Bill Ale (L) and friend cycling in the Italian Alps—9/08

Bill Ale (L) and friend cycling in the Italian Alps—9/08

Hard work and commitment is the key to any athletic endeavor! Only a very small percentage of athletes have that genetic gift that seems to allow them to excel with minimal work. Most of us have to accept what we were given at birth and sculpt that into whatever athletic objective we may want to pursue or achieve. I am a perfect example of the latter guy.


I am a 58 year old, retired male and have been involved in competitive sport my entire life. I was not given the perfect body, but what I was given was heart. I learned that even though I did not have all the tools, I still could achieve anything if I committed myself to it and worked hard enough. 


After I got out of college, for the first time in my life, I had no sport, and much to my surprise I began to notice my pants more snug and my mid section starting to expand. So I began to jog, which I really didn’t care for, but I stayed with it. One day, while in the men’s room at Southern Connecticut State University, where I was attending graduate school, a frail looking gentleman approached me after noticing my running shoes and asked me if I was a runner. I sheepishly said, I was. He introduced himself and said he was also a runner. In fact, he said he was a marathoner. I was intrigued, as I had read some of Bill Roger’s books on marathon training.

48 Switchbacks of the Stelvio Pass in Italy—One of Bill Ale's best rides on a bike—9/08

48 Switchbacks of the Stelvio Pass in Italy—One of Bill Ale's best rides on a bike—9/08


Make a long story short, we set a date to “run” together. Our running date was a torture fest for me as I tried my best to keep up with him for the 5 miles we ran. After the run he offered me some constructive tips and wrote down a basic training schedule for me. I followed that schedule and soon began to see improvements. As the old adage goes “the better you are the better it gets”. I was hooked. I set my sights on running the Manchester Thanksgiving Day Road Race with my new running friend.

On the big day, which happened to be my first race, I had no clue where to line up for the start. So I lined up next to my friend, which happened to be in the second row right behind Amby Burfoot, Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter. The gun sounded and we were off. Mile one, I passed at a 5:10 pace. Mile 2, I was in a survival shuffle and by mile 3, I was walking. A harsh reality! I learned alot that day, mostly that positive outcomes are a product of commitment and hard work. Something I had not done. There are no short cuts.


One year after that memorable day and many miles I ran my first marathon in 3 hours and 55 minutes. Over the next two years, I joined a running club, trained hard and managed to lower my marathon time to just under 3 hours. Lots of 80 mile weeks . I did manage to get a PR of 2:53 in New York, but shortly after that I injured my knee, which ended my running career.

On my 40th birthday, my wife gave me a mountain bike, and a whole new world opened up to me. I began riding on the dirt roads and in the woods and found that I was actually pretty good at it. I soon progressed to road cycling after I watched the Tour de France on TV. With a fairly well developed cardiovascular system carried over from my marathoning days, cycling seemed very natural to me. I hooked up with a local cycling team, got my racing license and began to race every weekend throughout the northeast and Canada. Much to my delight, I won my first race. Over the next 15 years, I continued to train and race and was fortunate enough to win several age group State Championships in both Road and Mountain Biking.


These days my riding is more focused on enjoyment and staying fit. Last summer I was fortunate enough to have participated in a week-long bike tour through the Dolomites in northern Italy. A great adventure and some serious riding. 
Now that I am retired and have more time to train, I may put the casual side away and make a run at the Masters National Cycling Championships next year.

Am I willing to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to get fit enough to be competitive at that level? I don’t know, maybe!. If you see an old guy riding the hills of Northwestern Connecticut give a wave, it most likely will be me putting in the work to get to where I want to go. Keep on keeping on!