The Realization that Racing is a Young Man’s Sport
Remember being a kid when birthdays were truly cause for celebration? When the night prior was riddled with sleeplessness at the thought of presents, the company of friends, and eight solid hours of sugar-induced hysteria? It’s tough put an exact finger on precisely where the tables turn but somewhere along the way it simply isn’t quite as exciting to set aside a day to mark one step closer to the inevitable one way journey to the retirement home.
Case in point- a couple years ago I passed the dreaded marker in the racing world, which meant my acceptance into the veteran class. Aside from the depressing realization that I’m not a kid anymore, I also concluded that Hallmark is missing a golden opportunity by not marketing greeting cards specifically for the occasion:
“On your mark, get set… Get out of the way, you crusty vet.”
But I digress. The point of this ranting is that while it was hard enough to have a race-sanctioning body confirm the sad truth that my bones are already too weary to keep pace with the hormone and adrenaline-filled bodies of youth, it’s even worse when you decide to go out and prove them wrong. This past September, I did such a thing by loading up and hitting up an open motocross practice with my cousin, who, at a combined age of somewhere in the thousands, represented the two oldest players on the track.
I may be exaggerating a little, but let’s just say that we had a lot more in common with the pit parents who drove their kids there to ride then we did the kids themselves. And that’s another thing- we were riding with “kids”. There was a time in recent history when a gate filled with teenagers would have been referred to as bros, comrades, competitors, or rivals. These days I find myself fighting the urge to bore them with stories about the good old days.
The next mistake we made was bringing along the camcorder to relive the magic. In this case the word magic can be interchanged with disappointment. Ever watch NASCAR on TV and think to yourself, I could do that? It turns out that camera has a way of making everyone look slower. Imagine what it does to those of us who aren’t really going all that fast to begin with! My first viewing of the footage in the camera’s LCD at the restaurant later that night ended with the sentence, “you’re sure we don’t have this thing playing in slow motion, right?”
Maybe placing us veterans into our own little class is the right thing to do after all. I mean it’s not just that our reflexes slow throughout the years, the very mindset of going out to do battle starts to somehow shift. Jumps that were once a bit of a challenge now daunt with threats of broken bones, missing work, and missed mortgage payments. Sections that used to allow for a display of aerial competence to woo the crowd are now spent hanging on for dear life. Corners where you once dared to fling yourself into a bar to bar brake check suddenly look like good places to pull off the track to catch a quick breather. I used to calm my jitters on the starting gate by intently focusing on being the first guy into the corner. These days I add to the suspense by wondering if my insurance co-pay is 15 or 20% for emergency room visits. How did all of this happen, I found myself wondering while I moved aside to allow the leader an unchallenged pass on the first straightaway.
From there I managed to fall into some semblance of rhythm where I rode my own pace and didn’t worry about the leaders, who rocketed away into the distance. I dare even say things were going well until I came up a bit short on the first big double. Sure the landing was jarring and I used the opportunity to get a great up-close look at my handlebar mounts, but the worst was yet to come. Apparently the rider behind me decided to go for it despite my flubbing and my harsh return to earth was immediately followed by the unmistakable thud of being landed on. My cousin, who witnessed the entire affair from even further back in the pack, attests that we were both lucky. His front wheel evidentially landed directly into my rear and did little more than toss us both off-line a bit. Somehow neither of us went down in the process but that didn’t prevent my nerves from kicking into overdrive.
Once the pack had sorted itself out and my pulse returned to triple digits, my cousin and I found ourselves quite off the pace with a spectacular view of the racing up front. It could be argued that we had the best seats in the house. We took solace in the fact that we were able to clear 90% of the track’s obstacles cleanly (even if not very stylishly). One thing’s for certain, we’re looking forward to checking out the competition in the vet class next season. In the future we’ll try not to doubt the collective wisdom of the sanctioning body’s racing classes. Maybe I’ll write them a letter of gratitude right after I finish telling Hallmark about that card.