One day more than three decades ago, my son Jeff came home from Rocky Mountain High School to report that his history teacher was planning to run in the Denver Marathon that spring. So was I. That was when I was first introduced to Joe Friel.
This week a book arrived in my mailbox. Fast After 50: how to race strong for the rest of your life, is Friel’s twelfth book about athletic training and it’s a winner. I was touched by his hand-written words recalling the longevity of our friendship and the fact that it mattered to him.
What’s a history teacher doing writing nationally acclaimed books about the art and science of training for sport? Turns out Friel is over-the-top qualified. He holds a masters degree in exercise science and before he developed a reputation as an elite triathlon and cycling coach, he owned Foot of the Rockies running store in Fort Collins. During 30 years of coaching he trained national and world championship athletes such as Olympian Ryan Bolton, winner of the 2002 Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid.
As his expertise grew, Friel began to write about what he’d learned coaching. His publications include the training bible series for cyclists and mountain bikers. This guy never stops. During this time he co-founded Training Peaks.com, a web-based software company and Training Bible Coaching with his son Dirk, a top-level bike racer. These days Friel travels internationally giving seminars, clinics and offering training camps. In his own right, he has been a Colorado State Masters Triathlon champion and a perennial USA Triathlon All-American duathlete.
Friel describes his latest book as a present to himself on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. “I was afraid of rapidly deceasing athletic performance,” he admits. “I decided to read all of the research I could find on aging and endurance.” He began by posting blogs on the subject on joefrielsblog.com. They were so well received that he knew he had to write a book about what he was learning.
The result covers myths about aging, how normal aging differs from athletic aging, how exercise affects us as we age, the roles of nature and nurture and what we can do to slow or even temporarily reverse changes that occur. He makes specific and concrete suggestions about training routines, recovery, sleep, diet and nutrition. All his statements are backed up by meticulous research.
The best thing about Fast After Fifty is that it’s fun to read. Friel’s personality comes through on every page. He’s done his homework. He’s a techie kind of guy who loves delving into research. He pulls no punches, acknowledging that there are still areas where the answers are not cut and dried and will differ with the passage of time as more and more athletes move into older age groups. “Everyone is different,” he says asserting that the volume and intensity of training regimes and diet must be tailored to the individual. In this business one size does not fit all.
You’ll have to read to the end to learn about Friel’s personal vulnerability and why he’s working harder than ever to take his own advice these days.