by Coach Steve

I can't go quite as fast as I used to, but the exhilaration of moving fast under my own power is the same as ever.

As I write this I'm 47 years old. I've been competing in endurance sports of one type or another essentially nonstop for 32 years and can confidently say I'm fitter than ever. I'm leaner, more flexible, and have superior upper body, core, and lower body fitness than I ever did as a young bike racer. I'm smarter about training, and I can deal with a greater training load. Mentally I'm calm and confident on race days because I've 'been there' and 'done that' so many times before (~1000 bike races, ~100 duathlons, ~100 triathlons, not to mention running races, and even a few XC-ski races).

I'm often asked if I still get nervous before races, and I have to say not really. The night before races I 'sleep like a baby' except for the major events where I put a lot of pressure on myself. I do get stressed about race day details, and tense about performing up to my standards on the day, but that's it.

Despite my best efforts I'm not as fast as I was in my thirties. Exercise physiologists estimate a max VO2 loss of 1% per year after the age of thirty. My own experience is .5% speed loss over the same period (as judged by run race pace), or maybe 1% per year starting at 40 instead of 30. My run has taken the biggest speed hit, with my cycling a close second. Swimming started for me at 39 and my pace has held even due to improvements of form and upper body endurance.

Building race-ready fitness each year takes about twice as long, so I don't let fitness slip as much during the off-season as I used to. When I'm injured I don't heal as quickly. Even minor run injuries like a mildly strained Achilles takes an extra day or two to heal.

The satisfaction I get from a successful race day is greater than ever. Maybe I appreciate the ability to participate after coming back from so many injuries. Some of my peers from early athletic days have succumb to serious physical challenges, but I'm lucky to still be out there.

I can think of only a few peers from my 'former athletic life' as bike racer who still compete on the bike or beyond. One of these peers won the age group World Championship in Duathlon and Olympic Distance Triathlon on consecutive weekends back in the mid 90s; we talk at events and speculate about why we still compete. He says we never got it completely out of our system because: "We were good [as young bike racers], but never great." Perhaps, but I still find the process satisfying: strengthening my body through training; rising to the occasion on race days, and most of all staying fit, setting the 'physiological clock' back so to speak.

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