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Riding the Rockies
by Damon Phinney

I've done many, many bike rides of several hours duration, many in the mountains, almost all the time in an aerobic state. Maybe only ten or twenty a year as short as an hour. If I don't go at least 25 miles or climb at least 1000 ft., the ride doesn't get in my log. I live on the edge of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado. All my rides have been aerobic.
      What do I mean by aerobic? I mean for practical purposes I never really get out of breath.

This photo of me and Davis, my son, was taken nearly three years ago, when I was 68, by the sports photographer John Kelly. I had been on hormone suppression therapy for 9 years.    Davis (on right) won the first full road stage of the Tour de France in 1986. That was the first year a U.S. team participated. Their Canadian teammate, Alec Stieda, won the yellow jersey the morning before during the 50 mile RR but lost it in the afternoon TTT.
    I am undergoing radiation for mets in my pelvis just now and recently recovered from pulmonary emboli caused in all probability by PC SPES which I took for several months.
    My response to the PC SPES is not typical by any means. It was very bad stuff for me, and during the time I was taking it half a dozen new bone mets appeared even though it lowered my PSA from 27 to 12. PSA isn't everything.

Sometimes when I've been pushing for a better time at, say, a century (where my ideal standard is 6 hrs) I'd see I might make that standard, so I would be bearing down pretty hard for the last couple of hours. Yet I don't have a heart-rate monitor and I never worry about what it is. I'm sure my heart rate is elevated many times when I'm riding; but I am always within limits I can sustain indefinitely. Never breathing the way I would in a footrace when I was in college.
      In the mountains I just go slowly, the steeper the slower. I never let myself get lactic acid buildup, I can't handle that for any distance anymore. Interval training no doubt would be good for me, I just never do it. In running terms, I do long slow distance training.
      I was 59 when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I am now 71. For practical purposes, all my riding has been solo. So I've always been able to ride at my own pace. My resting pulse has been 50 for a long time but PC-SPES seems to be pushing that up as well as doing rotten things to my legs. I am still riding about 200 miles a month, although slower under the PC-SPES regimen.
      When I was diagnosed, I immediately began taking Lupron. About four months later some very early results of the big 600-man study on flutamide plus Lupron became available to my oncologist. The study indicated an increase in mean time to treatment failure of 2 months, extending remission from 12 to 14 months. He recommended that I start taking flutamide.I remained on the combination for about 10 years and on Lupron alone for another year.
      I took massive vitamin C (20 gm/day tapering down to 10 as the cancer diminished); 1600 vit E, 200 mcg selenium, 25 or 50,000 beta carotene, a Bronson Super B capsule daily, magnesium and potassium.
      I never had a testosterone measurement until a year ago, when I dropped Lupron. My testosterone was 15; six months later it was 12. I had confirmed something Dr. Leibowitz wrote in the PAACT newsletter -- that after just a few years on continuous hormone blockade your testicles would probably never start up again. I sure wasted a lot of insurance money and gave myself a couple thousand of those daily Lupron injections I didn't need. Someone should have found that out a long time ago.
       Sammy Bates has pointed out that any ordinary effects of exercise on testosterone are totally swamped by the effects of hormonal blockade. Many of my rides were so long they left me pretty well wiped out. If anything, this would have depressed my testosterone production I feel sure. But in any case, I was completely shut down.
      My remission, then, had nothing to do with low testosterone induced by athletics. All my testosterone production was already blockaded. Yet exercise may have helped me engender a positive attitude in myself, offsetting some of the emasculating side effects of hormonal therapy.
      I don't know what other guys do who find themselves gaining weight, losing muscle tone, with no libido, impotent, having hot flashes, losing body hair, and all the other things that Stephen Strum has so carefully enumerated as the hormonal deprivation syndrome. I have experienced just about all of them. When I could climb 5 or 10,000 ft in a day on my bike, though, or ride a 6 hr solo century, or come ripping down Boulder Canyon at 40 mph in a couple places (did that within the last couple weeks) and do Ride The Rockies and stay up with most of the other 2,000 riders, then I would feel good about myself.
      I've needed to renew these feelings over and over again. Ride The Rockies happens only once a year. I've had to keep testing myself to make sure I could still DO the strenuous stuff. I had to ride every few days to be able to pass those tests.
      And of course, there are benefits of being outdoors in our lovely state, on the plains around Boulder to the east and north and in the mountains, which start at my front door. And on a bike anywhere, for anyone, the wind and the sun on your face.
Damon Phinney © 1999 All Rights Reserved.


 Damon Phinney was founder (or as he said, "initiator and facilitator") of CCC-NET: Cyclists Combating Cancer. The organization had 30 members at the time Damon shared the piece above, "and we're growing, partly thanks to Lance Armstrong's incredible example." Damon died 10/22/2001. His organization remains active and has a new website, To read more about Damon start from CCC's obituary.


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