When my phone rang, I was happy to see it was my husband.
But less excited when he asked the following…
“I’m on my way home. Do you want to go for a bike ride?”
If you’ve read my “Confessions” section, I’m sure you’re aware of my intense aversion to exercise. A distaste that may one day get me kicked out of Boulder County. However, I do surprise myself from time to time, and pull a new trick or two out of my…self. It’s been six months since I’ve exercised. Not really all that long.
I can usually come up with a good-sounding excuse to get me out of a bicycle ride with my husband Alex, the pedal freak. But today I was feeling generous. So when he asked me to go on a short ride with him, I decided to suck it up and jump right into a quick irrational commitment for a change. Maybe because I know it’s something he really wants to share with me; the joy he gets from feeling the fresh mountain breeze on his face as he pedals through nature on new-found trails. Something we Detroit gals don’t easily relate to. Or maybe it’s because I just plain feel bad when I see him content with the bikes we bought together 25 years ago, his all jacked up from overuse and mine abandoned in the basement, in mint condition.
Yeah, it was both of those reasons and maybe even more, like feeling guilty that I wasn’t the athlete he thought I was when he married me, those same 25 years ago. Starting off our marriage with two new bikes, we had both looked forward to forming a deep connection, pedaling thousands of miles together through rocky terrain, all the while picking bugs out of our teeth. He knew it would happen. I hoped it would.
The guilt was bringing me to tears. Well, close. But why did he have to be such a damned addict? Why couldn’t he just be reasonable and ride the bike for pleasure, like to the coffee shop or around town, waving to the neighbors and smiling at barking dogs? Why did he have to ruin the concept of what bicycling is supposed to be?
He was still on the other end of the line, headed home from the acupuncturist, waiting for an answer on this beautiful Saturday morning.
“So…what do you think…would you be up for a bike ride?”
It was the question I’d declined so many times. There was no rain, no snow, no wind, not even a flippin’ cloud. What would I say, “Why don’t we go some other time when the weather isn’t so perfect?”
“Suze? Are you still there?”
“Sure, I’d love to go for a bike ride with you.” I worried for a moment that he might lose control of the car. Instead, he went into a long list of reasons why it would be so wonderful, as if still trying to convince me.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
“Great! I’ll be home in about twenty minutes and we can just hop on the bikes and take off, okay?”
“Okay, see you then.” My voice was so pleasant, even I thought for a minute I’d like to be married to me. I hung up the phone. Damn. I started visualizing me trying to keep up with Alex as he barely pedaled, wobbling and trying not to topple off his bike. Then I thought about how I would probably start to sweat at some point and succumb to the temptation of leaning into my armpit to confirm my hard work, ultimately the cause of my demise.
Stop psyching yourself out, I told myself. Hurry and get those diaper-looking black shorts on and act excited and be ready when he gets home. Where were those shorts anyway? And would they even still fit? Then I smiled. Yes, they would. I had just lost 15 pounds on that 21-day cleanse Alex and I finished up last month. That’s right, if I could find the shorts, I would be sliding into ‘em and feeling pretty good.
* * *
“You’re ready!” Alex walked in the door, extremely pleased to see that I had my bicycling shorts on and was keeping my word.
“I’m just going to change into my gear. I’ll be right back.”
While he was upstairs I strolled past the mirror, wondering how I would get my helmet on without messing up my hair. A ponytail seemed inevitable. It would go through a hole in the back of the helmet, no doubt implemented by a woman who had stepped in to help out the male designers. I’d already minimized my makeup. I chuckled at the remote possibility that I might be riding so fast no one would recognize me anyway.
Alex came around the corner into the kitchen, looking like a neon bug. “You ready?” he asked.
“So you said short, right? What do you mean by short?” There I was about to spoil it. But I knew from experience, it had to be addressed before the ride. Years ago, we had started out on a bike ride in the morning wearing tank tops and shorts. Halfway through, we had to stop at a thrift shop to buy coats for a 30-degree drop in temperature. Snow and sleet came in, freezing my fingers around the handlebars as we worked our way home against 80-mile-an-hour winds, dodging lightening bolts under pitch black clouds. We were forced to take cover inside an Office Max. By the time we got home, fifty or sixty miles later, it was time for bed. Neither of us said much to each other after that.
“Just a few miles. You’re gonna love it. Trust me.”
* * *
I was determined I would impress him for what would probably turn out to be a good solid three miles. Total. And maybe if that adrenalin thing I’d heard about kicked in, it could be five…or six. Yes, today I was determined to find out what being a real athlete was all about.
And here is what I discovered:
- Real athletes don’t stop every ten minutes to check their cell phones.
- They don’t spend the whole ride wondering if their lipstick is still in their back pocket.
- Real athletes on bikes don’t let joggers pass them.
- Real athletes on bikes don’t let three-legged Chihuahuas pass them.
- They don’t burn holes through their tires from braking downhill.
- And they don’t complain when the “short” ride turns out to be a “medium” ride.
- And for sure, real athletes don’t hear helicopters above and think Flight for Life has come to rescue them.
Yes, today I discovered what being a REAL athlete is all about.
And I am definitely not a REAL athlete.