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Since the beginning of time, men and women have taken distinctly different approaches to problem solving. Relationship experts say that when faced with a challenging situation, most women tend to resolve issues by talking things through, hashing out the details of the problem as well as the emotions involved. Most men, on the other hand, “git-er-done.” That is, their instinct is not to discuss and analyze, but to fix as quickly as possible.
In his mind, he’s a knight galloping in on his horse to save the day; in hers, he’s a detached ass who isn’t listening.
Last summer, I was sent to northern California to do research on the Ironman Lake Tahoe venue for an article. The trip fell on our anniversary, and Neil was planning to participate in the race, so we decided to make a vacation out of it — because nothing says “romance” like drafting off your partner’s wheel for three days.
Four miles into our first ride of the weekend, my chain dropped while shifting. I called out to Neil, who stopped and waited while I corrected my bike. Ten miles into the ride, the chain dropped again. Frustrated but not deterred, I wiped my grease-covered fingers and made a mental note to visit my mechanic on Monday.
At mile 25, I was following Neil up a short but steep climb. Suddenly, my bike lurched backward. I flew off my bike with a loud crash, my face narrowly missing the pavement.
“Crap!” Neil gasped as he scrambled off his bike, “Are you OK?”
Aside from a little road rash, nothing on my body seemed to be injured. My bike, on the other hand, was a different story. As it turns out, the chain kept dropping because my derailleur was breaking away from the frame. On its final drop, it snapped completely, becoming lodged in the spokes of my wheel.
“Yikes. That’s not going to make it back to the hotel,” Neil said. “I’m going try to find someone to pick you up.”
As Neil retrieved his cell phone from his jersey pocket, I panicked aloud: My bike was broken. I couldn’t afford new parts. How was I supposed to finish this article? I had ruined Neil’s training day. We were stranded 25 miles from our hotel. Our anniversary was ruined. Could things have possibly been any worse?
“Oh, man,” Neil sighed dejectedly as he showed me his cell phone, “No reception.”
That was the last straw. My quivering lower lip quickly gave way to a crying, snotty meltdown: “This su-u-u-u-ucks!”
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“I bet if we had packed the bikes in the car differently …” Neil trailed off as he pressed the buttons on his phone.
“That isn’t (hic) making me feel (hic) any better!” I hyperventilated.
Neil held the cell phone to the sky, hoping the extra two feet of elevation would find the satellite signal. “You’ll feel better once you get back to the hotel.”
I huffed dramatically. Sure, I needed to get back to the hotel, but at the moment, what I really wanted was a hug. The cell phone was getting more attention than I was. “You know what, if you’re going to be like that, you can just leave.”
My jaw dropped to the ground as I watched him mount his bike and ride away. Only after did he disappear over the crest of the hill did it hit me: Neil called my bluff. He actually called my bluff.
“You a—hole!” I yelled, shaking my fists at the horizon.
I sat on the side of the road, grumpy and disabled. One by one, cyclists and triathletes passed me without acknowledging their fallen comrade. (Side note: I later found out I was on a popular Strava segment. My hill workouts are now fueled by revenge fantasies of returning to Tahoe and becoming the new Queen of The Mountain. It’s called karma, jerks).
With each passing minute, I felt worse. How was I ever going to get out of here? I slumped against a boulder and pouted. Suddenly, a pair of hands squeezed my shoulders. I turned around, face to face with Neil.
“Hey, babe.” He grinned proudly.
“Why are you smiling?” I fumed, “You left me!”
“I figured if I moved to another area, I’d have better cell phone reception to get you a cab.” Neil pointed in the direction he had ridden. “There’s a town a few miles that way. A cab will be here in 10 minutes.”
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Instantly, I was disarmed. I should have known there was logic behind his actions.
“Besides,” he continued, “you were really pissing me off.”
Another logical decision. “That’s fair. I was acting like an idiot.”
“Yes, you were.” Neil chuckled. “But I was, too. I’m sorry I left you like that. I was just trying to fix things. When you’re upset, I’m upset. If I can make you feel better faster, then I feel better faster.”
“I’m sorry, too. I do appreciate your help.”
“Alright, that’s settled.” Neil pulled me in to kiss my forehead. “Now let’s get you back to the hotel. I’ll ride the rest of the course, then we’ll go out for a nice dinner, OK?”
After we loaded up the back of the taxi with my broken bike, I watched Neil wave as he disappeared over the crest of the hill once more.
Only this time, I swear he looked exactly like a knight, galloping on his horse to save the day.
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