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Conveniently, the first race of the season is about 2 miles from my front door which helps with the scheduling immensely. Of course I got talked in to helping with course set up in the AM. Because of family scheduling, I need to take my 6 year old with me to the races which means I need to line up someone to watch him when I race. I had talked with a friend of mine and he agreed to come out and give me a hand.

The night before, I made sure to get all my equipment squared and was ready to turn in early so that I would get some good rest before my 5:30 alarm for course setup. I forgot to remind my friend about the schedule for the next day so the last thing I did was to text him.

5 minutes later, I get a call. "Uh, I forgot and I made plans to go out of town." Effing-A, Mr. Reliable. I know that team people will be around most of the day but my race is the last one of the day and often people are reluctant to hang around that long. Still, I figured I would work something out. However, the added stress of having to come up with a new plan for the boy at the last minute kept me up till midnight.

5:30 alarm. Coffee. Oatmeal. Drive to the venue. There at 6:10. Second one there. Pretty soon I'm pounding stakes, running tape, and laying out cones. I get a crapload done in the 2-1/2 hours that I'm there. Then back home before the beginners start to watch the kids while my wife heads out to an appointment. I make some breakfast for the kids, hang out, relax, make some lunch, and then go back to the races so the boy can race the kiddie cross. The team tent is in a great spot and I can stand around there while the boy does some practice laps. He "races" (prizes are fruit gummies, Capri Sun, and ribbons), we hang out some and I make sure that some of the peeps are staying until the end of the last race and are okay with the boy tagging along. It's cool and my mind is easier. Then I run back home to pin the numbers and put on the tubies.

We arrive back to the venue about an hour before the race and I mostly hang out. The single speed and B men run at the same time and one of my teammates is in the B race. He is strung tight while I am relatively loosy-goosy. About 20 minutes before go time, I ride around a bit and check out the competition. At first I figure they all look fast. Then I pick out the dudes I know I'll beat -- I ascertain that I won't be DFL.

Just after the hour, they call the racers to the line and call up the pre-reg riders, of which I am one. I'm in the front row and wondering whether I really should be there. There's the regular official's yadda-yadda and I'm getting that nervous excited feeling. I notice I have my front wheel on backwards -- chevrons should point front. But I'm not about to pull it out of the drops right there. Racers ready and the whistle.

Bad clip in but everyone seems hesitant so no biggie. I'm running about fifth wheel off the bat and put some power down. Immediately I'm second wheel and not full gas. I'm kind of wondering WTF? Where's the acceleration? We hit the grass and the first turns (that I laid out, lol) and I realize that things aren't perfect. My rear tire is light. Like making that ripping noise as it folds over in hard corners.

I lose a spot. Then there are some more corners and I lose a couple more spots. I mostly hold my own through the woods and canyon but coming out on the second run up, I lose 2 more at the top. And that was it. No other SS riders passed me and I didn't gain on any in front of me.

The second lap was bad because my tire got lighter. I can't hold speed in the corners and I'm trying to be gentle on the remounts. By the third lap, it's pretty much flat. I'm bottoming out everywhere. On the single track descents in the canyon I'm totally on my front wheel -- not too great for handling. I'm babying every corner and thinking about quitting. It was a world of frustration to see people come by and not being able to respond -- because of equipment and not fitness.

Through the canyon and backside playground, a group of 4-5 B racers come around me. After exiting the canyon on the runup, I go straight to the pit and call for air. The pit guy (a saint, I tell you) has the pump ready, finds my valve, unscrews the stem and inflates it to 40 (my request). He screws the stem and I'm off. Effing quick I tell you.

I'm like a new racer. I can corner and run full out. Over the remaining couple of laps, I manage to reel in all but one of the group of B racers that passed me right before pitting. Two guys racing for 6th did pass me at the very end of the last lap. They managed to do it on a tailwind section that had a big dose of pavement -- I was spinning hard in my 42x18. I closed the gap to them through the late corners but they got away again on the pavement. Those final couple of laps reminded my what makes racing so fun.

So I got 8th out of 15 finisher in the SS. I was the highest placed 40+ racer, lol. And the oldest dude in front of me was 10 years my junior. The bottom line was that it sure felt good to pin that number on and spin the cranks.

Denouement: I pulled a sliver of metal out of my rear tire. I'm not sure when I picked it up but a photo of the start and the initial handling leads me to think that I poked the tire during warm up or when rolling to the line. Some Stan's sealed it right up.


That's me with the crooked hat.


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