In this interview, Member Karen Tamson shares some golden nuggets on how to stay active and healthy in endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming or triathlon, even as we approach our 50’s.
Please share how you got the ‘bug’ to start playing endurance sports like triathlon or running?
As I was reaching the big 40, I felt the need to run a marathon, just to prove to myself that I was not getting old. I was determined not to let age get the best of me. I ran my first marathon at age 39 at the Houston Marathon and I finished in 4:25. I learned many things that day and since then have run 8 marathons and many more half marathons. It gave me such a sense of empowerment and feeling of accomplishment when I crossed that finish line. It did not matter what my time was, it was the feeling that I got from it. At age 44, I was ready for a new challenge. I decided to do my first triathlon. I bought my first road bike at that time and had about 6 weeks to get used to the bike. I had a swimming background in high school and college and with my running background , I thought as long as I can keep myself upright on the bike, I should be fine. It was a Sprint Triathlon on South Padre Island, Texas and even though we lived right there on the bay, it had been years since I had swam in open water. Surprisingly, it felt very natural to me and I really enjoyed it. I finished the swim while passing many others and hopped on the bike. At the turn-around I heard something drop off my bike, and realized that it was my bike pump. I thought for 2 seconds “Should I stop and pick it up?” The answer was an emphatic “NO”!! I was in the groove and there was nothing stopping me at that point. The run was difficult, but I knew I only had 3.1 miles to go to the finish line. I realized when I started running, that I still had my bike gloves on. Oh well, at least I didn’t leave my helmet on like someone else I saw. I could see the finish chute within eye’s distance. I sprinted to the finish line with all my might, leaving nothing behind. When I crossed that finish line, I knew that I was hooked on this new sport of triathlon. I checked the results and I actually WON the Masters division. It was a great feeling!! Since that day, I have learned a lot, but the feeling of crossing that finish line is always the same…FABULOUS!!!
What things made you nervous, fearful or anxious in the beginning? (C’mon! be honest with us!)
I thought I would be nervous swimming in the open water, but after doing it a few times it felt very natural. I think from my college swim team days and also playing Water Polo on the Men’s Team (They didn’t have a women’s team), it had given me a great experience on how to be comfortable even in rough water. I think that the whole bike mechanics thing scared me the most. I felt very comfortable riding the bike, but I was scared to death that I would get a flat far from home with no rescue services and have to fix it on my own. After watching many videos and trial and error, I now feel confident that if and when I do get a flat, I can fix it. I do still carry my phone with me for those times when 1 extra tire is not enough or something else breaks that I cannot fix. I also carry my I.D. with me along with emergency numbers and I always let my husband know where I am going.
What are 3 specific things you’ve experienced (funny or otherwise) that are great about doing endurance sports as a 40+ age athlete?
I have always thought that it was really cool to have our age stamped on the back of our calves for racing and our race numbers stamped on our arms. It’s is a great way to know more about the people around us while we are racing. I have to say that it feels pretty good when I pass someone on the bike or run, that’s half my age (not that I’m competitive or anything). It’s also a great way to give a ‘shout out’ to those racing in their 60’s and 70’s. It is a guaranteed way to bring smiles to everyone! Other funny things that I am experiencing, goes along with the aging process. Now that I am nearing 50, my body is changing and I am feeling some of the symptoms of menopause. My cycles are irregular, my temperature control is way off and my eyesight is getting bad. Luckily nothing has stopped me from training and racing the way I want to. My husband has learned when to give me a wide berth and he is tolerant of me opening all windows for the cool breeze and then minutes later covering myself with a blanket for warmth. We laugh together about how his eye sight has gotten better with age and I need glasses just to find my glasses. I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband. I can honestly say that my symptoms are very minimal and I attribute that to staying active and positive.