If BoomerCafé is all about baby boomers’ active lifestyles, you probably can’t get much more active than one leading-edge boomer, our own co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs. He isn’t just active for the sake of it; for him, it’s the only way to stay young.
By Greg Dobbs
A couple of years ago I almost died.
That’s a pretty good way to get your attention, isn’t it?! It sure got mine, because it’s true. On a trip to shoot a television documentary in Northern Ireland, I suffered massive internal hemorrhaging and ended up hospitalized for several weeks with blood levels so weak, the doctors said my blood counts weren’t just below the minimums for being healthy; they were below what they even considered survivable.
Yet I was lucky and did survive. And eventually came home. But I was still anemic, meaning, my red blood cells weren’t generating as fast as they should. Meaning, I tired easily at the smallest tasks.
Bring me my bike! From asking doctors what I could do about those low blood levels, I knew the bike wasn’t the answer (an iron-rich diet was). But it did become a measure of how fast I was improving.
You see, from day to day, people would ask me, “Are you getting stronger? Are you getting better?” And I didn’t really know, because from day to day, even from week to week, I still felt an anemic dearth of energy, both physical and mental.
So, living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I decided to climb on my bike. At first, pedaling up even small single hills made me feel like I was summiting Mt. Everest. My legs, my lungs, everything felt totally whipped.
So I tried a different, more empirical approach: take the same ride each time — the same challenging ride — to see if I could get farther and higher with each effort. I chose a road known locally as “Squaw Pass;” it leads ultimately to the top of Mt. Evans, one of Colorado’s “fourteeners.” It starts all of one mile from my home, at about 7,800 feet, and peaks 16 miles later and 3,500 feet higher (just before turning for the final climb up to 14,000 feet). It is the highest paved road in North America.
On the first try, I made five miles, which considering the fact that the road is a ceaseless incline, felt pretty good. But again, I was whipped at the five-mile mark and couldn’t go another foot. But a few days later, it was six miles, the next time seven-and-a-half, and so on. It took a lot of efforts, but eventually (taking it half-mile by half-mile in my head), I made it to the cool thin air of the Squaw Pass summit. That’s when I knew, Yes, I’m getting better.
Since then I’ve taken on Vail Pass, which at 11 miles is a little shorter, but with a 7.2% grade, even steeper. Done that one five times now. And a “century” ride in western Colorado, where they threw in not just more than a hundred kilometers (70+ miles) of riding, but a couple of mountain passes and a 20-mile stretch of dirt road. That’s when I knew, Yes, I’m back to normal.
Now, every week, I ride with a bunch of guys — we call ourselves the “Medicare Marauders” — somewhere in this part of Colorado. Typically we do about 40 miles, usually with some hills along the way. And why not? Who says we’re too old for that??
Do I sound like I’m bragging? Well yes! There are plenty of leading-edge baby boomers who would accept a health setback as a permanent condition and call it their new norm. What my experience shows is, they don’t have to. We might have to push a little harder and breathe a little deeper but we can still keep up with the generations behind us. And have the active lifestyles that set us apart from the generations ahead of us.