I just ran my first "real" race in a few years, meaning I didn't run with my younger kids encouraging them on. Instead, this time, my 17 year old son was with me for about 10 seconds, then blasted off ahead of me never to be seen again during a recent 5K. This is a milestone in that for the first "official" time, I couldn't hang with one of my kids. Now, he and I practice Kendo (Japanese fencing), and I know he's been better than me for a few years, even though we are the same rank. But we've never faced each other in a real match, so his mastery over his dad has been unofficial. To continue the story, the following morning I took my 14 year old daughter up to Tiger Mountain for a training hike. She learned last year that tackling difficult hikes without breaking in the legs makes for a tough first few days. So we blasted straight up the cable line for a couple thousand feet, tagged a second summit, and ran down for 30 minutes with no break. So what? you might ask. Well, again, a milestone was noted in that I wasn't throttling back to accommodate her...she hung with me the entire time. So it seems the days of "Super Dad" are gone, where I "never get tired" and am always the pillar of, well, anything.
This may seem normal for many people, but to put it in perspective, I have been probably more fit than the average weekend warrior. 40 minute 10k. 8:17 50 miler. 104 miles in 24 hours. Western States. Boston Marathon. STP (Seattle to Portland) bike ride in one day with 1 training ride. Wonderland Trail in 36 hours. Yada yada. I don't want this to sound like bragging, it's just to point out the difference, the realization that there is a new reality. A 25 minute 5K? I used to run a much faster pace for a marathon. So when something like this happens, I can't help but ask myself, what the hell happened to me?
Well, age for certain, and kids. Our lives change, priorities change, and as the kids got older, they consumed more of my time. Don't get me wrong, it's been a blast, and there is that part of me that beams with pride that my kids are besting their old man. Isn't this what we want to see, our offspring growing and surpassing us in all endeavors, including physical? Its just that these past few days have driven home the realization of my own deterioration. These two events with the kids were preceded by a solo Camp Muir hike where I realized that it took me as long to ascend to Muir as it did for me to do the round trip in the past.
Now I'm not wallowing in self pity, as I realize that over the past 5 years or so I have drastically reduced training tending to the busy family life. Thank goodness the Kendo has kept me in some sort of shape. The larger issue is, in my opinion, our tendency to stop "exploring" as we age. It seems a natural state to stay within your comfort zone as we get older. How many times have you referenced an older relative or heard a phrase like "likes their routine?" So this gets to the meat of my ramblings, which is the importance of challenging ourselves during the Geriatric, to step out of our comfort zones, essentially to make ourselves do something that is much easier to avoid. Get up at 4 AM and drive to some trailhead when the weather is not perfect, maybe be a little cold and uncomfortable? At 20, no sweat. At 50, you start to think about the alternative of sleeping in a little more, getting that nice cup-o-java, maybe go to the gym and hit the treadmill for 30 minutes to allay your guilt of not going outside to exercise. 'Cause face it, we're all a bunch of wimps. Sidewalks, air conditioning, heat, instant water, heated leather seats, umbrellas, carpet, beds, comfy chairs, TV, internet, etc. We lead pampered and sheltered lives, whether you're borderline poverty wages or a millionaire.
I'm not going to give up easily. My kid's kicking my butt only makes me realize that I need to work harder, to make myself workout when I don't want to, to do things that are outside my comfort zone, so that at the very least, I can continue to do challenging hikes with them or go run a race where they don't have to wait too long snacking on bananas and free 'aide for Dad to appear at the finish line. In Japan I saw a 92 year old man doing Kendo, and he moved pretty well. He would later say how he has to be careful when he walks in everyday life but how he feels at ease on the Kendo floor and has no worries of falling. It makes one realize that it doesn't matter what you do, just do something. It doesn't matter how long it took, if you read about an 80 year old summiting Mt Rainier, it's impressive. But only because it's unusual, it's not the norm. If we all continued to hike and climb after 50, then this would be a normal occurrence. Don't stop doing.