I am an older racer. I am a few decades past my athletic prime and at least a dozen light-years away from the delusion of becoming a professional bicycle racer. Yet I persist. I continue to ride, train and race as if I weren’t a middling middle-aged man in my mid-forties. Of course, it’s ludicrous for an aged racer with no tangible hopes for athletic mightiness to continue grinding away, but I’m at the point where I’m chasing much more than results.
You see, you can decide to be an old person. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen people that are my age or even younger decide that they will no longer be an individual who can run or jump or put forth any sort of exertion whatsoever. I have friends and family members who I know have not broken into a full sprint in at least a decade—and I cannot conceive of anything sadder. Of course, many people do not have a choice in the matter—we get sick, we wear down, our bodies can fail in a thousand ways—but to make the decision to take oneself out of the game is an incredibly depressing notion.
This desire to check out is understandable, it’s very hard to remain optimistic as you get older because the light at the end of the aging tunnel is literally the light at the end of the tunnel. To age is to get cozy with the notion of your own mortality—and there’s nothing that livens up a party like dwelling on the inexorable march towards oblivion. It can make a person grumpy—or a Republican.
I keep riding so I can reserve the right to run if I want to, or at the very least I want my body to remain functional—bikes are like my Botox—with less rat poison. And I’m not being vain—I’m not chasing pointlessly after youth. I am riding to be an older person who can still do things. I’m just trying to keep the lights on around here, and if along the way, I can maybe eek out a top ten or two, that’s just an added bonus. I just want to be able to run if I have to—I mean, if I want to, because, you know, running is for suckers.