timferry33-year-old Tim Ferry is not the oldest rider ever selected for a Motocross of Nations team (Stephan Everts was 33 when he rode his last event in 2006. He won both his motos although Belgium finished 2nd.) I’m sure he’s not even the oldest to be on a winning team — the average age of riders was a lot older in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. But he may well be the oldest member of a winning team in the modern era.

Just before his trip to England for the 2008 MXoN (which Team USA won, again) the Factory Kawasaki rider and two-time MXoN winner was interviewed by Tim Cryster of RacerX Virtual Trainer. Ferry talks about his training regimen, how things have changed in the sport since he began his professional career in 1991, and what the future holds.

One of the most interesting exchanges in the interview was the following:

Cryster:Let’s talk about how you, as such an old man, are so successful at motocross (laughs). I sometimes think people or journalist like to focus on a guys age because they aren’t smart enough to talk about anything else. 33 is not old in any sport in my opinion. Look at Dara Torres in the Olympics this year. She is 41 and was just as strong now as she was when she was 18. Lance Armstrong, Mike LaRocco, John Dowd…..the list of “older” athletes goes on. What do you think it is about motocross that seems to prevent more guys like yourself to move into their 30’s and still be competitive?

Ferry:Not to take anything away from racers back when, but I think a lot of it has to do with eliminating old influences that have been a part of the sport since the 70’s. Like smarter training and moving away from the idea that you have to train as hard as you can all the time and the notion that you are done by the time you are 25. I think we are weeding out those people and influences and bringing in people who are more educated on fitness. I think we are learning how to train smarter not harder which is what the Carmichael Training System is all about.

Later, Ferry addressed his own future:

I am going to ride until my body won’t let me anymore. I am going to do it as long as I am competitive. I feel that I have my best years racing in front of me. With training the right way and being smart about it I don’t see any reason why I don’t have 5 more years in me. Plus I love to ride. Even after I retire I will get up and ride every day.

I’m a big Tim Ferry fan, partly because of his durability in a sport that doesn’t really value it, and partly because of his continued enthusiasm after so many years of racing. I sincerely hope that Ferry, and others like him in the sport, have a strong voice in the plans being made to move our sport forward.

Motocross has evolved an unhealthy emphasis on youth. Perhaps this is just Americanization, with our inherent focus on youthful everything. But the absurdity of having any professional sport that considers athletes over the hill at 25 is not lost on those of us who have watched it for several decades. It is, in fact, often the very recklessness of youth that leads to such short careers.

Yet it’s not just the riders who are affected by this — it’s the audience as a whole. There’s great emphasis today on finding ways to grow the audience for motocross. I fear we’re trying to “mainstream” a niche sport while overlooking the fact that the core audience also moves away as they age. Not too many 40-year-olds get enthusiastic about watching a bunch of fuzzy-chinned teenagers. It just doesn’t work.

Considered changes to the rules and structure of the sport will help this but it will mostly require, as Ferry says, changes in the attitudes of the principals. Here’s to hoping that as newer folks take over roles in positions of power that they make the right choices for the riders, the fans, and the long-term health of the sport.

holeshot_book_cover2I was reorganizing all my old motorcycle books and magazines today and came across this old book from one of my hometown racers – Kyle Kilgore. Kyle was a couple of years older than me but his brother Kevin and I were in the same HS class. Other than Gary Bailey and Carl Shipman’s 1974 “How to Win Motocross” it’s one of the few books I owned on racing technique from back in those days.

But Holeshot was a unique book (published 1982 by American Ventures Marketing.) It was all about the mental game. In fact, it’s completely about the mental game. The first chapter is titled “Mind Over Motorcycle”. I don’t know of any other book that ever took this approach to the sport. There’s one chapter on basic physical training, circa 1980, but the rest is all about the head game. Other chapters cover looking within yourself, finding internal drive, persistence, mental targeting, and training your mind to win. Looking back, it’s cool to see how far ahead this little “nobody” book really was.

Today, mental imaging is taken for granted but we call it visualization and sports psychology. Here’s a (dreadfully hard to read) paper from Vanderbilt University on the topic. It’s not talked about much among MX racers, but I’ll wager Eldon Baker (formerly Ricky Carmichael’s trainer and now working with James Stewart) knows plenty about it. It’s kinda cool to look back and realize one of my high school cohorts was this far ahead of the game.

holeshot_photo_sm2Here’s a trivia question for you East Texas readers: Who’s the guy in these pics? I don’t know him. But he has to be from among our same motley crew of East Texas racers in the late-’70s to early-’80s. It’s not Kyle, and it’s not Kevin. So who can name this hard-training racer with all the trophies behind him? Post your answers in the comments and the first person to name him wins an all-expense paid dinner for one at Taco Bell. Click the photo for a bigger pic.

Just got back from my first full physical in a number of years. By full, I mean I had a complete blood workup, a bone scan, body fat measurement, and VO2 max stress test. The good news is I’ve stayed pretty healthy despite my pathetic exercise regimen. I have good base fitness for a guy who hasn’t exercised in five years, and most of my cardio risk factors are quite low. The bad news is that some unfortunate genetic tendencies are catching up with me.

I’m 48 years old, and like most guys my age, I carry a little too much body fat and I’m showing early signs of adult-onset diabetes. Both of these are usually corrected by taking the proper diet and exercise steps. But they do need to be corrected and monitored on a regular basis. Failure to correct them will almost certainly lead to Type II diabetes over the next 10 years, along with the accompanying cardio-pulmonary problems. Inexpensive blood tests will allow me and my doctor to monitor my progress. There is also a hormonal component to the insulin/diabetic scenario. The older I get the lower my natural hormone levels will fall, and this will also need to be monitored, as low testosterone levels are implicated in many cases of adult-onset diabetes in men.

Unlike most guys my age, I have osteopenia (early-stage bone loss) in my hips. I can thank my Mom’s side of the family for this, as osteoporosis was wide-spread through my maternal ancestry. The bone loss problem is a bit more complicated than the insulin/diabetic issue and I will write more about this in a later post. If you are nearing or past the 50-year mark you may want to have a bone scan to see where you stand and determine if you need to take corrective action. The one sure thing about VMX is that we will all eventually fall off, and breaking bones is a real bummer. Maintaining good bone health is probably the single most important thing we can do to insure a long, happy VMX career.

I guess the summary of this physical, for me, was that it was a good wake-up call to get in gear and do some things I knew I should be doing, but didn’t really have clear-cut incentives to do. And I discovered some danger areas that could grow into real disasters, given my chosen hobby, if left untreated. I hope all of you will take the time to find a good doctor who will work with you to understand your needs, monitor the right things, and help you build a regimen to stay healthy for a long time in our sport.