The boy and I, in the car to the store. We pass by a wooded bike trail.
“Hey,” I say, “we should come here for a bike ride! Would that be fun or what?!”
“What what?” he asks.
“What are you talking about?”
“What? You said ‘what.’ What is the what?”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand!” I’m getting a bit frustrated. “What what are you talking about?”
Exasperated, he spits out, “You said, “fun or what.” What is that what?”
“Ohhhhhh,” I say, finally understanding. Smiling, I reply, “It’s an expression, kid. It just means that it would be really fun.”
“Oh, but why do you say ‘or what?’ ”
“I don’t know. You just do.” I’m also a bit tired of relentless questions all morning long.
“Okay. Well, can you say it again?” he asks.
“Sure. Let’s go biking! Would that be fun or what?”
“What,” he deadpans.
A few months ago, a friend from work was trying to get a bunch of women to race Tri for the Cure with her. I initially blew it off thinking that it seemed like a lot of work and time, but eventually caved in. I figured it would be a good way to get in shape and to hang out with people from work whom I liked. This being Colorado, no one seems to just grab drinks after a hard day of work to relax and hang out. Nonononono. You must engage in some physically taxing activity to spend extracurricular time together. This includes skiing, snowboarding, river rafting, biking, running, and training for a triathlon.
The other thing about Colorado is that performing for races is part of agreement that you sign when you move here. I didn’t believe this at first. I then perused the fine print on my driver’s license application and saw that there’s a clause requiring that you sign up for a race. Tri for the Cure is a sprint distance triathlon, which means a 750m swim, 12 mile bike ride, and 5K run, in that order. To me, any one of those taken separately qualifies as a pretty vigorous workout. To do them all together, it seemed like insanity.
Here, though, the general response to “I’m doing Tri for the Cure” was this: “Oh, that’s just a sprint distance. Those are easy.”
The conversation would then continue and everyone around would chime in to talk about what longer/faster/more grueling race they were going to do. They would talk about their training for the Boston Marathon (a race you have to qualify for by running a marathon in 3 HOURS and 40 MINUTES if you’re 18-34), upcoming Century rides (100 mile bike rides), and swimming the ENGLISH CHANNEL. I’m not kidding. Next to that, the triathlon seemed a bit piddly. I’d lower my head and start to mutter about patients to see and slowly back away. One of my friends (and you know who you are) even said nonchalantly, “Oh, yeah, Tri for the Cure. I did that a few years ago as a first triathlon. I won in my age category.” You WHAT?!
I mean, my idea of a workout is some frantic knitting, which burns 99 calories an hour.
Still, I managed to train and felt pretty good. I was going to ride my old, 3 speed 1970s bike for the race. A friend of mine who’s a big bike racer was horrified by this. I think he was as horrified by my wanting to ride Ol’ Betsy as I am when I see people wearing nylons with open toed shoes. He actually managed to wrangle a bike from a friend’s wife. A few days before the race, I went over to his house to learn how it worked. There were so many gears. And so many switches. And so many places to put your hands. And little cages for your feet. He showed me how it all worked, and I went back home and flopped into a chair and actually burst into tears, overwhelmed by how real and serious it all seemed.
The next day, I took the bike for a ride and after I got over my initial fear of mortal injury, it was great.
Race day came and I woke up strangely calm and feeling prepared. The race itself was, well, pretty fun actually. Initially Eric and the boy were going to come down later, but they managed to get to the bike start just as I was about to go through and it gave me such a boost to hear them cheering for me as I got onto the saddle. For this particular race, you can wear your ipod for the run portion. I’d preloaded it with a playlist of fast, upbeat tunes that I loved. I set the ipod to random and took off on the run. Everytime it would shuffle to the next song, I’d wonder HOW my ipod knew that I loved that song, sort of forgetting that the playlist was basically all my favorites, so it couldn’t really go wrong.
I was rather proud of myself when it was all over. There’s something in knowing that you can push your body to work that hard and it responds. I’ll do the race again next year, and maybe do a little more fundraising.
I also learned that you CAN drink beers with friends here in Colorado, you just have to do so AFTER you finish a physically taxing race.
The boy is fully riding a two-wheeler!
He had been riding a push bike for well over a year and had it down. The idea is that the difficult aspects of learning to ride a bike are balance and steering, so a kid can figure those out first without bothering with pedals. Then, when it’s time to ride a two-wheeler, you don’t even need training wheels. At the suggestion of my friends Geoff and Karen who had their 4 year old twins riding without training wheels, we got him a 12″ bike for Christmas, and look!
(Excuse the music. I couldn’t help myself)
A bit of a shaky start, and then he just goes!
It was pretty incredible to watch the first time it happened. More than that, it just felt so BIG. I think that so far, the other achievements that we regard as milestones are all part of being a baby or a toddler. But riding a bike is a big kid thing, and it signifies another level of freedom and ability.
I also realized that this is now the first time that he can go faster than we can. Since, as I’ve mentioned before, history repeats itself, this worries me. When I was six, my parents took me riding at the local park. I rode ahead of them and climbed onto two parallel bars (part of the VitaCourse). Dangling from one, I swayed to and fro, and then spied two elderly women round the corner. I thought to myself, “I’ll show them what I can do!” and got on top of one of the bars. I used to spin around the bar, like on the school playground, and was just short enough that I missed the other bar. Unfortunately, I had grown. As I propelled my body forward, my forehead landed with a sickening thud on the second bar and I dropped to the ground unconscious, with a gash in my forehead and blood everywhere, which was the scene that my poor panicked parents saw as they rounded the corner. Obviously, I survived, albeit with a rather large scar, but I’d rather not have to relieve that particular incident.
As he rode around the asphalt, it also made me realize that this is the first major leap into childhood, and by extension, into independence and pulling away from his parents. It’s a bittersweet feeling when your child achieves something new. On one hand, you’re just so proud of him, but on the other you realize that it means he needs you just a little bit less. I know it’s not the last time this will happen, but it feels like it’s the first significant one. Or, as our friend John, father to teenagers, said, “This? This is nothing. It only gets worse.”