or, Fairweather Cyclist Meets Professional Racer
Okay, I knew I needed to go out for a ride some time after lunch last Sunday. But I didn’t quite want to start out with
Mr. Hammerhead Brent, just because I knew I would have trouble keeping up. See, the day before, we had gone to College Station for the A&M-Texas Tech game. Our seats were waaaay up in the top deck. By the time I had walked however many miles up the ramp and then climbed the bleachers to our row, I was almost too pooped to Whoop. Of course, I got revived as the Aggies WON THE GAME. The point is, my legs were a little stiff on Sunday, and I thought it best to pace myself.
So when Brent took off before 1:00, I stayed home to keep an eye on the Cowboys game (it didn’t help) and then rolled out on my bike at halftime. I chose a 14½-mile route and soon turned south into the noticeable-but-not-ferocious wind.
On the way back I was dawdling along, taking advantage of the tailwind, when I heard voices behind me. Two cyclists were gaining on me; they caught up as I carefully negotiated a blind corner (my caution in turns being almost legendary).
“Hey, Jan!” I heard. It was Brent, riding with a much younger man. As we accelerated out of the turn, Brent introduced his companion as a friend of his cycling buddy Curt. From that (and his gear), I knew that this guy was a racer. Great. We had just turned out of my nice tailwind, into a quartering headwind AND were going up a slight grade. “Oh, cool!” I puffed to the racer. Pant, pant, puff. “Curt’s a good guy,” I added, just managing to get all four words out in one breath. After that, I kept my mouth shut and concentrated on not getting dropped like a red-hot poker.
When we turned north (away from the wind) and I dared speak again, I told the guys, “Don’t feel like you have to stay back with me; just go at your own pace.” Rather to my surprise, they did not hammer away from me, but held steady. The least I could do in return was try not to slow them down (any more than I already was). Our speed was about two or three miles per hour above my normal pace. Now, two to three mph may not sound like much. But if you’re a somewhat-out-of-shape, middle-aged mom cyclist with stiff legs and 10 extra pounds, the difference is, well… significant. Had it not been for the tailwind, I probably could not have kept the pace for more than 50 yards. As it was, we stayed together for almost three miles. Finally, hope sparked as we approached the road toward our neighborhood. Brent announced this was where we would turn off, and all I had to do was say, “Nice to meet you” — all four syllables in one breath again; life’s little victories — and cruise around the corner.
The very first thing I said to Brent was, “Do what you want; I’m slowing down.” Brent encouraged me about how well I had ridden, and told me that the younger rider was a Category 1 racer. “Cat 1” is the elite level of athlete; the über hammerhead. In short, they go really, really fast. At least it was the off-season, so he had no need to go all-out, but still. I was embarrassed that a professional racer had been stuck riding with such a slowpoke.
As we talked about it later, I realized there was no need for me to be intimidated. Despite my tendency to hold pro racers in awe, they are just people like anyone else. In the first place, Brent told me that Curt had mentored this young racer and helped him get started. So he wasn’t always a pro. Besides, his Cat 1 status is not the sole aspect of his persona. It’s easy to think of people as one-dimensional, as if a racer never does anything besides ride really, really fast. But no one is truly one-dimensional. Everyone is good at some things and not at others, and everyone can learn something from everyone else.
This nice young man had no need to compete with me. He set aside his “racer” ability and rode slowly enough to enjoy Brent’s and my company, and to accommodate me. That’s what real people do. After all, I used to walk slowly enough to accommodate my sons when they were little. (Now over six feet tall, they have to slow down–just a little–for me, but that’s another story.)
Thanks for reading!
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