The new reality of my life, for the last 2 or 3 years is that my legs feel sore and heavy all the time. No matter whether I rest them for a week, play back to back games, or get them toned to the max. They are sore. And I am very aware of that.
I used to train racehorses. So, I know what it is like for them the day after a race. When the adrenaline rush has long worn off. The next day, the aches, the pains, the stiffness, the soreness. That is the part you can see. But there is a part you can't see. But when you grow older, you don't have to see it. You can feel it.
I now feel it.
When you are very young you never even think about not having fresh legs. They are just there. You play 18 holes of golf, sometimes 36, then you go out that same night and play 3 or 5 sets of tennis. And you wake up the next day with fresh legs. But then you get older. Still, while you start to feel it you still have some jump in your legs. You feel the soreness, but you are still able to perform.
I never really trained young horses. But I knew a lot of people who did. They all said the same thing. Young horses don't know any better. They just go. You point them in the right direction, instinct and natural desire and ability take over and they go as fast as they can. They haven't figured out yet that the results of that will be a lot of soreness the next day. And eventually there will be soreness on the track, on race day, before and during the race. At some point the smart ones make the connection and start to protect themselves. And even the ones that ignore that and always try, eventually those young legs just aren't there anymore. No matter what you do, they simply can't go as fast or as long as they used to. As time goes by, it only gets worse, until you are not competitive at all, even several classes below where you once were.
I thought it was because I was heavy. And there was something to that. But it isn't. The jump just isn't there anymore. Why that is I am not sure. Nor do I even have to know the why. I just know it isn't. I have my smarts now, and I try to work with that, but when your opponent knows you cannot beat them with raw athleticism, they can take some of that away. It is how the old racehorse feels. He wants to go fast and powerful, like he did when he was a fully developed young horse, but he learns he can't. When he forgets, and he tries, he is reminded. The legs just don't work anymore.
There comes a time in every athletes career, and in many cases singers and actors, where you simply don't have it anymore. Such is the reality of life and old age. That is what it feels like to get old. Like the old racehorses do.
Now I know. If you don't, you will someday. I used to say not me, but now I know better. So will you. One day.