Last spring, when I registered for Oceanside (the Ironman California 70.3), it was a bit of a shock. The USAT rules state that you must race your age as of December 31, 2011. Which means that I'll have the big "5-0" on my little calf next April. Yup, pretty darn startling when you're still 48. I lamented to Sharkbait, "I can't believe I'll be racing as a 50-year old next year!" I'm sure I went on about those rules, but that part didn't register. Nope, the thought of aging up is just too exciting to my fellow age groupers. It gives us hope. Perhaps with the advancement in age, we'll also experience a little elevation in our rankings – moving up from the back of the pack to the middle of the pack, or the middle of the pack to could it be? The podium? These are the thoughts that cross our minds when you get to move up into the next group. Yes, most of us care more about our arthritic knees than our graying roots or wrinkles. We're kind of an odd lot.
So, of course, I'll have to forgive my dear friend for jumping the gun last week when she organized a little reunion with our friends who competed at Vineman last month. She threw a wonderful 50th birthday party for me – a day and a year too soon. I arrived at her front porch to a sign that said, "Celebrate 50!" and "Warning 50th Birthday Party in Progress" police-style, yellow-and-black tape spanning the entryway, hallway, rafters, and hanging lights. I peeked into the doorway with a grin and said, "You're pushing it girl!" She innocently replied, "What d'ya mean? You're 50 tomorrow right?" "No, next year," I answered with a chuckle. "But, but you're racing Oceanside as a 50-year old!" she answered. "I know. It's because of that rule!" I explained.
Oh, it was fun to watch the reality of it all dawn on her face. The realization that she told everyone coming to her house that I was turning 50. It was the quintessential 50th birthday party. My friends wore black. The champagne was flowing. There were funny cards and lollipops that said, "50 Sucks." And a big beaded necklace that said, “Older is Better!” It was great to see the gang – the twins, Jane and Jean, their cousin, Gina, and Janice. Since they did the Barb's race (70.3), which started an hour and a half after my race, and I did two bike loops, we never crossed paths up there. Lynne Cox, my incredible ocean swimmer friend, stopped by too and gave me some more tips on the sideline drill. She's encouraged me to convert to bilateral breathing, so I'll be working on that this fall. There was even a beautiful birthday cake. Sharkbait asked me the day before, "Text me your favorite flower (or your Mom's favorite flower) and your favorite color." I answered back "Camilias" (my mom used to have dozens of beautiful camilias in her green house) or, alternatively, tulips (I used to treat myself to a bouquet of those every pay day when I was broke in my 20's). My favorite color is definitely green. Amazingly, the baker produced quite the replicas of camilias. Yes, this cake was very sweet. Just like my friends. And now that I’ve had my “mock 50th birthday,” maybe I’ll be in better shape for the big day.