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A novel by Len Joy

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Age Limits

Why do they ride for their money
Tell me why do they ride for short pay

They ain't a'gettin' nowhere 
And they're losin' their share
Boy, they must've gone crazy out there  
Son, they all must be crazy out there

          “Night Riders Lament” by Garth Brooks

“Why?” is a common question for endurance athletes. If we’re not asking it of ourselves someone else is asking us why we do what we do. I used to think that someday I might compete in a full Ironman, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I tell myself that it just takes too much training time, but the truth is I’m starting to think I’m too old for that distance.

There is no denying age in the triathlon world. One of the attractions of the sport is that you compete in your own age group. The only good thing about turning sixty next year is that I get to move up to the 60-64 year age group. I won’t have to compete against all those 55 year old kids.

In the past as I planned for an upcoming season of competition I usually predicted improvements in all events. That wasn’t totally unrealistic. I am relatively new to competitive swimming and my instructors don’t seem to have run out of suggestions for how to improve my stroke. This year my swim times improved significantly. Same thing with the bike. When I started doing sprint triathlons five years ago, my average time on the bike was around 17 mph and that was for twelve miles. This year at the Steelhead 70.3 Ironman I averaged nearly 19 mph for 56 miles. Better equipment has definitely helped and finally this year I actually got out on the road and trained with other competitors. It does make a difference.

Running is where I’ve broken down. Tight hamstrings, sore feet, tired legs. At Steelhead my run time was at an average pace of 10:50. That’s a good walking pace. My goal had been to run that segment at a nine minute pace (or better), but I didn’t come close in either race. I had cramping issues, but even when I overcame them my legs didn’t seem inclined to move very fast.

Denial has always been one of my better qualities. But it’s getting harder to invoke with all the nagging injuries and ailments. I’m not ready to give up, especially not when I get to be the young guy again next year, but there are some days when I ask myself why.

Maybe Garth is right.


Habeela said...

Have you tried yoga?

A few years ago I had a lot of nagging ailments that ultimately sidelined me for awhile and destroyed any desire I had for the sport. It's taken me four years to get back to running and I have to say, yoga has made a world of a difference for me this time around. No more tight hamstrings, tired legs are still a periodic occurrence but must less frequently and not in the "I'm breaking down my body" kind of way.

Len said...

Hi Habeela,

I started taking a Yoga class at the Y this fall. I think it will help me with flexibility. I tend to not stretch enough so this is a sort of a disciplined way to do more of that. I definitely need it.