We were pedaling along the street, he and I, finishing an awesome day of bicycling awesomeness. “How’s your week looking?” I asked.
“Righteously snowalicious,” he answered.
“Dude,” he assured me. “I been skiing forty years. No worries.”
I wrinkled my brow. “Those bony legs of yours go up-and-down several hours a day, 300-plus days a year, and suddenly you’re gonna lock those old-man knees into ski bindings and race down double blacks like you were twenty-five and had nothing but naked coeds, a jacuzzi, and twelve bottles of vodka waiting for you at the end of the run?”
He laughed. “Wankster, you’re sounding like a very old woman. I’m going with my friggin’ family. Did you forget that my daughter is seven? That we’ll be doing bunny runs with her and and her friend that I could do blindfolded on one leg carrying a logging truck on my back? Dude!”
I mused. G3 was in the form of his life. He’d logged 48,203.23 miles over the winter, including noodling, intervals, big ring training, sprinting, and pelvic thrusting. He was loaded for bear this season, but everyone knows that fierce lateral knee movements are hell on old joints, and heller on the joints of old bike racers. Why would he jeopardize this incredible fitness for a mere family outing? Couldn’t he just swill beer by the hot tub and howl “Good job, honeys!” as his kid and wife came in from the slopes, covered in snow and frostbite?
And then something went “bump,” How that “bump” made us jump
The next time I talked to G3, he was in whatever state of depression is lower than the doldrums. “Where you been, man?” I haven’t seen you at the races yet this year.
“I been sick,” he said.
“With what? The plague? It’s been months since I saw you last.”
“Worse than the plague,” he said.
Apparently he had been lazily cruising down the triple-bunny run with his daughter and her friend. His mind was focused on the upcoming season opener at Boulevard, where he’d get to test his awesome form against the monsters of the Leaky Prostate Category. Somewhere between his imagined incredible attack on La Posta and his fantasy victory acceleration up Old Drugsmuggler Highway, he noticed that his daughter’s friend had dropped one of her ski poles.
“No prob, sweetie,” he said. “I got it.” Trailing behind the two girls, he squatted and reached down to pick up the pole, and he squatted low, real low, the kind of low that you better not try unless you’re a sixteen-year-old girl cheerleader with a minor in yoga. As he squatted, forty-five years of bone and gristle protested, and they protested with vigor.
G3’s day, week, month, and season were done. He folded like a mod pair of sunglasses, crumpled like a pinata, went down like a working girl. “Ohhhhh,” he moaned, not just at the savaging pain, but at the season and the fitness that went “poof” up into the clear winter air.
I did everything I could to perk him up, reminding him of how strong he’d be the latter part of the season, envying all the quality family time he must be having, and complimenting him on having learned the treachery and dangers of Old Fellow skiing without having actually pulled a Sonny Bono. Nothing worked.
You can’t have it all, American Express
A lot of people think that cycling is good for your health. I don’t. What’s good for your health is sitting on the couch, swilling beer, and taking brief walks outside when the weather is pleasant.
Getting run over by raging cagers, spilling downhill face-first on Las Flores at 45 mph, riding your IT bands/tendons/ligaments into permanent dysfunction, and enlarging your heart from ceaseless exercise don’t seem like much of a prescription for longevity. Worse, the more you ride the more invincible you think you are. “Hey, I can ride a hundred miles … bet I can totally manhandle those youngsters in a game of pick-up basketball.”
On the other hand, every time I stand around with a group of 40 or 50-something cyclists, I’m amazed at how completely different they look from the people I graduated from high school with, people who for the most part look at least a decade, if not two, older than they really are. The bikers are lither, they move more easily, and as long as you don’t look too carefully at the weatherbeaten lines in their faces, you’d be hard pressed to peg them at their real age.
Cycling makes you reach for more, sometimes for more than you probably should. It’s not a greedy reach, it’s the reach of “try.” And as long as you’re going to try, well, that means there’s also a chance that you’ll fail. Somehow the arms don’t reach out quite as far when you’re lying on the couch.
G3 may be down, but he’s not out. With 250 Big Orange acolytes restlessly awaiting his return … he’ll be back. Whether he’ll be back on the slopes again is another question entirely. Me? Have I ever shown you my jump shot?
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