It took me a long time, but now when I am asked the same question, I replied with, "I am a cyclist."
Let me lay it down for you. I am not an exceptional athlete. I am known on this blog as an injured runner, running a 3 hour half marathons. I swim freestyle at a breaststroke pace. I am now just a rehabilitated weekend warrior, enjoying her time.
It is the same thing when I cycle. On average, my speed is 23-25km/h. I can't hardly sustain speeding on a flat course for more than 3 minutes. I am never the first one to arrive and never able to overtake another cyclist. After 1 year of cycling, I have improved little.
But nothing gives me the same rush.
When I love a particular sport, I love it because it makes me feel alive. It makes me feel good while doing it, after doing it, and probably a few days after doing it. I love how it organizes my life and kick starts my energy, and the burst of confidence it gives me. This ability to still do it, and do it and do it. I have loved running with all of my life. But I can't explain this love for cycling. The amazing views I get to see, the trees, the wind on my face, the people passing you by in a blur.
Most of all, I love how tough it is. I love the hot sun, the crazy headwinds, the unforgiving hills, the relentless rain. I love a ride that comes with particularly tough route or circumstances. The best rides I remembered were all rides I suffered like crazy.
This reminds me of an article I read about the original meaning of the word 'passion'. In Latin, passion is defined as to suffer, to endure, particularly in one thing that you love. If what I am doing, waking up at the wee hours in the morning, lack of sleep, dehydration, leg stiffness, hot sun, back ache, etc isn't passion, what is?
Which leads me to a favorite quote of mine:
"Anytime you add that structure to something, for me, it kills it. Think about the word 'amateur': It has its root in the Latin word 'amare', which means 'to love'--you do it for the love of the sport."
--Charles Carlson, Bicycling June 2008