When I started this blog a year or so ago, I promised myself that it would be devoid of self-absorbed race reports. The minutia of the race and the “woulda-shoulda-couldas” surely qualify as lousy content. Even my family looks bored when the details of races are discussed.
So I will not drone on about yesterday’s National Championship Road Race, other than some brief observations and remarks of gratitude.
|Photo credit Craig Dooley|
There were 100 guys my age contesting the 55 mile road race. The playing field for this race is eleven five mile laps of narrow, twisty and very hilly city park roads. The number of turns on the course is such that bikes are faster than cars. When you are not pedaling uphill, you are contesting turns at high speed in the group of 100 mostly highT colleagues.
They sprint from the start, as if it was a kids’ cross-country race. It is best to be in front, but all 100 guys know this, so the race is as nervous as an engineer with atrial fibrillation.
The pre-race jitters were monumental. For three days prior, I would have waves of tension, mostly manifested in GI distress of one sort or another. The day of the race I hydrated with electrolyte-containing fluids and plain water, so much so, that my urine arrived three times per hour and was like clear water.
For me, I rode in the front group for 10 of 11 laps. Last year the race was 10 laps, this year it was 11. (It is American athletics, so more is always better.) Like the premature beats that can herald the onset of AF, my muscle cramps began with 4 laps to go. I could no longer stand, only sit and spin the pedals. Eventually, with one lap to go (just 5 miles left), the muscles I so cherish, said goodnight. As it was, there was a group of other bike-racers-with-jobs who formed the “I am cramped-up too group.” We limped in a couple minutes off the leaders, in thirty-ish or so.
As has been the case the two previous years, the course is lined with friends and family. This avalanche of warm-wishing makes you feel like George Bailey after he discovered he has a wonderful life. Paradoxically though, knowing of the magnitude of support that would surely be, was the primary reason for the immensity of the pre-race anxiety. No one wants to crack in front of those that support you so vigorously. If only the vigor of fan support could will one to the line. Bike racing is so truthful.
Although my results were less than I hoped for, something happened after the race that made all this angst worth it. After limping across the finish line, I turned right off the course into the throngs of familiar-faced fans. He emerged from them immediately. We were looking for each other. It was young Will. There were no words spoken, just an immediate embrace and squeeze. He held me for so long. He was still squeezing me when mom came over and joined the embrace, “Family Hug!” Finally, he looks me in the eye and says something like, “how many kids have Dads that race in the National Championship?” I squeeze him again. Although, no race is as hard as Nationals, I would do it again for this embrace.
I learn a lot from bike racing. First, I know the visceral feelings of anxiety. They are awful. Second, I feel grateful to be part of a cycling community filled with kind and generous souls, especially my teammates, who are primarily just really good friends. Living amongst such kindness is good for the heart. Finally, the embrace from my family will stay with me for years to come. If I had to choose a medal or the hug, it would be easy.
Thank you, all.