Here’s a post that first appeared on one of our other sites: www.masters-athlete.com. It’s by Lisa Menninger, a trainer and one of our bloggers…
Seventh place. Tenth in the prologue time trial. That is where Lance Armstrong finished in the Tour de California, which was the most competitive cycling field we have had on US soil. Ever.
Thirty seven year-old Lance, after a three year hiatus from cycling and a quiet first race with a top half finish in Australia at the Tour Down Under, played domestique to Levi Leipheimer and finished seventh in the General Classification. If you have been reading my blogs, you may remember back when Lance announced his return.
I spoke of my respect for an athlete whom I believed then and believe now, could do the unthinkable; come back to the sport older and out of practice, and win. I am now more sure than ever that he can, whether it be the Giro in May or the Tour in July. He looks unstoppable. Lance spent most of his retirement training as a runner, knocking down several personal bests in the marathon, with an impressive 2:46 as his fastest.
He spent time on the mountain bike and little time on the road. He wanted to shake it up and did so. So there were those that wondered if he could handle the time off the bike and out of the peloton. I think he showed skeptics he can…
This field in California was incredible. All of the top riders in pro cycling were there, minus Astana’s Alberto Contador, the man some say is the leading contender to win this year’s Tour de France. The big sprinters, the big climbers, the overall guys who can do both. And in addition, now that the Operation Puerto suspensions have been largely served, there were also some faces we haven’t seen for a few years. Guys like Basso, Landis and, though not a part of the Puerto saga, Tyler Hamillton, riding for U.S.-based Rock Racing – another up and coming domestic team.
In fact most of the guys at the top of the General Classification were either on U.S. teams or U.S. riders. That’s just awesome. But even with this amazing talent assembled in this field and coupled with his role as helper for Levi, Lance was seventh. The guy wasn’t trying to win and he was seventh. And it’s February. And he is in some pretty scrappy shape.
I remember seeing photos of him late last summer, after he did the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, finishing second to Dave Weins (the perennial winner) and thinking, “Sheesh the guy looks awfully fit. He looks like he could hop on a road bike and hurt people.” And within weeks he had announced his return to cycling. The Tour de California set attendance records. The fan turnout was amazing for any event, much less a bike race. A few years ago, a crowd of this size would have been unheard of at a cycling event here. But thanks largely to Lance, the sport continues to grow both in participation and number of spectators. He has really been pivotal to the sport of cycling here in the U.S. as well as overseas.
Lance is also approaching GeezerJock status. Thirty-eight next September. Forty will be here before he knows it. And he will, like Dara Torres, be a ground-breaker in what over-forty athletes can do.
And while I am not suggesting we can all go out, train and kick young butt the way Lance does and will continue to do, I think it sends a clear and concise message. I hear that message. And I certainly try to live that message myself, which is, limits are self-imposed. Age is a number that you choose to define for yourself.
I realize as we get older we face a different set of challenges. Recovery, rest and nutrition become bigger and more important pieces of the training pie. But how we view ourselves and what we choose to do with our athletic lives is defined by us as individuals. There are shining examples of what is possible within the pages of every issue of GeerzerJock/Masters Athlete magazine every single month.
And these athletes are not always pros in national and international competitions. They are people who live down the street. Folks we run into at the store. Athletes who compete for themselves, and not for the larger recognition that may or may not come with those accomplishments.
We can choose to sit back or we can choose to continue to challenge ourselves and see what we are made of. I am a GeezerJock. I love this name. I wear this moniker proudly. And I will continue to do so as long as I am able. As for Mr. Armstrong, I am excited to see what he does as the spring classics begin and we head into the Giro and the Tour. Over and over again he is the poster child for what’s possible.
I hold that in the forefront of my own mind as I set out each day to train and think, “what really is possible for me?” I hope he has a great and winning comeback season.