He had just finished putting his bike on the rack mounted on the back of his Honda Accord, and was slipping into a seemingly more comfortable pair of shoes for the drive home. Since I was the only other person in the parking lot, I quickly deduced that the question was directed at me.
“Yeah, it was good. Beautiful Day.” And then, remembering my manners, I returned the formality. “How about you?”
“Just not quite where I should be.” He shook his head, wiped his neck with a towel and threw the bicycling shoes (do they make those?) into the back seat.
And right then, I knew who I was dealing with. Or at least, with what kind of bike rider I was dealing with. Not a casual rider. Not a recreational rider. Not a once-in-a-blue-moon rider.
He was in training.
To be ‘not where he should be’ was not a reflection on location, but a reference to endurance, or speed or mileage. It was a statement that his just completed bike ride was part of a much larger plan… to prepare for an event, or a race or some sort of achievement, of which this day’s excursion was but a precursor.
My best guess was that he was about my age. He had more hair than me, but that’s not saying much. He seemed sturdy enough, but not overtly athletic.
He went on to explain something about a triathlon or 10k or competition that is coming up in July. He and his son versus his daughter and her husband. They had what sounded like an earnest, yet perhaps also friendly, rivalry. Or was it he and his son-in-law against his daughter and…? I’m not sure.
Whatever it was, he wasn’t ready or in good enough shape or far enough along in his training. And despite the fact that he also mentioned this is his favorite bike path in the area, I got the impression he just wasn’t pleased.
“You’ll get there,” I cheered him on with at least some small amount of enthusiasm. But what I wanted to say was, “I’m not in training for anything.”
No: What I really wanted to do was shout to the heavens, “I don’t want to ride in a 10k or compete in a triathlon! For crying out loud I just want to enjoy a bike ride on a beautiful day!”
I spared him the drama, and simply told him good luck.
This is the first summer I’ve ridden a bike in fifteen years. Health and time and laziness have kept me grounded. With a hand-me-down bike from my son-in-law, I took the risk of trying again and I’m glad I did.
But I don’t want to train for anything. I’m not in it to lose weight or reduce my blood pressure (they make pills for that). I’m not getting ready for an event or competition and I don’t have any expectations of achievement or success or endurance. I just want to be outside on a bike. Perhaps like when I was a kid. Or perhaps like when I was an old man – which is now.
I’m not in training for anything. I’m just glad to be out there.