Winning in the Age Game

This past summer, I participated in an Olympic length triathlon. Due to my gender and fantastic age, my swim start wave was last and consisted of all women, 40 and older.  Over the past two years, I’ve learned the best way to quell open water swim fears is to completely ignore the water and the other swim starts, find a friendly face in my swim group, and start talking. The distraction of a conversation with a like-minded swimmer can work wonders in keeping the fear out of your head while you’re waiting for the gun to go off for your swim wave.

I found myself loitering about with two other women at the back of our wave. We had an unusually long, half-hour wait — that is a very long time to be standing around in a wetsuit, pretending not to worry! After a few minutes of chit chat, the conversation turned to the funny yet very real issues around menopause, blisters, child rearing, and mistakes made in triathlon. As the conversation deepened, I learned that one woman is both a brain tumor AND breast cancer survivor. There was a shared deep look and a “congratulations you’re here” acknowledgment from myself and a few other women who joined our conversation.

As the swim waves went in and we moved toward the beach, the first wave of triathletes were getting out of the water and approaching their bikes. The women in my group were so distracted in our conversation that the minutes ticked by and suddenly the fastest swimmers were on land!

As a young guy ran towards his bike, ripping off his wetsuit, one woman exclaimed, “Damn teenager, look at that guy!” with a twinge of jealousy.

“Oh, no, no” I said. “That kid has a trust fund AND a full-time tri coach.”

Some else laughed and added, “I bet he has a personal chef.”

“And a live in masseuse!”

A fifth woman shouted, “But he lives with his parents and his mother does his laundry!”

We were roaring with laughter.

“Can he drive?” “Did he graduate from college yet?” “Hmm, is he old enough to apply for college?” others chimed in.

It was a very sweet and funny exchange of middle-aged bravado from a bunch of women doing what they love. These women, fellow moms and athletes, had the perspective of knowing they would not break any speed records, however, they had wisdom, experience, and history in the trajectory of life. I doubt any one of them would have traded their well-earned knowledge and confidence to be that young buck.

I learned enough about these women in that half hour to know their age groups or names, or where they were from. Their confidence and generous camaraderie was completely delightful and I vowed somehow to pay it forward with others. After the race I was curious, checked out the stats, and learned that at least two of us placed in the top three in our age groups. Way to go, Lady Mamas.

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