Monday, May 14, 2012

How High Is Your Ceiling?

While riding with a friend the other evening, who, remarkably, started riding at even a later age than I did, he posed the question of whether we were limited in our potential. I started riding at age 50, having never participated in any type of endurance or team sports, rode 6000 miles in my first year of riding and ran the first mile I'd ever run in my life at age 53. My friend started riding at age 58 and has had a remarkable trip on the bike, losing 100 pounds and gaining fitness that he had assumed was years behind him. The answer to his question, as we both knew, is that of course we are limited by age. Otherwise, we'd see 50 year old Tour de France winners leveraging their many years of training and the wiliness that comes with advancing years into dominance in the peloton. The sage old champions would know how to eek the maximum potential out of every watt of energy expended and would know every trick in the book. The reality is that endurance athletes seem to reach their maximum potential in their late 20's to early 30's. We're all fighting physiology, biology and accumulated wear from there. Probably a more relevant question is whether we have reached our current maximum potential. The answer to that question for most of us is "no". I know very few riders of any age, regardless of talent and genetics, who put forth the effort required to reach their full potential. I regularly ride with folks ranging in age from their teens to their 60's and only a handful are fully committed to doing their absolute best on the bike. For some, it's a matter of time and resources, but for most it's a matter of will and desire. I know that I could be a much better rider if I worked harder, developed a structured training plan,  skipped the ice cream, and engaged a coach, but my very limited exposure to racing taught me that although I love to lay down the law with my buddies, I'm not willing to sacrifice the pleasure of recreational riding in order to finish in the pack. For the vast majority of us, geezers or not, we're not limited by the height of the ceiling  but by our willingness to jump. .
Though the ceiling does indeed get lower with age, most of us still have plenty of headroom. Enjoy your ride.

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