Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I raced at the Livermore cross series, my last chance to do so this year, and I loved it. I “won” – first out of five guys in the 35+ Bs – but far more important is the fact that while I raced, Mack and Declan, ages 8 and 3 roamed free around the course.

So while I might have won this very small race, I’m not likely to win Father of the Year.

But they were safe, and they had a great time; I made certain of the former, and was confident about the latter before starting. I’d tried to rope some fellow dads into a cross debut/kid swap, but went 0-for-4 on my invitations (the predominant theme on their emailed regrets was “Great idea, Mike; not going to happen”). So I brought the boys along, swearing to myself that if the didn’t seem like they would be assuredly safe and secure, I wouldn’t race.

The course being my first “European” layout, with twist after hairpin, runup after dismount, the boys had plenty of chance to catch me as I sped – er, rode by. Mack said just before the start, “We don’t want to stay here and play soccer; we want to watch the race,” so I walked them to a good access point, admonished them not to cross the course and hustled back to the start – still swearing that I’d stop racing if I had any reason for concern.

But it went perfectly. I saw them once a lap, each time in a different spot. I spent the first three laps in serious oxygen debt and admittedly didn’t give them much thought, fleetingly happy as I glimpsed them each time around, but then I settled into a rhythm, and my head cleared a bit, and I was able to take in just how amusing and how delightful it was that my older son was leading my younger one around the course, up onto fences for better vantage, twice up and down the grandstand that served as our runup – and finally, after I gaspingly told them “Just two more laps!” back to the start/finish area, where they greeted my with a smile and a hug (Mack) and a pleading “Can I have a piece of candy?” (Declan).

This being a multi-division cross race, I had no idea where I’d finished. I thought I’d made my way to the front of the Bs, and I’d passed a number of the 35+ and 45+ As who’d started 30 seconds in front of us. Mack and Declan thus missed that small thrill that I remember when I would watch my dad place well in running races; one day I’d love to finish with my arms up in front of them. But even being told that I’d finished fourth out of the Bs, and first among my five division-mates, brought proud smiles to their faces, and I’m sure to mine as well.

On the way back to the car, after picking up my medal (which impressed Declan), I spotted Thomas Hoeffel’s daughter Maddie. Thomas had just started the A race, and Maddie was walking from the parking lot to the course alone. She didn’t recognize me, but I called to her, “Hi Maddie. Who are you with?” She replied insouciantly, “My dad.” I again smiled, realizing that my big step, racing while my kids watched me without adult supervision, wasn’t such a big step after all. It’s just typyical, I realized – for cyclocross.


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