Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An interview with Mike Wilpizeski - 6/4/2011

At the age of 54 Mike Wilpizeski would be the perfect candidate for the book “50 Athletes Over 50” by Don McGrath. Instead we can do a little write up for the Kissena Blog to help motivate the older athletes who have stuck with the sport of Track Cycling as their speed and endurance decreases in the aging process. Also to show the younger athletes what can still be achieved through training? 

Background information: 
I have noticed a steady improvement in your riding over the past three years since you crashed in 2008 during a Miss & Out race and injured your groin. That crash had sidelined you for a couple of months, then you rebounded, but you were still tentative about competing in mass start events. You have since acquired a custom made Tiemeyer with Zipp wheels and a renewed vigor for the 500 meter, Kilo and Pursuit events. These events are no stranger to you. You raced as a junior and have consistently ridden a bike since then. 

This year you improved your Kilo time to 1:16.31 which is more than a full second faster than last year’s time. This was the third fastest time of the day out of 45 riders from all categories. You also placed second in the Masters Match sprints and won the overall Omnium for the 2011 opening weekend at Kissena. You also continued your winning form through the Kissena Royale series, convincingly and aggressively winning events you normally stay away from such as the Miss & Out, Scratch Races and the Keirin. 

From the book “50 Athletes Over 50” it states that patterns of age related decline have been well documented for memory, aerobic capacity, maximal heart rate, muscular strength and flexibility, to name a few. After the peak performance age of 35, performance gradually declines at .5 percent to one percent per year until approximately age 70 when the decline accelerates. Some studies also suggest that the rate of decline differs as a function of event, sport and gender. For example, the rate of decline is generally greater for distance than for sprint events, for swimming and athletics than for golf and for women rather than men. 

This brings me to the reason for writing this – what type of training have you been doing to stave off the aging process and to consistently beat riders younger than yourself. I know you are extremely motivated, you love your sport, you have access to facilities, you have remained injury free since your crash and you have joined a new club with access to specific track coaching. Also this year is the Masters Nationals at T-Town and you are training for the Pursuit and 500 meter events, so you are extremely focused on this goal.

Start of your cycling exploits: 
-When did you get into the sport of cycling and start competing?
I joined a local bike club near Philadelphia when I was 15 and got my first racing license when as a junior in 1973. I was amazed at the large fields and high speed of those races – there were many Criteriums in New Jersey. The Tour of Somerville was the Queen of all the Crits.

-Why did you choose the sport of cycling?
I had heard about the Tour de France, and it captured my imagination. I admired Eddy Merckx and all of his accomplishments. When I was young, my summers were very unstructured, and my brother and I played every sport imaginable. I was too small for football, so I thought I would try cycling. 

-Did you stay in the sport of cycling from when you started or did you switch to other sports and then come back?
During junior high school, I played football, tennis and later did some running on the high school track team, but soon I joined the local bike club and began racing as a junior. In 1973, I became very serious about cycling and devoted myself to the sport. I quit the sport in 1979 and returned at the age of 35 as a master racing in Northern California.

-What events did you compete in?
Back in the 70s, I remember doing lots and lots of Criteriums. We also raced in Central Park, and did circuit races in and around the Philadelphia area. I always did best in Time Trials, but there were very few Time Trials or Road Races locally, so we’d drive up and down the East Coast. In 1974, we raced Le Tour d’Abitibi, a world class stage race for juniors in Canada. I raced on the road with Penn State’s collegiate team, and in 1978 I raced for a few months in France on an amateur team in Alsace. 

-When did you start track cycling?
I always wanted to be a complete bike racer – like my hero Eddy Merckx. That meant riding road, cyclo-cross and track. In 1974, my teammates and I drove up to Kissena and raced a couple of times on Wednesday nights. We had to cut school to get there in time – and we would get incredibly lost along on the way. I actually won the first race I ever did at Kissena by breaking away at the start. I didn’t know what else to do. I also raced a few times on Friday nights at the newly built Lehigh County Velodrome (T-town) in 1976 and 1977.

Since last season to now: 
-What has your weekly training been like?
Because I work at home, I am able to work out in the basement for an hour or so every morning. During the off season, I lift weights on M/W/F, and during the season I do maintenance lifting on M/Th. I do hi-intensity intervals in between. Almost every weekend, I go to the Kissena Velodrome on Saturdays, and on most Sundays I do an endurance ride along the LIE service road.

-How many hours riding on the rollers?
 I ride my track bike on the rollers every weekday – so probably 3 – 4 hours total. I do lots of intervals on my track bike on the rollers.

-How many hours riding on the road?
My Sunday endurance ride is approximately 3 hours. I might ride my road bike on Fridays, if I’m looking to just noodle.

-How many hours riding on the track?
 I go to Kissena Velodrome on Saturdays – usually for 3 or 4 hours. Mostly to socialize!

-How many hours riding on the trainer?
 I only use my trainer for warm up and cool down at races. I much prefer riding the rollers.

-Have you been riding outside during the winter? If so what type of riding?
I love riding in the winter - as long as it’s above 20 degrees. Otherwise I will run, because I rarely feel cold when I run. Another great thing about running –it gets my heart rate up very quickly and in just 60 – 75 minutes I’m feeling cooked.

-How many miles have you accumulated on a weekly basis.
It is hard to say, as I do not keep track of my mileage anymore. Since I prefer to do lots of short, hi-intensity intervals on the rollers, my training is based on time rather than distance. I usually train for 9 – 11 hours weekly. 

-What type of interval training do you do?
Every kind of interval training I can think of, especially the Vo2 max booster program. I try to do some hi intensity interval training almost all year round. Of course, the volume varies depending on time of year and what events I am preparing for. 

-You mentioned the Vo2 max booster program – what is that and how has it helped you?
 I am a big fan of Jesper Bondo Medhus’ website, and he outlines a Vo2 max booster program here: I think his advice is very useful for anyone who wants to race, especially masters with limited time to train.

-What type of endurance training do you do?
I ride my road bike on Sundays for 3 hours or so. This is the only ride I do each week that is not highly structured. I sprint for signs and do mostly fartlek intervals.

-What type of speed work do you do?
 The Affinity series races and practice races are useful for this.

-What type of strength work do you do?
 I’m a big believer in lifting weights, but I focus on efforts that are specific to cycling, like squats. I also like to do single leg squats.

-What are your major goals this year and what are you peaking for?
My goals this year are the 2K pursuit and 500 meter time trial at Masters Track Nationals. I would be thrilled with a top 5 result.

-What is more important to you – beating a personal best time or winning a race?
 I’ll take winning every time! 

-Would you consider yourself a tactician or do you race on pure instinct?
My racing instincts are poor.  I need to have a plan that’s open to improvisation.

-What sort of mental training or imagery do you use in competition to stay focused and peaked? I remember last year you were always second guessing yourself and you defeated yourself before the start of the race, this year you have displayed more confidence and focus. What is different this year, is it a placebo effect of joining a new club or better training?
I’ve always had a lot of self-confidence in timed events, even as a junior. However, I often get psyched out by other people in mass start events. I tell myself, “On, he’s national champion, he’s got huge legs, he beat me in this event last month,” etc. When I was 16 years old, my first coach told me that although I had some talent, I didn’t have a killer instinct. His words have stuck with me over the years. These days, I try not to look at my competitors when I’m on the start line.

Video Clip of Mike Winning the Kissena Royale Miss & Out on 6/4/2011

-What is the configuration of your Tiemeyer track bike?
            Seat – Selle Italia SLR Carbonio
            Seat Post – Thomson Masterpiece
            Stem – Thomson Elite
            Drop handlebar – Nitto track handlebars
            Aero bars – Easton carbon
            Headset – Chris King
            Fork –Edge (now Envy)
            Bottom bracket – Campagnolo Record
            Crank –Campagnolo Record Track
            Length of Crank - 170
            Pedals – Dura Ace
            Racing wheels – Zipp disc 900 and 808
            Training wheels – Dura Ace hubs with Velocity Rims
            Racing tires – Veloflex tubulars
            Training tires – Continental Sprinter tubulars

-What is the configuration of your road bike?
            Frame – Quattro Assi G66 aluminum
Seat – Selle Italia SLR Carbonio
            Seat Post – Quattro Assi carbon
            Stem – Ritchey WCS
            Drop handlebar – Ritchey WCS
            Headset - FSA
            Fork –Quattro Assi Carbon
            Bottom bracket – Shimano Ultegra
            Crank – Shimano Ultegra
            Length of Crank – 172.5
            Pedals – Shimano Ultegra
            Racing wheels – Mavic Cosmic Carbone
            Training wheels - Shimano Ultegra w/Mavic rims
            Racing tires – Continental Sprinter tubulars
            Training tires – Continental Gatorskin clinchers
            Gruppo – Shimano Ultegra 

Video clip of Mike winning one of the Keirin rounds on 6/4/2011

-What is your favorite gear for the Kilo at Kissena?

-What is your favorite gear for the flying 200 at Kissena?

-What is your favorite gear for the pursuit at Kissena?

-What is your favorite gear for the Miss & Out at Kissena?
Probably 90”, but I hate the miss and out!

-What is your favorite gear for the Points race at Kissena?
 92.6” is my usual gear for mass start events at Kissena.

-What is your favorite gear for the Chariot at Kissena?

-What is your favorite gear for the 500 meter at Kissena?

-What is your favorite gear for the Keirin at Kissena?

-What is your warm up gear?
 86.4” or 88.2”

-What would be your next major purchase in cycling that you feel would optimize your performance?
 I’m eyeing the new Dura Ace pedals to save some weight…However; I think the best way to optimize my performance would be to work on my starts.

-Do you train with a heart rate monitor, power meter or just perceived exertion and a speedometer?
I raced with the Berkeley Bike Club 1992 – 94 and used to train with a heart rate monitor when Rene Wenzel was my coach in 1994. I learned a lot about my body, but it took the fun out of riding. I began to dread training so I stopped using it. These days I just try to put 100% into every interval.

-What is your diet like – are you a vegetarian? You have managed to keep your body fat percentage really low, this definitely helps your power to weight ratio.
My first rule is “if it grew, great.” My second rule is “eat at home.” I eat and drink a bit of everything, but I also believe in moderation. I love salads of all kinds, and I’m not a big meat eater. My favorite all time food is brown rice, I try to eat that almost every day.

-What has kept you motivated in the sport of cycling?
I enjoy the social scene at Kissena. Also racing is my only escape from the constant pressure at work and home. Kissena may not be the fastest track in the world, but it’s still a special place because of the people. When I see you ride 200 meters in 12 seconds - that motivates me. When I speak to Delroy Walters or watch Colin Prensky ride the kilo in 1:11 or Andrew LaCorte outsprint the out-of-towners, I get motivated. You guys have full time jobs, families and responsibilities, yet you still strive for excellence every time you race your bikes. I also believe that cycling is the answer to practically all the world’s problems – the environment, transportation, health and lifestyle, etc. Bicycles are efficient, and 100 years ago they were cutting edge technology. Besides I hate driving a car, instead I prefer riding a bicycle to move myself around - bicycles are also beautiful.

-Who would be your main competitors to best at the 2011 Nationals in the 2K pursuit and 500 meter time trial?
 There are many masters in my age group who will be tough competitors at nationals, but for sure Scott Butler, Christopher Regan and Robert Black will be among the best.

-What are your plans after the 2011 Nationals?
To have fun racing at Kissena, to race with the other masters on Labor Day and then start my training for next season after a short break.

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