I’m 58 years old. When I was “young,” I ran (not very fast, compared to my more-athletic peers, but I had great endurance). In 1984, I switched to road cycling. Thankfully, I was much better at cycling than I was at running.
When I was 42, my back ached. When I was 45, I endured gastrointestinal issues. When I was 48, it became impossible to ride at a level that satisfied me, and I seriously thought about selling my bike. I nearly resigned myself to quietly growing old and fading away. After all, I was nearing 50!
When I was 51, I got a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. I was allergic to gluten. And probably had been for the previous 10 years or more. The gluten allergy triggered antibodies which damaged the lining of my small intestine. Over time, that damage resulted in an increased inability to absorb nutrients from the food I ate. The decrease in nutrition resulted in a variety of physical problems, not the least of which was my inability to perform athletically at the levels I wanted. Suddenly, with that one diagnosis, everything came together.
It takes a year or more for your body to repair the physical damage gluten antibodies cause. Slowly and over time, things started to get better. Over the next couple years, I began to feel like I was my former self again.
My mother was 80 when she passed away. She died in hospice care after suffering an inoperable broken pelvis. That break was partially related to her dementia, which had caused unimaginable problems for her as it progressed over the last several years of her life.
My father was 91 when he passed away. He died in hospice care, too. The last several years of his life became increasingly difficult as he battled with spinal stenosis, a degeneration of his spinal column which results is progressively less ability to move and increasingly more pain.
We have all known people who have suffered with devastating health challenges which ended lives earlier than it seemed fair. None of us know when we will be forced to stop doing things we love.
The idea that I almost walked away from cycling at 48 crushes me. Dealing with my health challenges gave cycling back to me. But it will not always be this way. At some point, I will once again face the inevitability of time or some inescapable burden, just as my mother did, just as my father did, just as I thought I had. That future day for me will be a dark day, but I refuse to worry about that now. Now is the time for action and activity. Now is the time to Live – Motivated.
Which leads me to the challenge I presented to myself in October of 2019: I would finish a Triathlon in 2020. At the time, I didn’t know much about the sport, beyond the fact that you swim a bit, cycle a bit, and run a bit. After digging deeper, I found that the challenge needed to be more specific. I needed to choose a distance that would satisfy the goal. I needed to do a Triathlon at the Olympic / International distance. I plotted a training path, chose events to build experience, and began preparations. The first event was a Sprint Tri that included a sheltered open water swim with no waves. That was late January, 2020, before COVID-19 devastated the international athletic calendars. If finished the race. I also learned just how much I needed to improve. And I learned I really like the sport. Unfortunately, every other event on the 2020 calendar was canceled (in a way, further proving the point I made earlier).
The personal challenge of completing an Olympic Distance Tri was reluctantly moved back to 2021. But I am committed. I am committed to the goal. And I’m committed to being as empowered as I can be for as long as is possible. Live! Be Motivated!