Is there a time in our lives when we should start to adjust what we dream of doing? Or should we carry on planning big goals with the assumption that we will still be able? This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently, as I look at what big miles adventures I want to take on next.
l have reached that age when although I consider myself to be only half way through my life I am also starting to feel old! I’ve said for a long time that I hope to live until I’m 125, and in theory, thanks to advances in medical science, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. My grandmother lived until she was 103, and her parents were well into their 90’s before they passed. The rest of my immediate family have sadly not been so lucky, so I cling onto the hope of inheriting my Nan’s longevity gene.
Inside my head, I’m still hanging around in my early 40’s. It’s true that I no longer want to hang out with 20-30 somethings particularly, and I have little interest in noisy pubs and nightclubs any more, so I did mature a bit eventually. But my brain certainly doesn’t think it’s racing towards its 60’s (I’m 56 this year). Having discovered long distance cycling in my 40’s I was a late starter, and really I didn’t start properly challenging myself until 2015 when I attempted (and DNF’d) Paris-Breast-Paris. But that lit a spark that to this day has been kept alive. I have no real idea what possessed me to attempt the LEJOGLE Guinness World Record, except that gaining a record in cycling was something that had been in my mind for a number of years. When I realised that it was actually possible to substantially improve my cycling ability in my mid 50’s, that small spark was well and truly stoked into a huge flame.
During 2020 I was the fittest, healthiest and slimmest that I had been in my whole adult life. I had achieved something I never dreamed would be possible. What could I do next I wondered often? Maybe the GWR that I originally wanted to set was still an option? But I was hearing of some many other epic challenge possibilities, and then there’s still my No 1 bucket list ride, which will take me a year.
The challenges of age
If I was in my 30’s, my challenge to living my dreams would be around choosing a different lifestyle, and funding it. But, in my 50’s there are different considerations at play. You see, although my brain thinks I’m in my 40’s, the reality is that my body is middle aged. There’s no getting away from it. Since I hit menopause I’ve rapidly started finding myself falling victim to a whole host of age related conditions. With the best will in the world, for most of us, we can’t just do a bit of exercise, eat a little better, and hope that we’ve done enough to just breeze through middle age without any issues. I might be hoping for my grandmothers longevity gene, but the reality is that I’m also at the mercy of some of parents health concerns. In the immediate family there was cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. My parents lifestyles were pretty healthy, so genetics have certainly played their part.
In the last 6 months I have been diagnosed as Pre-diabetic (thanks Dad!), and more recently my IBD Ulcerative Colitis has flared up. In turn, having an inflammatory auto-immune disease means your joints can sometimes hurt too. I’m tired and stiff. If I do a hard ride a couple of days in a row, it’s taking longer to recover. Is that my illness, or is it something I should just learn to accept now that I’m getting older? Some of the strongest riders I know are much older than me, but most agree that that can’t ride as many days in a week anymore as they need a lot more recovery.
So, what does that mean for my dreams? Can I really attempt another Guinness World Record attempt that will take at least 30 days? Is it crazy to try to ride from Argentina to Alaska in a year? Am I deluding myself about finishing GB Duro in August? Can I repeat my health and fitness feat from 2020?
I’m a firm believer the mantra that you can do anything you put your mind to, if you want it enough. But recently I’ve wondered whether there is actually a time limit on some of these things. This might sound like I’m giving up, but it’s not really that. I have no doubt that all the journeys that I want to take are possible. I know that I can ride the Americas if I so decide, but wonder whether it should be a more sedate paced trip than the one that I’m currently planning. On the other hand another world record is there for the taking, I just need to find one that no one has done before.
The truth is that I don’t know the answers, but what I do know is that we should never give up on our dreams, no matter what our age. It’s just that some things may take a little longer – and that’s not always such a bad thing.