Since I’ve begun thinking of myself as a “writer” (I use quotes here because I’ve never been actually published or paid in any meaningful way, so I use quotes to not offend any actual writers out there—I have self-esteem issues when it comes to this—that is just the way it is), I find myself mentally narrating scenes in my day to day existence. At this moment, for example, I am “sitting on my porch step, typing out a sentence with my thumbs on my phone, while trying to ignore the incessant traffic that passes my house.” And I do this all the time now. “Dan has been working on his system for placing groceries on the checkout treadmill for over a decade now and thinks that he has it perfected. Heavy items first, as they can be bagged and loaded first to not crush any delicate food items. Boxed good second, as they have enough structural integrity to withstand being near heavy items, and light stuff last for obvious reasons.” It’s sort of like listening to a really boring nature documentary about a domesticated suburban primate.
I also do this with my bike stuff. I self-narrate the rituals that get me to races in the still hours of the morning. I don’t compose any sentences during races because my mind is occupied with both the physical exertion involved with racing and also with the concentration needed to not become dead due to falling off my bike in a pack of 90 odd racers. The narration of my race mornings usually begins with: “I’ve heard the alarm, and the moment to ignore it and go back to sleep has passed, it’s three-goddam-thirty and since I’m conscious, I might as well participate in the race I paid $53.70 for.” This is soon followed by, “Dear God, my mind is so foggy, how will I be able to ride a bike?”, as I make my way to the bathroom. (I always awake 2 hours before the start of a morning race.) The morning’s first bladder happening occurs and after a weigh-in and an extended scratching bout, I get dressed.
If I’ve done things correctly the night before and set the coffee maker properly, my coffee will be waiting for me. The first cup of the morning is started while sitting on the couch eating a light breakfast, watching about ten minutes of television and quietly awaiting the first bowel happening. (I take no pleasure in describing this process—long time readers will inevitably laugh at this pronouncement—I mention it here in the interest of full, revolting disclosure.) After the morning’s first number two, I begin packing my bag. I do not pack my bag the night before because I do not trust that the items that I pack will stay put overnight. This is insane, but I’ve come to live with the fact that I must see things go into my bag just before leaving or else I will go back and check on my bag over and over again. Packing in the morning allows me more time to live my life without compulsively checking and rechecking my bag. I pack my shoes first and then everything else after. I lay out my clothing in the shape of a “Flat Dan” on the floor and then shove those clothes into my bag. I check to make sure I’ve packed my shoes again. I put on my bib shorts (I always wear bibs in the car to races, it’s a life saver if things somehow go wrong with traffic delays), and put on people pants over them, because driving in cycling shorts without pants over them feels like it violates some sort of indecency law. Then I check my shoes again. I leave the straps to my bib shorts down because there will be more bathroom requirements. I pump my tires, pack my helmet and take my bike upstairs. This is usually when another bathroom requirement gets fulfilled. I hope for two, but usually I get one, which means I will have to dispose of two number two before the race start. I get my water bottles from the fridge (I fill these the night before, for some reason I don’t need to obsessively check on water bottles), and I pour coffee number two into my travel mug.
I attach my bike to the top of the Green Monster, my well worn VW Passat (the perfect vehicle to leave on almost any city street at 5 am), and I leave exactly 45 minutes after waking. The drive is about 35 minutes, unless the the GWB is unavailable, in which case I turn around and go home and try to sleep with two coffees in me. (I’d rather die than take the Lincoln Tunnel.) I put on whatever playlist I’m favoring lately and sing along tunelessly, unless I’m carpooling, in which case I try to form thoughts and words, usually with little success. I cross the GWB and take the FDR—a revolting motorway— but tolerable before dawn. I exit on 96th street and take a left on Lexington. The lights on Lexington are timed, so once you start hiring them you can drive at 30 miles per hour and have each light magically turn green for you, just as you reach them. This never fails to enchant me. I’m a simple man.
I turn right onto 79th and when I reach 5th avenue I turn left and park on 5th if possible or on 78th if the block is full. There’s a group of us who park here for park races, and in years past when we would ride the park path, as it was a quick way to the start. But now path riding is verboten, so I ride down to the 72nd street entrance. It might be more convenient to park closer to 72nd, but I am a creature of habit, and I like to walk down the path to my car through the fetching dogs after my race has finished.
After parking (and making sure there aren’t any signs up closing 5th avenue for a parade—I’ve been towed for that before) I take my bike off my roof rack and feel the sweet relief of seeing my shoes in my bag. I put my race essentials into my second bag and ride to the start. If my car coffee has had any effect, I sign in to the race while trying to not appear to be a person who really has to use the restroom. I get my race numbers (if necessary) and try to not rush to the bathroom as if it were a discounted television and I were a Black Friday shopper at Walmart.
This is when my strategy of not putting my bib short’s straps over my shoulders really pays off. If all has gone to schedule, I do not have to wait in line very long to enjoy the “prisoner for a morning” experience of using the Central Park stall door-free bathroom. Mercifully, there has always been toilet paper. My bib straps finally get put on their proper position, and the most demanding portion of my race day is completed. All that is left is to pedal my bike until my vision blurs the world into a funhouse mirror of pain. Then I check on my shoes and drive home.
I’ve done three races since my last entry, all were adequate experiences.