Ed. Note: When Sue Baker was profiled by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol in its Sept. 5 issue, she was preparing for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon Presented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch at Zuma Beach. She spoke again to the Sun/El Sol shortly after completing the event.
If you’re trying to track down Sue Baker, the last place you should look for her is in a rocking chair knitting a scarf.
The Canoga Park septuagenarian would never sit still for that. In fact, it’s fair to say Baker doesn’t sit still at all.
What helps keep her young at age 73 is movement. And not just simply walking to the neighborhood grocery for bread.
Baker is an athlete. And in her age group, a pretty legit one.
She works out six days a week, either at a pool, gymnasium, or by simply running in parks or trails or tracks. And Baker competes in events like marathons and triathlon races.
Yes. Marathons and Triathlons. Like the 32nd annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sept. 16. And she won her age group in the Classic Division (that included a 45-year-old female competitor) by completing the half-mile ocean swim, 17-mile bike ride, and four-mile run in 2:40.44.
“I’m still amazed a little bit (by her performance),” Baker said. “At Malibu I was the oldest female — the next [oldest] was like 64-65. There were also some men in their 80s who did the course.
“Got two medals — one for being first and also doing the event.”
Don’t get the idea that Baker did the triathlon on a dare or as some attempt to raise money for a grandkid’s school. She has dozens of medals and ribbons from the 12 marathons, 25 half-marathons and various triathlons — all since 2005 — adorning the walls of the home she shares with Bill, her husband of 24 years. They’re both retired now; she worked for 18 years in customer service and sales for a technical documents company in Van Nuys, and he was a former electrician who worked for television and film studios. (Bill has as daughter from a previous marriage.)
Baker — who grew up in the Valley, and graduated from North Hollywood High in 1963 — has always been a strong believer in the benefits of exercise and staying active.
“My doctor asks, ‘are you still doing your events?’ I tell him yes and he says, ‘good for you,’” Baker previously told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol in September. “I feel fine. I feel good. I very seldom get sick. If you stay active, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“For myself, when I work out, when I’m active, I just get that natural high.”
She also gets a kick out of the reactions of others at the event, who might think at first she's there to cheer on someone else.
“When I got out of the (ocean), I took off my wetsuit and then got on my bike,” she said. “[During the ride] I actually passed people on the course…they put your age on your leg, and I could hear people behind me saying ‘good job, 73!’”
She didn’t exactly take an extended recovery break following the triathlon. On Oct. 13, Baker ran in the RAD 10K race held in Agoura Hills (as part of the Agoura Hills Reyes Adobe Days Weekend Festival). She finished the 6.2 mile run, according to the official race listings, in 1:22.10.
“It was a lot of fun. Lots of scenery,” she said. “No trails, just in the streets and the mountains of Agoura.”
Baker doesn’t think that still doing long-distance or physically demanding sports at her age as something “extraordinary,” even if others around her do.
“This is about ‘willingness,’” she said. “I love doing it. I love being active. I still train six days a week. I love it all.”
She doesn’t know how much longer she will actively compete. But Baker doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. And she hopes that other seniors do all they can to remain physically active.
“You’ve got to keep moving, no matter what your age. If you stop, everything stops. Maybe I go to an extreme — maybe. But even taking a walk around the block is doing something. Just move your body. It is so important, no matter what your age.