Age is a State of Mind – A Column by Lee Waldman

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Old dog, new tricks? Lee works on his cornering © Annette Hayden

Old dog, new tricks? Lee works on his cornering © Annette Hayden

Cyclocross Magazine columnist and Masters racer Lee Waldman is getting older, as we all are, but his looming 60th birthday has made him realize the mental aspects of age and youth. In case you missed it, go back and check out Lee’s previous column, The Things I Carry.

by Lee Waldman

Happy Birthday to Me! Age is only a state of mind. Well, that’s what I tell myself now that I’m only a week away from turning 60. Granted, I don’t heal as fast as I used to – those long endurance rides take more out of me. I’m incredibly stiff this morning after four-and-a-half hours on the bike yesterday. Luckily I have an incredibly high pain threshold, which is both a blessing and a curse. I tolerate the bumps, bruises and the catalog of scrapes that we all suffer as bike racers. But as I get older I need to tolerate them for longer periods of time. How annoying is that?

On the other hand, when I can be competitive with riders 15 – 20 years younger than I am, I’m doing something right. Some might say that I’m simply trying to avoid the inevitable, that no matter what, we’re all going to get old. And their point is? What do they want me to do, take up bowling? What’s inherently wrong with doing my best to keep Father Time at bay? My own father did it for years without the focus that I have. Until just recently, when he turned 85 and suffered some minor strokes, I would tend to forget how old he was. Before his arthritis got the best of him, he would delight in regularly beating players half his age at racquetball. So I have some positive models for what growing old can be.

I see no problem with using sport to stay as young as possible, for as long as possible. If it’s true that each person’s heart is allotted only so many beats, then I’m going to maximize mine. And that means training and racing in order to keep that muscle strong. I love it when I can sit in a meeting measuring my heart rate, finding that I only get to 35 before a minute is up. How many men half my age can say that?

I recently rode my first short track mountain bike race of the season. As we lined up, the rider next to me said jokingly, “I think everyone over 30 should get a call up.” I had to explain to him that I could barely remember 40, let alone 30! The best part – I passed him on the first climb. I was really surprised that I could so easily overtake other riders. Usually that happens only on the climbs, and then I need to recover for the rest of the lap. But I was not only bringing riders back on the uphill portions but also on the flats. Now, if only my technique in the corners would improve. I’m open to suggestions.

Maybe what they say is true, there are “courses for horses,” and soft, loose corners are not where I’m at my best. I also have an excuse, which is that I’m only 2 weeks out from cataract surgery. I might have pushed the envelope more if I hadn’t been so concerned with falling and damaging the implant.

I was pleased that I could elevate my heart rate as high as I could and still recover so easily. I guess that shows that my decision to hire a coach and actually follow his directions is working. Typically this time of the year I begin to feel a bit tired, primarily because I’ve pushed way too hard, ridden too many miles and allowed little time for rest and recovery. No matter how many books on training I read, and I’ve read my share, I’ve never done a good job of designing a training calendar for myself. I get overwhelmed by the options – the intricacies of trying to develop all of the various energy systems are way too complicated for me. I need simplicity. I need someone to tell me what to do! What’s nice about having someone else develop a plan is that: a) I don’t have to think or guess about what my training for the day should be; b) I can let go of the guilt factor that comes into play when I see others riding either longer or harder than I am. That just fuels my overtraining addiction. I just tell myself, “That’s what Ben says to do,” and I’m off the hook. And it’s working!

 

 

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7 comments
Lee Waldman
Lee Waldman

Beth,
Thanks for reading. Although I can't write from a woman's perspective I think a lot of the things that I write about are probably universal so I hope you're enjoying the writing. I think as we get older we all share the same difficulties and those of us who continue to ride and race realize that the battles that are worth fighting are the personal ones. I think that they lead to more victories as well and that those victories are the sweetest ones since the competition is, in reality, ourselves.

Lee Waldman
Lee Waldman

Ric,
I can honestly say that age is just a state of mind. I know what you mean though about 60 having a different connotation. I think that's the best reason for us to keep doing what we're doing. Our driver's license may say we're old, we may have more wrinkles when we look in the mirror, but as long as we can keep pushing ourselves and challenging ourselves, we're still young.
Thanks for reading.

Lee Waldman
Lee Waldman

Paul,
Thanks for reading! I always wonder if what I write is what people want to read and your comments have put a big smile on my face. Just because the calendar says we're aging doesn't mean that we have to roll over and get old. My whole goal with this column is just to be able to share the joy that I find in cycling in general and cross in particular. As long as people enjoy reading it, I'll keep writing. Thanks

beth
beth

Great article, but I'd love to hear from a woman in the same age group and see if there are similarities and differences. Congrats on going for it again and again. Happy riding!

Josh
Josh

Good comments from Ric and Paul - and a great perspective from Lee! Age, for sure, is relative - and although I have a ways to go before I hit 60, I get my ass handed to me by Juniors and Seniors alike, even in "A" races. Thanks for sharing the journey, Lee!

Paul McCarthy
Paul McCarthy

Great article....I thought I was the only one that got discombobulated with training books....i always train like I feel...it rarely works.
About 60, its a milestone for sure.... I'm at a sage, old 62, had the cataract at 40, detatched retina at 50, and glaucoma at 60....my "lucky eye" is on a 10 yr. schedule), heart attack stopped the clock for a bit last year ....go figure, a vegetarian bike racer???? Racing in your 60's was unheard of when we were kids, you, after all , "grew up". Where I think now its more of an enjoyment to be using your mind and body to have fun, be active and compete with others that share this wonderful part of living our lives in a healthy fashion. Thanks for the articles, Lee you have a way of hitting the nail on the head!

Ric Kellen
Ric Kellen

I have really enjoyed all your columns but this one hit home. I too am turning 60 this year. For the first time my age is a bit of a worry too me. Sixty......sixty, man it wasn't so long ago that a guy 60 years old was an old man in my eyes. And here I am. Having said that, I must agree that being a 60 year old bike racer is a whole different story than being a 60 year old average joe. I am proud to toe the start line with a bunch of other "old guys" and know that we are all fighting for that placing just as hard as any 20 year old, maybe even harder.

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