For life long athletes, getting older sucks...especially if you make the mistake of comparing your older self to your younger self, 'back in the day'.:) Declining physical output, slower recovery times and the responsibilities of everyday life - including work, family and just 'stuff' seem to get in the way of the "all-important" training. (Sarcasm meter on RED!)
When I was in my 20's and racing as an elite amateur and pro, I was a single guy with no kids and focused on two things... training hard and building my coaching business. My schedule was my own and I'd coordinate my life to accomplish my goals daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. I could pound myself with large training volumes and high intensity day after day and bounce back quickly with no injuries or other negative consequences. And trying to live an active social life, I was known to have a 'good time', enjoy a few beverages and still be able to get up early the next day and hammer out a long day of training (usually with a pounding headache). I'd go to local, regional and national events and almost always expect to 'place' in the top 5 overall, if not win the thing outright.
One season, I did 8 'half ironman' races and Ironman Hawaii in order to test myself against competitors nationwide... earning the distinction 'Half Ironman of the Year' by TRIATHLETE Magazine. I even had corporate sponsorship that year with ROSS LABS (makers of ENSURE) writing me a big check and placing my image and profile on the box of ENSURE you'd buy at the local grocery store. Ah, the life!
Now, as I'm 40 and far removed from that time in my life, I'm re-engaging in the sport as a (hopefully) competitive triathlete and I'm noticing some BIIIGGG differences I'd like to share with you. In no particular order, they include:
1. Training Time and volume: As a highly involved dad of two little girls, a corporate employee for a large health club company and a small business owner and coach, I'm finding that training time doesn't come to me as it used to. Travel, which I do fairly often and will do a ton of this summer, always throws a wrench in to training plans. Family activities take priority and just simple 'down time' is needed too. Like many of us, I'd like to 'do more', but that's not in the cards and I do what I can, when I can.
2. Recovery: I used to be able to train hard one day and then turn around and do it again the next day... or , train the same sport over several consecutive days without any lingering fatigue. This is NO longer the case! Nowadays, I notice that fatigue builds over fewer consecutive days and I need more 'days off' or 'light aerobic' days to bounce back. I'm curious to see how it feels when I get in to higher intensity training next month! geeezzzz.
3. Aches and pains: Umm, getting out of bed or standing up out of a low chair can sometimes be a humbling experience! My knees ache, my lower back aches, my ankles ache,... and I could list the rest of my body parts that ache, but it would take too much time! Even during some 'longer' workouts, I notice that my neck and shoulders 'ache' more than when I was in my 20's. Go figure!
4. Focus: You know what they say... the thing you focus on the most is what you do best. Triathlon, especially preparing for Ironman triathlon, is a selfish endeavor. You need to be somewhat tunnel visioned in order to achieve success to your potential. Just watch the documentary 'What it Takes', how Peter Reid and the other top pros featured follow almost 'monk like' lives in preparation for key events. (That's why they are pros.) While I never had the luxury or desire for that level of 'commitment', mine was also pretty high during my late 20's. Nowadays, focus is diluted, as mentioned in #1, to the bigger picture things in life and tri training isn't at the top of the list.
5. Desire: When you're a young gun trying to make a name for yourself in the sport as I was in my 20's, your desire and motivation is sky high. Triathlon almost becomes your identity as a person, and you want to be the best you can be at swim-bike-run. I see that too in many age group athletes... and while that 'focus' on achieving personal goals can be positive, it can also be a negative as one's life can tilt out of balance. While today I have that desire to be competitive again as a masters athlete, I'm also working hard to maintain that all-important balance with family, career and training. In my audio CD I produced in 2004 called IRON FOCUS, I made a comment that people have told me resonates with them... "'Triathlon' is what you do, it's not what you are... it doesn't define you as a person." You've gotta maintain that balance.
I hope some of these points are useful to you and perhaps applicable to your own situation as a competitive age group athlete. If you'd like to share differences you may notice in your training and racing as the decades march on, please do. We can all learn from each others experiences. Happy training!
- coach Troy