By Matt Beebe
Author: Matt Beebe is a former IDEO designer and has been working with mobile devices for several years. Before becoming an insanely proud father, Matt was an avid racer, and specialized in time trials. These days Matt races cyclocross and is a founding team member of several start ups.
It’s hard to keep up with Jim Turner.
At 75 years of age Jim is a regular at many Bay Area time trial events. I’ve always been impressed with his riding, but recently he appeared to be stepping it up by setting two Masters National Records in early May. The first in the 2K Individual Pursuit Record, and the second for the U.S. Hour Record, both in the 75-79 Men’s age group.
Before I even had a chance to post that interview, Jim went on to add another outstanding result at the Bay Area Senior Games at Fort Ord on May 10th, by winning the 75-79 5K time trial, and placing 3rd in the 20K road race.
Jim agreed to spill the secrets of his success and logevity.
How long have you been riding?
I was mainly a runner for a long time. I started riding in 1992 at age 53.
Why time trials?
There’s a tendency to gravitate to the aspect of your sport that you do best. I do best when I’m making steady efforts over a given distance or for a given time duration.
When did you decide to go for the 2K and The Hour?
It’s probably common for master’s athletes to look for opportunities when they’re at an age of maximum advantage. The highest level master’s competitions (state, national, world championships) take place based on 5-year age groups. Obviously your age of maximum advantage is the first year or two of when you move up to a new age group. Last year, 2013, my focus was solely on getting ready for 2014 when I moved into the men’s 75-79 age group.
I looked at the age 75-79 National and World records for road time trials and for timed events on the track. Honestly, some of the records looked “soft” to me so I started to think seriously about going after those records. I talked with my coach of nearly 12 years, Dan Smith. Dan endorsed my idea of going after those records and he fully supports me in this endeavor.
Another motivation to go after those records comes from a completely different reason. I’m a big fan of both the summer and winter Olympics and have many favorite accomplishments of Olympic athletes I’ve watched over the years. My all-time most admired Olympic achievement is Eric Heiden’s gold medals in long track speed skating at the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in 1980. He won all five of the standard distances (500, 1000, 1500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters), setting Olympic records in all of them including a world record in the 10,000 meters. Winning that many events is amazing enough but what is particularly significant to me is the range of distances. From a 500 meter sprint to a 10,000 meter endurance event is a range to 20-to-1 from shortest to longest.
Imagine if you will 200-meter world record holding runner Usain Bolt competing in a 4,000 meter race (twenty times as long). I wouldn’t be surprised that a field of world class distance runners would gain a full lap on him over that distance.
I got it into my head that I’d like to duplicate that range of performance at my modest master’s level. By setting National records at 2000 meters and for the hour I’ve covered a distance range of 17.5-to-1. It’s personally satisfying to have been successful from an intense 3-minute power/speed event to a 60-minute endurance event.
Are you doing Sattley this year?
Yes. Sattley is my all-time favorite road event. I won the 70-74 age group at Sattley in 2009, 2010 and 2011, setting a course record for my age group in 2011. Fast “younger” guys caught up with me in 2012 and 2013 when I finished respectively 2nd and 3rd in 70-74. I’ll be going after the 75-79 course record this year.
Any other goals coming up?
Yes, several. I’m planning attempts at three world records later this year. Tentatively I’ll do an attempt at the Velo Sports Center velodrome in Carson CA in July at the age 75-79 hour world record. The current record is 36, 805 meters. Our Hellyer velodrome is a terrific facility to train and race but it’s not considered to be a “fast” track. The indoor velodrome at Carson is fast so it’s a good place to go after the age 75-79 world hour record.
After that I plan another attempt at the hour record at the velodrome in Aguascalientes Mexico in August. Aguascalientes has a world-class indoor velodrome at 6200 foot elevation where numerous world records have recently been set. There’s a definite speed advantage at altitude. I set my PR times for the flying 200-meters, the 500-meter time trial and the 2K pursuit in 2012 at the velodrome in Colorado Springs which is at almost exactly the same altitude as Aguascalientes.
Prior to the hour record attempt at Aguascalientes I’ll also do attempts there at the age 75-79 world record for the 2K Individual Pursuit and the flying 200-meters. The current world record for the pursuit is 2:52.4. I did a 2:51.3 at Colorado Springs at age 73 so I know that I’ve at least got a shot at the world record. There is no existing world record for the flying 200-meters for age 75-79 so I could get a freebie record in that. My goal though would be to go under the current National record for age 75-79 for the flying-200 which is 13.693. I did 13.740 at Colorado Springs in 2012 which was only 0.047 over the current record so, again, I know that I’ve got a shot at it.
After that I’ll probably go to Master’s Track Worlds at Manchester England in October. I competed there last year for the first time. My goal was simply to experience the event so it wouldn’t be new to me in 2014 when I moved up from 70-74 to the 75-79 age group. I didn’t do well in 2013 but now have that experience under my belt. Fifteen times I’ve placed top three in USA Master’s championships in four different sports but I’ve never made top three in a world championship so a podium finish at Manchester is another 2014 goal for me.
Ambitious goals you say? Sure, but why not set your sights high but reasonable.
What triggered the move from running to cycling?
I developed a nagging running injury and was looking for an alternative aerobic exercise. A couple of the guys that I worked with were avid cyclists so I got a bike and started riding with them in 1992. My running injury eventually cleared up and I started competing in duathlons.
I set three high goals in duathlon (qualify for the USA team at Master’s Duathlon World Championship, win Duathlon National Championship and make the podium at Duathlon World Championship). I succeeded in goal one in 1993, 1995 and 1996 and succeeded in goal two in 1996 but was never able to do better than 5th at goal three. I got a bit burned out with the hard training at that time and didn’t compete at all 1997 through 2001.
In 2002 Ted Huang wrote a nice report about a stage race that he had competed in that really intrigued me. The race was Everest Challenge and it takes place in the eastern Sierra. It’s a really hard race with 29,000+ feet of climbing (equals height of Mt Everest, hence its name) in two days. During my time of not competing my weight had ballooned to 190 pounds. I got my weight back down to my normal racing weight of 150 and also started working with my now long-time coach, Dan Smith, in December of 2002. With the benefit of Dan’s coaching and some hard work on my part I won my division in Everest Challenge in 2003.
After that I was hooked on bike racing and that has been my competitive focus since 2002.
Have you been this motivated since you started riding?
Yes. I’m a really goal oriented person. I previously mentioned my duathlon and Everest Challenge goals. My motivation goes up every five years when I move into the next master’s 5-year age group. That’s certainly the case this year with my chase of national and world records for my new age 75-79 age group.
Did you take any significant time off during the last 20+ years?
I took off about a year late 2005, early 2006. Got a chance to do some terrific backpacking trips in Montana, Colorado and, my favorite, the Eastern Sierra.
What is your advice for other masters athletes on how to stay competitive?
The three biggest things for me are:
(1) Maintain your health
(2) Have specific competitive goals to keep you motivated
(3) Work with a coach
Item #1 isn’t entirely in your control but you have to have it to be competitive at a high (masters) level. Item #2 works big time for me. Item #3 brings consistency to your training and racing.
Since you set those world records you also have had more local success. What are the Bay Area Senior Games?
The local Senior Games are part of a National program where multiple sports for athletes of age 50+ are contested, sometime called Senior Olympics. The Bay Area Senior Games offers competition in 22 sports. In fact I volunteered to help out with swim timing Sunday at Stanford.
The cycling competition in Senior Games usually occurs over two days with a 5K time trial and a 40K road race on one day and a 10K time trial and a 20K road race the other day.
A National Championship is held in odd numbered years. In 2013 that was in Cleveland and in 2011 it was in Houston. Next year it will be in Bloomington/Minneapolis/St. Paul. You must qualify for the National Championship the prior year so people interested in competing at Senior Games Nationals in 2015 must qualify this year, 2014. There are multiple Senior Games contested in each state. In fact I’ll be doing the Sonoma Senior Games the last weekend in May.
In each state one of the Senior Games is designated as the qualifying event for Nationals. This year that’s in Pasadena in July for California. You can qualify for Nationals at the designated qualifying event in any state. It doesn’t have to be your home state.
The National Championship is a very large well attended event, often having 10,000+ entrants. Just for example the men’s 75-79 age group in cycling had 18 finishers and the 80-84 age group had 15 finishers in 2013 in the 5K time trial. That’s about three times the number of entrants in those age groups that you would find in USACycling Masters National Championship.
How did your races at the Bay Area games go?
I had never raced that course at Fort Ord and really enjoyed it. It’s quite challenging with its hills and inevitable wind. I don’t do many road races and am not tactically savvy. I tend to race them like time trials and that just doesn’t work! Our 20K race combined all entrants for a mass start. Jim Fox in 70-74 just rode away from us all and won easily. Another 70-74 guy got away early and I didn’t care about him. I underestimated one of the 75-79 guys who I had beaten handily in the TT got away. I, wrongly, thought that I could pull him back but never did so. That left me with another 75-79 guy, Robert Paganini, from southern California. Roberts good at following a wheel and has a strong final sprint. I could never shake him and he beat me easily in the sprint. He and I finished 2nd and 3rd in 75-79 and 4th and 5th overall.
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