I work in a building complex with hallways over a quarter of a mile long. I began to notice that I could not unambiguously recognize people at a distance. To make matters worse, I began noticing my first eye floaters. I have always enjoyed perfect distance vision, although I have needed glasses for reading since my early fifties. I have always enjoyed seeing a pretty woman walking down the hallway towards me. Now, they had become fuzzy.

Then, looking in the mirror, I realized my skin had lost its elasticity. Of course, the wrinkles have been growing in quantity and depth for years. But now, I could pinch my skin and see it retain the distortion from the pinch. To make matters worse, the skin in my creases and folds, such as my elbow or where my pectoral muscle inserts into my upper arm, developed an "old person" sag. 

The final blow to my ego came during a video conference at work. We sit in four-person quads, our backs to each other and the center of the quad. While talking to my office mates, I noticed a partially gray older person sitting behind one of my colleagues. I realized this was perhaps someone new I had not yet met. Then, the horror dawned on me. My colleague was one of the persons in my quad. The older man that I was seeing was me from behind.

2023 closed out with some genuinely challenging training for me. To get my shoulder impingement syndrome to heal up completely, I quit working my upper body and icing twice a day. Not strength training had a strong depressive effect on my self-image and overall attitude. My perceived self-exertion during my runs went up dramatically. I felt like I was getting slower and slower. Unfortunately, I was. Frustratingly, my negative attitude and some unavoidable life events caused me to fail at my goal of running five days a week. I managed four run weeks throughout the last half of 2023.

My lifestyle has given me a feeling of invincibility for most of my life. 2023 tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that we all get old. At the beginning of 2024, I look towards my athletic goals for the year. I gained eleven pounds in 2021. I've dropped eight of them now. My shoulder is nearly completely pain-free, so I have developed my first recovery strength training plan for the new year. I'm beginning to get that sense of flow during my runs again, and my per-minute pace has dropped about 30 seconds already. 

Maybe my "you're old" self-diagnosis was a bit premature.