by Lee Waldman
Labor Day weekend my youngest daughter got married. Both of my sons-in-law are wonderful young men, hard workers, caring partners, and best of all, cyclists. They are also both light-years younger than I am and so, on the occasion when they call me to ride with them I know I’m in for a suffer fest. Fitness aside, there’s no accounting for age. 62 is not 30 something, no matter what my level of fitness. And you know what, I’ve learned to live with that sad fact.
Low self-esteem is something that I’ve struggled with my entire life and it presents a tremendous challenge to a middle school teacher. 12-year-olds are like sharks when they sense a lack of self-confidence. They smell blood in the water and they go into an immediate feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, it seems that I’ve been cursed with the tendency to see the empty half of the glass unless someone points out to me that yes, it’s also half full. Don’t know where that came from, it just is.
For those of you who follow my writing you’ll know that even though I’ve never reached my goal of standing on the podium at Nationals or at Worlds, I’ve had some results to be proud of. A state championship in Colorado isn’t something to sneeze at. Just look at the Masters Nationals results for the last few years and you’ll see that there are a ton of fast riders living here in Colorado. Those are the guys I line up against week in and week out. So I should be proud of myself, right? Most times I look at the men who finish ahead of me and then at myself and I’m disappointed. Well, that’s going to change.
One of my goals for this coming season is to change the way I look at myself. Rather than being frustrated by not riding at the front when I line up with men 20 years my junior, I’m actually thinking seriously about recognizing my age and racing 55+ this year. (For those younger readers, doesn’t it sound strange to call that racing “down”?) Then I’ll only be racing against guys seven years younger, which makes me laugh again. I guess the older we get, the smaller the age gaps are. I really don’t feel older, or slower, but every season I move a bit further from the front of the field. For me, it isn’t so much about winning as it is about competing and this season I want to feel competitive again. Hence my decision.
So, here it is, less than a week from the start of the season. Actually, by the time you read this column our first race will have happened. I’m not riding it. The season will be long enough for me since it won’t finish until late January There are some interesting things that I notice though, as the time to turn wheels in anger approaches. (Where did that saying come from anyway?) I notice a switch in my affect as I ride. During the summer, when I know that racing is still a ways away, I’m always committed to following the training schedule that Ben sets up for me but there’s a difference now. It’s hard to put my finger on it but I can feel it. Do you know what I mean? There’s not the level of immediacy in a July interval workout that there is in that same workout in late-August.
I always visualize when I train. I imagine myself in race situations and I try to see myself in the most positive light possible. In June, when I’m not really focused on racing yet, that’s difficult. The memory of how much a race hurts and how easy it is to lose because of physical and / or mechanical failure, is still too fresh. It’s amazing how much of that can be dissipated with the passage of a few weeks and how the imminent approach of the new season can change that mindset.
And so here I am, on the doorstep of my 33rd year of bike racing. I still have the passion to compete. Still have the desire to win. Still have the need to push my mind and my body to the edge, to search for the limits. That gold ring of the podium is still out there waiting for me to reach out and grab it. Who knows? If all the stars align, maybe this time. What I do know is that whatever happens to me over the next few months I’ll keep myself positive and do everything I can to live in the moment and enjoy all of it.
Go ride your bikes.