The Tour of Alberta, a professional bicycle race, ended in downtown Calgary two weekends ago. My husband and I were at the finish line when the cyclists sped to the finish – and blew us away. Literally. The athletes were pedalling so strong and fast the peloton created a stiff breeze. What amazing and powerful riders, there’s no way I could even imagine keeping their pace. It reminded me of a time I got stuck among triathletes competing in Sackville, N.B.
While living in Sackville I did a lot of sports but combining three and doing them in a row was not on my radar at that time. I was happy to swim and bike and run at different times on different days. That was good enough for me.
After being in the small university town for three years, I was moving on to other prospects. I was packing up my belongings at the end of August, ready to move out of a five bedroom townhouse that I shared with four Mount Allison University students. I had already taken apart my bicycle so it could be easily loaded into the moving van (my parents’ SUV).
A friend called me and reminded me I had left some bowls at her place after a potluck. She lived about five kilometres away in Middle Sackville, an idyllic spot. The way to her home was a meandering road that passed by green fields and towering elm trees and offered a lovely view of the Tantramar marsh. A nice drive, but I didn’t have a car. Nor did I have a working bike.
One of my roommates had a bicycle. She was petite, about 5’2”, about to go into her fourth year. She had brought her bike to school for first year but hardly ridden it. I asked her if I could borrow it for about an hour and she said sure. Then told me it was actually a child’s bike that was given to her as a present one birthday or Christmas. Oh, no wonder it looked small.
But the tires were pumped full of air and the brakes worked. I hopped on the bike and started for Middle Sackville. Riding the tiny thing was a bit uncomfortable – my knees were almost hitting my ears when I pedalled. To hang on to the handle bars I had to hunch over, way over. I looked ridiculous and felt like an idiot. I couldn’t go fast either because my feet barely fit the kiddy pedals.
“Oh well,” I told myself. “No one will see me if I go the back route.”
The back route was a trail, an old railway track that went almost all the way to my friend’s place. So that’s the path I took. A ways into my trip a cyclist whizzed by me. Then another, and then some more and then there were people on the side of the path cheering. For me?
No, I had somehow managed to insert myself into the middle of a triathlon. Here I was on a child’s bike all scrunched up and looking like a fool while all these athletes, kitted out with the latest and greatest and best bikes, flew past me. I was embarrassed and wanted to shout at the cyclists and cheering crowd that this wasn’t my bike. I usually ride faster than this. Please don’t think I’m actually a competitor.
I said nothing and continued my slow and contorted journey for another 10 minutes before the racers turned off onto another trail. At my friend’s house I collected my bowls and made sure I took the road back into town. If the triathletes were running I hoped I would be at least be a little faster than them.