Love the one you’re with

Almost four years ago I fell, quite unexpectedly, in love. With a bike. I’d asked for a “good” bike for my 35th birthday, mostly because my brothers kept heaping scorn on department store bikes and I wanted to know what the big deal was. The Giant Cypress they wheeled in replaced my 12-year old Huffy, a “mountain bike” for which the grassy strip between the sidewalk and street was extreme off-road.

At first, we just enjoyed spending time together, but then things changed. What began as a utilitarian partnership blossomed into a something much more. I’ve pretty much always had a bike, and I rode that Huffy quite a bit when my oldest boys were little. “Riding”, at the time, meant pedalling to the nearest playground with my then-husband, each carrying a child in a bike seat. Occasionally we even rode a few extra blocks. Five miles was a long distance.

I didn’t expect anything different with my new bike. That April was super rainy, so it took forever before we could go for our maiden voyage around the neighborhood. I felt guilty not using my good bike more, so I took it out on our local bike trails. It’s a fantastic system of interconnected paved trails, but it can be a bit confusing if you happen to (ahem) lack map skills. I got lost and accidentally rode 20 miles.  I started riding on a regular basis, the distance depending on how long I could get away.

When my aunt Nancy suggested that I ride a leg of the Katy Trail ride with her: “It’s only 50 miles, you could do it“, I thought she was crazy, but I kept looking at the website for the Katy Trail ride that the Missouri DNR sponsors each year, got hooked, and signed up for the whole thing. All told, it was about 240 miles of riding over a week, but they’re the easiest miles you’ll ever ride. It’s a flat, crushed limestone trail, and the ride is fully supported. Once I realized I could do it (and my butt got over the shock of the first two 60+ mile days), I was transformed. I was doing something that felt epic.

Before I got my bike, I was a little lost. You couldn’t see it from the outside–I couldn’t even always see it from the inside–but that’s because there wasn’t anything to see. Everything I did, my whole identity, was about someone else.  I didn’t have a “thing”, and cycling filled that void.  I loved it.  I was fulfilled. 

And then, almost accidentally, I started running.  It wasn’t as fun as riding my bike, but it was easier to fit into my life.  I could get in a good run in 30 minutes.  It was cool to face a new challenge and have some small measure of success (measured, mostly, by not dying).  Running was there for me when I dislocated my thumb and couldn’t ride for 6 weeks.  It was exciting.  We went to fun new places together (lots of races).  I admit it, I was stepping out on cycling.  I tried to pretend nothing had changed (“It was just a 5K…it didn’t mean a thing!”), but it knew. But then I learned about adventure racing and got my mountain bike and the cycling spark burned bright again.

If you read back through this blog, one of my hallmarks is difficulty turning down something that sounds fun, even when that something is at cross-purposes with my training plan.  That, in turn, likely limits my performance: if you don’t train consistently, how will you see what you’re capable of? I thought I had semi-cured my athletic attention deficit disorder when I signed up for the Double Chubb 50K.  It’s a distance that was epic enough (especially considering the terrain) that it forced me to shape up and be serious about training.

Double Chubb is basically this…twice

My plan calls for back to back weekend runs: one long (up to 24 miles), one shorter (up to 10 miles).  With a full-time job and a full-time family, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for any extra solo pursuits, so my bike has had to take a back seat once again.  Curiously, it doesn’t even matter that most of the trails have been too mushy to ride, anyway. I’m still looking over running’s shoulder like a girl staring at her true love while danceing with her date who’s “just a friend”.

I’ve made a commitment to this race; I’m going to honor it.  I just don’t want to end up resenting it.  As Double Chubb is already costing me something really fun in addition to the hours of training I’ll be putting in, I want it to be a good experience (again, probably mostly defined as “not dying”).  I’m actually enjoying the training for it quite a bit.  I love trails, and I have some awesome friends sharing in the runs.  I’m going to do my best to love the one I’m with, and if I need to sneak away for a quickie ride…well, I guess I never promised running we’d be exclusive.

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