It’s far too easy for me to forget this, but I know that I am a blessed man. I have a roof over my head, enough money in the bank so every little financial hiccup isn’t a bankruptcy sized emergency and a wife who loves me. A beautiful, fit, go-getter of a wife who pushes me to be more like her.
We started doing triathlons late in life. I was 44 when I struggled through my first tri in 2005. Eighty percent of my age-group peers finished Iowa’s Pigman Sprint faster than I did. My wife, Patricia, jumped in the next year when she finished ninth out of ten in her age group. I had an even slower time in ’05 than I did in ’04 and fell to 26 out of 30 age-group compatriots. We got better. In a sprint distance race my wife is more likely to take a top 3 age-group place than she is not to and in the past I have managed to crack a third or second place age-group finish myself.
My wife is an athlete while I am merely someone who values fitness. The two are not equivalent. I compete because it is fun and motivates me to train harder while she races to win. This was all well and good until two years ago. Two years ago something died inside me and my fitness and energy levels plummeted. While once I could cycle and run far faster than my age-group competitive wife now I can’t hope to keep up. (She’s always been a good swimmer.)
It is demoralizing for a man my age to have a wife who kicks his ass. (This is especially true as she is a whopping 222 days older than I am. I can’t even use old age as an excuse!) It stings the ego. It robs me of pleasure. The defect is with me, not her, and I always cheer her on. Still, the fact remains that doing poorly in a race is not as uplifting as doing well. Go figure.
My wife works hard to take care of herself. At 56 years of age she has a better physique than most women half her age. Her emphasis is on self-care but she is a competitor. Though she is rather modest in regards to showing skin she enjoys looking good. In addition to the wonderful qualities enumerated above she is also generous, which leads us to the start line of yesterday’s Saint Petersburg, Florida Saint Anthony’s triathlon.
Saint Petersburg is located on the south west tip of Tampa Bay. Living on the western side of F-L-A we are used to seeing sunsets over the water rather than sunrises. We are standing on the beach, watching tiny white caps crest on the rolling expanse of salt water before us as the sun begins to rise over the water. “Look at that,” my darling declares to me, “the sun is rising in the west.”
We both laugh at her little joke but then my eyes wander from the celestial heavenly body to one on the shore. “And look at that double full moon,” I whisper in her ear. Triathlons are hard work and Florida tends to be hot. Hard work and hot weather lends itself to skimpy clothing but most competitors wear triathlon specific shorts that are designed for all three events of the race. The stunning woman standing in front of us did not get the “Standard Attire” memo. She is wearing a semi-thong bikini bottom and this skimpy piece of fabric accentuates her hard fought quest for fitness. This twenty-something year old has a body to die for.
I love my wife beyond measure. I praise her many attributes and am always respectful of her. (Okay, maybe “always” is a bit much, but you get the point.) We have a thirty-seven year history together and she is neither stingy in her acceptance of my wandering eye nor jealous of women who are half her age and even more fit than she. We smile and ask each other if the poor thing will be cycling in that postage stamp size bikini bottom or if she’ll don cycling shorts for the next leg of the race. Pat playfully asks if her butt looks as good as the PYT in front of us and I suggest she walk next to her, hike her shorts up and let me compare. She smiles but declines my offer.
The race progresses in waves. My wave, green bathing-capped men over fifty, is one before hers and we kiss before I head into the water for our floating start. The cannon booms and I begin my slow, laborious, half-mile crawl through the rolling bay waters. I’m not a swimmer and I take Aesop’s advice and play the tortoise, not the hare. I’m at the back of the green-capped wave and the next group of swimmers, the fifty and older women wearing pink bathing-caps, starts three minutes behind me. Most of the pink caps catch and pass me before I’m half-way through my swim. Another wave, consisting of women in their twenties, follows three minutes behind. Despite my six minute head start many of these racers also reach shore ahead of me. When I do reach land MS Double Full Moon, the racer wearing little more than a thong, is directly ahead of me. I smile.
Race courses vary a lot and one of the variations is how far racers have to go from the end of the swim to the transition area where the bicycles are corralled. The distance between the beach and the transition area for Saint Anthony’s is nearly half a mile and I am blessed to have MS Double Full Moon running away from as I desperately try to keep pace with her. I don’t, but her stunning form gives me motivation to push a little harder.
Once I’m on the bike I pass scores of folks and am passed by no one. I reel in swimmers who reached shore far faster than I could but even as I do so I know my gains are temporary as my running days are behind me. My decent pace of 20 mph on the bike drops to an 11:30/mile “run” and I pant and heave as dozens of folks run past.
It’s okay, I’m having fun. I run hard the last quarter mile. Not fast; just hard. My fast days are gone.
My wife managed to hang on for a third place age-group finish; completing the course a full twelve minutes faster than I. She’s pleased that I tried and I’m happy that she’s happy. After we’ve cooled down from our exertions I pat her gorgeous fanny and tell her what a stud she is. She is too, and I love her with all my heart.
As I said, I know I’m blessed but when life’s on the decline rather than the upswing it can be hard to remember. I’m glad I have such a wonderful role model to keep me in line.