

Here’s the deal.  Injury in sports is inevitable.  The longer someone is involved in sports, the higher chances they have of being injured from that sport.  Cycling is great because very rarely it is an overuse injury. Cycling is very easy on your body in that regard.

But the crashing is another thing.  That is something like downhill skiing.  Like I said above, going fast and then stopping abruptly, or not so abruptly in downhill skiing, is very bad for the human body.

We are all participating in a sport that always has this chance of injury.  I’ve accepted that and think I normally do a good job of dealing with the issues.   I’ve had a ton of issues and I’ve overcome nearly all of them, short term.  I realize that I most likely will have to deal with these same issues again later in life.  Just because I write about it, what seems like often, is because it is what is on my mind at the moment I’m posting.

I’ve raced bicycles for over 40 years.  Probably average 50-70 races a year, so that is 2000+ races.  Road, criteriums, cross, MTB.  I find it amazing that I haven’t been hurt more.  That isn’t even counting the chances of getting hurt just out training.   The human body is unreal and pretty resilient.  But sometimes it has had enough.

Age comes into play, but not as much as you all seem to believe.  And the benefits of the sport outweigh the potential injuries and downsides by a huge margin, in my opinion.

Did I mention that I have a saddle sore.

We all hope to ride off into the sunset as painlessly as possible. We have a good sport for that.

We all hope to ride off into the sunset as painlessly as possible. We have a good sport for that.

We took Tucker out to the country and this was his first encounter with a pond or lake.  He did a little sniffing around, walked up the bank, turned around and ran full speed into it and started swimming out.  He soon realized he didn't have any idea what he was doing, turned around and swam back to the shore.

We took Tucker out to the country and this was his first encounter with a pond or lake. He did a little sniffing around, walked up the bank, turned around and ran full speed into it and started swimming out. He soon realized he didn’t have any idea what he was doing, turned around and swam back to the shore.

He got a little cold and wasn't sure about it.  Tucker has now been around a month and he has been a super friend.

He got a little cold and wasn’t sure about it. Tucker has now been around a month and he has been a super friend.



31 thoughts on “Little Rickety – Part 2

  1. Nancy

    Lindsey Vonn case is different than cycling. When you crashed with the ski, they mostly stayed attached to you and they caused much more damage to your knees, legs, back. they traveled at +65 mph and will hit everything in their way (slidjng on the snow, ice) until they stopped (safety net, rocks).

    She had a lot of injuries and her body is probably not as strong as it was when she was in her early 20 and her recovery period is a lot longer everytime. Most skiers don’t get over 30 because of impact of injuries and skiing is weight-bearing. Hopefully, she will stop before the doctor can’t fix anymore.

    Usually with aging, the bones doesn’t heal as quickly as young child. Also youth people tend to have much more flexibility, reducing risk of injuries.

  2. Lionel

    You also complained about your knee, which was not injury related. At your age and going forward, you will experience rickety pains that seem to come from nowhere. That knee ache could be from an injury 30 years ago, but old people (and I’m older than you, started racing in 1970) do suffer and it IS because of age, even if you didn’t ride your bike. Riding will help keep some of these aches minimized (and thankfully many disappear while riding), but the aches are going to be a part of your life and will come and go. Often changes in the weather will exacerbate those aches, which is why places like Phoenix (where I live) are wonderful for the old folks, since we often have a steady high pressure that keeps internal pressures on even keel.

  3. Joe C

    I don’t know, Lindsey Vonn puts a lot of workout videos on Instagram, and she is a workout beast.

  4. Robo

    Yes, a teenager or twenty-something could just as easily break multiple bones if his or her crank arm self-destructs without warning. Age has no influence on that risk. But the difference is the recovery timeline/process, and age does have an enormous impact on that.

    I’m not suggesting you stop what you’re doing. I’m only suggesting that you adjust your expectations for recovery time, and possibly to take more time for recovery and rehab.

  5. Doug

    Passion is not addiction. Don’t accept negative labels for positive attributes.
    Are artists “addicted” to art? Was Einstein “addicted” to math?
    Passion drives us to explore our limits.
    Without passion, mediocrity becomes the norm.
    Soldier on, my friend, and God bless.

  6. Orphan

    It’s impressive how you can still do what you do physically but the fact that you still have a strong desire to win is what blows my mind.

  7. Craig

    And why do you keep saying that cycling doesn’t get many overuse injuries. That is the primary cause of injuries in cycling. Only the biomechanically superior athletes are immune to that. Look at the number of pro’s whose careers have been hampered or ended by overuse biomechanical injuries (or their related surgeries) – easy example is Fignon – the reason he didn’t have success after his first two Tour victoies until the fiasco of 89 was achilles problems …

    That being said, cycling is a weird sport. We use cycling to rehab knee injuries but serious cycling can and does cause knee injuries.

    I have a saddle sore too … they suck …

  8. Kevin Lyons

    Last summer I crashed bad, shattered scapula, months of pain. Afterwards, the rehab- pt guy said if I was 16 he could have my arm and shoulder moving in 2 weeks, and at my age, 69, will be more like 6-8 months. Around age 35, our bodies slow down production of enzymes and hormones that facilitate healing. Over 50, those levels are there, but not much. Healing takes “forever”.
    Robbie Ventura once said to me, ” Listen to your body, it doesn’t lie” A real smart observation.

  9. Erik

    Not only that, but a really good attitude too. I’m almost as old as you, Steve, have been beaten up in a number of sports from age 4 on (think Canadian pastimes), and actually take comfort in knowing that an elite athlete also suffers the nicks and cuts of a lifetime of sport and yet maintains such a positive and realistic attitude. It’s one thing to bitch about the pain, it’s another to give into it and stop. I’m truly inspired to continue riding hard after reading this (though will probably not try to match my 25 y.o. self’s performances on the downhills).

  10. The Cyclist

    Doesn’t age affect bone density, meaning same impact in your 20s wouldn’t break your fingers as easily as now?

  11. James

    Right on bro. Your body is your most precious gift. Use it everyway you can. Take care of it, but use it. Do something everyday that scares you. Think about that one.

    I can’t believe the debbie downers your site attracts.

  12. H Luce

    Here’s a few things to consider:
    “–The cyclists had significantly lower BMD of the whole body and spine than the runners, despite having similar age, weight, body mass index, body composition, hormonal status, current activity level, and nutrient intakes.
    –63% of the cyclists had osteopenia of the spine or hip, compared with 19% of the runners.
    –Cyclists were 7 times more likely to have osteopenia of the spine than runners, controlling for age, body weight, and bone-loading history.

    Now that sucks. The researchers concluded that “bone-loading activity should be sustained during adulthood to maintain bone mass”[6].”

    Another reference: “Campion F, Nevill AM, Karlsson MK, Lounana J, Shabani M, Fardellone P, Medelli J. 2010. Bone status in professional cyclists. Int J Sports Med 31(7):511-5.

    STUDY CONCLUSION: “Professional cycling appears to negatively affect BMD in young healthy and highly active males, the femoral neck being the most affected site (-18%) in spite of the elevated muscle contractions inherent to the activity.”

    COMMENTS: Compared with amateurs, pro road cyclists probably spend less time walking, running, lifting weights or doing other things that encourage bone growth as they are highly focused on recovery and staying off of their legs after workouts.”

    Steve, in doing all the construction work he does, ends up doing a lot of bone-loading activity. Still, getting checked out for osteopenia/osteoporosis might not be a bad idea, because there are steps that can be taken to fix it – instead of eventually getting a career-ending and potentially crippling injury. Of course, there are always wheelchair races and recumbent bikes, but I don’t think Steve would want to go there.

  13. Krakatoa East of Java

    I actually hate to agree with what so many others have said. Here I am (again) reading about your pre-season thoughts, and remembering back. These were the concerns I had when I was 19. You have these concerns at age 56. Putting in enough miles. Doing back-to-back races to gain speed, stamina, etc. I’m gobsmacked. I’m blown away that you’re still in the same groove again. As if you have no change in your life. I wonder how you find so much fulfillment in this same pattern.

    I just wonder why you don’t take this enthusiasm for life and living, and apply it to something new. Conquer something else. Still ride, but just not so much racing. You seem to have a few nickels to rub together. Why not start a biz or something?

  14. dave

    Ahh yes Steve, if only our bodies were like Eriksen titanium. But alas, they’re not. That’s why I’ve always looked for that happy and content medium. It’s better in the long term. In younger years you can get crazy with quantity and frequency, it’s OK. But quality is where it’s at. As you age older, the body benefits more from quality than quantity. A good 60-70mile hard/hilly ride is worth more than a 100+ mile ride. And every other day or every third day is frequent enough, even for basic race training. You would be amazed at the conditioning you can attain and maintain on half the number of rides and half the number of miles you do. Your body will have more time to heal and recover so that off the bike you won’t be feeling all those aches and sores. And you’ll have more time for doing other things!

  15. jeffc

    I have baboon butt, mostly due to the salt and sludge… and, frost bite in areas yah never want frost bite (ie sweat dripping down into unknown areas when -40oC)

    it would be interesting to see what sport has the most injuries – Road, criteriums, cross, MTB

    I’ve seen a few in road, many in crit, not so many in cross and many in mtb. Most notably was the where a 60+ year old fella broke his shoulder blade and kept on riding, one tough older dude… then there was jeremiah bishop at La Ruta

    he was doing a good clip racing against a Columbian, they went around the corner and physics kicked in. Face first into a rock. Kept racing though for second place. Amazing rider. I think he still races the hundred milers (

  16. James

    Oh the old quality vs quanitiy argument. Alas who are you to question the quality? Who’s to assume your hilly 60 has more quality than his 100. Just because your 100 might be a slow junked out putter, doesn’t mean thats his mo.

  17. paul

    It’s pretty clear that Steve’s maverick approach to things is what makes him who he is. The “shotgun spray” training, not buying into carbon, etc. No need to buy into the latest fad or “research” when you have 40 f-ing years of competitive experience to guide you.

    “Rules are made for people who aren’t willing to make up their own.” – Chuck Yeager

  18. Coach Matt

    Damn Steve, way to ignite those who only see limitations! Speaking frankly, I think you get hurt too much, but I also have deep respect for you and your career. If you feel like riding and pushing the envelope – such as it is – good on ya! I’ve only been racing and riding for 30 years, but I still feel like a young man on the bike and love the feeling of a long ride and the thrill of accomplishing something new. As long as you’re willing ot do it, and tolerate when it goes badly…why not!?


  19. Shano

    I recognize that puppy’s face. That’s the look of being in a happy loving comfortable home where you’re part of the family, not a possession. I sure miss my Kona but the Tucker photos keep taking me right back to the puppy days (but without the messes on the rug. )
    Yep please keep on trucking ST, you inspire me to keep getting out there and take my beatings and I still can’t wait to get out and do it again. Look forward to your posts every morning

  20. mike crum

    you got 60 replies on your 2 posts on rickety 1-2.. you gonna take any advice and start lifting, back off the cycling and when you do get injured, rest like you should? or, are you gonna keep doing exactly what you been doing all these years…. and put up a similar post like this in 2017?

  21. Steve Tilford Post author

    Mike-I’m not doing exactly what I’ve been doing all these years, but close. And I probably could have written a post like this each and every year I raced. Allergies, illnesses, injuries are at the fore front of every athletes mind. The difference between me and most athletes is that mine just happen to be broadcast publicly.

  22. Dale

    I know… at age 60 I’ve wrecked loads of time and you’d think with all the healing I’ve done I would be better at it, not worse. Evidently in this case practice doesn’t improve the performance. I’m actually sort of bitter about it.

  23. dave

    James = Jerk Ass Mouthn’off Embryonic Stupidity. Now sit down and shut the fuck up, BOY. Ya little punkass prickshit.


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