2016 Sea Otter Classic – 2nd Place Cat 1 XC – by Ron Shevock
Thank you for letting me sleep with you last night. It’s always warmer and cozier for me that way when you just fall asleep with your headphones on and don’t bother to take me out. I can never hear what you’re listening to, but whatever it was, it must have been good. You don’t often dream of being young again, but last night you did and I got to see people from your past that I hadn’t seen before. I’m not sure what they were saying to you, but I could feel it make you warmer. Sponge Dog was in there too, I think he was standing watch over something, or someone, but he was keeping an eye on you like always does. There were shadows of other dogs running all around him, and they eventually lay down beside him and watched you too.
When you close your eyes, you project your thoughts and memories onto your eyelids like a movie screen and I have front row seats. As you drifted toward sleep, it was fun replaying the course over and over again that you took me to see the other day; I couldn’t wait for you to ride it faster, full gas, like all those other rides you’ve taken me on. Those rides where everything except for the trail becomes a blur. Those rides where you stare right through me with even more focus and vigor than you usually do. Those rides where your green iris’s supernova, let it all in, and I can look back and see the fire burning bright as ever behind your eyes.
These past few days here have been sweet. That chill ride along the coast you took me on Saturday was something special. You were taking it all in.
When you blink you’re snapping pictures into memory and I can look back through your eyes and see them get piled up in the corner with all of the others. You placed these on right on top. And then watching Tofor do so well in his race today was killer. It was a bummer that he flatted, but hey that’s racing. Even I know that. Hopefully people saw what he’s capable of before that happened. Hopefully he saw it too. That was a great sunset out there today too…maybe the best one you’ve shown me yet.
It’s almost like you knew it would be my last one.
You probably didn’t see it coming, but today was my last day. I had it planned for awhile. We were together what, like three months, and I knew it was just my time to go. I’ve gotten a little rough around the edges; and was doing you no favors with all of this springtime pollen around right now, and I could tell you’ve been a little irritated with me.
You’ve been wearing your glasses so much these days.
From how much I’ve watched you think about these trails, I’m thinking that today’s race might be important and maybe it’s not the best day for me to jump ship like this. But I know you can handle it. And it’s not like I’m going very far, I’ll still be right there watching. I just need to go out on my own terms and this is the best way I know how. I’ve watched you consider such things yourself so I know you’ll understand.
Yet you always seemed to just look right through me.
I probably could have picked a better place to jump off, but I had to wait until things got moving…at least until you got off the paved racetrack and onto the dirt. When I knew you would just react and leave me be, and keep on rolling. Besides, from watching you stare at the trail maps, I knew that fast rutted dirt road descent was called Lookout Canyon Rd, and I just love the obscure irony in that. I be all like “Ha! LOOKOUT!”.
When I jumped and landed perfectly on the inside of your sunglasses, I looked back at you and boy did you look surprised! It was FUNNY! I had to do it in a spot where you wouldn’t be able to take your hands off of the bars. Your eyes got so wide I could still look back through them and I saw connections firing that you didn’t even know you had. But I knew you had them. I’ve seen them fire before.
But then I saw all those other guys pass you and I felt kind of bad. For a while there it really seemed to affect you. You just stayed behind that one guy on all of that fun looking singletrack! You weren’t even riding it much faster than you rode it the other day! And that group of five other guys just took off! Like they were gone in a real hurry! I kept waiting for you to chase them but saw that you needed a moment to yourself. It wasn’t long before even I couldn’t see them up ahead anymore and believe me; I can see a lot better than you.
I kind of wanted you to stop again at those cool looking rock formations that you took me to the last time we were here, but I knew you couldn’t.
That was where you finally moved around that one guy you were following and I started to really feel the wind through my pores. This is what I was waiting for! I looked back and saw that you said something to that guy, but he just stared back and I watched him slowly disappear. I looked up into your eyes and they were full blast.
I wondered if you knew I was still there watching.
I didn’t know if you could see it or not, but I started to see a dust cloud just ahead from that lead group. You seemed too busy to notice; you were trying to straighten out the turns in the trail and were just bashing your arms and bars through the overgrown branches like they weren’t even there and I’m really glad you didn’t go down. Did you even see all those erosion ruts all over the trail? That got a little intense there. The dust cloud ahead billowed bigger, closer, thicker; and then there they were.
Your eyes filled with soft relief when you saw them but you stayed on it. I saw you thinking about how you could potentially make up a little time on the sandy run-up and sure enough you were able to pass that one guy and it seemed that was when all the other guys realized you had reattached yourself. That was cool, glad I was there for that. Those two guys who wouldn’t let you pass on the singletrack while the front three powered away was a little worrisome but holy crap, when the trail opened back up you sure did start smashing! Just like those loopy neighborhood lunch rides you’ve taken me on. That fire in your eyes now was FRIGGING BRIGHT. I thought you were going to let up after passing those two, but then you bridged up to the lead three and snuck in front of them too just before the next singletrack started. That made me smile.
I looked back and saw that it made you smile too.
It was pretty sick being on the front for that. Even closer to the action than I normally would have been. You were moving pretty well but I did get a little worried when you eventually waved the other two around. Your face relaxed a bit when you were following their tires on the downhill stuff. The way you relax when you take me out.
You probably needed to relax a little anyway.
When you guys merged with all those other riders, things sure kicked up a notch and that dust was intense. I really don’t know how you were able to see. I could barely see a thing, and that’s saying something. That one guy riding the black hard tail really seemed to pour it on here. I think I saw fire in HIS eyes. I kept waiting for you to climb back to him but you never did. The fire was still in your eyes, but now more crackling campfire than funeral pyre. The third rider behind you slowly disappeared.
As you pedaled off the dirt and returned onto the racetrack, I looked back up into your eyes and saw you replaying the terrible crash that you had here last year over and over. I don’t think I had seen that memory yet. The one that cracked your helmet and broke off your saddle. The little room where you kept that memory has always been a bit smoky, but it seemed to be clearing out a bit now; as if someone finally opened a window. You took your hands off the bars and soft pedaled the entire home stretch. I saw you replaying all the rides we did together this year. The fast ones. The hard ones. The lonely ones. The long ones that brought you here. The ones we both know you really don’t have the time for.
You were smiling.
And now my last memory: You finally take off your glasses and see me still sitting there. YES I’M STILL HERE! I’m cold, dusty, and brittle; I’m done. But the soft glowing coals in your eyes warm me one last time.
I think now for the first time,
instead of looking right through me,
you are finally noticing me.