Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder who that person is with the crow’s feet?
And how about the body? What happened to your muscles, you may wonder. Am I getting “old”?? I wonder about these things all the time.
I did have an uplifting experience, though, with all that, considering what it means to age and how to do this better than our mothers did.
I am part of an all women’s group turning out for an athletic event called a triathlon. You swim, then bike, then run. Yes, I’ve been training for this stuff, along with a team of like-minded gals of all ages. I’m the oldest person in the group, at 64. We do have some strong 50-somethings and then there’s my amazing teammate, Rachel, at 62. Our coach, Michelle Dodd at Flower Power Sports, is 53, still a competitor in 3 sports and our inspiring guide.
It’s like this: you want to do something to get control over that slide they call the aging process. We can’t stop it, but we surely can slow the thing down. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But, I can testify, it’s worth it.
So here we are at the Mermaid Triathlon in Capitola, CA on a gorgeous fall morning, starting at dawn. You check in and strap a timing chip on your ankle. They mark your shoulder with your number and then your calf, believe it or not, with your age! Yes, you get to see how many 20-somethings are passing you up, or how many women and what age you are passing up on the bike or the run. There are two kinds of races here. This is called a sprint, which is the shorter distance. It doesn’t feel short, believe me.
The participants are grouped into age waves. Oh, great, the age wave I’m in is “45 and up”. That means anyone in it could be almost 15 years younger. Hmm. Good thing I’m in this to finish, and not for speed. Most women here seem to be in their 30’s and 40’s. They look it. Every shape and size is heading for the beach, where we start our swim leg by diving into the waves. The full wetsuit helps a lot. It’s ironclad spanx with attitude and it instantly makes all sagging skin and cellulite disappear.
If you can find your rhythm in the water, you don’t feel old doing this. It’s sort of hypnotic swimming in the ocean.
I’m keeping a steady pace, albeit a slow one. I finally make it back to shore and I’m not dead yet. Good. Head uphill a few blocks to the transition area where my bike is waiting. I lose my timing chip in peeling off my wetsuit. I don’t want to waste energy searching for it and I don’t care about time anyway. It’s about finishing. Onto the bike. Now I think I really might die. Steep hills keep looming before me.
An interesting perspective on aging is grinding up a steep hill where lots of younger folks whose age you can plainly read on their calves are dropping like flies and walking bikes up the hill. I’m panting, but still riding. Of course, the racers are passing me, but so what? I’m still on two wheels, dammit. I look for anyone with “64” displayed on the leg. I see no one.
12 miles later, I’m back in the transition area, changing into my running shoes. Or, more accurately, my run-walk shoes. I do not run up the long incline. I “wogged” it, a combo of a walk/jog. As I passed a 62 year old, she said, “We’re in this for fun, not to win”. I said, “for sure, sister”. I could power walk faster than she could. I’m a competitive wogger all right. Meanwhile, my teammate Rachel is blazing past me running for the finish line. She’s awesome. We are re-defining what our 60’s look like. So is every Boomer aged woman out here. There is a respectable number of 50-somethings, too, doing quite well. It’s inspiring.
As we head back to the beach,
I look for the “hard packed sand” we were supposed to run on to the finish. The tide has come in. What’s left is soft sand. Unless you want to run in the lapping tide. Wet or slow, take your pick. I pick slow. Running in soft sand is a lot of work, trust me if you’ve never tried it. By this time, I am in an altered state of consciousness. Either that or I’ve lost my mind along the course. I am totally exhausted, but it’s a good kind of tired. We all earned it.
The good news is, I’m not last, and by a good measure. I’m ok. I saw a few 62 year olds here, and a lot of other brave women, taking a risk, challenging their bodies and spirits to do what is difficult. Every one of us Boomers felt alive, energized by the accomplishment of defying a stereotype of being middle aged.
If you’re thinking, “so what, I’d never do that”, it’s perfectly fine. Just do something and avoid using your age as an excuse for not trying.
My message is to pick something that challenges you physically, whatever it may be, and set your mind to doing it. If you’re a couch potato, try a 10 minute walk. You’ll feel better about your own aging if you do. If you already walk, ramp it up and do something a little harder. And so on. All I can say is, yielding to age-related loss of mobility is not appealing and we can nearly all do something to prevent it. I once met a paraplegic who worked out from his wheelchair on the hand pedaled machine at my gym. How’s that for no excuses inspiration?
My fellow Mermaid older athletes are smiling, crow’s feet and all. We aren’t wearing makeup. We’re wearing sweat. Lots of folks are carrying a few extra pounds or a lot of them. We’re not models or stars. We’re a bunch of determined ladies. We don’t especially feel young, but we feel inspirited, and proud.
I wish for you the same feeling.
Until next time,
Carolyn L. Rosenblatt
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