The temperature is hovering right around freezing. My fingers lack feeling. The thin red layer of polyester that had been holding a small amount of heat against my body is now gone. It's laying on the concrete floor of the garage underneath a red and blue children's bike. I took note so I can return to it as soon as I'm done. I'm standing in a driveway, surrounded by multiple World and National champions, an Olympian. I'm wondering why I drove through a snowstorm to get to where I am but ahead of me there's a dark strip of mud that leads into a group of trees. It reminds me why. I can't see it very well with the three small LED's coming from my light. I'm not sure I have enough battery power for the night so have to wait for the last minute to turn it on. Now I'm shivering, watching my steamy breath floating in front of my face, obscuring the light shining from my head. The image of my surroundings reappears as the condensation dissipates. Someone yells "Go", cans crack open, then laughs. The man next to me laughs as well. Harlan. He's not Bill. Bill is the official starter. He laughs too. Comic relief. Or more accurately, comic continuity.
We've been racing for a little while. It doesn't feel as long as it probably has been, but I can hear a bell coming through the trees. I'm dripping with sweat now, my fingers noticeably warm. I'm comfortable. One more time down the driveway, up the run-up, through the swing set, dodging the childhood gang that's bound to pop out somewhere like ghosts in a haunted house. I hop the second to last barrier just behind an unknown rider. I recognize the red knee warmers, it must be Taylor. Taylor's hair isn't that big though. There's only one hippie with hair like that. I've been chasing Topher all night, now I'm right behind him. Around the slick goat-pen turn. He knows somebody is coming. Not who though. Each of us slam the chain onto cogs a couple teeth harder than ones we were just turning. We're accelerating towards the final set of barriers. The finish line lies just a few feet beyond the second wooden plank.
I'm a sucker who can never turn down a good sprint. But not through barriers. We keep accelerating towards them. A few strides prior to crashing into the first barrier, I ride the brakes, unclipping my right foot and swinging it to the ground. Topher mimics my movements. His much faster than mine though. By the time I have both feet on the ground he's about to stride over the second barrier. I see the beam of his light swing straight up into the canopy of trees above us, his bike falls from his shoulder, he makes some noises that I couldn't make out as words. Concerned moans come from the spectators as they try to make sense of the high-speed action.
His botched barrier won the hearts of the spectators. My assist went unrecognized. I did get the pass though.
Just between me and you, I'm starting to fancy my cross bike. One week ago, I could only ride in the drops. Then I took it for a straight up trail ride in Valley Forge and made myself stay in the hoods. It paid off. Last night, I rode entirely on the hoods. And went even faster.
I've hit 10,000 views this week. I guess people like what they see.