It is cross season. That means that Will and I go into our Sunday ritual. Catherine is grown and off to college. Will is getting close as well. I see him growing up so fast. The evidence is obvious: His bibs are tighter around the thighs and his shirt is getting close to too small.
Cross races in the Ohio valley are most always on Sunday. Will’s and my race times are the same week in and week out.
The ritual starts with gathering our “race stuff” first thing in the am. For those who have not seen cross, this is a major undertaking. Between the two of us, it requires a mental checklist of epic proportions. Fortunately for me, Will has a great memory and is a whiz with mental lists.
A synopsis of crap we take:
4 kits: 1 for warm-up, 1 for racing.
2 Jackets for warm-up.
4 sets of gloves, socks, arm warmers.
3 bikes (2 for me-race and pit bike), one for Will.
2 sets of extra wheels.
3 sets of shoes.
1 bike pump, 1 Multi-tool.
5-6 energy bars,
Almonds, (high in K which is good pre-race)
Pb and Jelly–which is my favorite pre race meal.
Reading glasses (I am old) and sunglasses
Garbage bag for wet clothes
Towel to dry off after the race (mud, wet etc)
Change of regular street clothes.
Print-out of race flyer.
Iphone—Do not forget the iphone.
This list is probably not complete but you all get the picture. That list is why I drive a min-van.
Car Ride: Lot’s of nice conversation. This is not to be underestimated as it is often difficult prying much out of a pre-teen. McD stop on the way. Egg bagels/coffee for me, hotcakes and OJ for Will. WIll is a great navigator. 100% on getting there on time.
Race Arrival: Nerves when you see the tape. We wonder how diabolical the race organizer will be. You here the announcer. Will is sitting upright now. I look over and he looks back with a grin I am trying to emblazon into my white matter forever.
Warm-up and prep: Will gets dressed and gets the bikes out. I go to registration and pick up two numbers. Next is pinning of numbers. This I used to despise but now I find peace in the act. The steering wheel works perfect for this task. We ride the course and practice the sketchy parts a couple times, finding the best lines through the muck.
I head to the start line for Will. Cross weather is tricky. It is often cold and rainy so one is freezing before the race but once the whistle is blown it is not long before the body is warm. Thus, I am there to get his jacket, hat and other cold weather items. To avoid over heating even on the coolest days, it is critical to dress FOR THE RACE and not for start line. They are off and now I am a spectator. Will races pretty much a tick below his redline. This allows him enough energy for a smile and recognition to the fans. Racing a hair below the threshold is clearly a trait he inherited from his mom who we have all witnessed grinning frequently during a race.
He finishes and now it is my turn. Now, it is Will who brings a water to the start and takes the cold weather gear. During my race, I hear him cheer but very seldom look up as I race above my threshold. I know he is there through his voice. After I finish, he is there for a hug or if I am too muddy like today, a high five and a grin. That’s nice.
Genetics don’t usually lie. I am usually in top 3 or so as is Will. Neither of us very often win. We will not ever make a living racing bikes. This is good as we don’t have to let the pressure of race results booger up our experience.
Ride home: Call Staci to give her a report. Converse about each others race. The minutia of a cross race is mind boggling. A mini-two-Johns podcast. Look forward to super-special (our term for mexican food) with our other race buddies.
Take home message: Bike racing is the vehicle. The real memories are the experiences spent with Will.