I drove past one after another, middle-aged bike riders in ill-fitting racing gear, each with a race number with the giant letters MS RACE pinned to their back. A few times, when I sped up the car to pass them, a few riders wobbled. One woman leaned to the left too far, over-corrected, and then found herself pulled too far in the opposite direction. She nearly took down another rider, and I nearly took down both with my minivan.
After passing at least thirty riders all in various stages of burnout, it became obvious that they raced for love, not because they possessed any special skill set or athletic prowess. I passed another woman standing on the side of the road, her bike upside down and tireless. She held a new tire tube in her hands, and I drove by slowly enough to see the look of complete and utter confusion on her face, as she turned the tube around and around in the air. A fellow biker stopped to help, and he looked equally confused.
Sometimes on my weekend runs, I see other riders. The kind of riders who fly by in a rainbow blur, calling out directions to one another, cycling in a rhythmic sync. I run by, loosey-goosey, fiddling with my water bottle or the ridiculous underpants that always take the opportunity to bunch up in the worst possible way. Their voices ring quiet in the early morning air, “left ahead…pothole…next right”. They move in unison, and it is beautiful to watch people do what they do well.
But the MS RACE riders made me grin in a way the rainbow riders never do. They weren’t beautiful. They were a grunting, sweating, wobbly mess. They stood wrecked on the side of the road, and they rode totally out of rhythm with one another. They were a little sad, with their mis-matched race gear giving the effect of sausage casing over well-loved beer bellies. I mentally blessed each rider and I grinned in my car because it was so real, so like real life, so how I manage my own daily existence.
What a messy bunch we are, bobbing and weaving all over the place, out of sync in some places, derailed in others, but still sweatily triumphant. Still riding.