Monday, May 2, 2011

How to Fly When You're Over Forty

Showing up is eighty percent of anything, or so my yoga instructor paraphrased Woody Allen last week as she was getting into side crow pose.  This, for any of you not rolling out your sticky mat a few times a week, involves using your arms to support yourself while you throw a leg to the side, ever so nonchalantly. Hold it for twelve minutes or so. I am neither a nubile 25 year-old yoga instructor nor a cosseted matron whose ostensible age has been halted at exactly thirty-six by zealous maintenance including a lot of time on the mat. I kept falling down and trying not to swear. 

When I was young, it hurt to run, but in that good way that leaves one's lungs and legs burning for a couple of minutes. Now it hurts, not so good, in my knees and various tendon pulls that plague me as soon as I do more than powerwalk.  I know walking is good for me, but I might as well just start going to the mall at six in the morning. 

After fighting it hard, I decided to buy a bike. This is advice that's come to me for quite awhile, all from men.  Rich old white guys, to use my kids' expression. I see them all the time on the trail, while I am hauling my aching ass along at an twelve-minute pace and looking for a cool, flat surface to lie down on.  They ride aluminum steeds weighing less than a premature Labrador puppy and costing a couple of mortgage payments.  They bark insults at one another, jostling for the alpha position. I will never be that rich or that thin. 

Yet so many people tell me they have a great time riding, and say it's a social sport.  Most of my pursuits are solitary, and even work is more email and phone than face-to-face.  The kids are getting older and can certainly live without me for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. 

I went to a bike shop, Bicycles, Inc., recommended by one of my ROWG friends after I told him I was wildly intimidated by the whole scene. "A bike's a bike," he said. Yeah right, and yours is worth five grand. When I got to the store, a youngish cute guy with a beard was helping another ROWG but took a second to go and find me some help in the form of a woman about my age.  She turned out to be the manager and helped me through from soup to nuts without ever making me feel bad. 

I thought I wanted an Ariel, based on the looks of it, but when I rode it in the parking lot it felt disappointingly slow.  Then my new friend brought out a little hybrid bike that weighs about 23 pounds.  Gingerly, I got on it--yes, you never forget how to ride a bike, but you never forget how much it hurts to fall off, either--and it was sweet.  Lighter, more fun.  And then came the real the temptation in the form of a sleek and brilliant white roadbike. Once in that saddle, I wanted to ride away and leave my car in the parking lot, especially after I'd flipped over the price tag.  It was so light and so fast, and on it my butt looked better before I'd even put a mile in.  But I wasn't worthy of it. Not yet.

I bought the hybrid in the end, a Trek 7.2 FX, and took it out for a ten-mile spin right after I got it home.  The shorts with the awkward padding were not cute, nor was the helmet. The gears were a little complicated, but after a bit I started to get how they worked, though this will take some time. It was almost ninety degrees, but there is a nice breeze on a bike, so different from running. Suddenly I felt ten years old again, remembering how to corner, how to slow down, how to race down a hill, the whistle of the wind in my ears. My heart pounded, my lungs and legs burned, but no groans came from my knees or tendons. The next morning only hurt a little, thanks in large part to the shorts. And I'd learned to fly again.   


  1. Did you get it in red?

  2. I did's black and I think I'm totally badassed on it. Until a pack of skinny cardiologists smokes past me.