…half to go?
So my 50th birthday came and went. Actually, it has seemed like I’ve been turning 50 for months now. This past winter the beautiful Mrs. M gave me my “present” – a trip to follow the 2007 Tour de France and ride the 15th l’Etape du Tour, my renewed USCF license says “50” under race age, and I’ve started getting junk mail from AARP! And even tho the actual event wasn’t until Monday, the celebrations started a few days early. On Friday my family took me to dinner at Stoney River Legendary Steaks in Chesterfield – the filet with crab cakes and béarnaise was expertly prepared, and the service was professionally attentive. I gorged! My only complaint, which may not even be a fair one, is that the dining room intimacy was just a tad below that of a true top tier steak house like Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Monday, however, I knew for sure that was the real day as I awoke to being served breakfast in bed by my girls, found my car in the garage with painting on the windows urging drivers to honk at me, and saw signs proclaiming my longevity all along the road leading out of the neighborhood. After a fine tilapia meal that evening (expertly prepared by the beautiful Mrs. M) I opened presents. My France trip was more than I could ask for, but the girls made sure I had plenty of accessories to make the trip successful. My sister-in-law even gave me a very fine bottle of Beaulieu Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon (I can’t wait for my next steak!). And it’s not over yet – I still have a party with some close friends this coming weekend to look forward to. I am truly loved!
The sound of 50 and its reality are so different. All my life my impression of a 50-yr old was a balding, graying, roundish fellow who is beginning to wind things down in life. Okay, the graying part might be true, but otherwise I just feel so disconnected from what 50 is supposed to be. Certainly much of this is due to the cycling – I started 5 years ago and it has been a life-changing event. I guess riding in l’Etape this year is truly an appropriate way for me to welcome a new half-century. I guess it’s okay to admit also that the thought of doing l’Etape has me rather intimidated – this year’s route covers Stage 15, a classic Pyrenean mountain stage that starts in Foix and climbs five mountains (Col du Port, Col du Portet d’Aspet – passing the Casartelli memorial, Col de Mente, Port de Bales, and Col du Peyresourde) before descending to the finish in Loudenvielle. No amount of training around here will completely prepare me for a ride like that, so I must be content to do my normal training during the week and get out on the weekends for as many miles and as much climbing as I can handle. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and Sunday (my last day on the front side of 50) I got in 5 hours of bushwhacking around western St. Louis and eastern Franklin Cos. The time in the saddle was one thing, the climbing was another – 20 climbs total. It was about as hard a solo ride as I’ve ever done, and afterwards I was more than a little bushed, to say the least. Also, realizing that the distance and vertical feet of climbing I had done were only ~2/3 of what I will have to do on July 16th did little to ease my feelings of intimidation. Then I remembered, “Hey, you’re 50!” and suddenly it felt like a badge of honor!