I am breathing heavily as I plod around them on the track. Running is what I do when I can't ride. The gays joke and grunt and break into raucous applause at moves they find particularly worthy. They do this--they stand around and applaud and laugh with the kind of laughs you hear coming off rooftop dinner parties and power happy hours that freckle the skin of this new DC. Give it up for Roger, who just found his way into the rugby end one for a try, whatever you call it!
Four boys sit in the top row of the bleachers, drinking something, hoods up, commenting to each other. Maybe they are students at here at Cardozo; so bored with home life they stay at school till 8 at night? This must feel like a park of some kind. watching such awkward, foreign beasts as we are on their own playing field, invading with $80 cushion-less running shoes.
I used to break into top speed from the start, but now I progressively speed up over the first few laps until I feel my Achilles twangs, knee begins to ache, quads fray like a rope on a stone.
These are the sensations of a middle aged waning cyclist trying to run. This is how his body tells him things aren't as they once were.
|Photo: Nick K.|
I hear what is happening in my son's nursery at the moment as he cries, as he always does, at his own exertion: the effort to let consciousness slip, to relax, and to fall into the oblivion of sleep. I know my wife's weariness and infinite love. I know the scene: he across her lap on the rocker writhing his head in the crook of her elbow. A half mile away, lapping the gay rugbyists my feet flop ungainly and uneven, like a drunkard's and I am favoring the one leg whose Achilles is feeling less likely to pop.
This is not noteworthy here, what I'm doing. It is the drudgery of fitness.
- Noteworthy is what happened last week when at age forty three Jens Voigt rode his bike for 31 mph for an hour and launched a record.
- Noteworthy is what happened a month ago a local bike rider, Blair Berbert, sustained nearly the same pace for 49:27.
- Noteworthy is China inviting Tim Rugg to race in the Tour of Poyong Lang
- Noteworthy is Scott Giles winning the national championship.
- Matt McLoone is riding the Great Divide
My son is in a pointing phase, where, when I hold him, he points to things and grunts and sometimes makes near-words. In the park when a flock of crows passed he held up both arms and pointed with both fingers and said "birdy" three times before stopping and simply staring, mouth wide, as if he'd never seen a flock of crows before--which, he never had.
The feeling I have when I see him seeing something for the first time and reacting is hard to describe.
A question was posed online: what makes you feel alive? To which, the most upvoted answers were scuba diving, skiing, running in the rain, walking on brisk days, and riding a bike down a hill.
Bike racing is not mentioned, but for several years it was the thing that made me feel alive. It was not only thrilling physically, it sparked my brain. Fleeing bushbuck or chasing lion--racing a bike is maybe the closest as a human we can get to feeling like a chased gazelle or a chasing predator. Bike racing primes our ancient fish genes, the herding, schooling ones. The very ones that lead crows together in flight, that lead my son to a moment of wonder.
Such moments fill his days, though, since he has only had 10 months of life.
It is nearly nine at night and the rugby practice is done and the four young men watching from the bleachers have gone and I am alone on the track, a light mist falling. My legs are done, and I know from experience that I must stop or I will not be able to run for a month.
I stop and head home, where I walk to the my son's room and I hear him crying for me or for his mother or for the crows to come back and make life noteworthy. I cannot pick him up because I am soaked in sweat, but his mother is there and she cradles him in her lap making "shshshshs" sounds, and I stand there at the door listening as, eventually, he does overcome his fear of the quiet of oblivion, and passes into silent dreams knit from the little, wondrous life he has yet known.