So for the longest time my brilliant man has threatened to guest-post for me. Grateful to welcome to this space today the love of my life.
. . .
Mountain biking has been a significant part of my life for the last ten years. I don’t ever remember making a conscious decision to take up mountain biking. I think I was suckered into taking part in my first race by my brother-in-law who was looking for someone to laugh at while he cycled.
I was incredibly unprepared for this first event so like all the sport legends of yesteryear I concentrated on my strengths. My strengths mostly involved devouring vast amounts of donuts at the water table and lying on my back under trees lulling my opponents into a false sense of security so I could attack stealthily from behind and crush them.
At the end of the 40km race my lungs were burning like I’d been inhaling Draino and I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. As you’d immediately recognise, this was not because I was unfit. No. It was because I had spent my hard-earned South African cash on an item of relentless sex-appeal: a pair of bib-shorts. They had somehow gotten a little smaller in the previous few months of donut-eating training and as I’d put them on that morning I had managed to limit circulation to only those parts of my body above the middle. I was cunning, however. I’d managed to reposition my testicles so that I now had three Adam’s apples. I finished the race and manfully leaned on my bike while I expertly dribbled a sport’s drink down my shirt. Confused by the flower-wilting odour and blinded by the bib-shorts, my wife even managed to kiss me congratulations.
Over the years the donut-eating got a little less and I’ve managed to finish a number of fantastic stage races and ridden through some of the most incredible places. There is a feeling of freedom that comes with being out in the sun and listening to the sound of your tyres gliding over the dirt. We discuss only important stuff while we ride, including:
- The guy who stuffed his pet cat when it went to the great litterbox in the sky and turned it into a radio-controlled quad-copter.
- How impressive it is that flies can land upside down on a ceiling and what probably happened the first time a fly lost a bet at the pub and his mates dared him to try it.
There are two kids belting around this house now and it has made training for these events more difficult. In the last few years I have resorted to doing more and more spinning in the small hours of the night so as not to miss out on time with them. Stationary training is about as much fun as having your nose hairs pulled out with pliers by a man wearing boxing gloves. So you gotta make it more entertaining by watching Top Gear and sermons, and thinking about how to manage the tension between work, family and life. I don’t have any fool-proof formula on this one which I guess means I haven’t spent enough time on the trainer. I love cycling and I love spending time with the guys I tackle the hills with, but the shout of your son asking you to come check out his cool fort as you head out the door makes for a pensive start to a training ride.
The problem is there is nothing ‘wrong’ with cycling. Jesus didn’t warn the disciples about the perils of the bike (although I’m sure there is a footnote somewhere about bib-shorts). The problem with spending time with your family is that there are no immediate consequences if you don’t spend time with them. But by the time the consequences materialise there is massive work to be done in trying to make up for lost time. I don’t want to get to being an old geezer who can say, ‘I rode some awesome bike races,’ but who spends Christmas lonely because his kids couldn’t be bothered to come around. You can’t cram for relationships the way you can pull an all-nighter for an exam.
So I’m hanging up my bib-shorts for a bit. My last race is at the end of August and I’m looking forward to a new season of doing (slower, tamer) events with my family. The message the world sends us about being manly isn’t actually very manly. I’ve had people ask me how I can survive a nine-day stage race. The reality is that it’s relatively easy. You only have one thing to do each day: ride your bike. Relationships with your kids take a lot more energy because there is continuous emotional input required for all the playing, correcting, encouraging and loving. You’ve got to be fit to be a dad. It’s all in. I’m determined to train hard.
. . .
Isn’t he cool?
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