"Nice hat," I probably mean to denigrate his choice of head cover. So the expression, "Nice hat!" really means "Good grief, man. Get a clue. You'll never get a girl to talk to you when you have that ridiculous thing on your noggin!"
So, to names. My female Aggie teammates called me either "Big Daddy" or "Daddy-O," in part because I once compared my protectiveness and concern for their welfare after a crash to a sense of paternal worry. Watching my friends Linnea, Marisa, Amanda, and Amy all hit the deck in various crashes made me sick to my stomach in a way that felt eerily similar to the time my daughter Katie fell off the back of the couch and cut her chin. Compared to Marisa's broken pelvis and Linnea's fractured vertebra, Katie's wound was tiny and superficial, but both categories of wounds affected me the same way--I wanted to destroy worlds to make them safe.
I was also the only member of the team with a pint-sized cheering section:
That's my wife and daughters at the collegiate conference championship road race in 2006. The guy wearing his helmet while warming up on a trainer knew something the rest of us didn't: about five minutes after this picture was taken, he fell over sideways and took out most of the line.
My "Big Daddy" nickname also had something to do with the fact that I'm rather, uhh, large for a bike racer. That second year, I raced at 6'2" and 200 lbs--down from 220 my first season. Amongst the young and fit of the UC Davis Cal-Aggie Cycling Team, I was an old whale.
Now that I'm back in Omaha, everyone seems to make comments about how little of me has returned from California. And for the first time in my life on the bike, I'm not the last one to the top of every climb. I rode again last Sunday with Pat Cash and the Omaha Pedalers, the same group I rode with right before I blew out my back and lost two weeks waiting for the spasms to subside. This time, they showed me a rolling route through the hills and Elkhorn River bottomlands northwest of Omaha. We enjoyed the first sunshine I'd seen in two weeks and some great conversation amidst golden hues and mellow autumn light.
In 50 miles, we did almost 1,500 feet of climbing, mostly in the form of sharp, punchy power climbs. However, one ascent reached 5% and took almost 6 minutes to summit. In contrast, a 50-mile ride from Davis around Cantelow, a training hill about 25 miles from town, features only 900 feet of climbing.
I was able to stay with the lead group over each and every one of these little rollers, and I even managed to cover two attacks when Jake decided to get a little frisky.
I still can't sit at my desk and write for more than 30 minutes at a time, but I feel better today than yesterday, when I felt better than the day before. Now if only I could re-trace the routes these guys have shown me.
Oh, and BTW--today, Pat emailed me with the appellation "E.O'B." So it's followed me back here, too. From high school in Omaha to college in Kansas City, from post-collegiate professional life to grad school in California, "EOB" has followed me like a bloodhound on the scent of a criminal. So to all my new cycling buddies in Omaha, let's just get it over with now: my friends call me "E." Or "EOB."
Sheesh. All this stuff about identity....