I went for a bike ride with my husband today. It was a “training ride” to see if I’m ready to ride the Chilly Hilly, a 33 mile ride round Bainbridge Island that officially kicks off the local cycling season. The Chilly Hilly is this coming Sunday. I’ve been riding my stationary bike for 30 minutes most days, but I’ve missed a few days recently. (One of my other goals is to stay on top of my grading and course prep and the two goals — exercise vs. work — have been competing for my time. I can pedal while I surf or blog, but it’s hard to really concentrate on things like grading.) But still, I’ve been doing a little cycling, so I figured I had no excuse not to try a training ride.
Notice that I wasn’t oozing enthusiasm. To tell the truth, I was pretty anxious about the whole thing. In my head, it wasn’t just a bike ride — it was a bike ride wrapped up in a whole rats’ nest of hopes, expectations, and fears.
First, there’s my husband.
My husband is a serious cyclist. He rides hard, often, and long distances. And he likes hills — big ones, like the size of Mt. Rainier (which he’s ridden around twice in a ride called RAMROD).
Although my husband said multiple times that he wanted to go for a ride with me and that he was happy to go at my pace, I couldn’t help feeling a little intimidated by my riding companion. (I’ve never liked holding other people back — one of the reasons I was never particularly good at team sports was because I always got way too self-conscious and anxious that I would make a mistake and mess things up for the team. Self-consciousness pretty much obliterates coordination.)
Another thing that was freaking me out is that this “training ride” was a test for the entire future of my marriage. Maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit, but both my husband and I have hoped that we would someday do some bicycle touring together. You see, I used to be a cyclist too. I once had my own rock hard calves. I commuted by bike, took daily rides of 5 miles just for fun, and took longer rides of 25-50 miles on weekends. Because I wanted to. So I hoped “when the kids got older” and I “got back into shape” that I’d start biking again and join my husband. Somehow, while I was waiting for the kids to get older, I got more and more out of shape. And now the gap between those dreams and reality seems huge.
Plus, the whole aging thing kicked in. I used to be able to pull off a whole lot more. Not train for something and just rely on youth and guts to see me through. My first 50-mile bike ride was like that — I hadn’t really started biking yet and had no idea what I was signing up for. I showed up for the ride on my steel frame bike (heavy) and wearing Levis. I did the ride, but man was I sore (and chafed) afterward. One of the realities of out-of-shape middle age is that I can’t “just do it” anymore. I’ve wondered if I’ve left everything too long and too late, and started to believe less in the dream of cycling with my husband. And I worry about that, because I feel like my husband has been patiently waiting and I wonder what will happen if I disappoint him.
I took all this mental baggage with me on the ride, which turned out to be a little bit like pregnancy:
- For the first third, I was very anxious and not feeling my best. (Puffing like a steam engine up the hills. There’s no hills in my living room!)
- For the second third, I felt great and was actually enjoying myself. (Look! The pussy willows are in bloom! And the heather! And doesn’t the lake look pretty?)
- For the last third, I was just tired and wanted the whole thing to be over.
Part of my crash during the last third may have the been the fact that I didn’t have any lunch. I’d had a coffee from Starbucks and wasn’t feeling hungry, so I didn’t really think about it. During that last third, I thought about it. That and the fact that I couldn’t feel my toes.
My husband said he was cold (because he wasn’t working up enough warmth biking at my pace–grrr), so we decided to make a stop at Starbucks for hot chocolate.
After the break, I felt tons better. I swear I could feel my cells sucking up the glucose and making me a whole new woman. So, we headed out again for the “fourth” third of the ride — the short, flat distance between Starbucks and home. Please don’t hate me for my bad math. It really felt like the ride happened before Starbucks and that what happened after was separate. When I told my husband my pregnancy analogy, he said the last bit was the time after you have the baby and forget about the pain of childbirth enough that you decide to do it again. Hmmmm.
So what did I learn? I learned that I could do it. It wasn’t a huge ride by most people’s standards, but for me — with my current fitness and exercise levels — it was a challenge. And I rode with my husband. I did something with him even though he’s better than me at it. (If you know us, you can imagine how I feel about that.)
Do I want to do it again? Yes. Overall, I enjoyed the ride and my husband said he did too. He was also very encouraging, reminding me that when he first started cycling about 12 years ago he’d come home and complain after a 5-8 mile ride.
Do I want to do Chilly Hilly this weekend? Not sure, but not saying no. (I did it 2 years ago without training at all and survived — but used the short cut to shorten it to 20 miles — so I could probably do it again.)
Do I have more hope that I can get back in shape and be “Fit by Fifty?” Yes. I’m going to try to hang onto that feeling and keep working toward my goal.