Yesterday I was able to go on a mountain bike ride for the first time in months. Way up here in the frozen north, winter tends to interrupt such activities. Ok, not exactly frozen… we get snow a couple of times a winter. But it does get cold which makes my nose run. Perhaps growing up in a temperate climate has diluted my hearty Swedish genes somewhat? Anyway, the point is that the trails get too muddy to ride if you’re the responsible type. Since I’m a rule follower I did my part and sat in a chair for three months, moving as little as possible.
Shockingly, this did terrible things to my once meager fitness level. And as I near the half-century mark, nothing depresses me more than people older than me who are in better shape. So of course, there I was on my first real ride in months, huffing, puffing, wheezing like an old inner tube with a leak as I climbed up a trail I flew up last summer. And by flew I mean I rode it without stopping. And once outrode a twelve-year-old girl to the top (a high point in my career). Struggling with my climb I heard bikes coming up behind me. I did what comes naturally and pretended to have a mechanical issue so I could stop and let them by.
Three old coots (at least ten years older than me) went by at near race speed, carrying on a conversation, going uphill faster than I normally go down. A devastating blow to my already fragile ego. Once they were gone I climbed back on the bike and slogged my way up. And sure enough as I got towards the top, the three old dudes were up there stopped and chatting away. With the last hundred yards in full view of my audience, I pushed myself to the red zone. A tactical mistake, as once you’re in the red zone you need oxygen… and it’s really hard to suck in your gut and pretend you’re not breathing hard when your brain is screaming for O2. I think I got a little light-headed at that point.
After giving the traditional ‘bro nod and “hey, ‘sup?” (also known as the urban white dude greeting), I made some lame comment about taking too much time off during the offseason. The obvious leader of this group of geriatric fitness freaks looked at me and actually said something very profound. “Well”, he said, “nothings free. You gotta earn your beers.” With that they mounted up, said have a good ride, and off they went.
I spent the rest of my ride thinking about what this Bodhi Zafa of cycling had told me. He’s right. Earn your beers (or chips ‘n salsa, cake, or tasty Cheez It’s snack treats) by going out and playing hard. I used to do that. We all did when we were younger. Why do we stop? How did “working out” become a chore that had to be done rather than something fun we did?
A hundred years ago I used to be that way. It was hard to get me off my bike back then. I must have had an attachment to it, as twenty- eight years later I still ride that same bike on my daily commute. A 1985 Miyata 912. A reasonably high-end bike at the time. It saw a little racing and a lot of road miles. And yes, it had a black and pink paint scheme. Super popular for the eighties. Not so much for a number of years. Now… I get a lot of compliments on it. What was old is new again.
Today is another beautiful day. Time to go out and earn a few beers.