When I was in graduate school I rode for the UMASS cycling team. From 1989 to 1993 I was one of those riders who could be counted on to show up for the club meetings, many of the team rides that started from the campus’ Newman Center, and most all the races. I wasn’t fast, which was no great surprise, but my lack of knowledge about what it took to be fit combined with my lack of actual aerobic fitness shown in a comic chiaroscuro by riding with multiple national champions like Adam Myerson, Peter Vollers and Greg Swinand (a master’s national champ in Ireland these days). Guys who would have been the big stick swingers on other teams were relegated to draft horse work while I and my fellow C or D squad mates were busy trying to figure out how to pull through in a team time trial without causing mass devastation; a Cat IV taking a pull has storm surge like a hurricane.
What I lacked on the road, initially, I made up for in organization and resources, which, in retrospect, given my organization and theirs, was no great accomplishment. I was one of a handful of guys on the team who had a reliable car, could be counted on to go to all the races, and on more than one occasion was the only person to show up to a weekend of racing with a floor pump. Spare wheels? Check with Patrick. Tools? Check with Patrick. First aid kit? Ibid.
A few years passed before I joined another cycling team, partly because it took some time for me to think I could replicate the good without picking up all the bad. All my teammates in the new club were young professionals, with resources, calendars, phones and the wherewithal to arrive at a race with their bike in working order. I’d never have to ask what happened to my tools, my drink mix or the bib shorts I ordered. But I not have the experience of killing myself in a team time trial, of someone farting in the car while we were changing or of sharing a post-race pizza after winning the mid-race prime.
Leaving a team and finding a new one is a workable metaphor for talking about divorce. It’s less painful, the stakes much lower, the blast radius of emotion much less powerful. There is, however, no disguising the fact that my life is significantly different from what it was this time last year. My ex-wife and I have moved on to new orbits, new associations, a bit like finding a new team.
I’ve given myself time to think about that on the bike these last few weeks as well as the parallel set of changes we’ve imposed on our boys. After movers did their thing, all I could feel was relief. It blotted every other emotion like the moon blocking the sun in an eclipse, saving me from anger or regret, but also depriving me of tenderness for what had ended.
In the years that followed graduate school, I often saw my former teammates’ names in results and I felt something akin to pride, a happiness for them entirely independent of my association with them. Some have accomplished far more in the bike industry than they did with numbers pinned, from starting BikeReg.com to organizing the Vermont Overland.
Seeing my teammates’ lives evolve and prosper holds a kind of promise for me. They went on to other happy developments, as did I. And that happiness, I’ve realized, is a decision, one I hope we all find easier to make today.