“You oughta go to nationals!” a buddy said the week before the race.
“Nah,” I said.
“Dude! The course is perfect for you!”
“Nah,” I said.
“Ah, you know, work, family, stuff … ” I trailed off. And I didn’t tell him the real reason: I was too scared.
I still hadn’t recovered from the trauma I received at the Very Old But Not Yet The Oldest Fellows Crit Nationals in 2013. At that race I figured it would be kind of a more challenging four-corner CBR with better riders. “How bad could it be?” I had told myself.
My reasoning was that when you are over fifty you don’t have very much sperm anymore. And the sperm-making chemical in your body, testosterone, dwindles to tiny, mostly dried out, shallow little test puddles that reside in the gonads, where it can only be roused with great attention, effort, Photoshopping, and repetition.
When you bike race over age fifty everyone lines up and no one is nervous, and if there’s any testosterone anywhere to be found it’s coursing through the veins of the one or two dopers who are easy to spot because they look fierce and, more telling, like they actually care. Plus, they have chewed away their own molars and are already yelling at you before the gun goes off. So back in 2013 I figured that crit nationals would be chill + a whiff of test.
Boy, was I wrong.
I saw more crashes in the first ten minutes than you’d see in a Chinese stock exchange. The mention of the word “nationals” and the prospect of an ill-fitting jersey turned normally risk averse people with IRA’s and equity in their homes into frothing, lunging, elbow stabbing, wheel chopping lunatics hellbent on homicide, suicide, or “doing the double,” where they kill the guy next to them and themselves as well.
Of course I also had something else going on this week. My daughter was having a baby shower and I’d volunteered on Friday to help with the shopping and driving and such. We went to Target and got some cotton singlets that the guests would paint little pictures and messages on. We went to Michael’s and got acrylic paint, and then to Marukai for ingredients, and puttered around the whole day. If there was any testosterone in my gonads it was in ppb.
On Saturday, the day that all my pals were squirting sperm around the 8-turn, technical course of death in Ogden Utah, I was parked on a bench at Griffith Park while my daughter, son-in-law, and scads of young people celebrated an impending new life. For the first time in my life I was set gently off to the side, given 200 balloons to inflate (“Dad has amazing lungs!”), and left to my own devices, which involved eating, chatting with the one or two people who wanted to talk with a grandpa, and sunning myself.
To say it was pleasant completely understates it. I had no pressure, no obligations to gather and squirt my sperm amidst a morass of crazy people, no fear of crashing (although I did nod off and bump my head on the park table), and I didn’t even need any Tegaderm. All I had to do was sit there like a beloved old piece of family furniture, useful from time to time but mostly reassuring to the others by simply being there.
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