When taking stock, I’ve got very little about which to complain. I can tell I’m getting older in some ways but not yet others. There are few ‘major life decisions’ which I regret. Relationships, family and friends are all on the rails.
As I think about my continued sporting career, I sense that the curtain is starting to lower on it. Competitively, I’ve accomplished a lot – across swimming, triathlon and now cycling. The first step toward the sunset was when I realized I was happier and more fulfilled in helping teammates win than winning myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still strive to win races that suit my strengths and I still get a charge out of victories. But, helping teammates by playing a key support role is a great rush. To me, this signals a further disconnection between the sport I do and how I define who I am. That I now have an instinctual sense I probably won’t be competing much longer tells me complete disconnection is driving toward completion.
I used to think “Why train if I’m not competing? What’s the purpose, what’s the drive?” The competition was the reason for the training. The race results justified the investment of blood, sweat and tears to the process. But, now, competition is something I do and, to do it well, I know I better be in some semblance of shape. Otherwise, the inherent discomfort of racing will be that much more uncomfortable. Who wants that? Competition has morphed into something I do as an offshoot of all the training rather than a justification for it. It’s a subtle yet material shift in mindset.
Recently, I started riding with a new group of men and women, a Saturday ride I didn’t even know existed in my 25 years in Boulder. Some ex-pro cyclists lead it and it is almost entirely made up of folks who used to compete at a high level but no longer race. It is an ass kicker of a ride, too. The group rides because they love the self-expression cycling allows. They still love the tinge of blood in the throat, the burning in the legs and seeing who will be the hammer or the nails on a given ride. This is the most connected I’ve ever felt in a group ride. And it has further opened my eyes to the realization that training can be its own end to the means.
Regardless of how long I continue to compete – I’m not done yet! – I can now continue forward with a greater appreciation for the journey.
The battle is about to begin. At some point I will no longer be competitive in the strictest terms. But, I will always continue to challenge myself while fighting tooth-and-nail to retain my vitality. While I may not prolong my life, I’ll most definitely increase the quality of life in my advancing years and, hopefully, keep at bay the maladies which tend to afflict folks too early and too often in life.