Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Hurrying Through The Forks Without Regrets

I have two bicycles and they both have names and a room of their own in our small, happy home and sometimes when I ride them until I'm filled to bursting I think to myself "if I were to die tomorrow, I will have done this".

I'd rather not die tomorrow. I ride carefully and I cried the three times I fell. Andrew worries about me being knocked down or run over but the truth of it is that each of those times I just fell over where I stood, unable to balance with my foot caught in a stirrup. I am an enthusiastic bicyclist, not an accomplished one. I have the scars to prove it.

I started out a year ago on Ellie, a broad-hipped Raleigh with a cat-chewed basket. I ride around in dresses with my hair down and my colour up. People (that is to say, men) shout things at me. A little girl once shouted at me to tell me that she liked my jumper. It was Andrew's, it has a picture of a tiger on it. The men who shout at me rarely comment on my attire. 

In February I got Rosa, a skinny little blue-veined thing, a road bike. Apparently they're not called racers anymore. I signed up for a race in the Wicklow mountains and started training on the S-bends in the Phoenix Park. I kept getting slow punctures. I thought I must be too fat to ride a road bike. 

That's embarrassing, isn't it? I'm not too fat for anything.

I wear Lycra. I sometimes think that dressing myself in it is by far the hardest thing about being a bicyclist. I have a basketful of Lidl jerseys and leggings, their padding pink and red like an engorged baboon's arse when they're inside-out on the washing line.

I told everybody and their mothers that I was going to do the Wicklow 100. People thought I was looking for sponsorship but I wasn't, I was looking for reassurance. I got it and I didn't; everybody thought I was a great girl altogether but they all looked fucking surprised. Men who'd done it before squawked warnings and asked about my shoes. I did it in runners and I did it in less than six hours and that's five and a half hours longer than I ever imagined I would sit in a saddle for. I did it alone and I felt alone doing it but that was okay. I did it anyway. They gave me a medal and a certificate. Andrew met me with his parents at the finish line and I was elated and then spent the car journey home snarling at him about his driving and trying not to vomit up the chocolate milk that someone on the John Murray Show had recommended Mini-Marathon runners should drink to aid their recovery. At home, I read that Iain Banks had died and I cried in the shower. We had dinner with friends that evening and they stood with their children in the hallway when I arrived and clapped and cheered and my heart soared and I felt eight years old.

My nana sent a card. 

I bought the shoes, the special shoes. I was so scared of them. But they were fine. All of it, it's always fine, even when I fall off and smash my chin on a fence and get picked up off the road by the binmen. I signed up for another race, this time in the Sheeffry mountains, and again had Andrew hold my hand at the starting line before I set out alone and scared, of other people, of falling, of failing. It was a smaller event and I was the only one riding alone. I asked three of the men if I could stick with them and they gave me a treat-size Mars bar and their generous company for fifty of the fifty two kilometres we raced. They walked up the climb, you see. I stayed on my bike.

I don't always.


Hilda said...

This is great!

seasparkles said...

Love it.Love bikes!