When I was filling out a questionnaire after starting with my coach, I came to the question “Do you have the support of your family and friends to reach this athletic goal that you have in mind?” At first I thought “Of course! My husband does this too, and we don’t have kids. Complete freedom!” But then I thought about my parents. I thought about my fear of telling them that I would be going to mountain bike camp instead of coming home for Easter, and the sound in my mom’s voice when I tell her I am going on a 4-hour ride before I come to visit.
After a weekend trip home a few weeks ago, I realized that no, they do not support me in my athletic goals. At least not my mom. I’m not really sure if I should expect her to, but either way it doesn’t really make a trip home any easier. I tried to set expectations by to giving them a heads up before I came home that I was going to do some bike rides. I even extended my trip to make sure I still had enough time with my parents even with a 2-hour ride and lunch with a friend one day and a 4-hour ride the next. But it didn’t matter. The disapproval was thick in the air. “She just doesn’t understand,” I tell myself.
But then what is there to understand? I’m not really sure. To anyone outside of the sport, it just seems like I am selfishly obsessed with having fun. I’m not really sure how to frame it so that it sounds any different. Yes, I spend hours upon hours riding my bike. I have goals; I have a coach; I have a plan. I need to stick to the plan. I can’t just willy-nilly ride whenever I want and still expect to meet those goals. If I am not going to work towards my goals, then what am I even doing?
Honestly, if I wasn’t spending money and time on cycling, I would be spending it on something else. Perhaps I would be spending it on gardening and making pickles. I might turn into one of those Doomsday Preppers and try to live off-the-grid right in the middle of Arlington, Virginia.
This weekend I would probably be digging out an emergency shelter and cultivating our yard to grow enough food to last us year-round. I would be ordering cases of mason jars online and protesting local laws to allow me to own chickens. My parents wouldn’t see me at all from March to November because tending my giant urban garden would fill all of my spare time. And don’t even ask me about August! I will be up to my elbows in harvesting and canning well into September.
Eventually, I would start looking at farms. It would only be a matter of time before I quit my job, sold our house, and decided that being a farmer was really my true calling. I would go into debt and spend every weekend selling produce at farmer’s markets and bartering my pickles for homemade bacon and soap. I would learn how to knit more than a scarf and begin knitting my new wardrobe.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this. This new lifestyle is truly in the realm of possibility if I were to give up cycling. So mom, which do you prefer? Cycling or pickles?