...it still leaves me completely adrift. A very large part of me is dying. And I can't pretend that doesn't matter to me....
A nice, honest post. Thank you. You're certainly not the first athlete to struggle with the effects of aging, changing interests, and physical decline. No matter what competitive level you've attained, this process can be confusing and depressing.
I'm a couple decades older than you. And I've watched a lot of my athletic friends confront these issues, become demotivated, and cease all athletic activity. I'm sure you know some of your USCF buddies who are now fat and inactive. What a shame.
I think the secret is to be flexible; look for new activities to conquer that do not depend upon youthful vigor, mega-VO2max, and high testosterone levels. As the Baby-Boomers age, there are more and more of these activities every season.
Since I was your age, I've also left behind orienteering; but also competitive running, rogaining, hiking & camping, triathlons, marathons, canoeing, cross-country skiing, skating on natural ice, bare-boat sailing excursions, etc, etc. I can no longer do any of those satisfactorily or safely because of poor balance, osteoporosis, limited endurance, low testosterone, chronic leg problems....and a host of other ailments from just getting older.
But I've taken up golf seriously in the past 4-5 years, and have discovered a whole new world. I've made new friends, and discovered new abilities I didn't know I had. For instance, my golf partner and I spent a week in Palm Springs last January playing great golf courses, taking lessons, enjoying a lot of good food and drink, and attending some good films at the Festival that happened to be going on during the same week.
This wasn't the same as week-long O trips with Orlyn, or cross-country skiing trips with buddies in Europe, or weeks in New York staying with friends and culminating in the Marathon. Those remain great memories.
But they were only part of a Continuum, that built the base, to allow me now to (don't laugh) find golfing enjoyment and success as I slowly learn to drive a golf ball more than 200yds. Or set local 70+ records in indoor rowing. And still bike enthusiastically. I was a full decade older than you when I completed a solo cross-country bike ride from Chicago to Santa Barbara, California...one of the best experiences of my life. I think when everything else is going wrong, most of us can still ride a bike fast and safely...and enjoy it!
So I hope you'll quickly lose that feeling of 'dying.' You're not dying. Did you die when you graduated from high school? There are some that do. Step back and look upon this moment as a transitional opportunity to whole new worlds. Good luck.
Thank you, Clark. That's helpful.
Read an article in Runners World yesterday. 95% of RW is now pablum or worse, but every once in a while they have an article of substance. This was written by a writer who is also a runner. He describes most eloquently how his running has tailed off and how he is dealing with it. Nothing remarkable there, but this is from a guy who is brushing his teeth w rubbing alcohol and hallucinates 'platoons of spidery creatures crawling across a blood spattered ceiling'. What's really remarkable is the high level of writing skills he is able to maintain, considering that he has Alzheimers. And he credits running for helping to keep him there, for now anyway.
So you might say, wtf does some tearjerker story have to do with me and my arrogant asshole troubles. But you love running don't you? Or do you just love it if you are winning baubles? Maybe you even like inspiring people, setting a positive example, belonging to a community of like-minded people and so forth. Or perhaps hearken back to your 'Carol's Team' days for motivation. Who knows? Maybe you will discover something.
FWIW, I don't think you sound like an arrogant asshole. The high standards that are stinging you now are the same ones that helped you to be as good as you were/are.
Probably easier to deal with as it occurs gradually due to aging, with occasional short term reversals of the trend achievable, than suddenly due to other factors - though I've certainly heard from people who experienced a quite sudden loss of leg speed in their middle years despite consistent training. Good chance it's coming for me in not too long, though I'm currently on a physical upswing after treating a case of Lyme disease I apparently contracted late in the spring. A big enough upswing relative to the last couple of years to make me wonder if I didn't have something else undiagnosed but treatable with antibiotics even before late spring. Not at all relevant to your case except in that it would have convinced me, if there were any doubt, that I'm intrinsically motivated enough to orienteer to weather my lifetime peak being clearly behind me. I can't imagine you'll become a couch potato anytime soon, whether or not your motivation to compete as often, if not as fiercely, as before holds up - I've never got the impression that you didn't like cycling/running/orienteering/whatever else you were doing and were only in it for the ego boost.
Is it certain that a 2 minute deficit on a very challenging course is due to aging, and not to the warm humid conditions and the lack of high volume training?
I was wondering how you have kept it together so well these last few years with family, work and now grad school. I really think there might be a PR left there that you could obtain. Just have to be patient and wait for the right day/time. But at some point other priorities take the main focus. You have till you are 80 to pickup golf though.
I have read your log and have it help inspire my workouts.
However I am in the same boat as far as physical abilities dwindle. It sucks, but we have to move on and keep moving. At some point the older athlete takes their knowledge and passes it off on to their athletes. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Hope to see you again at an orienteering meet in the future.