Adventure: Can I Make It Up?

No. Sorry to cut this story short but there is no way, at fifty-one, that I can go on the road for two weeks without any exercise other than short bouts of yoga in hotel rooms where the most challenging part is NOT touching anything and expect to return home feeling good, feeling in shape or even feeling on par with how I felt when I departed.

Yesterday, while surfing European psychedelic music festivals on YouTube, because that is what people like me do, I found a cycling coach online talking about performance decline in “masters” series racers. “Poor bastards,” I thought. Must suck to be them. And then I realized he was talking about anyone over thirty-five. “Oh sh$#.” I’m finally a master at something and it’s not what I expected.

Performance decline begins early and goes hard and goes late. Even the best suffer about a ten percent decline between 35-50, but the real damage begins after fifty-five where you might as well just open a pot dispensary and enjoy online psychedelic music clips. At some point, you have to aim downstream, get your feet out in front and enjoy the ride.

With this in mind, yesterday I pointed my broken Tacoma up and aimed toward the Sangres for a little tradeshow payback. (My truck is making an awful sound I can’t identify.) Instead of staying low and going slow I drove to the snowy parking lot at Aspen Vista, donned my spikes and headed up the fire road bent on punishing myself for being such a lowlife, slacking loser who didn’t exercise for two weeks. (And who drank beer, ate bad food and managed nights of three hours of sleep or less.)

I felt SO good. Fresh, clean air and hard pack snow underfoot. “I’m a total and utter stud.” “Does anyone else on this mountain understand this?” I thought as I moved over the ten thousand foot range. There were skiers skinning up, cross country types with pained expressions and a few scattered snowshoers and I blew by them all. My cardio has always been good, for some unknown reason, but after the first hour, I began to feel something in my legs. Something that reminded me of undercooked empanadas in a Vegas bar.

“Just do a 10k,” I told myself. Three-point one up and three-point one down. A child could do it, right? Clearly the gods were watching as the three-point one-mile line was perfectly dissected by a fallen tree. I stopped, packed my trusty XT2 in my pack and started running. Any slight deviation from the hard pack and I post holed up to my knee. This made for FAR more difficult running.

My spikes tried and failed to make contact with grippy snow. Run, sink, run, sink, run slide, run slip. A half-mile down I thought “this is going to be a LONG three miles.” Now at 11,000 feet, even the flat sections required careful mindfulness about breath, cadence, pace, and focus. Three guys on skies stop. We chat. They dive into the trees and I continue the run. A half-mile later we meet again, and again.

With a mile to go my legs felt like they belonged to someone else. My left heel and foot began to ache. My right hip felt tight. All I could think about was rethinking my training routine. I knew then that there is no way to make it up. Like missing a day of school. Sure, you can have the work sent home but the real story is the experience, the patience and routine mileage that keeps a specific level of fitness. And now at the “master” level, it’s all the more critical.

Truck, my beloved truck. There it was waiting for me. Salt crusted on my face, sweat turning cold on my body. Payback. Reminder to self. Get it together. Change. Don’t repeat said mistake. Get selfish and forget the rest.

For fellow masters, we can run but we can’t hide. Life choices are ever-more critical now. I sit here sore and tired. My brain wonders what supplements I have that might aid the recovery, and for only a six-mile jaunt this is quite sobering. My yoga mat is frozen solid in the van, as is the foam roller, but I will dig them out, thaw them out and perhaps give them a go. Slowly I will build myself back up.

17 Comments on “Adventure: Can I Make It Up?”

  1. This had me laughing, then crying.

    “but after the first hour, I began to feel something in my legs. Something that reminded me of undercooked empanadas in a Vegas bar.”

    If it’s any consolation, your life choices are far superior to mine. This might be the inspiration I’ve been ignoring for too long. Can’t remedy all of it, but I can do something.

  2. Hey Dan, as a 56 year old, who’s not nearly as fit as you, trust me I feel your pain. All we can do is keep plugging away.

    What app/ heart rate monitor are you using? I could use something like that.

    1. Hey Nigel,
      It’s a Garmin watch. Nothing fancy. Vivo Active 3 I believe. They probably have far better and newer devices but this works fine.

  3. I’m now 40 years old and I am in the worst shape of my life. Since coming to Japan I have done NO exercise and eaten very unhealthy, delicious Japanese food. Okonomiyaki, Ramen, Takoyaki etc. I put on so much weight. My New Years resolution was to sort myself out.
    I bought myself some expensive trekking shoes and began climbing all the mountains around where I live. It was hard at first but now I love it! When you summit (even the low mountains) and your heart is pounding out of your chest and your legs are burning and shaking. I love that feeling! I LOVE THE OUTDOORS!

    1. Kurt,
      And the sooner you do it the better. And the change will come. Diet, yoga, etc. It all starts to make sense and when you FEEL better everything else works better.

  4. I’m 45 now. Definitely in the masters category. I’ve cycled all my life so stayed pretty fit and healthy. A few weeks ago I strained my hip flexor (running on concrete without warming up properly like an idiot) and have had to ease off a bit on the hiking. My fitness has fallen off a cliff into a deep dark void. What’s more, it takes longer to heal nowadays and longer to recover that lost fitness.

    1. Sean,
      Oh man. Easier to get hurt. Takes longer to heal. And yes, the fitness typically just goes in DAYS.

  5. so, lots of this made me chuckle. first, there are masters ranked racers here in the area that have been busted for doping. the ego that must be present to start doping at our age does not compute to me.

    anyway, things i have found at 46.

    i can no longer sit for hours at a time. i need to move. airplanes, conference rooms, cars, desks. they all make me insane. next week i fly to orlando for 3 days locked in a windowless conference room in the bowels of some hotel. 8-5, mandatory dinner immediately following. i will spend most of that time pacing the back of the room like a caged animal.

    during my racing years, i was never a sprinter or climber so, i taught myself to go downhill very very well. now, my power is down a bit but i can hold it for much longer. average speed and average power have been slowly ticking upwards. as you get older, your endurance goes up. more slow twitch vs fast twitch fibers. i still don’t understand the physiology behind that yet but i’ll take it. i’ve made a pretty decent jump in fitness so far this winter. just wish i wasn’t spending so much time on zwift but i’m really happy with my power output vs HR.

    i haven’t been hiking much this winter but last saturday i went to RMNP for a dawn patrol. 6 miles hovering around 10k. i wish i had had time to stay out longer. outbound from the truck, i saw no one. just me and the wind. i could’ve just kept going and going. the quiet was so necessary. maybe the next time you’re up this way, you’ll have some time for a hike.

    as for getting hurt, walk it off. 😉 seriously though, as long as i stay on the yoga routine, the issues are minimal. sometimes, i’ll torque my back but usually that comes from putting myself in a stupid position while trying to work on the truck. my biggest problem is just protecting my hands. after 4 carpal tunnel surgeries, it sometimes feels like a losing battle.

    now, if i can just lay off the cookies, maybe i’ll drop these last few kilos…

    1. Sean,
      Wow, four surgeries? Had no idea. So much for MMA. I’ve been thinking about getting a trainer of some sort. Old school, new school. No idea. But I sure would love to be able to ride during winter. And I detest the gym. Yoga, I’ve been thinking of going back to classes and see how that feels after a decade away. I’m so sore today and cant’ figure out why. My entire body. But, I have been taking anti-microbial.

      1. yea, i have the day job to thank for those surgeries and actually, when i was working on my black belt, they never bothered me. mma might still be an option. i’ve got the bald head and tattoos…

        i can’t do gyms either. zwift is a decent substitute especially on days like today since it’s been snowing all day. i switch between it and sufferfest. both have structured training plans that are pretty effective. bonus with zwift is it’s a little more interactive.

        sufferfest has yoga built into it. the sessions are short (15min) so i usually combine 2 or 3 of them as a morning routine. the videos were done by this woman, https://yoga15.com/. you don’t need sufferfest to get her videos as they are available on her site. yet another digital subscription but if you don’t want to go someplace, the pricing is way better.

        as for soreness, there are days when i’m like that as well. stay hydrated especially in our dry climates. i do take a D3 supplement and my protein intake is about 80g per day. once my weekly mileage gets over 150, that goes up to about 100g.

        1. Sean,
          I finally found some good CBD. That helps too especially when I take it consistently and at night. I’ve never used Zwift. I’m not entirely sure I know what it is. Will investigate.

          1. have not tried any cbd. people keep recommending it to me though. if you try zwift, let me know if you need a trainer. i have an extra one and it’s just collecting dust.

  6. it’s a wahoo kickr snap. 2 years old. maybe 4000 miles on it. it’s a ‘smart’ trainer so it will fully integrate with zwift. if you want, it’s yours. we’ll just need to figure out a way to get it down to you.

    1. Sean,
      I’m totally game. It’s 10 degrees right now so riding isn’t even a thought. But a trainer! I’ll come get it.

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