These blogs are my personal, idiosyncratic observations about aging, training, and sports competition.
To access previous blogs, click "Read Other Blogs" at the bottom of this page.
Paddling in Torino -- World Masters Games 2013
Winning - May 11, 2012
Can Too Much Exercise Be Bad for Your Heart - March 11, 2011
The 60 Minute Crawl - January 30, 2011
Playing Tennis Again - October 6, 2010
Why Compete? (2) - June 15, 2010
LOST - May 24, 2010
Happy Birthday to Me - May 18, 2010
Why Compete?(1) - April 30, 2010
Val Barnwell - April 14, 2010
Spring Training Day - April 4, 2010
Becoming Bionic - March 24, 2010
The Divided Kingdom - February 4, 2010
December 14, 2011
As an enthusiastic proponent of sports competition I thought it would be appropriate to review some of the events I competed in during 2011. My purpose is to show the opportunities available to someone keen on competing in sports. For me 2011 was a particularly good year to be competing because I turned 70 in May. If you don't understand the reason for this, read my article, "Happy Birthday to Me" by clicking on "Read Other Blogs" at the bottom of this page.
I entered national championships in four different sports during the year to see and/or measure myself against some of the best Masters Athletes in the U.S. In January, I swam in the U.S. Masters Swimming One Hour Postal Swim Nationals. My experience is detailed in my article, "The One Hour Crawl." The article contains a postscript explaining how I did against the competition. Competing in the 65-69 age-group (I wouldn't turn 70 until May), I swam 2,180 yards in an hour to finish 67th out of 70 swimmers. The winning time for my age group was 4,630 yards by Don Davis. The top eight swimmers in my age group swam more than 4,000 yards in an hour. These guys are good! Unfortunately, because of the nature of this competition -- participants mail in their distances -- I did not get to meet my opponents.
I was lucky enough to be a member of the New England team that qualified to compete in the Super Senior 7.0 Tennis National Championship in Surprise, Arizona at the end of April. The tournament is sponsored by the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Among other things, the USTA estimates the skill level of each player and assigns that player a rating from 1.5 (beginner) to 7.0 (world-class player). Super Seniors are players over 60 year old. All Super Senior competition is doubles and the "7.0" means that the ratings of the two players sum to 7.0. (two players both of whom have ratings of 3.5, or one player with a rating of 4.0 and the other player with a rating of 3.0) It was both exciting and somewhat disorienting to escape a cold New England into the sun and heat of Arizona. During the course of the tournament our team played against teams from Southern California, the Missouri Valley, and Mid-Atlantic states. We lost all 9 matches. I'd like to say that the shockingly good weather did us in, but it was actually better players on the other side of the net. The Southern Section team from Roswell, Georgia won the 2010 Super Senior 7.0 Men's Championship. Our experience was frustrating, but also inspiring to see just how good 60 year old tennis players can be. Every one of our opponents was gracious in victory and, like me, excited to be competing.
Newaygo, Michigan was the site of the 2011 Canoe Marathon National Championship in August and I drove out to the middle of Michigan to compete. The Canoe Nationals are a week-long affair, but I could only make it out by Sunday, the final day of racing. I arrived late Saturday in time to see the finish of the day's races amid a thundering rain storm with competitors being pulled off the water to avoid being hit by lightning. Sunday was overcast and the 10 inches rain from the previous day provided plenty of current on the Muskegon River. I raced in the Unlimited Kayak class and finished 16-mile race in a respectable (for me) 2 hours 10minutes 29.3 seconds, edging the only other guy in my age group. The shared exhaustion and exhilaration of a race like this seems to breed a contagious joy.
Finally, in October I entered the 2011 Orienteering National Championship for Sprint, Middle Distance, and Long Distance. The venues for this three-in-one event was Boston and environs. The cool autumn sunshine gave a lift to all of us competitors. For a quick review of the sport of orienteering, read my article, "LOST" on the website. The Sprint course was held in Dorchester's Franklin Park. The Brown Course for 70+ competitors consisted of 16 controls over 1.8 kilometers. Of course the 1.8km assumes a perfect race moving in a straight line from one control to the next. I believe I covered more like 3.0km, getting an intimate knowledge of the brambles in the park. I finished in 1 hour 8 minutes, 8th out of 8 in my age-group. The guy that finished ahead of me finished in 44.29 minutes. But -- hooray I found every control. The people were great and I was happily exhausted. Next day, the Middle Distance course was held in Lynn Wood, 2,200 acres, the second largest municipal park in United States. The course had 11 controls over a theoretical 2.9km. The hilly terrain offered plenty of places to hide controls. The 11 times in my age-group ranged from 49:25 minutes to 2:21:56. Try as I might, I could not find controls #5 and #6, and so was relegated to DNF (Did Not Finish). To add injury to insult, I twisted my ankle and fell 30 yards from the finish line. I limped across the line in something over 2 hours. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to see one of the orange and white controls exactly where you thought it would be. This, and running around in the wood on a beautiful warm fall day, are the rewards of orienteering.
In addition to these major events,, I paddled in 6 or 7 marathon kayak races, played several dozen tennis matches, ran in 3 orienteering meets, and competed in two triathlons. Next year, more of the same, as long as I can stay healthy.