“I’m too old to…” No, you’re not!

This is a little story that I posted a few days ago on the weight loss/fitness forum that I joined recently. It got a good reception over there, so I thought that I’d make it today’s post on my blog.

I thought I’d tell you an inspirational story, just in case you ever think “Maybe I’m too old to get slim and fit again?”

In 2006, I was 50 years old and pretty fit so I decided to ride a local bike event from the nearby town of Halifax up into the beautiful North Yorkshire Dales. I live 8 miles from Halifax. The event itself covered 126 miles and with the extra 16 miles I had to do to and from Halifax,  my total for the day would be 142 miles.

These parts of Yorkshire are very hilly so the event included about 7,000 feet of hills, some of them very steep. The steepest hill – Fleet Moss – has a maximum gradient/grade of about 20% from that direction. It was going to be a hard day in the saddle.

I got distracted and ended up setting set off late. By the time I got to Halifax, most of the other riders had already started so I ‘signed in’ and  set off in pursuit of them.

I gradually reeled in the slower riders, but then I went a long time without seeing any other cyclists.

Eventually I came to the dreaded Fleet Moss. It was raining down in the valley and the summit of the hill was shrouded in mist. It’s a tough climb, and it gets worse the higher up you go. I was just starting to wonder if it would ever end when I emerged from the mist and saw the plateau at the summit ahead of me. There were a couple of tight bends on the very steepest part of the hill and 3 elderly cyclists were between me and the first bend. I like to climb at my own speed, especially when it is steep, so I raised myself out of the saddle and sprinted past the old guys, smiling as I passed them. It crossed my mind that I’d still like to be riding my bike when I am silver-haired and craggy-faced like them. It had taken me, a 50-year old mere slip of a lad, about 50 miles to catch them after accidentally giving them a 10 minute head start that morning.

The descent off Fleet Moss almost finished me off! I didn’t realise that the downhill started off at about 15% but abruptly steepened to 25%. I was doing over 40 mph when I hit the crest… I got ‘big air’, something which might be okay on a downhill mountain bike with suspension, but which is distinctly undesirable on a skinny-tyred road bike. 😯 I bounced. I slewed across the road. I prayed. And I braked. Then I proceeded at a more sedate pace more befitting my age…

On I cycled. Beautiful Dales came and went. The hours passed. Eventually I arrived back in my home town of Hebden Bridge. I almost gave way to the temptation to turn left and ride 200 yards back to my house, but I resisted. This was the furthest I’d ever cycled in one day, but I wanted to officially complete the event. I’d set myself the target of doing it in 10 hours so I shot down the valley road as fast as my aching 50-year old legs would take me. I got to event HQ in 10 hours dead – yesss! I ate a few sandwiches and a couple of pieces of cake from the ample refreshments table laid on by the event organiser. Then it was time to head home.

As I cycled back down the valley, I saw those 3 old cyclists again, riding towards me. I waved to them and they responded cheerfully.

Soon, I got home and had a nice long soak, and thought how great it was to be fit, aged 50. And do you know what… this post isn’t about me at all – it’s actually about one of those 3 old guys!

A week after the event, I received a newsletter sent out by the organiser. He congratulated all riders who had finished the gruelling ride. He mentioned that it was one woman’s first ride over 100 miles. One old man did it after recovering from cancer. But the rider who got the biggest mention was one of the 3 old cyclists that I’d seen – ‘Dave’.

Dave certainly didn’t consider that he was too old for that kind of thing, so at the age of 77, he’d bought himself an expensive new bicycle. He was very excited and dashed out for a test ride, only to immediately fall off on a patch of gravel! Despite feeling really shaken up, he was determined to ride the weekend event with his elderly pals, and duly did.

Dave’s hand felt a bit sore after the event, and the next day it got worse so he went down to the local hospital and had it examined. It only turned out that he’d done that 126 mile hilly bike ride with a broken hand!!! Now let’s see your average 25 year old manage that!

After I read that letter, I vowed to myself that I would never, ever use my age as an excuse again! We all slow down as we get older. Eventually, if we are lucky enough to live long lives, we might become frail but we don’t have to just give up. I intend to do my very best to ride over that same monstrous hill when I am aged 77, only I’ll try not to break my hand before I set off… 😉

Don’t give up – you can achieve your goals. Be inspired by Dave…

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply