I was doing sit-ups in the high, dew soaked grass at the edge of the baseball field when they passed. At first there was just one, bobbing at the corner of my eye, a single cyclist working his way balefully up the hill in the half-light. A light breeze was blowing, not doing him any favors, I thought. I rolled back onto my back, threw myself forward again. Now there were more, a string of three, churning, climbing.
Down. Up. Down.
I love to climb, but hill repeats aren’t my favorite way to express that love. Up, my abdominal muscles, such as they are, beginning to scream against the absurdity of the exercise, the first rider now flying back down in the other direction.
Since injuring my hand, since being off the bike, I have been chasing fitness like it was a punk kid who stole my wallet. I have been at boot camp, in the park, in the pre-dawn. I have been at the stadium, running the steps, doubled over, heaving for air. I have been at soccer, running with kids half my age, until my right ankle reminds me that those decades make a difference. It is possible, even likely, that I am in better shape now than when I injured myself.
I would kill to climb that hill.
It is no revelation to say that absence makes the heart grown fonder. I knew I would miss the regular rides with the guys at work. I knew I would miss mountain biking. I knew I would miss the big events. I did not foresee missing the daily commute, a lassitude made all the more acute by the resumption of school and the thickening of traffic. I am not a driver. I AM NOT A DRIVER.
I did not foresee the ache I would feel in my guts, not related to the torturing of abdominal musculature, as I lay in the wet grass at the park, just barely noticing a crew of early morning lunatics doing penance on the hill. My bootcamp partner finished doing squat jumps on the grassy rise above, came back down and tagged me. Down. Up. Down.
I will be back on the bike soon.