My First Bike Race

Note: Following is an imaginary transcript of a phone call I would have made during the Winter Park XC Super Loop Race on June 25—if I’d been feeling chatty. (Inspired by a Frank O’Hara poem.)

Hello, this is Roberta from the Department of Rationalization—how may I help you?

Hi, Roberta thanks for taking my call.

My pleasure! Now, what can I do for you?

Well, Roberta, I’m a little freaked out because I’m in this mountain bike race, and, well, I think I might be in last place. (Pant. Pant.)

Is there anyone behind you? Wait, scratch that. Don’t look back.

Okay, I won’t. Which is good because I’m already feeling dizzy, and turning my head might cause me to fall over.

Good. Let’s pretend there are at least five people behind you. Oh, heck, let’s say ten.

Hey, that’s a great idea. But still, Roberta, this is awful! I think I suck at this racing thing.

Is this your first race?

Well, yeah, it is.

So there you go! That’s why you’re having a heckuva time. You’ve never done this before. Rank beginners can’t expect the moon, you know!

True, but I used to race all the time. I used to be an pretty good runner. I even won a few races.

Bygones from another era, am I right?

Yeah, at least 20 years ago.

It’s not fair to compare yourself to that skinny, naive young man, now is it?

No, you’re right. That makes me feel better.

Now, let’s explore some other avenues. Did you prepare well?

I think so. Though I should have trained more.

Now you’re getting the hang of this. You’re a busy man, am I correct? Kids? Mortgage? A lawn to mow? No one can expect you to train like Lance whathisname–your life would be a shambles!

So true! Roberta, you read me like a book!

What else have we got?

Well, I did feel kind of sick this morning, like I was getting an ear infection or something.

You poor race-day boy! That can’t make it any easier, now can it?

And my ear still hurts a little. Though right now on this climb everything hurts. A lot.

Okay, we’re on a roll now. Keep going.

Well, the registration yayhoo said that it was 19 miles, but I think it’s going to be longer than that. She had no clue and made it up!

Shame on her! For getting in your head and messing around like that.

Yeah, and she said there would be water bottle stations on the course, and I haven’t seen any. None! Zilch. Nada. Zippo. I’m dying of thirst out here, dammit!

It’s okay to blend righteous indignation and rationalization! Good for you!

And, AND, so I only brought one stupid bottle and left my full Camelbak in the stupid car, and now I can feel my left thigh twinging like it’s going to cramp! Ouchie!

Now that is downright criminal, isn’t it?

Yes, yes it is. Well, I feel better, though the race seems to be going on forever. I think I should hang up now and focus on this gnarly singletrack so I don’t break my skull or something. Thanks, Roberta. I feel much, much better now! You’ve been an angel. Last place, here I come!

Please do call again, anytime. We’re here 24 hours a day.


My calf, with my racing category. (“S” stands for sport, not slow.)

My bike, coated in mud.

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