Coach Hughes: I’ve been friends with Elizabeth Wicks for several decades and have coached her for many ultracycling 12- and 24-hour races. She turned 75 in 2019 and gave herself a birthday present of riding PAC Tour’s 1900-mile Ridge of the Rockies trip in July, which was challenge enough. But she then added another challenge for the year and we agreed on a goal of completing at least 75 rides of at least 75 miles.
On an 85-mile ride on May 22 she developed a very sensitive, sore crotch. It wasn’t a saddle sore. There weren’t any external tissue abrasions or skin sores. Just nerve irritation of the skin. She was off bike starting June 4 and had to cancel riding with PAC tour, which was a huge blow. She didn’t get correctly diagnosed until July 2nd. She wrote me, “Then the miracle of a smart doctor and modern medicine got me back riding six days later on July 8!!” She had ridden her first 75-mile ride on February 3 and had done 16 by the time she was injured. Because of the time off the bike, “I knew I probably I couldn’t do all 75 rides of 75 miles and that’s when I decided to go for 7500 miles instead having only ridden 3,200 miles so far.”
Here’s her story:
Coach Hughes: Elizabeth, congratulations on riding 7,500 miles in 2019 to commemorate your 75th birthday I’m very proud of you! Why did you decide you wanted a big goal when you turned 75?
Wicks: Because it is such a milestone in my life. I like pushing myself and having a goal acts as a wonderful incentive to keep me active. I’ll never get to stand on an Olympic platform, but how I would have loved to! That’s one reason I love to compete in ultracycling events. It’s not only fun, but gets me up on a podium once in awhile.
Coach Hughes: What ultracycling events have you done since you turned 70?
- 2014: Calvin’s 12-hour – 157 miles, National 24 Hour (my first 24 hour) – 239 miles, Mid Atlantic 24 hour – 260 miles.
- 2015 Calvin’s 12-hour – 182 miles, National 24 Hour – 291 miles
- 2016 – Calvin’s 12-hour – 171 miles. (Windiest year in race history), PAC Tour Northern Transcontinental – 2697 miles
- 2017 – Sebring 12-hour – 160 miles
- 2018 – Worked on coaching biz, didn’t train so skipped events.
Coach Hughes: How many miles a year have you been riding since you turned 70?
- 2014 – 5,691
- 2015 – 6,214
- 2016 – 9,197
- 2017 – 6,166
- 2018 – 6,055
- Total – 33,313!
Coach Hughes: What was the hardest part of riding 7,500 miles?
Wicks: The real challenge of doing 7500 miles was that I didn’t plan it from day one. Rather I decided to do so just over half way through the year having missed PAC Tour and my 75 x 75 goal and I’d coped with a major physical and emotional blow. When I decided to do it in July, I was so excited to be back on my bike and comfortable at long last. I was having a ball and just rode like a mad woman for the next four months. The hard part was when it got very cold and snowy in November, which was earlier than usual and I didn’t have the freedom of going out whenever I wanted to. I agonized daily as to which days I could ride because I was afraid I’d run out of time. That’s why I did two back to back centuries Thanksgiving week to knock off 200 miles before it got cold and stormy again.
Coach Hughes: How was it mentally?
Wicks: Easy and hard. I did most of the long rides alone, as I prefer, so I don’t have to worry about or cater to someone else’s pace or needs. I can start, stop, change course, eat, take time changing clothes or whatever and whenever I plan to or feel like it. Doing my own ride was the easiest mentally. But there were days when I was tired and didn’t have the oomph that made it fun. I often did repetitive 30 or 40 mile loops from my house, which worked well except when my legs would start to ache, or I hadn’t fueled enough and felt weak or just plain tired. It was very tempting to stay stopped, because I was at home. I’d pretend I was training for a race and I’d focus on doing just one more loop…and then another one…and another… It always felt great when I finished and I’d relish in the accomplishment.
Coach Hughes: How do you stay motivated?
Wicks: Riding feeds my soul. It energizes, excites and fulfills me. It makes me happy. I relish the “exhilarating rigors of extreme sports,” a quote whose source I don’t remember. I break each ride/event into parts and focus on one part at a time. And pure ego! I want to complete my task so I won’t be embarrassed. The attention, accolades and validation make me feel good. They are my podium moments.
I have been given a skill and ability that not only are keeping me young and energized, but also build my confidence in so many ways off my bike. I think about that while riding. I don’t want to waste those gifts.
Coach Hughes: You had the goal of 75 x 75. How hard was it to give that up?
Wicks: On top of having to give up the trip through the Rockies, it kind of broke my heart. Ego again! Everyone was cheering me on and helping me count and celebrate each one. I was so excited to come up with the idea and do it! Several friends said it was a bold, gutsy thing to do, but, hell, 75 miles in three 25-mile loops from my house (with total duration of 6-6.5 hours) couldn’t be that hard…right?
Coach Hughes: I looked forward to her weekly reports and celebrated each 75.
Coach Hughes: What did you do for exercise while you couldn’t ride?
Wicks: I walked and asked a triathlete friend to introduce me to a local YMCA. I swam four or five days a week. Because I could comfortably sit on one of the recumbent stationary bikes, after swimming I did my 45 – 60 minute Coach Hughes’ prescribed workout that I do indoors on my trainer in the winter.
Coach Hughes: How did your legs and body feel when you started riding again?
Wicks: Amazing I hadn’t felt that strong in months. And the speed on my local/solo rides was several miles per hour faster than I’d been doing. A week later, I went to Maine with friends and was able to draft off the strongest and fastest riders longer than they or I could have imagined. I was baaacck.
Coach Hughes: When I got her e-mail “I’m baaacck” I was very excited and cheered her on.
Coach Hughes: What advice do you have for someone coming back from an injury?
Wicks: Relax, breath, be kind and compassionate to yourself. Know that you will get back to where you were and maybe even better than before you were hurt…just perhaps not in your time frame. And do just what the doctors and experts tell you to do.
Coach Hughes: What advice do you have for someone trying to achieve a challenging goal?
Wicks: First, decide that the goal is what you really, really want to do. Feel excited about it in the pit of your stomach as well as mind and body. You need the excitement to stay motivated.
Break it down into doable chunks of time/distances/whatever you can. One step/portion at a time. You’ll be amazed at how fast they add up. Know that there will be stumbling blocks and you may have to change plans. Be flexible.
When you hit a rough spot and/or feel unmotivated for whatever reason take Mohammad Ali’s advice, “Don’t quit. Suffer [through it] now and live the rest of your life a champion.” …even in your own mind! And because you may also be an inspiration for others.
Elizabeth Wicks is one of a 13 riders ages 54 to 82 who to contributed illustrative stories to my eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process. It explains the physiological changes that take place as you age, how to assess your current fitness and the training principles that apply to older roadies. It includes how to get the most out of your endurance rides. It has sample training plans to increase your annual riding miles and to build up to rides of 25-, 50-, 100- and 200-mile rides. Anti-Aging explains the importance of intensity training, how to do intensity and different intensity workouts. The chapter on strength training has 28 exercises for lower body, upper body and core strength illustrated with photos. The eight essential stretches are illustrated with photos. The book describes the increasing importance of recovery as you get older, the most important things you can do to improve your recovery and how to avoid overtraining. It concludes with a chapter on motivation. Anti-Aging gives you the tools you need to slow the inevitable decline in your health and fitness. The 106-page Anti-Aging is $14.99 ($12.74 for our Premium members with your 15% discount)
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.