20
Oct
10

Dangerous

6:00 am: The alarm goes off. It’s Saturday, race day. Gotta get up. I have signed up to do a criterium in Sterling, Virginia, about an hour drive from the house. Have to meet my riding buddy Jose in about two hours. We are both working stiffs and family men. I am 42 years old. He is 37. It is my first race this season, his second. It is my third road race ever. We are both signed up to ride in the Cat. 5 race — the beginner class.

Curled up under the sheets, I yawn, scratch my butt, and start going through my mental checklist for the day.

  • Bike: tuned and ready to go.
  • Water Bottles: mixed and in the fridge.
  • Maps and directions on how to get to the racecourse: laid out next to the car keys.

I am ready to race. Time to get breakfast.
Then I hear it. Rain. Rain on the roof of my house. A very steady rain. I roll quietly out of bed, pad over to the window, push aside the slats in the Venetian blinds and look outside. The streets are wet.

Rain. 

Damn.
I go back to bed.

6:45 am: It is getting late and I really have to get going. I bolt out of bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, and take another look outside. If anything, it is raining even harder. I start doing the mental calculations to determine how late I can put off leaving for the race and still get there in time to start.

That, of course, assumes that the weather is going to clear up sometime soon.

Fire up the computer and surf over to the local weather radar. Not promising. Rain virtually covers the entire radar screen. No gaps, no let-up. Looks like an all-day deal. Crap.

It is here that the first serious cracks appear in my will to get out there and race.

Blame it on an over-active imagination, but I have visions of me on my bike in the middle of a thundering pack of Cat. 5 racers heading toward a tight corner in a driving rain.

I have visions of there being a slick manhole cover in the middle of that tight corner.

I have visions of me hitting the deck and pirouetting on my ass across the asphalt.

Most importantly, I have visions of me being a big ol’ chicken and just staying home.

7:15 am: The wife is now up, fixing breakfast for our son. She looks outside and sees that it is now absolutely bucketing down. She smiles benignly as she hands me another cup of coffee. She’s comfortable in the unstated assumption that the man that she has married is a rational human being and would not, even for a moment, consider racing his bicycle in weather as evil as this. Surely, her husband is not THAT stupid. She’s probably thinking that, okay, he may leave the toilet seat up and he’s a total loss with the laundry, but when it comes to something as basic as having that bit of primordial intelligence that knows when to come in from the rain, well, even he can be relied upon to do the right thing.

This shows how dangerous assumptions can be, especially between spouses. Because despite the rain, despite the weather radar, despite the sheer stupidity of it, I’m still thinking about hopping in the car and driving out to the racecourse in the forlorn hope that it might clear up in time to race.

7:30 am: The moment of truth. Do I go? One last look outside confirms that it is raining. Hard. I go to the door, pick up my helmet and gear, and…put it back on the hook, defeated by common sense.

I slouch back to the breakfast table and knock back the rest of my coffee, a little pissed at myself for being so damn sensible. Sure, I knew that staying home was probably doing the “right” thing, but why does doing the “right” thing have to feel so lame? Guys that bail on a rainy ride just because it’s the sensible thing to do are the ones that also worry about stuff like health insurance and dietary fiber. Stuff that old married guys worry about, not hard core bike racers. Not ride because of a little water falling from the sky? Please. Just turn in your testicles now, it is obvious that you have been issued a set by mistake.

Staring at the grounds swirling around at the bottom of my coffee cup, I had to wonder: How did it come to this? How could I be defeated by a little rain? What happened to that happy-go-lucky adventurer who a few years ago was up for just about anything? Have I gotten to the point in life where I am no longer considered a threat to do something even slightly risky? Are sketchy pastimes like nude skydiving, dating women with interesting tattoos and, yes, racing a bicycle in a driving rainstorm completely off of the table when you hit 40? Am I really too old and too sensible to try stuff that could get me killed, divorced, or at least very chapped in sensitive places?

Am I no longer considered… dangerous?

Don’t answer that. Let me enjoy my illusion of youth, speed, and immortality for a little while longer. Let me believe that I really don’t look ridiculous racing my bike in the beginners class against kids young enough to be, well, my kids. Let me think that I still have what it takes to go out there and smack the devil on the ass just to see if he’s paying attention.

Just don’t ask me to do it in the rain.

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