Is age truly just a number?
One of the books I'm currently reading is Dara Torres' biography, Age Is Just A Number: Achieve Your Dreams At Any Stage in Your Life. In it, Torres chronicles her Olympics swimming career, particularly her preparations for making the USA team for the 2008 Olympics and her accomplishments at The Games. She also talks about becoming a mother later in her life and how that influenced her Olympics drive. She discusses how she's able to swim faster as she's gotten older as she's changed her training and fitness programs to allow her to do more quality workouts, in and out of the water, instead of just stroking metres upon metres in the pool. She states, at her age, it's really all about quality over quantity, working on technique over power, cross-training and allowing herself more time so her body can recover.
I've been a fan of hers for years but I'll admit that I was extra interested in her 2008 Olympics experience because, at the time, I was creeping up on forty, which I had a very hard time dealing with, and I was starting to ponder what I would be like athletically. I've never been an elite anything but I did run seriously, commiting to it the way a professional might but at a much slower pace and with less miles per week, and I'm a higher ranking Taekwondoist. Like all of the other mortals who followed her progress and cheered her on, I was as much happy for her as I was hopeful for me.
Last year, three years after Torres's amazing return to the world swimming stage, I was able to rejuvenate my own competitive athletic ambitions through Taekwondo. If you've read this blog since last year, you'll know that I got back into teaching Taekwondo a year ago (Happy Anniversary to me and Bamboo Martial Arts, by the way! Haha!) and, consequently, I began competing again too. I entered the New Jersey State Championships and won my Poomsae (Forms) Division. That allowed me to compete at the US Team Trials for a spot on the Poomsae Team and at the US National Championships. I bombed at Trials but came tenth at Nationals. Even though my accomplishments are minor, compared to others' achievements, I did get to compete on some of the grander stages in the sport of Taekwondo, which doesn't have a large following or sponsorship or recognition the way track and field, gymnastics and swimming do at The Olympics and soccer, football, basketball and tennis have worldwide.
I decided to spend the time training for all those evens last year and fork out the money to travel to them with my family, largely, for the experience and for my son to be exposed to such things. Who knows? Maybe one day he'll follow in my footsteps and, unlike me, be one of the elite. I hadn't really thought about doing it again this year. However, with the experiences behind me, I'm wiser and, through the training, fitter. I'm also hungrier and, recently, my wife and I talked about me defending my title at States. As a matter of fact, earlier today, we were talking to her parents in Manila, via iPad Facetime, about going to The Philippines this coming summer. When we go, will depend on if I compete at Nationals. I'll be forty-three at the end of this month and I could be a State champion again. Granted my division is for 41-50 year olds and not open, like Torres swam in the Olympics, but at least I'm competing and pushing myself to be the best I can be.
This past week, Arsenal Football Club signed Thierry Henry, who is thirty-four, on a six week loan deal. Henry is Arsenal's all-time leading goalscorer, having played for the London club from 1999-2007. Last Monday, he scored the winning goal in Arsenal's 1-0 win over Leeds in the FA Cup. Today, Paul Scholes, who retired at the end of last season and came out of retirement last week for a return stint with Manchester United for the remainder of this season, scored in United's 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League. He's also in his thirties and, in soccer terms, the thirties are when the legs start to go and the thoughts of hanging up one's boots start to creep in. However, these two soccer legends, are doing the business when some of the new younger, rising stars aren't.
So, I ask you, is age really just a number? For what I want to try to achieve athletically (I'd love to medal at Nationals and I'm still shooting for a sub five hour marathon) and for wanting to be able to play with my son and help him with whatever sports he gets into, I hope it is. I became a dad late, in 2008, andwhile I'm still young I am getting closer to the stage of my life when there are going to be less tomorrows than there are yesterdays.