Sunday, July 6, 2008

Privelidged Middle-Aged vs. Less-Than Privelidged Middle-Aged

Some people may have caught the news buzz about Dara Torres, the 41 year-old, who just qualified for her 4th Olympic games for swimming. Here's a photo.

She's being hailed as the new middle-aged athletic icon. According to the article I linked her name to, she had a baby just a few years ago. She challenges the expected athletic age for swimming athletes. If you recall, Amanda Beard went to the Olympics at the age of 14. She's the oldest swimmer to make the US Olympic team. Previously it was Rowdy Gaines at age 35. Much of the news buzz echoes the same info.

Now for the rest of the story....

She's married to someone who's extremely wealthy that allows her access to whatever financial resources she needs. She has a full-time nanny, a full-time swim coach, a full-time swim sprint coach, two full-time stretching coaches, chefs and whatever else she needs to do the day-to-day chores. The article says her staff costs $100k a year. She gets 9-10 hours of sleep a night. She doesn't do anything but train for swimming.

Now imagine what kind of athlete you'd be if this were the case for you--regardless of your age?

Don't get me wrong...I got it pretty good in terms of how much time my wife lets me train. But, I got to go to work, or we don't eat. I have to deal with bosses, with their ever-changing schedules and expectations. I have family obligations. Our dryer broke, and I spent a good chunk of Saturday getting a used one off Craig's List. I have to be creative to figure out how to get that next hour of training in.

Secretly, I'd like to live the life of a pro-athlete; Train, sleep, compete, repeat! However, I found cycling and triathlon later in life after I've taken on responsibilities that precludes me from living the train, sleep, compete, repeat lifestyle. In spite of that, I train as much as I can. Last week I put in 20 hours, and this week was supposed to be my all-time high of 25-27 hours. Friday was a holiday, which gave me a long weekend. We didn't have plans and we're trying to keep it low-key financially to build up our savings. So, I was going to peg it with training. By Friday morning, I was cracked. Thursday night I was out on the bike and got rained on...drenched...three times, but I refused to stop because I wanted my hours. Friday morning I was up at 5:00Am with friends moto-pacing on the bike followed up with a 1.5 hour endurance swim. By Saturday, I couldn't get out of bed until 9:00am. It seems like everything had accumulated, long training hours, work stress, family stress, financial stress, everything! I had planned on riding 5 hours than follow that up with a 20 minute run and a 1.5 hour swim. All I could muster was the swim...and that wasn't until 3:30 in the afternoon. All that day, I kept on fighting with my wife because I was down-right ornery! It was becoming obvious that 25-27 hours wasn't going happen even with the available time.

Sunday, I finished my training week with a 4 hour ride to the Crest (again getting rained on--but it was good this time). The whole time I kept thinking of all the things I wanted to improve my times: a Zipp Disc, a power meter, a coach, etc, etc. I don't have the money for these things, and I've sold everything in my garage to get what I already have.

So, when I hear about Dara Torres and her representing the middle-aged athlete. Sorry if I don't stand up and clap! She's not one of us. She's an outlier. We have to fight for everything we have. I guess that's why so many people cry when they cross the finish line at an IronMan. We've made so many sacrifices, and suffered from sleep deprivation and strained relationships. We've had co-workers and peers question our sanity. We've ran through blisters, shin splints, and stress fractures. We've gotten up exhausted and early, and we went to bed exhausted and late. We've tasted the blood, sweat and tears. And, on the day of the big event, when all the seams holding us together are stretched tight with everything we've stuffed in your little lives, it all comes out over that 140 miles...bit by bit. And, when we cross the finish line and we see our families and there's nothing left to give, we give the last thing we can...our tears.

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