Today is my birthday, and in the amateur sporting world of running and triathlon it’s a big one. Though I only turn 29, based on the timing of my birthday I will from this point forward be aged up into the 30-34 age group.
The 25-29-ers are fast and fierce, don’t get me wrong. They feel and look friendly, kind, and caring, but out of nowhere athletes will in essence eat you up and spit you out. But in a friendly way. They’re there to compete, but there’s an air of compassion and we’re-all-in-this-together-ness. Athletes are there to race, but against the clock, the course, and themselves. All season long this year, at the start of every race, I watched those 30-34’s and thanked goodness that I was still in the 25-29 group.
The 30-34’s look more hardcore. They’re geared up. They know what they’re doing. They line up, size each other up, and are ready to go. There are fewer athletes that are new to the sport – it ain’t their first rodeo – and they look more confident, calculated, and dialed. They chat and smile and wish each other luck, but it looks to be surface. The 30-34’s are there to race too, but against EACH OTHER.
Next time I pin on a bib I’ll be racing among athletes who are older than me, but in triathlon age is (to a certain point) a virtue. My set of competition will be more experienced and they’ll have more years of endurance build up under their race belts. And there will be more of them! The 30-35 in women’s triathlon is one of the more popular female age groups so the swim start is large and the field is wide. I’m worried that I’ll be intimidated. I picture the swim start at Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3, lined with fellow-colored swim caps, and wanting to turn around and walk back ashore.
Not that I don’t usually feel that way but…
The upside is that I have about 10+ months until I race an Ironman again, and when I do (assuming I race Canada) my age group will have not only double Kona slots but more to start with due to the age 30-34 participation ratio. Another upside? In an Ironman every last athlete starts together so I can seed myself in the chaos or on the fray depending on how I feel; no matter what I’m up against 2,800 people for the first 1:00:00-1:30:00. And I’m not a competitor in road races, plus there’s no violence like in a swim start, so the worst thing that happens is I get crushed (in performance) in NYC. But unless your name is Kara Goucher that’s pretty much a guarantee, meaning I’m used to it and unafraid. However in triathlon I’m generally average enough at everything and not terrible at anything so I perform and place decently; every second I spend swimming rather than getting beat up counts!
Another upside… when I actually turn 30 it will feel like a nothing birthday because I will have already endured the worst part: aging up. 🙂
On a more serious and sap-tastic upside note though, I’m about 800 miles from home, my husband, my family and friends, and I’ve never felt so loved. Riding into San Francisco in the back seat of a cab I was reading birthday wishes from so many people and I’ve never felt more satisfied with my life. I never imagined that I’d be right here, right now, but the details of my life are exactly how I always wanted my adult life to be but didn’t know was possible. As a 12, 15, 17, or even 22 years old if you’d have told me this would be my life I’d have responded:
Living in Seattle? Maybe. Seattle’s cool.
Married to my best friend at 27? I’m too selfish to conceptualize what that means. Or I was… until I fell…
A Boston Marathoner and Ironman? HAHAHA. I HATE RUNNING SOOOOO MUCH.
Working at a full-time job that isn’t work because you believe in the purpose? I wish! But since I don’t feel that strongly about anything other than exercising I doubt it. Unless someone will give me a salary for elliptical-ing!!
But when I string it together right now my life is just as me as when I was 12, 15, 17, 22, or 25. The things that have always been common, that are unchanged with age and experience because they are inherently who I am, are thriving right now because I’m living the life that I always wanted but never knew specifically existed. I’m 29, and I’m truly happier and more myself than I ever remember having been.
I hope for many things, but when I blow out the proverbial candles tonight I will wish for this feeling to recur on every birthday for forever. Life. Is. Good.