George Papadakos - Tales in Triathlon
Now that I have been writing my column for almost a year, I have started to create my fan base and get feedback on the topics that I choose to write about. Most reactions vary, but it seems like I'm heading in the right direction.
I wanted to dedicate an article to all my readers, but more specifically to my experienced fans that have seen and done more than myself.
The definition of a masters athlete is typically an individual north of 35 years of age, regardless of their fitness.
Using myself as an example I will discuss that just because I am north of that number by six years does not mean that my best years are not still to come.
I'll be the first to say that I don't recover as fast as I used to, but I am stronger than I have ever been, and all racing aside, the experience I gain every year allows me to train smarter, race faster and achieve personal bests, which is an added bonus.
Another benefit of high levels of endurance training is that my aerobic base is huge, which allows me to be able to snap back into training quicker after a long period of time off and start training blocks not so far out from my "A" priority race.
You know that old adage, "you don't use it, you lose it." It is common knowledge to see many masters athletes perform well into their 50's and even 60's, and although they may not be as fast as most 20, 30 and 40 year olds, they do compete.
The key to long term success and fitness is not to stop just because your older, and now is as good as any time to get out there and be active.
A good friend of mine raced Ironman Arizona and finished first in his age group and an amazing 55th overall in a time of 9:20:58. Not bad for a 53-year-old.
I have seen this first hand at Ironman Florida in November of 2011. I wasn't having the greatest day. The swim was fine, bike was okay, but when I went out onto the run course my legs were done.
I muscled through the first half of the marathon, but had been reduced to a walk for the first part of the last half of the marathon.
It was amazing to see so many individuals go by me, different sizes, shapes and ages. The unique thing about triathlon and Ironman racing is that your age is displayed on your calf.
I wasn't really shocked by them passing me (I mean, I was walking) but I counted at least four or five 60-year-olds, another handful of 70-year-olds and too many 50-year-olds to remember.
One of the most important reasons to keep active, and even to compete into the twilight years, is that it drives you to work towards a goal. These goals reinforce a healthy lifestyle that will keep you looking and staying fit.
It also helps you to retain muscle mass and strength, and improve upon your cardiovascular system.
Going back to Ironman Florida 2011... even though my day didn't go exactly as planned, I finished and had a personal best as well. I figure that if I keep taking 20 minutes off every Ironman race I enter, I should qualify for Kona in six or seven years.
But that doesn't mean I'm not going to give it everything I've got this year.
Until I meet you at the start line, train smart and have fun!