Saturday, June 10, 2017

An interesting perspective on the challenges of Masters competitors

An article posted by Chris Carmichael today totally nailed what I've been struggling with for the past year or so: an unexplained (until now) decline in motivation for racing and cycling.

The article describes a phenomenon in older athletes (the over-40 crowd)* for a reduced tolerance to self-inflicted suffering for the sake of the sport. Although it's critical for the not-quite-as-young-as-we-used-to-be to keep working out at high intensities, it becomes more of a head game to achieve those levels in training. Why? The article doesn't give any solid evidence, but points to the fact that we begin to get selective about the levels of suffering we're willing to endure (which may be indicative of goals and motivation). It also suggests that our priorities change, in terms of why we train and race. Maybe it becomes less important to dominate the podium, and maybe that translates into backing off a bit in training.

I don't know for sure, but I do know that I have considered all these issues as I tried to make sense of my deteriorating relationship with my sport.

In my experience, I have absolutely become less tolerant of crappy weather conditions. The days of training and racing in miserable weather are, happily, (and hopefully) behind me. I no longer feel the need to "HTFU", as the CX-ers like to tell us. Cold, wet, windy days - all the fun things that accompany roughly 8 months of not-summer here in NEO - can suck the energy and motivation out of me in ways that are beyond irrational.

At the same time, my tolerance for indoor training has hit rock bottom, and I'm unable to muster any enthusiasm for slogging it out in front of a lifeless computerized landscape. Rounding out this perfect trifecta: menopause** has brought unexpected (and unwelcome) physical changes, like hot flashes (which means I can be freezing cold and uncomfortably hot at the same time. Yay, me!), hydration/fuel challenges, interrupted sleep patterns, and general crankiness. More than usual crankiness.

I have always relished a hard workout. I would look forward to it the night before and plan it all out. I would wake up before the sun, get on the road so I could take advantage of cool temperatures and minimal traffic. I would push myself to levels that I would not have thought possible. And I would prove myself on the playing field, using races not only as testament of my training and my ability to push limits, but for their value as stepping stones of motivation that would keep me active and engaged for a whole season. Sometimes a whole year, depending on the event timing (like Death Valley rides in early spring).

Nowadays, I often prefer to hit the snooze button a couple of times and negotiate the terms of my planned workout over another cup of coffee. This is an alarming development, and I need to figure it out soon.

I'm not sure where I go from here. I know plenty of aging athletes that have found ways to stay motivated and fit (and happy with their chosen sports), and I'm sure I'll do the same. At some point, I'll find the thing (or things) that resonate with my evolving goals, and that don't require an inordinate amount of misery to achieve.

*There have been a lot of interesting articles lately focusing on this demographic. Either I have just started paying more attention to studies centered around aging in competitive athletes, or there's a growing population of us that can no longer be ignored. In any case, I'm looking forward to more interesting and enlightening scientific data around this topic.

**Fodder for a whole other blog, and then some. There is frustratingly little scientifically-sound information on how menopause affects performance of competitive women athletes.


  1. Being a little (okay, a lot) older than you, I have gone through this myself and I know what works for me.

    I have been "racing" since 1973 but I started to notice less interest in actually racing about 4 or 5 years ago. I actually realized how bad it was when I did the State Championships on the track. I won my age group in everything but I had my times crushed by the younger age groups. That hurt.

    Additionally, I used to be fairly good at TT's. What I found was that I was getting older, weaker, and slower. Why do I want to do this to myself??

    Besides, recovery (which used to happen fairly quickly) was taking forever. One day hard and one day easy. Otherwise I was a wreck.

    What I have migrated to doing is getting together with buddies and doing rides of 40 to 60 miles. We can go hard or not. We can stop at a store or not. No entry fees, no great travel expenses, and MUCH less risk of injury.

    I don't have to "train" but I can still have a good time on my bike with friends. What's not to like/

  2. I like the idea of fun, no-pressure rides: no targeted training, no specific start times, no (serious) competition, and you can bag the ride for crappy weather or competing interests/priorities and not have to hear about the 'epic' (what does that mean, anyway?) conditions that always suggest an event is ENDURED rather than ENJOYED.

    I'm with you on this one, Jim!