Octogenarian finds fountain of youth on two wheels

For 81-year-old Gordy Shields, life is sweeter on two wheels  Credit: Active.com
Nobody has to tell Gordy Shields to take out the papers and the trash. He does it like clockwork every Thursday morning.

That is of course before he heads off on his bike for his regular 25-mile ride up and around the hills and mountains of San Diego.

We're not just talking trash
Watching Gordy Shields wheeling out his trash barrels wearing his bright blue and yellow jersey at his home in El Cajon is an image this reporter won't soon forget.

After all how many 81-year-olds do you see taking out their own trash?

"When I'm not able to take out the trash, I won't be able to ride my bike," said Shields.

But that won't be happening soon. Not the way Shields has been living his own, "La Vida Loca."

The 5-foot-8 155-pound Shields, who turns 82 in April, rides his bikes (he has four of them) 150 miles a week. A member of the San Diego Cyclo-Vets, Shields has won gold medals in Senior Olympic and national time trials. He has also toured Europe, Canada and solo cycled from Oregon to San Diego.

Last year at 81, Shields set the United States Cycling Federation national amateur masters record for the 80-84 age group in the 20-kilometer time trial at 33 minutes, 59 seconds, averaging almost 22 miles per hour.

And all this from a guy who has only been cycling since he was 50!

"I got into bicycling late,'' said Shields. "I really wasn't much of an athlete of any kind back in high school (at North Quincy High in Massachusetts). In fact I was a nerd. When we moved out here (to California) I taught myself how to play tennis. And that's what I did with some of my spare time, but I was never very good at It.

"When I turned 50 I got a bad case of bursitis, " Shields added. " My doctor told me that I could continue to play tennis as long as I didn't serve."

Game, set, match
Since he couldn't play tennis anymore, Shields decided to take up bicycling "just to be exercising."

Shields was pretty much a recreational rider through his career as a teacher at Grossmont High and a counselor and instructor at Grossmont Community College.

in 1970 when his son Scott graduated from high school, he gave him a special graduation gift.

"I told Scott that his gift was a tour of Europe for five weeks," said Shields. "But there were two conditions, one I go along and two we do it by bike. There was some hesitation on Scott's part but he said "ok" and we had a terrific time and it's a trip we both look back on with great memories."

Shortly after that tour, Shields heard about the Senior Olympics, which were being held in Pasadena. "I decided to go up and check them out and darned if I didn't go there and win a gold medal for my age group. I had never raced before." Still, it wasn't until 1985 when he turned 67 that Shields got real serious about racing.

"I joined the San Diego Cyclo-Vets, which is the largest masters bicycle club in the United Statesand the best," said Shields proudly. "We have 200-to 230 members and we have something like 19 records in both national and international competition. The coaches Erhardt Rohrmuller and Arnie Baker have been terrific in helping us train and race."

A serious hobby
Shields has developed and maintained quite a training routine for the last 15 years.

"Each day is different," said Shields. "On Monday I will do a short training rout of 20 miles and just go out in the hills in the back country. Tuesday is a hard day down at Fiesta Island where the coaches (Rohrmuller and Baker) are. "We have our time trials and workout sessions and maybe do 40 miles in about two hours. Because we work so hard on Wednesday a group of five of us will just drive up the coast and back may 35 miles in all. We call this our donut ride because we go up to bakery and get donuts and turn around and ride back.

"Thursday I do some serious hill climbing," Shields said. "I go about 25 miles in and around Steel Canyon looking for at least 15 percent grades to go up. Friday I usually take it a little easy may just a light 30-miles around town just to prepare for a tough 44 mile training sessions with my buddies on Saturday."

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Shields works out with the weights and every weekday night Shields goes down the street to his neighbor's house to shoot baskets "just for the hand-eye coordination." And he finishes each day by doing 10 minutes of exercises before going to bed.

Sunday ... that's a day of rest. Right? Well, sort of. Sunday is a day that belongs to Gordy's wife Olwyn. "We do anything that she wants on that day ... after we go on a 10-mile bike ride together," said Shields.

"I'm very lucky my wife is such a wonderful cook," said Shields. "Whatever she cooks I eat in moderation and I keep pretty fit. I'm not a fanatic about nutrition. I do eat meat, have a hamburger from time to time and maybe a coke once a month."

Seven years ago Shields developed a spinal problem with his fourth or fifth lumbar deteriorating.

"I've had to limit my walking to about a quarter of a mile at one time, but it hasn't effected any of my abilities to ride a bike," said Shields.

While Shields enjoys competing with those 65 or over he's trying to urge race promoters to have more formal competition for people 70-to-75 and 80-to-85.

"I think organizations should take a gamble and set up more races for older folks in their age groups,'' said Shields. "They are out there."

Shields noted that back in 1985 there were 25,000 people involved in the Senior Olympics and now there are more than 250,000. San Diego has 23 sports for senior competitors and draws between 5, 000 and 6,000 athletes."

When Shields isn't busy training or competing in events he spends time with his three children, Scott and Susan, who are teaches and Valeri, who is a school principal. Shield also finds time to spend with his two grandchildren.

"I was happy they all got involved in teaching, but none of them are really got into cycling," said Shields. "I guess I'll have to keep riding to make up for them."

Discuss This Article