As a 14-year old headed to my first bicycle race at Bear Lake, I awoke to a strange sound of wet splashing around the car. Curled in the back of the family 4-Runner, I hazily came out of sleep and confused, tried to identify the sound. The wet sound came from the windshield-wipers slinging slushy water back and forth across the glass. I buried my head in my blankets, afraid to tell my dad.
The weather report the night before called for mostly sunny skies with a 20% chance of rain and being so young and inexperienced, I brought only my jersey, shorts, helmet, and shoes. I did not bring a rain jacket, shoe covers, warm tights, or ear warmers—and sitting up looking at the rain, I was afraid to tell my dad.
Eventually I confessed to my planning ahead failure and thinking quickly, my dad helped me improvise. Inside my shoes we stuffed plastic bags from a gas station to keep my feet warm and fashioned leg warmers out of wool socks with the toes cut off. With my plastic booties, makeshift tights, and a size-too-large jacket borrowed from another racer, I started the race and battled three hours of wind and rain to cross the finish line alone and in last place. And thus began my cycling career.
This morning, 6 years later, I drove myself to race Antelope Island—an event notoriously miserable in windy and rainy conditions. Similar to 6 years ago, the weather report last night indicated a 20% chance of rain; however, as I am now wiser, I came prepared anyway. Then again, I arrived to the parking lot 30 minutes late with an unprepared bike. Some things never change. In a frenzied rush I swapped my cassette from my training wheels to my race set only to find my unchecked tubular had a defective valve stem. I suppose I should have squared away that maintenance the night before. At least I managed to put the front race wheel on my bike. After reswitching the rear cassette and with 5 minutes to the start, I registered, begged the lady at the table to pin on my number, and zipped back to the car to grab the water bottles and booties I had forgotten. I arrived to the starting line 5 seconds before the group rolled out and riding with a $1000 race wheel on the front and a $100 training wheel on the back, I joined the pack to begin our race around Antelope Island. As we left, the clouds above let down enormous amounts of rain and hail. In my rushed state, I had forgotten my rain jacket. Some things never change.
Having survived the rain and the cold, I sit now smiling at the similarities and differences between today’s race—my first in almost 2 years—and my first experience at Bear Lake so long ago. Today, I drove myself; but throughout the day I thought of my dad often and how he sacrificed four years of Saturdays and Sundays to drive me and my bike to races throughout the region—often getting up at 4 am to drive while I selfishly slept in the back. I smiled as I thought of him rolling his eyes at my lack of preparedness and I wish he would have been at the finish line today as I rode in cold, alone, and almost in last place. Yet, there are the comforts of a cycling race that will never change. The race officials are still wonderful and the other racers still pleasant. My thanks go out to Richard and Holly Blanco, Harry Lam, Cindy Yorgason, Gary and Lousie Bywater, and all of the other officials who have supported and encouraged me throughout the years; it was great to see a few of you today, as miserable as you looked in the rain.
And of course, no tribute to cycling would be complete without a note about Terry McGinnis—an amazing coach and a dear friend we all terribly miss. I drew motivation from Terry’s enthusiasm for cycling and his passion for life and I thought of him often today. I hope he knew how much he influenced my life and made me a better cyclist and a better human being.
Good luck to all those racing! I look forward to an interesting and exciting season!