A friend of mine mentioned that his daughter-in-law, Kaley, 29 seemed to be a remarkably talented road cyclist but was hesitant to own this fact. Kaley's husband, brother-in-law, and mother-in-law all feel that she has tremendous talent but were stuck trying to figure a way to convince her. If you examine the life manual specifically composed for such a scenario, it calls for the intervention of a grumpy, middle-aged woman. Enter, moi. I explained to my friend that if I could be 29 again and have even ONE person cued in to what my abilities were on the bike at that age, "well, just let me tell you mister! Things would have been, you know, different." My friend offered and I jumped at the chance to meet and cycle with this new phenom.
I'm 54. With that go all of the fun, joyous afflictions laid out on the path of aging like curious toys hidden at a scavenger hunt. Menopause is the big one, and the name can fuck off. Menopause. That's like saying, "I bought a sedan," or "Oh look, blinds on sale." I think Alternate Reality is a better phrase, because everything that you once knew, depended on, didn't fear, has changed. Everything is a science fiction movie now(What is THAT growing on my chin?). I am, however, fighting the whole aging bullshit. I recently stopped making my bed, I have piles of laundry on my floor, and I can't stop watching Brooklyn 99. Some days, I don't even floss. I know, rad, right? Dude?
My consistency through this alternate reality is that I am still as fiercely devoted to the bike, as I ever was. I ride 60k most days, and sometimes I sneer while doing it. I am ready for this.
I arrive at my friend's house and meet everyone over breakfast before the ride. There is much talk of equipment, previous experience, and, well bacon, because the bacon made for this breakfast was stellar. Alternate Reality-stellar; a clue to everything going smoothly. I notice that Kaley, her husband, and her brother-in-law all have this glow of youngness: freshly scrubbed, pink-cheeked, annoyingly perfect, meanwhile I had to resort to pulling the recoil on the back of my head to shore up my wrinkles and keep my face out of the bacon. I caught myself saying phrases like, "I used to," or, "once, years ago," though I had vowed never to become that person. Phrases like that are only a short tip into, "Nobody wears dungarees anymore."
Steady yourself Suzanne. You took The Matrix's red pill. Steady.
We head out on the bikes. Kaley's husband comes with and jokes about being the sweeper at the back. I am skeptical about his self-deprecation because he is remarkably nice too. I pair up with Kaley and we chat until we get out onto the highway. I tell her to let-er-rip and not worry. Well, she does, the let-er-rip part. She clearly wasn't worried. Even as I watched her from 100, then 200 metres back, she did not seem the slightest bit worried. Her husband and I shook our heads and quietly revelled in her lack of worry.
I, on the other hand, was working. This was not a Sunday perambulation for me, as it was for her and I must say, it was difficult. I was frustrated with this ridiculous body that, for some stupid reason, some misguided, downer evolutionary fact, refused to go as fast and as hard as it had in the past (I know, dungarees. Bite me.). I think we should have super powers at this age. What would be so wrong with being able to fly to the store to get groceries? Instead of the threat of breaking a hip, what about the coolness of being able to breathe fire? Or lift, unaided, a multipack of anything you buy at Costco? WHY CAN'T I GO AS FAST AS I USED TO? WAS I PISSING OF THE GOD OF SWIFTNESS? WAS I INTERFERING WITH THE EQUINOX? WERE THE SLOW PEOPLE COMPLAINING? SLOWLY? Sigh... apparently, I am human, like everyone else, an evolutionary sucker.
The thing is, I'm not ready for this. I am just now, figuring myself out. I'm just now getting the joke! Hardy-har-har-har, and it's hilarious. Good one! Can I speak to you over here for a second? But if there is an upside to todays thrashing, I hope that it is that I have been able to inspire and offer support to a truly gifted athlete. It's quite an honour to be witness to someone at the ground-level of realizing their gifts. I plan to do what I can, in my alternate reality, to continue my position in her cheering squad, and hope that, while I'm out on my rides that I may be, possibly, inspiring someone else. Maybe. But if this alternate reality takes hold... I am TOTALLY going back to my 29 year-old body. THAT would be SOOO SICK, RIGHT?