JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Running against time

August 23rd, 2004 · No Comments

The Redhead is aware of her approaching birthdate and I’ve been aware of my age often as I’ve been watching the Olympics. I can remember being a child gazing at the athletes on screen, calculating how much older they were than I was, estimating how much time I still had if I wanted to be a like them. If I started taking ice-skating lessons now, I could compete in the Olympics when I am 17….

There’s an awkward switch that happens through time, in the segments of four years that mark the Games. Not a switch that is immediate, but it is strange to age, to see yourself as older than most of the athletes, rather than younger. To realize that my time for training has passed. As a thirtysomething mom of three, my odds of becoming an Olympian are next to nil. It seems my sporting achievements and personal bests may be in the past.

My athletic destiny became clear though years ago, at sixteen, if not at six. Although I enjoyed running track, I never exhibited the immense strength and speed necessary for intense competition. I’ve never been coordinated or flexible. I was grateful for the rare occasion when I received a ribbon.

But I’m still having fun teasing Ted as we are watching the Olympics on television this month. We’ve been watching hours of gymnastics, due to the coverage, and due to our own family’s investment in the sport. My daughters now have a greater probability of getting a gold medal on the balance beam than I do. It’s a new perspective to watch the Games as a mom, wondering how much stress the family endured so the child could compete on an international level. To imagine my child instead of myself as the athlete.

Yes, gymnastics is not a possibility for me. I am old enough to have given birth to some of the members of the team. I probably lost that option of bouncing and balancing for gold thirty years ago or so since kids start training on the trampoline at age two. Nevermind the fact that I’d be a bit too tall.

But I joked to Ted that maybe I could do beach volleyball. Those athletes seem to be older than gymnasts. The team of Walsh and May are about the age of my younger siblings. One of the commentators mentioned that beach volleyball players last longer that indoor players since it takes less of a toll on their bodies. Then again, stretchmarks would probably be an automatic DQ in that sport.

Or I could be a diver. The woman who won the gold medal in the 10-meter platform diving, Chantelle Newbery of Australia, has a two year old. (Her occupation is listed as Athlete and Mother. ) So does her synchronized diving partner with whom she won a bronze medal. Now I just have to learn how to do gymnastics into a pool…hmmmm….

Or I could do crew?! Lionne Nelson, the stroke of the U.S. women’s eight, silver medalists in these Games, has a two year old who has affected her priorities. Nelson took a couple years off for motherhood before returning to rowing. Her nickname on the team, I’ve heard, is “Mom” or “Grandma”. I’m about the same age she is.

It looks like Nelson is planning on staying in the game and Games

Nelson is a seven-time national team member, the 1998 U.S. female rower of the year. She won’t go away even though the competition gets taller and stronger.

“I can still hold my own with the 20-year-old rower,” she said. “The peak endurance years for a woman athlete come between the ages of 34 and 38. I keep kidding the coaches that I’ll have another baby after this Olympics and be back for the next ones.”

Encouraging news – my peak is yet to come! Maybe I should try rowing or running. Bronze medalist marathoner Deena Kastor is close to me in age also. Joan Benoit Samuelson, my hero since high school, qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon at age 39 as a mother of two. Gail Devers who has also been competitive since the days I was competing, ran this year at age 37.

I should start by setting my sights on a local level. The winner of this year’s Danskin Triathlon, Lisa Walker, is a 43 year old mother of two kids, ages 13 and 10.

“I just keep moving up each year. When I turned 40, I just got better, and I got faster. I just kept learning something and working at it more.”
from The Seattle Times

So maybe I shouldn’t give up hope yet. Perhaps the best is yet to come. Maybe not Beijing, but if I train more, I might find that peak, that zone of getting better and faster. (Maybe I should train with Jenny, a triathlete who has written a similiar piece on her blog tonight too!)

Sure I’m racing against time. I’m getting older. My days are numbered. My body may not be what it was when I was younger.

But right now, maybe the only time I am running against is the time I have in the morning to exercise before the girls get up. What the bedroom clock tells me as I dash out the door. And what my watch says about my speed, the time I took to run, as I sprint up the hill toward home.

In those mornings out by myself, I’m only running against time.

Tags: journal