My weekend started at 4:45 on Saturday morning. Being awake and functioning that early on a Sleepinurday is an unnatural act, and I hope Thumper is in full agreement with me on this one. I expect him to wait until 10 a.m. for his breakfast on Saturdays. And Sundays, too, for that matter. But on Saturday, I set aside my normally strict adherence to the rules, and I volunteered to help with a triathlon for kids and adults. I reported for duty at 6 a.m., and I was amazed to find that not only did I manage to get up, but so did a whole slew of teenagers. Conscious and functioning at 6 o'clock on a summer Saturday morning! And nary a one was surly!
I was posted at one of the intersections along the bike route to help keep any over-zealous and under-patient drivers from running over the participants. All of the drivers were patient and considerate, though, and gave the cyclists plenty of space and time. Most even waved and smiled at me, and some even rolled down their windows to thank me for my participation. A couple of the adult cyclists even said thanks as they zipped past.
The kids raced first, and then the adults. My instructions were to stop oncoming traffic if cyclists were approaching; my instructions did not include cheering the kids on. But I could hear the guy at the next intersection hollering enthusiastically and clapping for each kid that went by. Then the event organizer that had posted me went by, riding alongside the racers on her own bike and telling the kids how AWESOME! they were and what GOOD WORK! they were doing. I had just been smiling at them as they passed, but I began to feel like I should be yelling encouragement, too. But I was inhibited by a self-consciousness of which I have never been proud. I told myself that I didn't know how long the course was, or where my relative position along it was. I was in no position to judge how awesome any kid was or how good was the work that any kid was doing. Rationally, I knew it didn't really matter, but I felt like an idiot the couple of times I said, "Lookin' good!" to some poor kid sweating along. I wish I hadn't worried about my dignity and just cheered them all on like any normal adult would have.
I also wish I'd done something about the two loose dogs that came upon the scene about twenty feet in front of me. One was a rottweiler with a limp, and the other appeared to be a mutt with some amount of pit bull in him. If they were a cartoon, the rottweiler would have been the streetwise thug and the other would have been his sidekick who uses wisecracks to hide his vulnerabilities. As soon as I saw them, I foresaw some sort of Tour de France-style pileup at best and a half-dozen mauled children at worst, and parents and event organizers blaming me in either case. But I couldn't think of a thing to do about it. In the end, they ran gleefully alongside a couple of kids for a few seconds before getting bored and wandering off, though. So no disasters ensued, but I still chastened myself for not being more proactive. I should have thrown myself on the dogs, sacrificing myself for the good of the children.
My favorite part of the event, by far, was the moment when the last of the kids went by. He was tiny, probably 5 or 6 years old, on a bicycle whose wheels looked to be about the size of dinner plates. He came along far, far behind the last of the stragglers who'd preceded him, but he was not daunted in the least. In fact, he was pedalling along with great enthusiasm. The last of the adults, when they raced a short time later, would not look nearly as fresh when she passed as this young man did. She would rather look distinctly wrung out. But this young man looked fresh as a daisy, and the AWESOME! organizer was pedalling slowly alongside him as he came. In the several seconds that they were in earshot, I heard his non-stop monologue, punctuated with her interjections:
"I'll probably play tennis, or basketball, but I don't think I'll ride bikes like Lance Armstrong..."
"Or I might race NASCAR. My brother's almost eight, and he wants to race NASCAR too."
And then he was gone, chattering cheerfully as he pedalled away. I think a little focus might have helped his finishing time a bit, but I don't think his overall enjoyment of the event could have been much higher.
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