You're fat, but you don't know it yet. You haven't been tested. You are, as they say, asymptomatic.
But that's all about to change.
Why, though, would you, a former XC champion of the tri-county sport class duathlon events series from 2004 even so much as pause and consider yourself fat? You were great once, you really were. You trained. You won some stuff, races that were important to you, races that other people attended and also tried to win in their own way, while still prioritizing having fun, nearly two decades ago. You still ride. The Pandemic, sure, has limited your ability to do so, but class never leaves a rider, right? Fitness; it's a monument, something you erect out of stone. It's still in there, right? Right?
Look, you don't know. Without adequate testing, you can convince yourself you're OK. But face it, the warning signs are all there:
Let's start with your behavior. For the last year, it's been 2 training rides per week. At least they used to be training rides. You're with your buddies, after all. Buddies who, just like you, used to train, ride hard intervals, fit into their kit a little better...but don't anymore. Fat is contagious. Did you know that? You did, but you didn't mind; these "training" rides you've been going on together during the Pandemic, sprinkled with laughter and shenanigans like the pepperoni on your post-ride pizza. Athletes go for 45 minute shreds and then stuff entire pizzas down their necks, right? You're fine.
Or your appearance. You threw the bathroom scale out long, long ago, which was wise because the numbers that it was starting to show you were obviously incorrect. No one can ride like you do and weigh 200 lbs. And when you see yourself in the mirror, that's basically the same guy who looked back at you two decades ago, minus a little grey hair, minus the strange lighting that's flashing wrinkles and shadows around your eyes, minus a little flesh around the edges. You're still you. You've got this.
So you pile yourself into your kit Sunday morning, slightly annoyed at how much it has obviously shrunk in the dryer these last few washes, but fully convinced you're OK, and ready for the test: Pantani.
At the start, in the field, you're hot. Clammy. Sweating through your bibs, but also somehow too cold to take off your vest. It's just nerves, you tell yourself, and maybe an extra layer of clothes. Certainly not an extra layer of you. Certainly not. Off you go. To face...THE SWAB. Fox Mountain.
You've managed to hang on these first few miles, rollers and pavement and some sloppy gravel. It's been hard, but you've felt ok. Right? You're OK. But when the road tilts upward on The Fox, just for a couple hundred feet at 6%, you notice some things. Things that are not good. Something is bulging out of your jersey and dragging against your upper thigh. It's impeding your breathing. It's tight on your thighs, your knees, your shoulders, everywhere. Is there a raccoon in your jersey? You stop to check. No. It's just you. You resume riding, and near the top of The Fox, a climb that is moderate by the standard of which you'll have to ride later, you hop off and walk. What is happening to me, you wonder? Am I fat?
Over the top and down down down, you shred the back side of fox mountain with proper form. You know the lines. You've ridden down this thing near the front of a stacked field of riders before. You were fierce, you were. Surely you're OK, right? You try to convince yourself, but like it or not, the swab has been taken. Results due back...in a matter of minutes. We'll let you know. Here's your swab number. We'll call you near the mailboxes.
Across the rolling terrain, paved and dreamy, up the mission home climb, down, and onto Simmons gap. You're halfway through this thing. You don't feel good, of course, and any delusions of grandeur you had earlier have been packed up and sent back, address unknown. But you're not fat, are you?
Up Simmons. It's awful. You hurt in places you don't recall ever being a problem before. The outside of your knees. The bottoms of your feet. Your saddle has shrunk. Your food, all gone. Who ate all my food? Who switched my saddle?
Phone rings. You're near the top of Simmons, where it gets steep, hard, awful. You didn't know you got reception up here. It's your fat test results, you fool.
You look down. Spilling out from under your jersey, where a fit racer once existed, your belly is dragging your top tube, wrapping around it like a wet coat on a drying rack, distended and grotesque, like an alien. You're overcome with horror. Ripped from the swelling, your clothing is bursting at the seams. Your corpulence, expanding from the middle of your belly button outward, like a balloon inflated from the very center of your pandemic-laden soul, all those beers you just had to drink because there was little else to do. You are literally blowing up, three times your former self now, swollen around every orifice. You struggle to breath through your own face flesh. You're asphyxiating.
"On your left," comes a small voice from behind you. You're swerving all over the road. A young lady rides past you, scowling at you, determined to get the fuck around this monstrosity before it pops. You turn your huge head to try to look at her and, disgusted, she pulls her mask up over her face. She double-masks at the very sight of you, and rides...beneath you? She goes right under you, that's how big you are. That's how huge you have become, rising above the old dirt road you thought you knew, upwards, floating out past the mailboxes and the observatory, up up up, out over the top of Shenandoah river where you look down and see your reflection, echoing the awful truth coming from your phone:
Your fat test came back positive. I hate you.
Then you wake up. It's Sunday, nearly 9 AM already. It was all a dream. Wasn't it?
One way to find out.
Up, up, up.