Ego in line LaughingMatters: Quick, buy me some spandex (or watch my kids!)
I don't have jewel-toned spandex race gear as the pros do, but I feel good about staying a little in shape and taking risks, as an example to my two young daughters.
by Monica Gallagher
Athletic endeavors in the company of others have been humbling for me as far back as I can remember. I don't remember any inferior crawling skills as an infant, but I probably had them. Halfway through the high school golf season, my coach claimed he'd taught me all he knew, and I hadn't improved. I still wish I'd had the presence of mind to comment on the obvious implications about just how much he knew. Naturally, my talent for sarcasm has developed in inverse proportion to my athleticism.
At 34, my life has been marked by consistently perfect health, both pregnancies included (I pause here for gratitude) but a distinct lack of physical endurance and speed. And yet, I've rollerbladed for 18 years and competed in several in-line skating half-marathons. I feel nauseated the morning before each race, and envision the race officials having to sweep me off the course because I'm so slow. Then the race starts, and my endorphins flow. Between the lovely rural Wisconsin scenery and the joy of whizzing downhill after climbing slowly up, I rediscover the joy of these events. I don't have jewel-toned spandex race gear as the pros do, but I feel good about staying a little in shape and taking risks, as an example to my two young daughters.
A recent race in Hayward, Wis., was particularly humbling. I took my spot behind the start line with the 11-milers, behind the majority-the 20- and 30-milers-and began overhearing who my "competition" was. One woman who had about 10 years on me announced loudly she'd had recent surgery and was only allowed to do 11 miles by her doctor. Another chimed in that he, too, had had recent surgery and cancer treatment, or he would be doing a longer race. The 80-something man didn't announce a recent ailment, and I didn't ask.
About four miles into the race, I found myself next to a man of about 50 going about my speed. I commented to him that I felt in need of a good back story to explain my 11-miler status, as the others had. He chuckled awkwardly, and then proceeded to tell me about a recent kidney removal and a near-death experience involving cancer. Shortly after this encounter, the first male professionals "lapped" me. I cursed their skinny, spandex-coated tushies as they whizzed by, and imagined their wives doing long solo hours of childcare as their husbands trained.
The next time I found myself with a similarly slow person, I just had to ask directly whether or not he had a recent health problem to justify the "shorter" distance. All he could offer was a colonoscopy two days prior, but he was doing the 20-mile course. As we panted up a big hill, he joked, "Oh, yeah, and I had my adrenal gland removed." At least I think he was joking.
These in-line skating events are some of the most rewarding activities I do, and also some of the hardest on my ego; not at all unlike mothering. So as long as I can find weekend childcare, skate 11 miles and maintain my sense of humor, I'll be the smart aleck in the baggy shorts cracking jokes and reflecting that the best back stories are often in the back of the pack.
Monica Gallagher is a part-time social services director and a full-time mother, who hopes she has another 50 years of in-line skating races ahead. She lives in Lauderdale, Minn.
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