A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reaching the Summit: My Thoughts on Going "Over-the-Hill"

Reaching the summit of Trail Ridge Road at 12,183 feet above sea level
on Ride the Rockies in 2012 was one of the best feelings in my life!
One of things I love about long distance cycling is think time. Riding for hours on end my mind often wanders. Sometimes I think about work, sometimes about life, and sometimes I just can’t take my mind off that nasty hill looming at the end of my ride (even though I’d rather not)! Lately I’ve been reflecting on what it will feel like to turn 50. And now I know. How? Today is my 50th birthday!

Turning 50 is kind of a big deal.  I am going to make the most of it. We have a big family gathering at the Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse in Dallas’ West End tonight (my daughter is playing in the Women’s DII Club Rugby Nationals this weekend as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks Women’s Rugby Football Club – ROCK CHALK!). In addition to a great steak and German Sweet Chocolate pie (my birthday favorite), I expect to get lots of birthday cards with the words “over-the-hill” printed on them.
I’ve been thinking about those three words on the long bike rides lately. Am I over-the-hill? What does that even mean?
At the summit of Mt. Evans. 14,220 feet
above sea level. The highest paved road
in North America!
On the one hand, over-the-hill can mean “past one’s prime” (thanks, Merriam-Webster, I think you are past your prime!) or even better, “past the peak of one's youthful vigor and freshness” (compliments of The Free Dictionary). Peak of freshness? Seriously?! Have I passed my “use by” date? Do I smell bad? Is there mold growing on me?

Heck, according to the Urban Dictionary, I’ve been stale for 10 years already. They (whoever “they” are) describe over-the-hill as: “Meaning that you are 40yrs old, therfore [sic] you have reached the climax of your life time and your [sic] beggining [sic] to go "over the hill."

Kids today. What the hell do they know? They can’t even spell “therefore” and “beginning” and don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Besides, isn’t 50 the new 40? I think Urban Dictionary needs to update their definition. But where were we? Oh yeah…

Every definition I found when I searched Google for “over-the-hill” was negative. Those birthday cards will probably be black, signifying the death of my youthful vigor and freshness. What message are we sending with all this negativity? At age 50 I feel better than I did at age 30. And there is no question that I am in better shape. I am more physically active, eat better, and have more energy than I did 20 years ago.

At age 30 (left) I weighed 270 lbs. By age 40 (right) I was a much leaner, healthier 215 lbs, which I have maintained eating beef almost daily in the past 10 years!

In cycling terms, over-the-hill is a good thing! It means you have reached the summit. The long uphill grind is over. It’s time to celebrate before you go screaming down the other side at full speed towards the finish line. As we often say at the summit of a day’s ride on Ride the Rockies, “It’s all downhill from here.” And that’s a good thing!

The finish line  in Breckenridge in 2005,
my first Ride the Rockies.
That’s the way I’m going to look at 50. I worked hard to get here. It has been slow and painful and sometimes difficult just to breathe. But it has been worth it. Reaching the summit feels good. I’m going to take time to celebrate then get back in the saddle, hold tight to the handlebars and fly down the other side whooping and hollering all the way to the finish line!

But I also realize that it’s never really “all downhill from here.” There will be more hills to climb. The aches and pains from the hard climb will begin to set in. I just hope that by the time I reach the finish line I’m ready for the ride to be over (I always am). There is no better feeling than crossing the finish line and the sense of accomplishment that comes with having given it your all and reaching your goal.

There will be six mountain passes and 2 mountains on Ride the Rockies 2014. That’s eight summits to celebrate. I look forward to every one of them. With each summit I will remind myself that the whole reason for the climb is to experience the thrill of the descent!

Rabbit Ears Pass, along the Continental Divide, is the second SHORTEST pass we will cross on Ride the Rockies this year! We crossed this pass on my second RTR in 2006.

So how do I feel turning 50? Frankly, I’m relieved that I made it to the summit. It’s good to be here and I’m looking forward to the rest of the ride. I don’t want it to be over yet, for sure, but on this ride the finish line isn’t on the map. You never really know when it will appear. My plan is to keep peddling until it does and rest when I get there. :)

Ride on!


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