“You’ve got this many marbles,” Coach C said. “Use them at the right time.”
It’s like some fucked up zen koan that I haven’t quite got figured out yet. I’ve never played a game of marbles in my life and what am I supposed to do with marbles on a bike anyway? Seems like a very dangerous place to be messing with marbles. Maybe he’s just not very good with metaphors.
And this after climbing Pineapple Hill, a three-mile incline through the sun drenched heart of the island up past the Dole plantation and Helemano with that sexy little frog. This after coasting back down in my highest gear, ducking below the wind, riding faster than I’ve ever dared, endless fields to each side and the vast Pacific a panorama on the horizon out front.
This after circling a military barracks, cruising past Haleiwa and properly drafting through Waimea. After climbing Pupukea, a hill I had no idea existed, a hill that almost broke my spirit, a hill so devastatingly steep and long I could think of nothing but getting off the ride and passing out on the side of the road.
This after keeping a steady race pace three hours in, sandwiched between him and Coach J at the front of the pack, somewhere I thought I’d never be, and judging from the looks on their faces that first day they met me, somewhere they never thought I’d be either.
When I was struggling to keep up on Kamehameha, so much that the sheer will of his energy wasn’t enough to push me, he rode within inches and pressed the tips of his fingers into the small of my back. The difference between three feet and five when you’re struggling to draft with a pack of seasoned riders might as well be twenty miles. It becomes a total mind fuck to gain them back. And there he was literally pushing me through the hardest part.
When I ran out of water while resting after Pupukea he filled my bottle with what remained of his. When my gears wouldn’t shift because I’m still making that stupid rookie mistake, he said to bring the bike to the shop and he’ll make some adjustments, even though we both know it’s nothing but operator failure.
Logically speaking I know all of these things exist within the realm of a coach’s duties. I know how cliché the headline Lonely Single Girl Falls For Supportive Encouraging Coach is. I also know the connection, the I’ve-known-you-since-the-day-I-met-you thing, it’s very real and I’m not alone in that.
So he said the thing about the marbles and I got in my car to head home and to work. He was watching me as I pulled out of the parking lot at Dillingham Field, the Black Keys blasting from my iPod…