As I’ve become a more competitive triathlete (in my own head, at least), I’ve started watching the calves of competitors. Checking the ages of those around you is the only way you can get an idea of where you stand in your age group sans a supporter keeping track for you. I get excited when I make a pass, knowing there is one less person between me and the podium. But when I get passed by the 45-49 year old women, I get even more excited.
Where I live, the 45-49 year old women rule the triathlon scene. The are super fit and super fast, claiming the top female spot at most of our races. Many of them have adorable children lining the course, cheering on their superhuman mom who is blowing past this 31 year old lady trudging along and cursing each step (that would be me, by the way.) They’re trim, have shapely calves that look like they could cut glass, and look damn good in their tri kits.
I want to be them when I grow up.
Endurance sport is an anomaly in the natural order because endurance athletes tend to peak a bit later in life. Unlike 16 year old gymnasts and 19 year old swimmers, pro triathletes tend to peak in their low 30s. Where competitive sport tends to end for most after their high school or college days, triathlon attracts people well past those milestones. You’ll see men and women well into their 70s (and even one or two in their 80s) who compete- and finish- the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
For me, this is great news. I’m 31 years old and have little athletic background. I was a competitive horseback rider as a kid, but that sport was more mental than physical. I didn’t start running until I was 22. I started going to spin class and yoga and weightlifting classes in my “sweating for the wedding” phase – at 27. I did not get in a pool to “swim” laps until I was 29. So when it comes to being an “athlete,” I’m getting a bit of a late start here. Seeing those 45-49 year old women fly by me on the race course gives me hope that I have not peaked yet- and that the work I continue to put in day in and day out will lead to further success. So as I begin planning my 2017 season and racing goals, I have a picture of those 45-49 year olds in my mind. I don’t think I can beat them, but I sure as heck want to join them.