Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Older, Wiser?

There was an article published in the Personal Journal section of today's Wall Street Journal entitled "Older, Wiser, Slower" about avid athletes over 50 adjusting their exercise goals. The gist of the article is that as athletes age deeper into their 50s and later years, they need to shift focus away from trying to compete against other athletes and even their own PRs in order to live healthy athletic lives. The story gives examples of previously competitive marathon runners and ironman triathletes learning to do their events at a lower heart rate and stress level. It argues against the idea of doing increasingly more training in order to get better as we age. It can lead to increased injuries to stiffer joints, more rigid muscles and more hardened arteries.

It got me thinking about my buddy Wayne, he of the recent triple bypass operation (January). This "Comeback Kid" returned to the marathon distance in August. Wayne is in the second half of his 50s and has been an inspirational older brother to me in continuing to run marathons. But there is wisdom in the way Wayne has handled his marathons in the last couple of years. Wayne doesn't worry about his time. He runs the marathon at a pace that makes the journey an enjoyable one. Me? I inevitably try to push my pace seeking out the possibility of another BQ or PR. But I'm beginning to see the wisdom in Wayne's approach. I've run Boston enough times that I don't need to keep striving for that BQ. I'm not even sure how many more marathons I want to run. I've always told other runners that the half marathon is a better race than the full marathon. In training for the half marathon, you never have to do that 20 mile training run. Additionally, you don't go around the week after a half marathon sore and grumpy (so my wife tells me) in repairing muscle damage that the marathon distance causes.

Similarly, I'm finding that in training for the full ironman, that I probably prefer the half ironman. Not that I don't want to do get the full ironman under my belt, but I'm beginning to think of it more as a "Bucket List" item than something I want to do repeatedly. Its not that I have any idea what it will feel like to finish the ironman, its just that the training for the full ironman consumes a lot of your free time and the longer training required for the distance puts you into heat and dehydration. I've noticed the last several weeks on my long rides that in starting a ride at 6 AM it gets uncomfortably hot by about 9:45 AM. I still have the energy to ride, but I really start to feel the heat and it starts to suck the life out of you. Thus, I've decided that the ideal ride distance in South Florida is about 60 miles. If you are out by 6 AM, you are done by about 9:30 with breaks and stop lights. Too short for ironman training, but just right for a half.

The same goes for the run. Our friend Victor is training for the Marine Corps Marathon in late October. He was asking us what was causing him lower back pain during his 15 mile long runs. Buddy John asked me what was the obvious answer to Vic's question. As I'd also been feeling some lower back pain, I'd was thinking it was possibly from increasing my swimming distance or my bike time. "No, dummy," John says, "Its dehydration." Of course, as an attorney trained to never give up a point, I point to the other possibilities. But the jury has decided and I've been dismissed from the witness stand. Yes, this time of year in South Florida back pain from exercise is most likely a sign of not getting enough fluids. Running long in South Florida from June through September means there is a great likelihood of at least partial dehydraton issues.

I also get a report from John who talked to a buddy who has done the Clermont HIM in the past. We are doing this event at the end of this month. John reports back that his buddy Carl says to expect it to be hilly and hot. Very hot. Great. Carl also informs John that we need to start upping our distances on the bike, swim and run in our training to gear up for the full ironman now. Again, great. Here we were thinking that we were doing well in our training frequency and distances and now we are told to ramp it up. Not after the Clermont HIM at the end of September. Now!

So, here we are feeling a little behind the 8 ball again. I'm definitely older. I just don't know if I've gotten any wiser in my training.

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