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Athlete Profile: Shifting Gears with Linda Elgart
Several months back, I "met" Linda Elgart through our Masters Survey. Her love for the sport of cycling was obvious and I enjoyed reading about her approach to life and moving through the age categories. We all know that change is unavoidable in our lives. It happens in big and small ways every day. How we transition, or deal with these changes, is a choice we make. Certainly, attitude and perspective have a great impact on the final outcome. These same qualities are a part of the equation for an athlete to stand on the podium just as Linda has done numerous times over the years.
What changes have you noticed in your ability to train or race over the years?
I have been very lucky with health and lack of use injuries, though I have had some crash related injuries over the years. I haven't really changed much, except that I do notice that I need more recovery and can't go hard many days in a row. I haven't made any particular changes in my equipment. As far as training, I am more and more careful with my diet, and trying to get enough rest.
What wisdom would you like to share with other Master racers?
At this point I probably ride more for fun and do less specific training (except for in cyclocross, where I love doing drills!). I do go hard, but now, for example, we do a long ride in the hills every Tuesday with a small group. Sometimes there is dirt (road bikes), and while the terrain can be hard and the pace sometimes hard, it is a social ride.
It used to be that I really loved to race and trained just with racing in mind, but now I appreciate just being able to ride, and could never race again and be happy. One might be surprised to hear that, as I race all the National Masters Championships (Track, Road, Cyclo-Cross and Masters World Cyclo-Cross Championships), but it really is true. Now we like to travel out of the country, and I foresee more cycling, either serious or just renting city bikes, around the world.
I think that the most important thing is to enjoy life now, however one is able to do it. Whether it's racing or not, I think being healthy, strong, and fit, and being able to go to interesting places and ride with people, is the most important thing. This knows no age.
Dealing with the slow changes that age hands us is one thing, but sudden, unexpected injury is something that can "flip our boat over" many times. What has helped you transition through these difficulties?
I can tell you that every bad injury I've had has had a silver lining. I'll tell you about them:
Pelvis fracture (over 20 years ago). I was non-ambulatory, and as soon as I could think straight, I started drawing and I didn't stop. It made me realize that if for some reason I couldn't ride, art would rush in and fill the void. (I did go to art school.)
Broken wrist with external fixator (12 or so years ago.) This was painful and difficult, and one never gets used to the device sticking out of one's arm. But it turned me into a monster of training. I was so motivated after this one, and when I healed I met a bunch of racing goals that I might not have if I hadn't had the injury. It also got me into duathlon (running for fitness, could only ride on tri bars with my wrist), where I competed a couple of years and finished out my duathlon career with an 8th at World Championships.)
Broken wrist other hand, not as bad of an injury on all accounts (6 years ago.) From this one, I felt the love of my friends, the community I had that cared for me.
And the latest injury, broken clavicle and ribs. In January 2012, I overlapped a wheel on a training ride and went down. I was grateful that it was temporary and not life changing. Lately I've heard a lot of bad news about deaths and paralysis, just awful things happening to people I care about. This was routine and minor. I could put up with it.
As it happened, my recovery was about right on schedule with this one. At first I thought I would never heal, but of course I did. I got on my town bike at 5 weeks, was able to ride about an hour on my road bike at 6 weeks, and at 8 weeks got the "All Clear" to go ahead and train as I wish. After 9 weeks , I've done pretty much normal rides this whole week. I am tired and sore, but not too far off of being back to normal.
The important thing, and the hardest thing, is patience. You just can't make it heal any faster than it is going to. I filled the time by riding the trainer, walking for transportation (this takes a lot of time and allows you to see things you don't even see on a bike), and reading a lot. What I missed most was riding with my husband John. It's so much a part of our lives.
Note: In 2011 Linda won the US Masters Championship Scratch and Points Races on the track and Cyclo-Cross. You can visit her on FaceBook, Linda Elgart.