Two huge numerical digits came to inhabit our backyard yesterday. I planted them there, surreptitiously. And when night fell, the timer clicked on and they proclaimed in giant illumination my husband’s new age. 60. The big 6-0. A turning point I have already passed.Wrangling those numbers into place drove home the numerical realities of life. Of growing older (I refuse to say old). Of how I have come to measure life by different standards. Of the milestones I have reached. Of the impact on my active lifestyle. Admitting to my mathematical background, I can’t help but ponder my new life status from a numerical perspective.
My passion for endurance sports has not waned with my age. But its key indicators are clearly suffering. I’m embarrassed to find I am pleased to complete a long run squeaking in just under 10 minute miles. Admittedly 7s are ancient history, but whatever happened to 8 or 9? I’m learning to let go of the single digits when it comes to pace, as long as I can still rack up the mileage numbers. Thankfully marathons are still within my reach, they just take longer. PRs have fallen by the wayside. And forget finishing under 4 hours. Just crossing the finish line is rewarding enough.
If I’m getting slower, so is my competition. And here’s a case where the numbers are declining. As I move up the age categories, the field keeps narrowing. Moving into a new classification is exciting, as it signals yet another drop in participation. I actually placed 3rd in my age group in a marathon ski race this winter, and won a coveted Dala horse prize. I just choose to ignore the fact that I was 3rd out of 3.
Having taken up distance cycling just 4 years ago, I don’t have the same competitive baggage. And rather than focus on speed and racing, Rich and I have taken up cycle touring. Our mantra is “You see a lot more of the world when traveling at only 12 miles an hour.” Here it’s more about the distance figures. Our annual tours have typically taken us over 1,400 miles. And to date our longest trip has covered 2,350 miles. It took us nearly two months to get there, yet by the end we still wanted to keep going. That’s a measure of success. I’d still love to top that number.
Not all cycle rides have to be that long. 100 has a nice ring to it. A friend talked me into a Century Ride a few years ago, and it has now become an annual tradition. Time is not a consideration, as long as we finish cycling before dark. Thanks to the long summer days here Up North, we have yet to fail. We may just need to start earlier each year.
Anniversaries are another good life measure. For 24 straight years I have shared a cross-country ski weekend with a fellow mom/career woman/friend. We do a lot of skiing and yes, I track the kilometers. Our range may have narrowed over the years, but our support for one another and ability to come home recharged have been a constant. All the more reason to look forward to our 25th trip. And to hope that number will continue to grow.
No matter how I look at it, I count myself very fortunate. A little slippage here, a bit of stagnation there isn’t bad. I’m still out there plying the pavement, spinning my wheels and gliding over the snow. Good health and energy are gifts whose value can’t be calculated. Not even for those of us who live by the numbers.