In her late 40s while living in Seattle, Patty Puz bought an old junker bike and started pedaling it around her neighborhood.
"My only goal at that time was to become a skilled bicycle rider," Puz said. "In fact, I had to push the bike quite a lot in the beginning."
A few years later, Puz bought a Raleigh mountain bike and learned to navigate Seattle's busy traffic during longer and longer rides. "One day after going 50 miles I got home and the bike seemed so heavy I just wanted to throw it in a ditch," Puz recalled.
At 59, she bought her first road bike and a year later became committed to racing. At 68, she has been the Master's Class National Time Trial Champion for two years running.
A retired operating room nurse originally from South Dakota, Puz came to bike racing late, but continues to finish strong. Like all time-trial racers, she competes alone. Rather than jockeying for position in the "peleton," she charges 10 kilometers to a marker and back to a finish line, roughly the total distance from Ketchum to Hailey. Her finishing time of just over 54 minutes in 2006 was enough to keep her in the lead among other female racers ages 65 to 69.
"They call time trials the race of truth because you race alone," Puz said, as she prepares for spring training and a summer of competitions leading up to yet another national contest in Pennsylvania in July. Although Durance Cycleworks tunes up and prepares her bike for races, she does a lot of mechanical work herself.
"If I am 20 miles from home and I have a broken chain or a flat tire, I can still get myself home."
Puz no longer rides a junker, but pedals a fancy Colnago racing bike at about 25 miles an hour during a race. During the winter she works out at High Altitude Fitness in Ketchum until getting together with an informal club of cyclists based out of Durance Cycleworks in Ketchum. Each spring, they compete in the LP 200 race from Boise to Stanley, which ends July 1 in Ketchum.
John Swyers, Mimi Armit and Mike Wrobel will share the 10-stage race, which took the team only 10 hours to complete last year.
"The fifty-five year old, Mike Wrobel, gets to take the Galena Summit stage," Puz joked.
In preparation for the Nationals, Puz will also enter the Elephant's Perch time trials race at Trail Creek, as well as the Idaho State Time Trials south of Bellevue. Her training regimen alternates between "endurance rides," which she says are "short, fast and intense," and "restorative rides," which tend to be long and steady. She also does interval training, which combines the two in short sprints followed by easy stretches.
"Bicycling is something that is my very own. It's something I have to show up for" Puz said, whose quick smile and ready humor complement her passion for competition. "It gives me energy and has taught me perspective. I just love it."