Who says age slows you down? Here, some of the country’s top age-groupers over 40 explain how triathlon keeps them young, plus their tips on how you can stay competitive—and quick—regardless of that number written on your calf.
Fit at 48: Gail Matherly
Name: Gail Matherly
Resides: Niwot, Colo.
Recent Highlights: 1st (Women 45-49), 2011 and 2010 Rohto Ironman 70.3 Boulder; 3rd (Women 45-49), 2011 Subaru Ironman Canada; 11th (Women 45-49), 2011 Ironman World Championships.
Old flames never die, at least when it comes to the fiery passion so many athletes have for their love of sport. Case in point: Gail Matherly, who raced as a pro duathlete and cyclist in the early 90s, only to press pause on multisport to focus on family and her career as a business systems analyst for a marketing firm. Entering a local sprint back in 2009 stoked her competitive embers, and soon Matherly found herself a coach—and a reputation as one of the nation’s toughest triathletes in her age-group.
On Staying Motivated: “It took me three years to get to Kona. I expected quick results and [Ironman] training doesn’t always deliver like that. The experience taught me that you have to be persistent and learn from your mistakes. I will forever be learning about myself as a triathlete… the longer you are in the sport, the more you are going to learn.”
On Staying Competitive: “When I was younger, my whole mental demeanor and self-esteem were tied into whether or not I had a good race. If it didn’t work out, it would ruin my entire day. Now, although I do hope to win my age-group, I try not to stress if I don’t have a good day. I’m not doing this for a living, it’s a healthy activity that helps me keep my sanity.”
On Staying Healthy: “As you age, it becomes more and more important to listen to your body. Everything, from work stress to kid stress, has an impact on the amount of energy I have to devote to training that day. I take into account everything that is going on in my life and make adjustments as needed. Otherwise, it’s very easy to overdo it and wind up with an injury or illness. I’m not afraid to back off.”
Biggest Challenge at 48: “It was hard to get back into things in my 40s. It wasn’t the same body that I used to race at 28, and the things I did back then didn’t work anymore. I felt like I was going through a time warp. It took me two seasons to realize that my [original] PRs are long behind me in running and cycling.”
Top Tip: “Get a coach or join a training group. For someone who is in mid-life, accountability is so important because we have all of these things going on with family and our jobs. It makes it hard to keep training a priority.”