A Race Morning
It’s three o’ clock in the morning. I’m still awake.
“Twitch, twitch-twitch” my tricep says to me, as if to remind me of his presence, his ever-twitching presence.
I try to take my mind off of my arm, after all, it’s three in the morning and I should be sleeping. I have a bike race tomorrow morning at nine. I have no business being up at three in the morning, but, as my twitching tricep reminds me: I am awake, it is three in the morning and, lest I forget…twitch, twitch-twitch, twitch.
I can’t stop my right arm from contracting and this has been keeping me up this night. I lie in bed, massage the arm, I tense it, I slap it. Nothing can turn off the fluttering tricep. I go downstairs to escape the boredom of bed. I lie on the couch in front of the TV and try more of the same, this time adding some push-ups, some squeezing, and a serious shaking of my head.
“Somewhere in there is the defiant neuron,” I tell myself, if I could only turn of that one synapse, then I could turn off the TV, then I could go to bed, then I could win my race tomorrow.
Its about four now and I climb back upstairs into bed. I have now taken a multivitamin and eaten a banana. Potassium is my last hope, twitch-twitch, I think as I climb back under the sheets. It’s stuffy in my room, I feel sticky, I want to sleep. I pull my arm across my chest to tighten the muscle. It is the best I can do.
My alarm clock awakens me at 6:36. My tricep has thankfully ceased its twitching, but my body is, unthankfully, unhappy about its lost sleep. “Never mind the tiredness” I think, I have a race at nine. That means shower, carbohydrates, load the car. The routine kicks in. I have some cereal, a heaping mix of Grape Nuts, Muesli, Team Cheerios and granola. I look into the bowl and my dad’s usual reaction to my morning cereal crosses my mind.
“Why don’t you just pour the milk into the box?” he would ask.
My attention turns back to the race and making sure I eat enough. I already packed my equipment the day before, but I run through the list again. Helmet, shoes, water bottles, socks…
It is not supposed to rain today until three, it is 7:30 now. It is raining. My dad is coming to watch my race this morning; mom has opted to stay out of the wet. I load my bike on the roof rack and add two spare wheels into the trunk. On the way we stop at the WaWa for coffee. I choose the dark roast but it tastes like hot water, brown hot water. I finish the coffee nevertheless and make a note not to place any further hopes on nutrition; lousy brown-water coffee, lousy potassium banana.
We arrive at the race an hour early as usual. I leave to register, bringing with an umbrella. I hop in line and laugh at my attempts to stay out of the rain.
“Trying to stay dry are we?” my mind murmurs.
“Shut up” my body retorts, knowing too well the wetness and suffering in store. I am assigned number 507 and return to the car. My dad is walking about the various booths set up by the start line. He finds some coffee and returns to the car. I am busy pinning on my number and trying to change into my spandex kit in the passenger seat.
A few contortionist moves later I am in my shorts and jersey, slip on my socks, then a rain jacket, shoes and gloves. Meanwhile, dad takes the bike off the roof rack and attaches the front wheel. I open the trunk and set up my stationary trainer at the rear of the car, taking partial cover from the rain under the overhanging hatch. I grab water bottles, the sunglasses, and the helmet.
“When I come around that corner I am going to be in 4th place,” I say to my dad, pointing to the final turn before the finish line. He replies that I should worry about staying upright before I worry about placing. I return to my race preparation, “4th I think, just come around that turn in 4th and come around the three in front to win, come around to win the sprint.”
I do most of my warming up on the stationary trainer. Two young kids come over with their dad and watch me.
“Does that look like fun?” the father asks. The children do not reply and stare unimpressed at the shaven legs spinning circles in front of them. I tune out my audience of three and mentally focus.
“Going to be difficult to stay upright in those wet corners, going to have to stay at the front of the race to avoid crashes,” I think in less than confident tone.
I eat half of a Clif bar and feel very full. I always do before races.
With ten minutes until the start of my race I pack away the stationary trainer and take off my rain coat. Everything unnecessary gets thrown into the car and my dad walks to the start line. I begin to ride circles in the parking lot to stay warm. I want to be slightly out of breath at the start, my quads and lungs will thank me if I don’t hit them with any sudden surprises on this rainy morning.
I watch the rain spray off my tread-less front tire. I wonder if the 110 lbs of pressure I put in my tires is too much. I lay the bike over in a sharp turn. The feeling is less than reassuring. I dismount and let air out to bring them to 105.
The race starts behind an unusually large cavalcade of five police motorcycles. We’re safe from cars but not from each other. Each turn is an unpleasant feat of controlled skidding. We enter turns elbow-to-elbow and exit a disorganized front, taking up both lanes of the road and trying to stay off the slippery double yellow line.
Four laps pass and attacks have split the race into solitude. My eyes are full of wet road soot. I see the world in blobs. We enter the final chicanes before the finish. The course winds through a latticed development and there are at least ten hard turns to make. I see three blobs ahead of me and many more strung out behind. I’m in fourth. I take each turn with increasing aggression, my tires kissing the left side curb on each exit.
There is no sprint. As promised, I come around the last turn in fourth. The three blobs ahead of me have already finished and the blobs behind me are too far to catch me. My dad waits, only slightly less wet than me, by the finishing camera. We share an unspoken bond in the rain this morning.
I’m pruned and destroyed from an hour of full effort. We stop again at WaWa on the ride home. I avoid the dark roast. My tricep starts twitching again. Lousy banana.