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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Race is On!

I've mentioned before that my man races motorcycles, and this weekend started the new Enduro season. I have enjoyed the new freedom I have to travel with him to his races, and have found that I'm beginning to understand a little about the race and a lot about the reasons he races.

We typically arrive on site on Friday with our little camper, and set up before the crowds come in on Saturday. I usually do a trail run on Saturday morning, then we have a lazy day, eat the best steak you've ever tasted on Saturday night, head to church, then sleep that wonderful restful sleep that seems to only come for me at sea or deep in the woods. The first race this year was in Clanton, Alabama, and located on private property that is truly one of the most beautiful cow pastures I've ever seen. :) This weekend was a little different in that I didn't do a trail run. I have a 23 miler coming up this week, and I've had some issues with my back, so I just rested and walked some. By late Saturday, the campgrounds were buzzing with families arriving and riders registering and working on or playing on their bikes.

Sunday morning dawned cool and beautiful. The air was thick with the smell of gasoline and testosterone as riders zipped around on their bikes, making final adjustments, then headed toward the starting line. I was inspired to write this post as I walked to the starting line and saw a gentleman who I once would have considered an old man, test riding his bike. Concentration, focus, joy, and passion were written on his face in equal measure. It reminded me of the runners I know. I reflected that we all need something that makes us happy in our lives, a sport/hobby that we are truly passionate about, something to keep us young at heart. And, that's what this is for most of these men. A passion that keeps them young, makes them take better care of their bodies, so that they can meet the challenges the woods throws at them as they race their hardest. Most of the men I've met love their sport, but seem to keep it in its proper place, behind God and family. In foot races, we mostly race against ourselves, always trying to best our last PR, and that's what these riders do as well. Yes, as in a foot race, there are winners divided by age groups. However, I've found that most of these men, while attempting to capture first place, are equally focused on just enjoying their sport and performing it to the best of their ability. The dedication to their sport spills over into other areas of their lives, benefitting their families, businesses, and communities. Isn't that what our passions should do?

In enduro racing, the riders begin in rows of four or five, each row starting a minute apart.
I don't begin to claim that I understand the somewhat complicated nature of the race, it is divided into sections, and the riders ride each section as fast as they can and are scored depending on how long it takes them. This is a very simplified explanation, it seems a lot more complicated than that, and I probably have it wrong to some degree. But, basically, it's a race with a start line and finish line and the fastest person in each group gets the best score. Like most racing. The riders accumulate points for each race that decide who the overall winners are at the end of each season.

The start is always fun, the racers line up in their rows and wait for the countdown to begin. I will admit, I like the sound and feel at the start, there is something primal there, a deep seated desire to best your opponent. It's a little anticlimactic, though. After the start, you really aren't able to watch the race, as it winds through the woods and goes for many miles and several hours. Some races set up spectator points, but they are notoriously hard to find, or at least they are to the uninitiated like me. There is usually a gas stop about midway through the race and typically you can find your rider there. He usually has a few minutes, then he's off again, racing the clock.

I love to listen to the riders and their support teams, usually made up of the rider's family or friends who are injured and can't ride. That's another thing we runners have in common with these guys. There is always a group of people who are injured. While we complain with plantar facsitis, pulled hamstrings, shin splints, bad knees, painful hips, and the slowdown that age brings; the riders complain about shoulder surgery, broken collarbones and ankles, legs that have healed badly from a past break, and also bad knees, painful hips, and the inevitable toll that age takes on our bodies. Seems all sports have some things in common.

One of the greatest benefits to age for me has been the gift of wisdom that it has brought. Many people in my life have contributed to that wisdom, but probably the most influential has been my man. In the 30+ years we've been together, we've both grown and changed. We've picked up each other's habits and mannerisms (good and bad). But, I think the most valuable thing Gary has taught me is that life is about passion. About finding what you love, and making it part of who you are. My parents taught me many things and gave me the foundation I needed to become the faith filled woman that I am, but they never taught me to follow my passions, savor the dreams. I've learned that as an adult, and I'm grateful that we're never too old to learn life lessons.

Motorcycle racing is not without risk. Bones are broken, bells are rung, muscles and tendons are strained to the breaking point. But, isn't life about risk? Reaching out with both hands, grabbing it by the handlebars and hanging on for the ride? I think so. I'm thankful that I have not only found my passions in life, but have been encouraged to develop them and see how far I can take them. I hope we've raised our daughters that way. I don't want to leave this world without having experienced it. There are many things I'll probably never do, but it won't be from a lack of desire or the belief that I can't do them. At almost 50, I've decided that life tastes really good, and that anything is possible with determination and perseverance. The race truly is on. If you aren't already there, run, don't walk, to the starting line! You don't want to miss this!

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