Anticipating the big 5-0

50zoneTwo weeks from tomorrow I turn 50.  I haven’t made any plans for what I will do to mark the occasion.  When I turned 40 I had a big party. But this year I’m not feeling it.

I said to Sam yesterday that of course I know that on September 24th I’ll just be one day older than I was the day before. Like any other day, really. So it’s not such a big deal to turn 50.  So why make a big deal of it?

But I’m not neutral about it. Birthdays always make me take stock. When my birthday approaches, I think about what’s gone on for the past year in my life and where I’m at. It’s always a reflective time.  And somehow, 50 has prompted an even bigger reflection.

When 50 comes, you are well and truly past the mid-point (or at least very likely to be). And while I feel physically in great shape, it’s hard to deny that I’m not in the prime of youth.

This makes me wonder about my physical potential. Having come to the party late as a triathlete, for example, just how much better can I expect to get when I’m already 50?

That open-ended question aside, I feel pretty good about the past two years and my commitment to the fittest by 50 challenge that Sam and I set for ourselves.

When we started, I didn’t want to run, nevermind run faster. Now I love running and I actually have some training goals. Half marathon in Toronto in October!  Registered, with a non-refundable hotel room!

When we started, triathlon was not even in the picture. Now I own my own wetsuit, belong to a triathlon club, and have even completed an Olympic distance race.  I’ll have one more under my belt before my 50th birthday (Lakeside Olympic distance is coming up this Sunday). I’m challenged by triathlon and I love race day.

When we started our challenge, I thought the bod pod would be a good way to measure my progress. Now, screw the bod pod. I really don’t need to know what my body fat percentage is to know if I’m feeling good about myself physically.

And when we started, I didn’t think of myself as an athlete at all. Now, I feel comfortable with the idea that I’m an athlete. Elite athletes aren’t the only athletes, and not all athletes are champions.

When we started, I didn’t own a road bike. Now I do. It’s not my favorite bike or my favorite kind of riding, but I have it and I’ve challenged myself on it and I will keep at it for the time being.

So for today, I’m doing okay. And none of that is going to change over the next two weeks.  It is just another day.  And while I might not feel like having a big party, I’ll probably be able to muster up the enthusiasm for triple chocolate cake from Veg Out, and maybe a little open house for friends who want to drop by and eat it with me.


17 thoughts on “Anticipating the big 5-0

  1. Many cyclists commemorate their birthdays with a ride equal to their age.Maybe a 50 km birthday ride is in order?

    FYI, I have trouble identifying myself as an athlete. I think of myself as a guy who doesn’t know when to stop riding his bike 🙂

    Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Birthday, however you decide to celebrate.

  2. “Having come to the party late as a triathlete, for example, just how much better can I expect to get when I’m already 50?” Lots better. That’s easy. You haven’t been training seriously that long. Time training beats out the effects of aging. If you’d been doing races since you were 20 then it would be downhill in terms of time, for sure. But you haven’t!

    I was really heartened reading the recent research on physical activity and aging. I’m super swamped this morning so I’ll resort to quoting an old blog post.

    “What exactly is the connection between exercise and aging? The old view was that muscle loss and a decline in aerobic capacity were inevitable with old age. We slow down with age and become more frail, starting in our 40s, it seemed. But new research suggests the connections may run the other way. We become slower and more frail because we stop moving. Older athletes get slower and less strong, not because they’re older, but rather because they train less than younger athletes.”

    Looking forward to birthday cake and hugs!

  3. Just a quickie, but I find you and Sam to be SO inspiring. You’ll rock 50, just like you rocked your 40s, these last two years in particular! 🙂

  4. Happy early birthday fellow Libra! (Mine is just a few days after yours.) Isn’t amazing how much can change over the course of a couple of years? Just think – there are all sorts of things waiting ahead for us that we can’t even imagine yet. Kind of exciting, isn’t it?

  5. Getting older does make you think twice about whether you can fairly attach the label of athlete to yourself, especially when you see what the younger people are capable of doing. Thing is, they likely wonder the same thing when they realize they cannot compete at the professional level! The truth is that it really all is relative and labels can be confusing and don’t really do much good at explaining the different realities around you. Better to say what you actually do – what your actual training is – as opposed to even care about labels And to take a healthy modicum of pride and satisfaction in what you actually do. Like you said, when you look back with honesty about where you were before training and where you are now after a couple of years of being somewhat serious about it, the progress you’ve made from both a personal and an objective standpoint is actually quite amazing. So congratulations, and enjoy your slice of vegan chocolate cake on your birthday. You deserve it, and it’s time to feel good about yourself!

  6. I chortled, screw the bod pod indeed. There are so many ways to measure fitness but I think the best one is all the joy you’ve gotten out of the past 2 years. Your post about learning to clip in and out, the time you wanted to call a taxi…many adventures with other awesome humans.
    And, personally, I figure you got 60 more years because if you keep exercising & eating like you do there’s no way you won’t see 110!

  7. Your post reflecting on 50 and aging as an athlete makes me think and also helps me reframe my own identity as a 50-plus woman and athlete. Lately I’ve had some setbacks from injuries and schedules, but it’s good to hear both that there is evidence for and support of strength and endurance and fun being in motion past 50. And now I have to go, as I signed up for a lunchtime freestyle swimming class at MIT. Want to improve my stroke, get stronger and faster in the water. Maybe there’s an aqua bike competition in my future– who knows?

    1. Yes, aqua bike. And I need to find an aqua run thing! Or we could do relays! You do the bike, I’ll do the swim and run. That may be in my future!

  8. When I did turn 40, 45, 50..I contemplated more on how different my life was than my mother’s at that same age. Cycling wasn’t really part of the reflection..more background aid, really.

    Enjoy b-day of 50. It only happens once. 🙂

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