In the sports world there are many factors that have the ability to bring you down.
Whether it’s your gender, your weight or your age that is standing in your way, it’s up to you to keep your spirits high and keep moving forward.
We were inspired by this article talking about Chris McCormak (over 200 race wins) and his perseverance as a racer as he hits the age of 40.
In any sport at the professional level, as you begin to move up in years, the discussion shifts from your results to the question of longevity. Now, in my 21st year as a professional racer, it is a hot topic. I never considered age as a barrier to performance. You start off as a junior athlete and then move into your rookie professional years, then you continue on your journey through your “golden years” before suddenly arriving at a point where outside questions move from “how did you do?” in the race to “how long is it possible to keep doing it?” For the athlete, nothing really changes. You don’t view time in calendar years, you view it in terms of “training blocks” and race dates, and very quickly you go from an 18-year-old athlete to a 40-year-old one.
On this journey, you have made the tweaks, adjusted the training volumes, managed your injuries, pre-planned and focused, and continued to do what you know. Time in your head stops, as it has never been relevant to anything you have done up to this point. It is only when others start to make an issue of it that it enters your thought process.
After I won the 2010 Ironman World Championship, in the press conference after the race, the question came up: As a 38-year-old athlete, was it possible to continue to win here? With sweat still on my skin, the question was thrust into my face again, and my answer was, “I guess we will have to wait and see.”
The following year Craig Alexander proved that this was possible, winning another title in Kona at 38, and last year at 39 I won the Long Course World Triathlon Championships in Europe, making me the oldest ever world champion in our sport at a professional level. Greg Bennett has seen amazing success in recent years, and Cameron Brown at 40 years of age posted an eight-hour Ironman performance in Melbourne. Early this year, at age 42, Oscar Galindez took out the highly stacked Ironman 70.3 field in Panama to win again, just like he has been doing for 25 years. Same names, different races, new years. From my seat, nothing seems to have changed.
Endurance racing is not limited by age. In fact, age in endurance racing is a benefit. I believe that the sport has it wrong when it attempts to limit performance of athletes to a year of birth. I believe that you are not physically and emotionally stable enough to lock in success at the highest level in Ironman races until your mid-30s. What no one ever considers in this style of racing is the importance of experience, purpose and stability of an athlete, which all come only with maturity. You can’t read about this or be taught it. It just is! Our sport is young, and I believe that the next few years are going to show some amazing performances by athletes approaching their mid-40s. You haven’t seen anything yet.
But I didn’t mean to discuss age as a barrier to performance on a professional level here. I want to ask why age is even considered a barrier in the first place.
My dad has supported me in my triathlon adventures for my entire life, and still rides his bike every day with his mates. Never did I even consider my father capable of doing a triathlon. I guess to some degree I am as age-biased as everyone else. I put the question to my dad: Why, after all these years, had he never considered doing a triathlon? Was he scared of the swim, the bike or the run?
My dad’s response was what inspired me to write this article in the first place.
“Son, if you think you’re old, you are old,” he said. “If you start thinking you can’t do something, you simply won’t do it anymore. No one falls to the top of a mountain. When you are at the top of the mountain, it’s the people down at the bottom who tell you that you have been there for too long and it is time to come down. When you listen to them, someone else will take your spot on the top of that mountain. That’s not just in winning your races, but in life in general. Remember you have a lot of experts in the science of ‘can’t’ because not many believe in the science of ‘CAN.’ The top of the mountain is the best view in town. Never give that up, son!
“I don’t know why I have never done a triathlon. But what I propose is if you can find me a race that will allow your dad to race, I will give it a try. If your old man can begin this sport at 80, you can tell those people who question you at 40 that the view at the top of the mountain is not for sale!”
True to his word, my dad completed his first triathlon with my local triathlon club here in Sydney on March 31.
He swam 300 metres, rode 15K and ran 3K. My eldest daughter, Tahlia, completed the entire race with him. I don’t get super emotional much, but I was so touched and impressed that day, I could not hold the tears back. Of course, Dad won his age group, and he continues to tell me that now: “I have never been beaten, Son!”
As a professional racer, I will continue to race and compete at the highest level for many more years to come. I will remind the next person who asks me about my age of this story. My dad is an 80-year-old man and has never been beaten in a triathlon by anyone his age in his life. I have pretty good genes.
This sport is built on the back of amazing people who continue to define and change the perceptions of what was once considered impossible. Like my dad, I will be racing until I am 80 years old. No doubt, he will continue to set amazing standards for me to chase.
Chris “Macca” McCormack has more than 200 race wins to his credit and is widely considered one of the best athletes the sport has ever seen. His 2013 season will include another Kona bid.by