Biking. Hills. Trouble. And Shower Beer.

6 Jul

I’d had “bike day” planned on my calendar for Saturday but when the week arrived, I was indecisive about where I wanted to bike. I wanted ocean (but settled for pond) and wanted fast and flat (but settled for fast and hilly). When the heat hit 90 degrees, I knew it was time to cake on the sunblock.  For once, I made a wise decision.  I also put on my sleeveless bike jersey for the first time ever (it matches my bike and it is designed for triathlons but it may be see-through when wet, verdict still out on that one).

“Don’t worry, I planned a route to the Blue Hills that avoids most hills so we will be fresh when we arrive” Engineer Biker said. (He always says this. He is always wrong.)

35 miles roundtrip.  Midday 90 degree heat.  Very little shade.  Fresh wasn’t really in my vocabulary.

The bike ride out was fun – Turtle Pond, hills (when I saw hills, I mean Massachusetts hills, not Colorado hills.  I’m definitely whining about something other people would view as flat) and I only felt a little sad that I wasn’t wearing a fun bike jersey.  When I wear Curious George, people roll down their car windows and declare their love for the little monkey.  No one seemed impressed that my bike jersey matched my bike.

I made personal little challenges for each hill that we climbed.  Hill #1 – no standing up.  Hill #2  – stay right on his back wheel. Hill #3 – don’t lose more than 1mph during the climb. Hill #4 – smile.

Then we reached THE HILL.  The highest hill of the Blue Hills.  All 635 feet of it.  I realize that’s not very high.  Especially if one were hiking. But it was super steep and not wide enough for the kind of switchbacks I wanted. Engineer Biker went on ahead (his personal challenge: “bike the entire hill without stopping”) while I contemplated my personal challenge options and settled on: “pee behind a boulder without disrupting any hikers” and “bike to the top with some air still left in my lungs.”

I laughed a lot at the thought of biking 10 mph up this trail. Or being capable of “sharing the road” during the tight turns and switchbacks. And yes, the laughter was all in my head as I had no lung capacity available for silly indulgent things like laughing.

I almost didn’t make it up but an orange spandex clad biker passed me and then turned around to offer encouragement.  So I decided to stay on his tail. Hilariously enough, we were about 90% of the way up (I got discouraged at the “Bus Turnaround” sign) so staying on his tail was actually doable.

And there was Engineer Biker at the top. I think he’d had a snack, a nap, and built a rocket during my trek up.

At the top, I traipsed around in the tall grass looking at the view (and checking for ticks while carrying my bike).
I took pictures of a Japanese family. I sat at a picnic table and relaxed. And then I faced the horror of physics.

What goes up, must go down. 

Engineer Biker (wearing my Engineering jersey which is now his seeing as it was too large on me) enjoyed the view.  Plus, he was thrilled at setting a new mph record on the downhill.  I was terrified.  We passed three bikers sweating their way up while we hurtled downhill (not a single other female) and all my disjointed brain could think was “Huge Metal Gate at the bottom.  Will hurt if I hit it.  Must brake hard. But not too hard or I will flip over my bike. Hope my brakes still work.  Whee – braked a little hard, almost flipped.  This is not fun. This is too much fun.  This is fun and scary.  I am going too fast.”  Those thoughts looped around until I reached the bottom, still in one piece, maybe with a few red marks on my hands from gripping the brakes so hard.

And then we proceeded to the pond where we: got in trouble with the lifeguard for wading outside of the roped in section, listened to me ramble about padded sports bras, managed to secure both bikes with one lock, got in trouble for trying to use the wrong bathrooms, and tried to find water for my bike bottles.

It was not my finest hour.

But something strange happened on the 15 mile trip home. Maybe it was the energy bar (caffeine and sugar free) I had before we set out. Maybe my sunblock had worn off and I had sunstroke. Maybe it was the water bottle that Engineer Biker lent to me which I swear was cocaine mixed with water. Or maybe it was the exhilaration of having biked a steep hill, semi-badass style.

But I had fun.  Like – over the top, this is the best part of my summer, I never want to stop biking fun. I always enjoy biking. But I suddenly found each hill challenging and rewarding and thrilling (minus the part when I got lost and was alone in a bad part of town trying to find the Engineer).  At some points, I knew there were hills that I didn’t like up ahead and I forged on, determined to conquer them, rather than slowing down to conserve energy.

The last 5 miles were the best. We played cat and dog – chasing each other, catching each other, passing each other.  The bursts of energy it took to sprint past him were exhausting and fun.  Knowing he had to bike 31 mph to catch me made it worthwhile. It was like being a kid again.  No worries about work and homework and errands and responsibilities.  Just me and a bike and a friend and…beer…

At about mile 30, I announced “I just don’t know what to do. I want a cold beer when I get home but it won’t taste as good when I’m gross and sweaty. But waiting to drink it until after a cold shower feels so long.”  Clearly, this was a major dilemma.  At least on par with the economic crisis in Greece.  I put a lot of thought into it.

Until the answer became clear: shower beer.  I am unashamedly admitting that I went all redneck and perched my beer on the bathroom sink so it was there whenever I needed some.  Redneck Bucket List Item: Shower Beer can now be checked off.  And may be checked off again in the future.

It doesn’t get better than this – being outside, in the summer, exploring.  The next morning I had an awesome long run that involved this gorgeous bridge.  Shower beer and getting in trouble with a lifeguard (about half my age) made me laugh.  Tackling a huge hill felt like a major victory.  But just getting outside and exploring my city makes me calm and grateful and relaxed every time I do it. You can’t buy that feeling at a running store or in a gym. Just get outside. Whether you take a walk or lay on a blanket in the park reading a book or bike to the corner store or work in your garden – just do it.



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