“You aren’t an athlete.”
This is what I hear when I ride my bike. It’s a frustrating thing to hear because it is true. I’m an old man, well, not old old, not the cool kind of old that you get props for just being out there riding, but the classic MAMIL1 with more money than the hungry kids who are out there riding for wins and improvement, selection for teams, the idea that they could make something, have something to show for their time out on the bike.
I’m none of those. I ride because I like it, because I’m not absolutely terrible at it 2. But the voice is right. I’m not an athlete.
If I was an athlete I would have been doing this younger. I would ave been competitive for longer. I would not be giving up when I am passed in the section I need to lay some power down.
So yes, the voice is right. It often is. But the thing is that I don’t want it to be right. I would like to think that I can be more than I am. And yes, I’m not going to win races, and I’m never going to define myself by what I do between the tape. I’d like to think that just going out there and trying to ride, trying to do more than I need to do, gives me some room to manoeuvre. That a person, a voice could give me the benefit of some sort of doubt.
But I don’t deserve that benefit, or so I am told. Over and over again. By that voice that belongs to a body, to a person, to a person I’m attached to by our shared child.
It’s hard being attached to that voice. I don’t like it one bit. But that voice wants more attachment these days. I don’t think I left the owner of that voice because of this statement that was repeated whenever I seemed to be enjoying my time on two wheels too much3.
Middle Aged Man in Lycra ↩︎
Racing against and losing to 11-year-olds does make that “absolutely” carry a lot of weight. ↩︎
“You’re addicted to riding your bike,” they said when I rode more than two times for fun in a week. “You need to stop riding so much because when you ride more you eat more and food is getting more expensive” they said, years later when I was training for cyclocross. ↩︎