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Sandy Scott – 70, Strong, and Healthy

by Don

I thought I’d post the interview I had with Sandy Scott today, as it is Sandy’s 70th birthday. He enters a new age group and I’m sure will clean up.


Sandy Scott Digging Down

Sandy Scott Digging Down

Sandy Scott is a colorful 69 year old elite cyclist who resides in Seminole, Florida, and who has managed to pack so much into his life that its density approaches that of a black hole, pulling you toward him to hear his stories. Sandy had a varied professional career, at one time or another being a police officer, in the military, a commercial airline pilot, a corporate sales executive, and an entrepreneur. Of all these, Sandy loved being a pilot the most, and because of this, says he would have done it for free.

Sandy also has many other interests including chess, collecting all kinds of things, amateur radio, playing drums, martial arts, photography, skydiving, high-fidelity audio, logic puzzles, motorcycling, electronics, running, tennis, golf, and of course cycling.

Sandy participated at competitive levels in sports most of his life, winning national master’s titles in road racing and cross-country in his late thirties and early forties. Sandy started cycling at age 64, when his now fiancé Rosie, a competitive cyclist in her own right, dropped by his house and told him that she had two bikes and a picnic lunch, and that they were going for a ten mile ride. Sandy had a blast that day, and bought a bike the next week. He found that he had a talent for cycling, and within 9 months of that first ride, had turned in the fastest 10K time of the day in his first race. The rest is history.

Days before this interview, Sandy won the Florida state 20K time trial title, breaking the record he set last year by 18 seconds. This is an amazing feat given that at age 65 he had a horrific cycling accident that resulted in a fracture of his C1 vertebra, which is often fatal.

Sandy’s dream is to win four gold medals at the Senior Olympics in 2011 in Houston, Texas. He also wishes that all people can get to understand that growing older can be a fantastic experience if you lift weights, eat right, get aerobic exercise, have good relationships, have goals, exercise your mind, have a positive outlook, and get regular medical checkups. Sandy is having a blast.

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in your sports?

A: Coming back from breaking my C1 vertebra in a bike accident when I was 65, was my greatest accomplishment. This kind of break is typically fatal, and my board certified surgeon suggested that my vertebra be fused. That would have meant a minimum of 50% loss of range of motion in my neck, which would have rendered me a non-cyclist. I researched on the internet until I found the physicians that I wanted, and they guided me through a recovery without surgery. I came back from the surgery and went on to win state championships, and set state records. The recovery was a daunting task, and I was in a hard cast for five months. Despite this, every single day I was on my cycling trainer in the garage for 70 minutes pumping my brains out. I began lifting weights as soon as I could, and the only concession I made is that I stayed at my normal warm-up weights. My neck healed in about 9 months, and I was back on the road. It was a long hard road, and I can’t even describe how good it felt to ride for the first time. As a result of this, I was awarded the inaugural comeback of the year award.

Q: What one or two things do you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?

A: I have a plan, I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I do it. I plan for two peaks a year. One peak was the recent state championships, and the other is for the state Senior Games in December. Every single day I know exactly what my mission is, and I execute it. If I wake up and don’t feel like doing my intervals, or if it’s raining, I make myself do the planned ride anyway. I hope my competitors look out, and decide to wait until tomorrow.  I’ve only missed one day of riding in a year and a half, and that was due to having a surgery. My doctor wanted me to take off two months, and I told him I’d give him one day.

The keys are my consistency, having a plan, executing the plan, and being so competitive that I would die rather than lose.

Q: What would be your ultimate achievement?

A: My main goal is to win four gold medals at the Senior Olympics in Houston, Texas in 2011. In 2007 I competed in the Senior Olympics in the 10K time trial, and I went off course, lost a ton of time, and ended up in 7th. I was so discouraged by that race, that I still am not totally over. That day changed my life in that I haven’t lost a race since. In 2011 I’m going to be a four gold medal Senior Olympic champion.

Q: How do you set your goals?

A: My goal is winning, and I look around for the most exciting events. The goals are almost automatic, because the best races are run every year.

Next year I’ll be in the 70 year old age group, and it’s almost frustrating for me because there isn’t a 70 year old in the whole state of Florida who’s within five minutes of me in the 20K. I may register in a younger age group, so I can have some competition. All the state records would be fairly easy.

Q: What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?

A: It is dealing with the affects of breaking my neck. I still have lots of pain, and difficulty looking behind me. At the Florida state road race last year, I was in a breakaway, and I was worried about this guy from Puerto Rico who flew in trying to grab the state title. I was pedaling my brains out to win, and I couldn’t turn around to see how close he was. The photo of me winning at the finish line revealed my closest competitor was a spec in the distance. Maybe not looking being able to look back isn’t all bad. I used to go to a chiropractor, but now I just do self massage. I mostly just deal with it.

Q: What is your diet like?

A: I try to eat very healthful. I eat fish a couple times a week, and meat not all that often. A generally healthful diet. I take vitamin supplements. I try to get a good night’s sleep. I probably eat 3000 calories for lunch after a ride, but I burn it all off.

Q: What 1-2 things do you believe differentiates you from your contemporaries who have tailed off in their athletic participation and abilities?

A: When I started at the airline in my 20s, I was in terrible shape. I noticed as a new pilot that in the lounge there were a number of obituaries for pilots that were around 62 years old. I realized that actuarially, pilots tend to die shortly after retirement. I told myself that would not happen to me. I joined the gym, started lifting weights, and never stopped.

People also become self fulfilling prophecies and set limits on themselves. I do it too sometimes. For example, if I do a 5K race in a certain time, I figure I’ll do a 10K in twice that plus a little. What I find sometimes is that I can do it in only twice the time, or maybe faster because I get in a groove. It is only my preconceived limits that slow me down. I shoot for the moon every time. I love kicking the younger guy’s butts.

I also have great genetics. I have these freaky lungs, and if I don’t tell an X-ray technician that I have these extra long lungs, I’ll have to have the X-rays taken again.

I also desperately want to win at everything. I only want to compete against people who really want to beat me with all their heart.

Q: Do you have any recommended resources to share (books, seminars, websites, coaches)

A: The book Beyond Brawn by Stuart McRobert is the best book on weight training I’ve ever seen, and is a must read. As we get older, we need to lift weights to retain muscle mass and strength. This book changed my life.

Q: Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?

A: I’m constantly having breakthroughs. Last year, I broke the state 20K record by two minutes. This year I broke that record by 18 second. I’m still improving. Next year, at age 70 I want to show that things can be done on a bicycle that were never dreamed of at that age.

Q: Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?

A: “Victory belongs to an antagonist who knows how to suffer one quarter hour longer” – Marcel Proust.

I was in this race in Ocala, Florida, and this guy in the race was attacking all the hills. I was thinking to myself that I was dieing, but just kept hanging on. The guy ended up puking his brains out, and I passed him and won. Never, ever give up.

Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

A: I get inspired by other athletes. When I was in my mid-thirties and running well, I started to feel pretty good about myself. I ran in the National Master’s championships in Van Courtland Park, and got blown out by Oscar Moore, a 1964 Olympian in the 5K. I was starting to think that I could have been an Olympian if I hadn’t stopped running when I was younger. Oscar showed me what it means to be an Olympian. I think to myself that someday, I want to be like Oscar.

This was a great interview with Sandy and I have no doubt he will have a great 2010!

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