I turned 47 this past week.
Typically this is the age where some men flip out, buy a corvette, try to trade their 46 year old wife in for two 23 year olds, etc. etc. But none of that for me. I’m 47 and I’m sure I look every dusty mile of it, but that’s OK. I don’t feel old.
One thing that has shifted my idea of old has been the cycling tribe I ride with. There are some dudes who ride with our group who have convinced me that, to a great degree, age is just a number. It’s just a matter of how you treat it.
A couple of summers ago, when I first started riding with these guys from the flagpole in front of the statue of Sully on the A&M campus out to Caldwell and back – about 55 miles, the distance seemed pretty daunting to me. So I’d load my bike in my truck, drive the 3 miles from the house to the campus, unload it, ride the 55 miles (where I’d get obliterated by the faster riders), then load my bike in the truck and drive it the 3 miles back home. After a couple of weeks of that, though, I discovered that a guy in our group (older than me) lived about 8 miles farther from campus than I did and he rode the whole thing. 12 miles to campus. 55 mile ride. 12 miles home. Always. And when I found that out, let me tell you, I held my manhood cheap, as Shakespeare would say.
There’s another cat in our group who is several years older than me who must be the toughest man alive – tougher than woodpecker lips. He typically rides 12,000 miles a year – which breaks down to about 250 miles a week. Think about how many miles you put on your car in a year. And these are not leisurely, marvel-at-the-bluebonnets miles, either. You can count on him to be up front in every paceline, in every breakaway, attacking at every opportunity until he wins or implodes. He’s always out there – 104 degrees or 30 degrees – and he never complains. Harder than Chinese arithmetic, this guy. Somebody like than either inspires you to train harder or makes you want to stay home and bake chocolate chip cookies and never see another bicycle.
This summer I joined the A&M cycling team – a club team that races around the state against other college club teams. And I really think I can ride well enough to help the team or I wouldn’t do it. But I confess the way I did it was a little underhanded. I sent an e-mail to the team president and told him I was a grad student and wanted to join the team. He answered my e-mail and gladly welcomed me and told me what I needed to do. When I went to the bike store where he works to give him my check for club dues he stuck his hand out and smiled. I told him who I was and watched as the wheels turned in his brain and he figured out that I was, in fact, the same guy who contacted him about being on the team, and not that guys’ father. The smile stayed on his face but the look in his eyes was one of, “this guy didn’t tell me he was older than Methuselah’s handbag.” But all those guys on the team have welcomed me and when the road racing season starts in the spring, I’ll compete for A&M in maroon and white gear, something I’ve wanted to so since 7th grade.
Gabriel García Márquez once posed the question, “Do we quit pursuing our dreams because we get old or do we get old when we stop pursuing our dreams?” I have the great blessing of being able to pursue my dreams, not only in cycling, but in several fields. So this birthday has not been an opportunity to pine for the “good old days” when I was younger.
Because the good old days are now.