Getting older

Local athlete John Coles is up for the challenge of sports as a senior citizen.

  • Oct. 20, 2016 12:00 p.m.
Athlete John Coles

Athlete John Coles

Today I ran.

Some days are great especially when you have a win-win situation. Other days fall into the situations of win-loose or loose-loose which translate to “not so great a day” and to “a really depressing day.”

The outcome of my day actually started a year ago to the day, when the last ‘Around The Lake Give R’ Take 30 ended (This is a forest trail race of 30k in length that circumnavigates Cultus Lake, B.C.) At the end of that race I had placed first in my age group, for the fourth consecutive year, with a time of 3 hours 22 minutes.

The year prior I registered a 3:17 and prior to that a 3:02. One observant running friend said “Every year, as we add another year to our age, our running times also go up.”

I thought about this and totally changed my training program. I said to myself ‘Why go out day after day over the course of a year, suffer all the fatigue and pain, and end up still getting slower and slower?”.

So I did nothing for nine and a half months. Very, very enjoyable. A little skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, road-bike riding and hiking. Ah yes hiking. Actually lots of hiking. At two and a half months before today’s race I hit the training mode switch.

I figured I needed strength, endurance, and all around fitness. So I joined our local gym and for the first time in my life, every second day for a month was taken up with muscle building. I lifted weights; starting light, and building up to heavy.

On the odd days I hiked; a mixture of on trails, and bush whacking. I must say it is rather cool to see your body change, which indeed it did.

Gone was that little paunch; it seemed to shift down to my thighs, and turn to muscle. In my barbeque house I found myself doing chin-ups on the rafters while the steaks were cooking.

Mid way through that month they opened race registration.

I was on the keyboard minutes after I got the email and in three minutes, got confirmation I was registered. The race fills up very fast because of the limited number of runners allowed. Within a few weeks registration closed.

I was keeping tabs on this and when it happened I scanned the ages of the contestants seeking out names of Men 60-69. Four names made up the list of my competitors. I searched out information on the web of those I did not know and calculated that I had one real competitor.

A young whipper-snapper triathlete from Abbotsford: 60 years old. His times were fast. Faster than mine when I was 60, five years 11 months ago. Oh well, I like to run, so second place will be ok.

My second month of training was interesting. I cut my weights to one-third of my maximum weight and did a lot of repetitions. I also continued with the hiking and biking. This was rather neat because I found that all my exercising became so much more easier.

I threw in two runs each of 5k in length. I even had fun on our Tuesday night mountain bike rides pushing those young guys to their limits.

For the last two weeks I joined boot-camp. I found this real tough. Tuesday and Thursday mornings were brutal. I think it is really an age thing. Like when was the last time I ran end-to-end in a gym, stopping at each turn to reach down to touch the floor.

Or, when was the last time I swung a medicine ball from the floor to above my head, and then back down. Hey, not just once but for two very long minutes. So this is what they call all around fitness. In this two week period I also gave up drinking beer.

Race day start time. Shocker!

I see George, a fellow I had discounted as my competitor.

He looks lean and mean.

Oh God, this is the fellow who for the last few years has put his sights on beating me. I stroll up to him and ask how he is doing. He says not too bad and smiles. He says he has followed a careful training plan and suffered no injuries and is going to beat me. Dang it. He also says that he is not going to listen to any of my plans or advice for the race. And for sure he is not going out fast as I had suggested last year.

While smiling, he says he looked up my previous times and saw that I am progressively getting slower and slower. Double dang. We discuss the others in our age group but do not really know who they are or what they look like.

We are off. I never see George again. I do not know if he is ahead or behind. The course conditions were perfect. We are running in the lull between two big monsoon storms.

Oh, I forgot to tell you that on Friday morning I went to my local chiropractor for a tune up (as part of my strategy) and he told me that my shoes I was going to be running in were worn out but sadly it was too late to buy new ones and break them in.

That afternoon at 3 p.m., ignoring the well known fact that you never buy runners the day before a race, I went over to Chilliwack and I bought a new pair of runners with big deep teeth that supposedly have the grip to climb a tree if need be.

Dang, dang , double dang dang I love to run in the forest. The hills are tough and wrench the gut, the flats are smooth and have great smells rising from the ferns, mosses and vanilla-leaf. The down hills are heavenly. The feel of the shoes grabbing the loose gravel. The feel of the ankle holding its own on a rolling stick. The trees and creeks casting splashes of green and white as I roll past.


Ok so far but at the top of the Big Hill my IT band starts to give out. I run on a bit then quit. I pull up my pant-leg of my running pants then grab my water bottle and unroll the white hockey tape that I had wound on it for just this purpose.

Around and around the knee the tape went until all used up. Pant-leg pulled down and I’m off again. It holds and I am now on the beach heading for the finish line.

At this point it always happens to me. I think of my family, my big extended family that includes our Tuesday Mountain Bike group that came out to cheer me on and my neighbor who also came to see me start and stayed to the finish, the race organizers, and volunteers.

It is like a shot of adrenalin. They are so good. I wipe my eyes and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. It is now only me and the last kilometer of the 30k.

I will make it! And I did.

As I wait at the finish line George comes in. He is looking good and comes in at the time he had predicted. We both wait for the medals to be given out. When it comes to the 60-69 Men, there was a pause, a long pause and then they announced that the young whipper-snapper from Abbotsford came in 19 minutes earlier than me (2:55) and gets first place. I came in at 3:14 and get second place and George gets third place with a time of 3:31.

So today I add a third situation: it is a win-win-loose day. I win because I finished the race. I win because I knocked 8 minutes off my last year’s time and I loose because that younger whipper-snapper beat me. Hmmm…there is always a next year and more tricks in the hat, eh.




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