April 11, 2016 Athletes at Senior Games thrive on competition
I was lucky enough to compete in one of the largest gatherings of senior athletes in the country. This was the last thing I did before going through a full knee replacement in September.
Today, seven months after that surgery, I am almost back in the game (but not quite). It reminds me that I never did share the great experience of being around all those strong athletes.
Ten thousand athletes between the ages of 50 and 102 participated in the “Senior Games,” representing 21 diverse sports over 14 days at multiple venues in the Twin Cities metro area.
Sports ranged from shuffleboard to volleyball to track and field sprinting. I have never been around so many active, competitive “seniors” before. It was exhilarating, exciting, and very inspiring.
As a climber and cyclist, I typically don’t compete; I just go out and have fun. But for this, I trained hard and I got my head into a “I want to win” mode.
I figured that the competition would be tough and it was. The players were very skilled and experienced, and played everything “by the book.” I didn’t even know all the rules and had never played to win before. I was more of a “take the grand kids out and have some fun on the course” kind of guy.
The two courses were surprisingly challenging. We played 36 holes over two days on hilly, demanding terrain that required a lot of hiking up and down and searching through dense brush and thorns for lost discs.
It was also sunny, extremely hot, and humid the entire weekend. In these conditions I was really struggling to breathe. I could feel the effects of my COPD and the loss of half of a lung to cancer.
At age 63 and living with several chronic diseases, I was excited to see how my disc golf skills had improved during my several months of training up to the games. I discovered I was actually competitive in my age group and I placed third overall.
After spending lots of time with the athletes, I was struck by how humble they were, even though many of them were setting world records and having a great time doing it.
They never talked about injuries or chronic diseases, or anything that might slow them down. Looking at the health statistics for this age group, I know most of us has one or more challenges. But their only complaints were about how tough the competition was.
As the Games ended, I wanted to bottle up all that joy and enthusiasm. Since I couldn’t, I decided to write down what I hope will inspire others as much as these athletes inspired me.
Learn a new sport or fall in love again with an old one.
Ramp up your expectations of yourself. You will get better with practice.
Go out and go play everyday.
Expect to meet others your age who love being active. They will show up!
Put more energy into training for the sport than you do on your health challenges.
Remember, when you can breathe you can do anything!