The race was a minor sideshow to my fortieth fricking birthday. Last night Jenny and Karl and my bestest friends completely surprised me.
On my way to Orion’s last swim class I stopped at Thinker Toys in the village and bought for Iris a bouncy rubber ball (like a Dodgeball ball but smaller) and for Orion (because I knew I couldn’t buy just Iris a present) a tiny windup robot of a design spookily similar to windup robots my brother and I owned as kids. I felt like, I hadn’t gotten much in the way of presents for my 40th so I might as well buy my kids something. At swim class I said to Jenny: “I’ve kind of gotten used to the fact that my life is no longer about me.” Wah!
Karl took me out to dinner (Chinese) directly after swim class. As we pulled up to the house I noticed our front door was open, a few grownup voices coming out of the kitchen. I figured: Jenny must have run into some neighbors and they’re having a glass of wine or something. Did not occur to me that this might be related to my fortieth birthday. So yeah: all my friends were on hand. They know me so well. I got new ‘Cross tires and three kinds of ultra hoppy beer and an Atari t-shirt and an actual thirty year old “retro” jersey and some light roast coffee.
And today at the season opener Thom and Amanda (and I’m presuming the other Muddy Iguanas) bought me a truly cool cake, of the pure trans-fat Fred Meyer variety. Loved. It.
Did I mention Thom paid my race fees today too?
So anyway: the race.
Dusty, hot, the sky turned orange from wildfire smoke out of the gorge. There was a bagpiper. Orion raged on the kiddie kross as usual. I staged in the front third — declined staging in the front five, after last week — and finished 12 of 26 in Cat C. I did this with about five hours sleep after a late winy night. Wiped out twice but not much blood. The course was long (12+ min/2mi.), fast, and full of uncertain surfaces despite the total lack of mud. Barkchips, sand, dust, gravel. It passed through two playgrounds. Two long stretches of shady singletrack that ended in an epic ride-upable runup. I almost left it all on the course. Almost. (This is my consistent failing.)
But middle of the pack never felt so good. At this point in my life I am totally comfortable with mediocrity. After the race Orion said, “Daddy, I’m proud of you.” I said: “Buddy, that’s more important to me than winning.” Which is TRUE. (But also probably why I never win.)
But I had an albatross one to four places ahead of me the first three laps, a leggy skinny dude with good handling skillz on barriers and hairpins, but who nonetheless consistently putzed out on the singletrack. Dude was always dabbing or getting off the damn bike at totally unnecessary moments. I doubt I’d have placed any better if I’d’ve passed Dude before Lap 4 but the singletrack would’ve been a lot more fun. OTOH I was rear-ended twice while remounting so I’m surely someone else’s albatross. Karma, heh.