Monday, September 19, 2011

We Will Age Differently

I've been hanging out with some of my old swimming buddies.  I'm re-invigorated and going after my own fitness.  You know why?  The swim folks I've been hanging with KNOW we will never be as fast as we were in our 20s.  Or will we?  Well, what the hell?  Let's give it a shot!  The best part is that these swimming folks are very different than triathletes and their cliques.  The self medicating Ironman/ultra distance types.  The anti-social cyclists who must drop and crush everyone into dust.

They are having fun and encouraging each other!  Shocking... I know.  A friend of mine who is an Olympic champion invited me to a masters swim meet.  Me!  We've kept in contact after racing against each other 20 years ago.  I told him, "Dude, I'm in no shape to race the big boys."  His response, "Nobody is.  Come on out and swim anyway.  I think this may get everyone going and change masters swimming and racing forever."  As usual.  He is right.  Screw the fitness.  I'm going to race.  My breaststroke is still good (even out of shape).  I'll make a run at the breaststroke and perhaps the IM races.  What's the worst that could happen?  I get "housed" by a bunch of great swimmers?  The upside potential could be having great fun and really reconnecting with people who get it over a few swim races and probably several beers after the races are over.

It's about racing ME.  My best times.  I've always said it is about doing the best you can do at THIS POINT IN TIME.

This is what has been missing in my triathlon experience since 2006.  The groups I was training with pre-2005 were about getting everyone faster and racing well on race day.  The same local groups are about "winning" the sprint to the end of the street.  Carbon wheels and skin suits are now common place at the same rides where "in the old days" people would make fun of you for drafting.  This weekend - I found my out of shape, 200# butt pulling people into the wind on a 40 mile ride - until the sprint to the sign before the parking lot.  Congratulations... you won... NOTHING.

This same group was complaining about "former pro triathletes" now racing as amateur athletes in Ironman (specifically Kona).  My opinion on this has always been - open to all.  Is it a tough break to show up to a race and be next to Troy Jacobson, Gordo Byrn and Bruce Gennari?  Yep.  Does it mean that they will "beat" you that day?  Not necessarily.  They have full time jobs (or aren't training 40 hours a week like they used to).  Is it fair?  Probably not.  I think an athlete would want to race against the best.  If you know that Peter Reid could drop into Ironman Canada and be in your age group (Pete and I are the same age) - wouldn't that fuel your will a bit more?  Would he beat me?  Probably.  What if...  I caught my taper just right.  What if he was tired?  Had a mechanical?  Winning or qualifying isn't everything.  If I was able to push one of those guys in an age group division I'd call that a victory.

Enter in people like Phyllis.  Mother of two.  49 years old.  Going back to school for another degree with two years of eligibility left?  Why not walk on?  At Pepperdine no less!  Holy cats!  NCAA Division I swimming is really tough.  EVERYONE is great.  Tough physically and mentally.  Going back to swim competitively takes a lot when you are 18-22.  At 49, it is taking it to another level.

I hope you join me rooting for Phyllis.

We won't age the same as our grandparents.  We won't age the same as our parents.  Things will be different.  Just how different will be up to us.  What level are you going to take it to?  Medicine is different.  Food is different (not necessarily for the better.)  At least we are more aware of better food choices we can make.  I would add in the 1950s through 1980 how many 5ks, triathlons, etc. were there?  Not many.  Here in Chicago you can do a 5k through marathon running race ANY weekend day.

We are aging differently.  I recently found a results sheet from a race I did in 1988.  There were 13 40-44 men.  Same race this year... 256 40-44 men.

I'm really excited about other swimmers "coming back".

Janet Evans  --  Here she is doing an 8:59 800 LCM free at age 39.

Ian Thorpe "The Thorpedo"

Dara Torres

This is great stuff!  You are as young as your will.  My mother-in-law hits a "milestone" birthday next Monday.  She doesn't look like that number at all.  Her spirit is a lot younger.  As I say to everyone, you have a choice to LIVE your LIFE or watch other people LIVE while you fade away into a grave.

This will make us ALL better athletes.  The days of 1:05 Ironman swim and then bike and run are LONG gone.  This is a good thing.  I tell my athletes to "Be an athlete, not a triathlete."

An old saying from the Schaumburg Park District - Life.  Be in it.

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