Saturday, June 27, 2009

Today's Race

Nigel at the Brownstown Race

At 0845 this morning, I had rode in the first of two road races I will do this weekend before heading back to Iraq. Today's race, the Brownstown Road Race, was flat and offered no state championship points to participants, so there were not be many participants in the 55+ category--and none of the state/national championship riders that filled the field in last week's race. The race was also close to home so my daughter Lisa and I could ride the 12 miles to and from the race as a warm-up for me and cross training for her. When we arrived, she ran around the five-mile course while I finished warming up.

The eight 55+ riders started with about 30 racers in the 45+ category. With mixed categories, the older guys who stay with the younger group are the top finishers. As we made the sharp left turn toward the finish line on the 2nd of five laps, I felt like I might be able to hang on to the pack for most, if not all of the race, then in the middle of the turn I heard a rider yelling "Flat!!" and bikes started to swerve wide in the corner. I ended up in the dirt off the edge of the road. When racers hear another rider is in trouble, especially if the hear the thud and yells of a crash behind them, they ride as hard as they to drop all those trapped behind the crash. I tried to catch back on, but couldn't.

I rode the next two laps with another 55+ rider who was dropped. We passed the guy I thought would win 55+. He crashed--just scrapes and bruises--and was on the side of the road. Two more of the 55+ riders dropped out and I was 4th!!! My best result in my trip home because in today's race, there is no age-group. I will be racing with 20 and 30-year-olds on a hilly course. It should be a very short race for me.

As Lisa and I started the ride home, Lisa said that I definitely had the loudest cheering section. She and my wife and son Nigel cheered every lap as they did last week and were the only people cheering for 55+ category racers. "It's worse than when we were little," Lisa said. "Back then one or two other riders had a cheering section, now it's just you." There were other people watching the race. On the oppostie side of the road from my family, several large Amish families were gathered at the fence near the start-finish. The girls in dresses and boys in pants and with suspenders, all in bare feet, watched the race intently and, as my wife said after the race, stole more than a few glances at my African-American son Nigel standing between his blond-haired, blue-eyed mother and sister.

Saying Goodbye

Because of the schedules my family is on and because my friends are spread across a fairly large area, I have been saying goodbye since Thursday and will be saying it till I go. Thursday I went to Philadelphia and said goodbye to my friends in the city of brotherly love. With most of them, we will be in touch by phone and on email, so it was not too sad. Friday was the last time I will ride the daily training ride till next year. I really miss riding the very green hills and valleys in Lancaster County. Today my daughters were off on a nine-day trip to Europe, part of celebrating Lisa's graduation from high school. That was a lot tougher. I have seen the girls every day, especially Lisa. Lauren has a full-time job as Sports of All Sorts Camp as a counselor, but Lisa is mostly training for Cross Country in the fall. We rode together on 11 of the last 14 days. I will miss them very much until next February. Tomorrow morning my wife and son leave for Ithaca after we go to the early service at Church, so I will be saying goodbye to them and to my friends at Church tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon I am racing then riding with some of my friends, so I will be saying goodbye for a lot of tomorrow.
At 6am Monday I will be on the way to the airport and starting the long trip back to Iraq. The temp here only reached the high 70s. It's supposed to be 118 when I return to Kuwait on Tuesday--at least I won't freeze!

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