“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.”
― Ellen DeGeneres
About ten years ago I read through a study conducted over the previous ten years at the NYC Marathon. By the way when you participate at these big races that's what they're doing with you: collecting data. I think they have these races just to collect data. I mean really, why do they want to know your profession at a marathon? "I'm a milk maid." In fact on all your race applications from now on write either, "Shepard" or "Milk Maid." But I digress. Which is part of the point of this but more about that later.
So this study said that the age groupers who show the most significant improvement in performance are women 50 to 65. Followed by men 50 to 65. And who are Milk Maids. Just kidding about the Milk Maids.
Of course everyone put out theories as to why this is and you couldn't open anything without it stating, "and by the way the biggest improvements come in your 50s!" I didn't care. I was in my 40s and having enough trouble with my age group which is men 40 to 50 who have inordinate amounts of disposable income and time. These are the guys that would run over one of our olympic qualifiers if it meant they could get out of the transition area 5 seconds quicker.
At the NYC Triathlon where there are 73 age groups (men 40 to 45 and are left handed) I always stood right against the 50 to 55 (who are right handed) group and they'd laugh and say, "Oh don't you worry. You'll be here soon enough." These age groups always had the most security around them as it seemed they held nothing sacred. "Hey ref will your seeing eye dog have his own moped?", was a favorite of theirs. The 56 to 60 year olds would simply shout, "Ref here's my number you can take my 20 second penalty and shove it up your a$$." I always tried to make my way to the front where the 35 to 40 year olds were but no one wanted to be back there. I can still hear their laughter and taunts - triathlon can be so cruel.
So for the most part my age group got out of the Hudson all at once and unfortunately onto the road, a middle aged road gang on tri bikes. "Separate!" shouted the ref. "Separate now!" So of course we all sped up to separate. We did manage to get away from the ref who were left to the 60 year olds - God help them. So we're moving like a hamstrung bat at out of heck when we hear, "Wop, wop, wop, wop..." getting louder from behind. We were a group of ten men in our mid forties riding up the West Side high way in terror not looking back cause Godzilla was on a bike with disc wheels about to catch us, "Wop, wop, wop, wop...".
Now if you had asked any of us we would have sworn we were going 90 mph up the long hill to the bridge and the Bronx (we were escaping to the Bronx.) Then one of us looked back and the terror was obvious. "It's the Olympic Women!", he cried (and I mean he cried.) NYC was the the last Olympic Qualifier that year and the Women's Pro Wave had gone about 20 waves after us. And now they were about to run us over.
"Everybody move over!", I yelled. Now in triathlon if you are less than two bikes length from the rider ahead you get a penalty. And if you're in a peloton everybody gets a penalty. At that moment we would all have been sentenced to life in front of a firing squad. "Hammer!", someone yelled.
The gears clicked like thunder and we hammered. Then the ladies flew by like we were on trainers. And right behind them, I swear to God, were the 50 to 60 year old guys. Giving the ref on the motorcycle the finger.
So now I am in my mid 50s and have discovered the source of the fountain of youth those 50 to 60 year olds use to improve their performance. Basically we're at that point where we can flip the bird at anything and everything. We're fifteen years old again.