Some people age gracefully, some with panache. For many it’s a bit rocky, or even painful, journey. It’s not easy getting old, we’ve heard time and again. Sometimes it just takes stick-to-it-ness to finish the race. Literally.

Regular readers of the Changing Aging blog will remember my mom Nickie, the Facebooking 80 year old great-grandmother. Here, in her own words, is the story of her latest 10K cross-country ski race.

The race began at Telemark Lodge, in Cable, Wisconsin. In the past, we always were able to park in the parking lots fairly close to the Lodge. Well, this time all cars were shunted off the main drive to a parking field near the airport up there. We took a school bus in to the lodge area — banging and clanking with our equipment, finding a seat, and disembarking. Then we trudged around the interior of the lodge (with our equipment), looking for the place to pick up our bibs, then weaving our way to the little girls’ room because it was our last chance. Outside, after donning our skies and grasping our poles, we battled our way to the Start Line. Bang! We were off and sliding, jockeying for position and, in my case, being blindsided by a wayward skier. Yes, I fell, and in that short moment, time slowed down and I pictured my landing and the emergency crew coming to haul me off to the medical airlift. Bang! I landed and was fine, only a little embarrased as skiers sped by me, smiling and gliding. It was a beautiful day in the Northwoods – the sunshine made all the hill climbing worth it. After the breathless 10k’s, I was coming into the finish area. A little three-year-old girl dressed in baby blue was ahead of me by about 50 yards. We were the last ones on the course, heading for the finish line. I had to beat this little kid or I would never forgive myself. I mustered up all the energy I could and beat the little darling by a couple of ski lengths. The next challenge was getting back to the car. The line for the buses (there was a sum total of two buses) was a mile long or so it looked to me and my companions. We elected to walk back, taking a "short-cut" designed for snowmobiles. Piece of cake. After carrying skis and poles a short distance, I found I needed help. My son-in-law carried my skiis and I used my poles to lean on as I trudged slowly behind. I spent the next day in my PJs on the couch. I decided that this will have to be my last year for the Cheqtel Family Fun x-c ski race. But then I remembered the sun slanting through the birch and pines, the beautiful snow conditions, and the joy of not being the last one to cross the finish line and knew that I would sign up next year for the priviledge of skiing in God’s country.

As I often tell my friends, when I grow up I want to be just like Mom. ~Helen Rickman