Life in the slow lane
So the other day my friend Bill was giving me a really hard time.
“You’re always complaining that you’re so old and so slow,” he said. “But the only limitations you have are in your mind. You are capable to do whatever you want.”
Even though we have a brother-sister relationship (wherein he likes to keep me on my toes regarding just about everything), I so love the guy for believing in me. Now if only he could live in my shoes for a day.
I have always been a slow-moving creature. Back in high school my nickname was Pokey, and I often could be seen shuffling through the halls with my mouth half-open long after the bell rung. I figured, what the hell, I’m already late. I might as well take my time.
In my high school yearbook, on the senior will and testament page, where they have photos of who will be the most likely to succeed and where we’ll all be in 10 years and all that, it said, “Alison Berkley is still late.”
I knew early on I wasn’t cut out for racing of any kind. In high school I was on the ski team and would scream and giggle as I made my way down the icy slopes of Massachusetts. I wasn’t so much interested in winning as not killing myself. I figured my job was to keep everyone entertained on the bus and to sneak the flask of whiskey in my coat pocket so whoever wanted to partake in a little early-afternoon binge drinking could join me in the woods for a nip. If there’s one thing I accomplished in my ski-racing career, it was skiing the slalom course drunk without dying and then throwing up in the base lodge without getting caught. One thing’s for sure: I was not pulling off the look in that GS suit.
In college, my boyfriend was a hard-core mountain biker. He loved mountain biking so much that he built me a custom bike from the ground up and made me memorize the name of each and every bike part. That bike was so small, so light and so responsive it could have passed for a BMX bike; it was squirrely as hell. He bought me these bike shoes that were so small I hardly could get my feet into them, but he insisted that was how they were supposed to fit. He put beer bottles in them and soaked them in hot water to stretch them, but they still killed my feet. This is why I no longer let boys dictate my equipment choices.
For our first outing on my new bike, he took me to Moab, and we did Slickrock. My pedals were too tight, so when I tried to get my feet out at the top of one particularly harrowing climb, I went down with my feet still attached to that bike and tumbled down the cement-hard slope like a rag doll.
As if that weren’t bad enough, he made me race the Colorado Off-Road Points Series with him all summer. I did the beginner class, and still I came in second to last in every race, but only because there was this 80-year-old woman who was slower than I was. I hated racing. These chicks would come up behind me all agro, and I would just stop and pull my bike off the trail and be like, “OK, go! Just go! You’re so annoying!”
Every time I felt like I had it figured out, I’d crash. I had so many cuts and bruises, you would have thought I was a boxer. Also, I hated not being able to breathe. I know racing involves breathing hard, but to me it felt more like being held underwater by some mean bully. I never could get comfortable with it.
Since I’ve lived in Aspen, I’ve only participated in two races. One was a measly little 5K. I was running regularly back then, six miles about four days a week. I figured I had it in the bag.
Within the first 500 yards I was dying. I don’t know why. Was it mental? And then some kid — I’m not even kidding you when I say this kid was like 9 or 10 years old — kept sprinting as fast as he could and then stopping to catch his breath. Meanwhile I’m basically jogging, trying not to have a heart attack, and he keeps catching up to me over and over and over. It was torture.
I also did the Ride for the Cure, a 100-mile road-bike ride that’s not even supposed to be a race, and still Ryan and I were the last ones to come in. Everyone at all the aid stations and the finish line seemed super annoyed with us, like we were putting them out by riding our bikes all the livelong day and raising 500 bucks for their cause. We were like, “We thought it was a ride, not a race,” over and over, but the volunteers just rolled their eyes at us as they dismantled their stations.
I made the mistake of telling Bill I was thinking how cool it would be to do the Power of Two on my new Dynafit AT bindings. It’s only because it was on my birthday and I don’t want to turn 44 so I figured I’d just try to kill myself instead. He got all fired up and excited and would love nothing morefor me than to see me accomplish that. And I love him for that — I do.
I’m just not sure the people who are running that race are going to allow me to use a headlamp in order to finish the course before midnight. But if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that slow and steady wins the race.
The Princess admits she does ski sometimes. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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