Competition, the fountain of youth

6 December 2022


I was over at my local LA Fitness today, testing my progress on my 400 (yards) Kick For Time, a virtual event that I've done every year since I first discovered it back in 2013. My times have varied widely over those 8 years, from a peak performance of 5:38.25 in 2014 to my slowest performance of 5:54.23, recorded last year. I've set a goal to achieve my "Masters Best" this year.


Given all the hiking I've done this year, which I began in earnest during the mid-March to May-end lockdown and have continued to do, I figure my legs are better conditioned than ever before. I've been thinking about and incorporating training for this event since early November, and have recorded a number of self-timed efforts, ranging from 5:53 to 6:11, in the midst of my regular workouts. After a couple of great nights of sleep and Saturday off from training, I figured I'd throw on an old "fast jammer" and see what I could do.

Based upon how I was feeling over my standard, long 1750 yard warmup, I knew I was feeling good, but was really happy when I stopped the Pace Clock at 5:37. Now, I can't submit this time as I need to have someone else time me, but this is an unofficial "best" and I still have 25 more days this month in which to get faster.


As I wrapped this up, the lady in the lane next to said something like, "I think you're half dolphin" and then asked, "Did you compete?"


Naturally, I said, "Yes" and I know that she was complimenting me, but, as I drove home, I was bothered by the implications of the past tense.


"Did you compete?"


Not, "Do you compete?"


I don't fault her, but I do fault a general (but slowly changing) operating assumption in society that athletic competition is for the young. I feel so damn lucky to be in this crazy sport of swimming where there are role models for competing across the ages (e.g., see here and here and a prior age-defying post of mine). I feel so energized that I can continue to set athletic goals for myself, still plot out how to train for them, how to keep my body and mind sound to achieve them. More than anything, competition, whether it be against myself or others, gets me out of bed and to the pool; competition makes me healthy.


Competition is not the purview of the youth; Competition is the fountain of youth.


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