A beautiful, blue fall morning and my girls are cheering from the infield. Feeling exhausted, yet strong... the dichotomy of 'cross, I guess. That's me on the stairs. This is where my season peaked, and also where it ended, in a crescendo of adrenaline and pain.
It's quite a shot, really. Lisa snapped it from about 50 yards and could not have known that I had just tripped, overstepped with my right foot, and was about to severely sprain my ankle. This was the very moment that would end my season.
I'm a total 'cross newb. But I caught the bug quick. It started with a birthday present from my wife... an introductory class in which both ego and body were thoroughly bruised. It led to a bike (doesn't it always?). A new old-stock Bianchi Reparto Corse that's a full 10 years heavier than what most guys compete with. But beautiful. I mean, damn is this a gorgeous bicycle. Anyway...
Jumping back in time to my first race; Crosstoberfest, St. Edwards Park... miles upon miles of grass and singletrack, right in the middle of the city. I warned my fans that I might pull dead-last, which turned out to be quite prophetic.
On lap two, a hard fall locked up my front brake (a fact I wouldn't realize until the race was over). I remember wondering why guys were passing me with such ease, while I was working so hard. To turn. The pedals.
Jesus, how I wanted to quit. See how there's nobody around me in this barrier section? That ain't because I'm off the front, homey. Ended up nearly last, but I've never enjoyed a can of Fat Tire so much.
Next up, two races at what some consider the cradle of Seattle 'cross, South Seatac. Focus was building... racing was what we did on Sunday. We bought a cowbell and my girls rattled it with love. My son even dragged himself out of bed to see Dad ride 'round the course (in spite of the embarrassing tights). Confidence elevated and my finishing position improved. I was still back-of-the-pack, but at least the curve was arcing in the right direction. Most importantly, we were there as a family, taking communion...
And then it ended, on that staircase at old Fort Steilacoom. Two weeks of racing missed. Then three. Momentum lost. Even after the ankle healed, racing became just something we could do on Sunday... relegated to the same list as housework and grocery shopping. It's amazing (and maybe a little disheartening) how quickly something can fade when you lose focus.
But the great thing about cycling, or any sport for that matter, is that each season is new. Next year we start again. My ever-courageous Lisa has thrown down the gauntlet and said she wants to race. Our daughter, Payton, was anxious to ride even in the weeks Dad was down.
And for me... the pain, frustration, and small victories of this "season that almost was" have quietly fueled a fire. I will be better next year. As a dad, husband, son, and bike racer. More cowbell.