40-K Time Trial, Aging, BHO- Barack Hussein Obama, Biking, Challenge, Commitment, Fitness, HIIT- High Intensity Interval Training, Hope, MIMIB, Patricia T. Kenel. goddess, Perseverance, Progress, Striving
I have a friend who seems to be constantly railing against the stumbling blocks that age throws at our feet. Her frequent grumbles over the slings and arrows of outrageous aging prompted a fellow product of the nineteen-fifties to comment, “I try to focus on what I can still do rather than what I can’t,” a rather cogent suggestion disguised as observation. Sure there are things age denies us, actions once performed with great ease that have transmogrified into Herculean tasks, but there are plenty of things we seniors can still do and it’s in our best interest to find the balance between saying, “Go!” and declaring, “Whoa!”
The steepness of my, “Go to whoa!” decline became more obvious soon after my fifty-fourth birthday and within a year that decline became precipitous. In decline ever since, I found the transition from age-group competitor in cycling, running, triathlon and obstacle races to back-of-the-pack finisher demoralizing. Who is this old man and where did I go? For the sake of my goddess I persevered and agreed to continue “racing” but my enthusiasm waned until any moonshine that I felt concerning strenuous physical activity was the thinnest sliver in a sky void of stars. A life sans joie de vivre is barely worth the title.
My decline continued but my acceptance of finishing for the sake of finishing grew from lip service to sincerity. If fate decreed that my remaining years were to be my declining years then it was my job to accept what fate threw at me and keep plodding forward, downtrodden but not defeated. And so it went until two months ago when I finally started to fight for my fitness; to fight and to creep forward.
In September I was convinced that there was nothing I could do to hold back the slow death of decline but as we reach December’s cusp I have proven to myself that this “realism” is really just pessimism; that, to quote BHO, “Yes, we can!” is far more than a political slogan. At the end of September I started every-other-day HIIT in an attempt to up my fitness ante. Within a few classes hope appeared and soon thereafter results waved hello from a distance. Two months and four-dozen classes later my results have begun to manifest themselves in my cycling with improvement being small but obvious. On November twenty-third I decided to test myself with a mock forty kilometer (24.8 mile) time-trial race against the clock.
It was a mock race because it was just me riding 40-K on suburban streets as opposed to competing in a sanctioned event but my goal was to ride far and fast. (For me. Don’t laugh at my “far” and “fast,” if you’re lucky you’ll be old one day too.) Half a lifetime ago under ideal circumstances I would finish 40 kilometers before 61 minutes had elapsed, but today I just wanted to extend my “long” ride of 21 miles to ~25 and to do so at a spirited pace. My “goal time” was to finish in under 106 minutes, a pace of 14 mph/22.5 kph: A hard but doable benchmark.
All went well for the first 14 miles but fatigue and a lack of calories took their toll. My enthusiasm dropped with my glycogen and by mile 15 I knew things were not going well. Fatigued to the point of impairment I altered my course and arrived home after riding 20 miles, cutting my labor by nearly 20%. Elapsed time: 85:40 or a 14 mph pace. (I’ve covered 21 miles at a higher pace a couple times lately. Double failure.)
I didn’t make my goal but my enthusiasm and optimism remain. I have slipped off my death shroud and am reemerging into the land of the living, a locale where progress is possible. I’ll keep reaching for improvement and hope you do the same.