Cycling Across Continents – From Impossible To Possible
“Even if I think something might not be possible, I try it. And surprisingly it turns out to be possible.”
– Hiromu Ianada
The chances that you have heard of Hiromu Ianada are slim, very slim. I came across his name recently when looking through a recent National Geographic issue with the cover story – Aging in Japan. I will be in Japan in less than three months on the inaugural Journey to the East Cycling Tour. I am not getting any younger, so it is perhaps not a surprise that I read the story with great interest.
In the feature there is a picture of Mr. Ianada sitting on an exercise bike, with his spandex cycling shirt zipped down almost to his belly button, working out. Beside him is a young man, at most in his mid 20s, also on the bike, both going all out. What is remarkable about this 89-year-old man is that since he turned 70, he has completed 66 triathlons! In 2018 he became the oldest triathlete to finish the Ironman World championship.
In a video, Eric Wolinsky, a rider on the 2023 Hippie Trail, remarked, “If you are going on a TDA tour, you are going to find out what are you capable of. You just gotta go for it.” When we first dreamed up the Tour d’Afrique Cycling Expedition from Cairo to Cape Town, we thought we could pull it off, but we really had no idea. And there was no lack of naysayers who told us that, not only we re going to fail but we were also being irresponsible and putting lives at risk.
Another story I read in Ars Technica – I Disconnected From The Electric Grid For 8 Months – In Manhattan – described how Joshua Spodek, writer, adjunct professor at NYU and a host of The Sustainable Life podcast, did the unthinkable in the most urban of all places, why he did it and, to his amazement, the benefits he accrued. “Attitude was more important than technology”, he wrote.
Indeed, attitude is the main ingredient in what makes the impossible possible and it makes a difference in every aspect of our lives. In a recent interview on CBC radio about his book – The Good Life: Lessons From The World’s Longest Scientific Study Of Happiness – Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, said, “A good life is not a necessarily an easy one.” Elias Baron, another participant in the video from the Hippie Trail agreed, commenting that “sometimes joy and happiness is associated with efforts.”
In a recent Washington Post story – Americans Over 50 Are Doing Extreme Sports Their Grandparents Never Imagined – the author Tara Bahrampour wrote, “As athletic achievement across all age groups pushes human boundaries, more people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s are performing feats previous generations might have had a hard time imagining.” She quotes an 86 old weightlifter, Keo Capestany of Seattle, who told her that he had “to push back against family member’s and friend’s preconceptions of what they’re capable of. ‘Our concept is old people, you have to be careful, you have to mind your age‘.”
Such stereotypes can be self-fulfilling says Tom Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services from AARP. “When we have these prejudices, they really hold us back on a group level. People start to be restrained by those parameters,” he said. “But seeing older people engage in high-risk or physically gruelling activities “gives us a chance to check our ageism a little bit [and] widen the spectrum of what we think is possible.”
In that interview on the Happiness study, Dr. Waldinger says that “happiness comes and goes….” His secret is “finding activities I care about.” In a new 6 part documentary – Limitless – well known actor Chris Hemsworth explores how we can all live better and longer and says that “a good death for him would be having a good life.”
All of this, of course, is not surprising, nor earth shattering news to the participants of our TDA Global Cycling Tours. It may, however, be a surprise to all the detractors and skeptics littering our lives.