Sunday, April 13, 2008

hell, YOU'RE not old!

Putting time to the test
Cyclist sets time-trial record for 90 and older

By Don Norcross STAFF WRITER
April 12, 2008
As the sun crested the horizon yesterday, 18-and 19-year-old collegiate rowers logged their early-morning workouts on Mission Bay.
Not more than a couple of hundred yards away, 89-year-old Gordy Shields of El Cajon pedaled his bike around Fiesta Island. Almost 45 minutes after shoving off, Shields accomplished his goal, shattering a national record in the 20-kilometer time trial.
The previous record for cyclists 90 and older: 57 minutes, 6.89 seconds.
Shields' time: 44:53.98.
In cycling, riders' ages are determined by how old they turn that year. Shields turns 90 on April 20.
“He's our hero,” said 64-year-old cyclist Gary Devoss of Mission Hills. “We all want to grow up and be like Gordy.”
Shields already held the national time trial record in the 80-84 and 85-89 age classes.
Asked how it felt to add to his athletic résumé, Shields, still seated atop his bike while accepting congratulations from spectators, leaned his head back and, sounding like Tony the Tiger, said, “Grrrrreat!”
Shields is a retired educator who worked as a teacher and counselor at Grossmont High School and Grossmont College. He served in the Navy during World War II, transporting military personnel in the South Pacific.
Pedal powerby the numbers
Gordy Shields' national 20-km TT records by age group and time
80-84: 33:59.62
85-89: 35:10.81
90-older: 44:53.98
(By comparison, the 65-69 age record is 26:58.57)
He began cycling at 50. A former tennis player, he switched sports after developing bursitis in his back.
On average, he rides five or six days a week, logging about 500 miles a month. Last year, though, his riding was curtailed considerably.
He spent a couple of months helping his wife of 62 years, Olwyn, recover from a hip replacement. He underwent cataract and hernia surgery, and he battled spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal cord that causes the nerves to pinch.
“It was a helluva year,” Shields said.
Still, he rides.
“Why not?” he said. “What else is there to do?”
Shields, who is 5-foot-5 and weighs 152 pounds – “I've shrunk; I used to be 5-8” – said there's no secret to his good health.
“There's no magic bullet,” he said. “It's just keeping active physically and mentally. It's what I do. It's a discipline.”
Shields is a tireless cycling advocate, spending more than 30 years pushing for cyclists' rights and working to improve the Bayshore Bikeway, a five-city, 24-mile bike route around San Diego Bay. A $5.2 million bridge that crosses the Sweetwater river was named in his honor.
Shields' biggest issue yesterday was the cold. When he pushed off at 6 a.m., the temperature was in the low 50s. Minutes after completing his record ride, Shields' fingers were gnarled and curled as if still gripping the handlebars.
“Oh man, it's cold,” he said. “Your body's telling you, 'You've got to say warm.' ”
The time trial, a bike racing staple, features cyclists leaving a starting point one at a time, attempting to record the best time across a designated distance. Yesterday's time trial was put on by the San Diego club Cyclo-Vets.
Shields and the previous record holder, the late Jack Pardee (not the longtime NFL coach), are the only cyclists to attempt the 90-plus 20K time trial. There is no recognized world record.
“Some people say, 'Gordy, you don't have any competition,' ” Shields said. “I say, 'So what. I show up and race. That's the point.' ”
As Shields straddled his bike at the Fiesta Island entrance after his record-setting performance, a 69-year-old fan told him he expected Shields to break the record by two more minutes the next time.
“Well,” Shields said, “you have to have goals.”
[apparently, i'm not going to get any taller, and i might have to trade my 50cm frames for 48cm ones in 25 to 30 years.]

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