Sunday, October 31, 2010

The secret life of the outdoor athlete

Before I started training for triathlons, my life was mostly lived indoors. I knew people did things outside and sometimes I'd catch glimpses of them as I went out my indoor life but I didn't really have any idea the extent to which there was this whole other life being lived all around me, but just out of view.

Once in a while I'd be driving somewhere and notice a parking lot full of bikes and wonder about it. Was it an enormous group ride? Or did everyone who biked somehow just know that this particular store was a good stopping place? But then I'd drive on and forget about it.

I also used to not care about the weather. I always dressed for 70 F because that's the temperature indoors and I wasn't outdoors enough for it to even matter. Sure I might be cold or wet or hot running to the car between home and work and back again. But it would be over quickly so I could effectively ignore that outdoors most of the time.
Now I spend a lot of time outdoors and weather is so important to me that I have four weather apps on my iPhone! Not only do I monitor the weather but I pay attention to when sunset is and where the winds are coming from and how hard the are blowing. I have workout clothes and equipment for all sorts of conditions -- cold weather, hot weather, rain.

I've also discovered all these places I had no idea even existed before. I see wild animals on a regular basis. I swim in lakes and lagoons and rivers. I know where Alice's Restaurant is. I run and bike on recreational trails and open spaces. These places are right here in the Bay Area, but they were invisible to me before.

I guess this means I've been allowed into the secret club. I know the bike routes that everyone somehow knows and which markets have water fountains and don't complain if you go in to use the bathrooms. I know which lakes let you swim in them at all and which ones make you swim in designated areas. I know which trails are lit up at night and where the port-a-potties are.

How did I learn all of this? You see, as we cycle and run past each other, we give each other secret signs and pass along the best routes through receivers in our bike helmets.

Just kidding... (or am I? Bwahahahaha)

No really, we learn about these things the same way any niche hobby passes on information -- clubs, mailing lists, message boards, and other internet sites. Sometimes we go "old school" and read about trails and routes in books or compare notes with strangers at the stop lights.

So now when I see a big group of cyclists, I know what is going on. I can tell which ones are on a big club ride and which ones are out for a solo ride. I also know why they picked that particular place to stop. I've cracked the secret code, so to speak.

I guess this is just another way my life has changed in the past two years.
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