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Coronavirus and the “Elderly” Triathlete

It’s funny how life can change in an instant.  A week ago, I was preparing for an April triathlon.  Now, I’m not even sure there’s going to be a triathlon season.  But compared to many, my worries are small.  I have my health, a loving family, freedom, the ability to support myself, and my faith.  My prayers go out for so many who are facing sickness or the disruption of social distancing.

As I face an uncertain future, however, I realize how many lessons I’ve learned from triathlon that enable me to face this crazy coronavirus pandemic.

I never knew I was “elderly.”  When the TV news anchor said that elderly people were more at risk for a severe case of coronavirus and then defined elderly as 65, I was shocked.  Elderly people were at least 80, weren’t they?  I googled “elderly” and discovered the news anchor was right.  At age 66, I was elderly!  Why didn’t I know that?  In short, triathlon.  My triathlon friends are in their twenties, thirties, and forties.  When I hang out with them, I think of myself as a youngster, not an elderly person.  And when I’m biking, running, and swimming, I feel like I’m ten years old.  I’m a kid playing outside in the neighborhood with the wind rushing through my hair or the water splashing around me.  And on the day before big races, when the pressure’s on and I’m having a sobbing meltdown, I feel like a three-year-old.  I’m definitely not a mature, elderly person at that point.  Me?  Elderly?  In my mind, I will always be twenty-nine, but by definition, I’m actually elderly.

As an “elderly” person, I am taking all of the coronavirus precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.  I’m staying home, washing my hands, and training alone,  I have a new appreciation for the social aspect of Zwift, an online cycling game that “talks” to your trainer, (right photo below).

I’m also making sure that my training isn’t over-taxing my body by paying close attention to recovery.  I want my immune system to be strong.  I know that if I get coronavirus, my chances for having a serious case are greater than a young person’s. 

But then again, I’m a triathlete.  I train every day.  I have a strong body and strong heart.  Once when a doctor who didn’t know me listened to my heart, he took off his stethoscope and asked, “Are you an athlete?”  I guess my slow heart rate was a give-away.  I’m so grateful that my love for  triathlon resulted in me losing 200 pounds, gaining fitness, and having a healthy body.  If I do get coronavirus, I won’t have the complications that I might have had as an obese person according to the World Health Organization.  That gives me great comfort.  It gives my children comfort too.  They know their “elderly” mother has a healthy body.

I think about all the things that changed so quickly.  Two weeks ago, life was fairly normal.  Today life is upside down.  But my training as a triathlete also taught me how to adapt to unpredictable situations.  As a beginning triathlete, I used to get upset at races when something didn’t go as planned.  My coach taught me that chaos is just part of racing.  It’s also a normal part of life.  There are so many things that are out of our control.  When the unexpected occurs, I’ve learned to “accept and adjust.” That approach allows me to react calmly and keeps my emotions on an even keel.  While I learned that approach in triathlon, I’m now applying it to the coronavirus situation.  Accept the things that I can’t control and adjust. 

And then there’s kindness.  As I lost weight and progress in triathlon, so many people reached out to help me.  People said just the right thing at just the right moment to keep me moving forward.  I learned to think of that kindness as the “face of God.”  Now I see the same type of kindness across the country, with people reaching out to help each other as we distance ourselves socially and support the sick.  That kindness is heartwarming.  And from experience, I know that kindness makes a difference.

Finally, I learned through triathlon that God reaches out to all of us.  One day my 27-year old coach said out of the blue, “You’re perfect the way God made you.”  I didn’t even know my coach was Christian.  That opened the door for me to ask lots of questions about his faith.  Later, when his young wife battled cancer, I witnessed the strength of my coach’s faith and the peace he found in his faith during an incredibly difficult situation.  He explained that God is good all the time, even when we don’t understand his ways.  My coach’s wife won her battle with cancer.  I learned that God is always good, there’s wisdom in Scripture, and that God instructs us to bring our daily needs to him in prayer.  

Paved trail through the woods.
Sunrise over Atlantic Ocean

I am so grateful for my health and all of the lessons I’ve learned about life from triathlon.  As I wait to find out if more races are cancelled, I feel abundantly blessed.

Take care everyone.  Prayers.

Coronavirus Photo Credit: 
The Scientist Magazine

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