Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Bicycle Racer Considers 40

Last night was the annual Daddy Daughter dance in Brighton. My daughters and I have gone the last seven years. It always feels like time-laps photography: like I can see the last seven years unfolding right in front of me. When they were very young, we would dance all night, well, little girls don't dance so much as they jump around and twirl in a slow descending funk. It is special. Last night as I am taring up the rug with Allie (8), Em (11) says: "DAD!", which means I am embarrassing her in front of her friends and to stop it this second. I do enjoy embarrassing her but I let them go off with their friends and watch from the sidelines.

I quietly watched everyone at the dance; then it dawns on me that all the other dads are old. Sure my driver's license says I'm 42 but in my delusional perception of reality, I am still young. That would go a long way to explain why they all showed up to the dance in BMWs and Cadillacs and I drive a crappy truck. They are old and I'm not. But maybe I am.

What if I am getting old. It is possible. How many more years can I ride a mountain bike? There is a wide range of people I do group rides with. Group rides kind of break up into smaller groups of people with similar abilities. Sometimes I end up riding with two 50-something riders, Burnie or Dan. They are both faster than me; not only are they strong but they are very fast on technical single track. Once I was following Burnie and he clocked a tree so hard it actually knocked the inner tube out of his tire. It didn't flat, it just popped out leaving the tire on the rim. As he was still sliding to a stop, I was scoping out the best place for a helicopter to land from the U of M hospital to cart off Burnie. He gets up, knocks the dust off his butt, and, examining the tube now wrapped around his front hub, says: "you don't see that everyday." I wait for him to put the tube back where it goes. Some of the guys from our group pass us. Burnie finishes putting the front wheel on and we take off after those younger riders, like brooms chasing cockroaches. Catch them on a long up hill, pass them on a very tight, steep section, crush their self confidence, and go on ahead.

I don't talk to Dan or Burnie all that much, just pleasant chit chat after the ride, but they inspire me. If they can hammer that hard at 50, maybe I don't have to be delusional about getting old.

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