Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The ride home

On a race Sunday, there is no such moment as the moment when we get in the car to come home. Once in the car, it means we are headed for hot showers, a comfy couch, loving animals and the end of another race Sunday. It is also the most reflective time of the whole day.

Race Sunday starts at 5AM with the loading of the car, feeding of the animals and review of every bag packed. You cannot get 2-hours away from home and realize you forgot your helmet or your favorite socks. It's a chaotic hour getting everything you packed into the car, forcing your body to wake-up and take in calories. The goal is to always use the bathroom at home but quite often there are pit stops on race morning. Once we are in the car leaving home, we are in "race mode." There is little conversaiton on the way to a race as we listen to a mix of music we've compiled on our i-pods to avoid listening to small town gospel hour on the radio (no joke). We eat more calories, we drink coffee, and we wonder about the course silently anticipating whatever the day will bring. It's high anxiety and we both avoid interferring with the others race prep routines.

This is a stark contrast to when we leave for home. We moan and groan adjusting our sore bodies in the car seats. No matter the temperature outside, we find ourselves reaching for the heated seat button to warm our sore lower backs. The anxiety has given way to sheer exhaustion. Besides being physically tired, we are mentally drained from cheering on teammates, cooking enormous amounts of food and keeping the peace at our temporary campsite. I talk to JC, who is usually driving, so he doesn't tire. It's silly conversation about all the things we would do differently if we could do the race over. We talk about the funny cyclocross dogs we see and the cute things the kiddos say. All the while, we are nursing our tender carcusses awaiting the moment we arrive to our final point B.

At this point in the race, I am thinking about food and sleep.

One of the many pups at our race tent. He's smiling because he didn't race.
The road trip home is more relaxed with all attention turned towards the few required necessities like calories. I am not a person who dines in the car regularley but after a race with consistent hunger every few hours, I find the ride home is the perfect time to reward ourselves with something greasy and naughty. The burger and fries holds us over until the next stop at home and another meal, usually home cooked or slapped together with leftovers. With every passing mile, we count down the time to reach our comfy couch, loving animals and post race snacks.

The ride home is the only time I can enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. In the dark morning hours, we see a sunrise streaked with beautiful colors brightening the skyline. It truly happens in slow motion. The stark contrast is noticable from exit to exit. However, I cannot tell you we truly appreciate this beauty. We are usually too distracted locating coffee shops and approved bathroom stops. On the way home, I can take in all the colorful leaves, the sights, sounds and smells of fall. Externally, I read the signs for every pumpkin patch, corn maze, and haunted house along the route (sometimes aloud which JC doesn't care for). Internally, I run the race through my head turn by turn thinking about all the things I would do differently and all the things I need to work on.

The car ride home is the last place I swell with pride. I ride home proud of my husband for making good decisions. We congratulate each other as if we had podiumed and we nurse each other's aching bodies. He will tell you he usually needs more nursing than me. Whether it's band aids and ibuprofen or an extra hand to hold chicken strip dipping sauce, I'm there. Whether we win the race or not, there is this little moment where you are just happy that you can race and happy that the day has ended well. After the car is unloaded, the laundry piled up and animals fed, we finally collapse on our couch and only then can we say the day is done. Then, we count down until the next weekend and do it all over again.

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