Sunday, June 26, 2011

Race Day

I should correct my numbers from yesterday. There were 23,000 start numbers issued and 19,000 people officially started the race this morning. It may interest you to know that Leif’s group was the first to start without lights. Yes, at 3:40 in the morning it was no longer necessary to use lights. I think they have a whole hour and a half of actual night here right now. So early this morning (1:15am) the alarm went off and Leif got dressed, ate breakfast and left for his bike race. I am a terrible girlfriend. I didn’t get up with him. I didn’t exactly fall asleep right away, but figured he didn’t really need me, and he might be more comfortable being his “before a race” self without me around. His dad is used to it. Leif has been racing since he was about 15 years old and his dad has been with him the whole way.

Which brings us to his dad, Tord. While Leif is off happily (in my mind anyway) pedaling around a lake I am waking up in a house without English. Just me and his dad. He is really a wonderful man who is very careful with me always. We just can’t speak to each other. So this morning we silently emptied the dishwasher together, set the table for breakfast, ate breakfast and then cleaned up. It was a pleasant meal, just very quiet. I discovered that I chew loudly. I may in fact slurp my coffee slightly. When he bit into his flat bread topped with caviar it sounded like an explosion. Halfway through breakfast even the stoic Swede couldn’t take it anymore and turned on the radio.

Leif’s mother passed away several years ago, so his dad is turning back into a bachelor. As everyone knows, single people live differently than people who share a space and a life with another person. Certain economies begin to happen and habits are formed in seclusion. For example, when a woman lives in a house the toilet paper is comfortable. It doesn’t have to feel like sitting on clouds of gossamer silk and chiffon, but it shouldn’t feel like sliding across a tree trunk either. A happy medium in feel and price is called for. Men don’t have these same guidelines for toilet paper. His dad buys his in a pack as big as an over-sized suitcase. He keeps it in the basement because there isn’t a cupboard in the house big enough for it. It looks like cheap paper toweling made out of grey newsprint with Braille printed everywhere. I’ll let you form your own opinion as to feel. I’ll just say that when we visited in December I had a cold and in half a day of using it to blow my nose my upper lip began to look like I slid across a concrete driveway on it. ‘Nuff said.

But I really like him. He reminds me of my dad. He cross country skis in the winter and rides his bike in the summer. Like my dad, he feels that many manufacturers lack some common sense when designing products and he likes to make his own “improvements” to those things he uses most. Like his skis. He wanted to find a way to stop sliding backwards with his skis, without stripping and reapplying wax for each different temperature and snow condition. His solution was to mount a gate hinge on the back of his ski that would open flat when he moved forward but would be pushed into an “L” shape if he started to slide backwards and act as a brake. He also got tired of his poles breaking through the snow and plunging down so deeply he couldn’t push forward. His solution to that was to cut a salad plate sized disc out of sheet metal and mount it directly below the manufacturers small plastic disc. Again, like my dad, I’m sure that he didn’t have to buy a thing to make these improvements. He was able to use odds and ends of things sitting in his workroom. The only thing better than improving a sub-standard product is to do it for free. They could be twins.

He jingled his car keys at me about 11:30. This meant “time to go” so we went to his brother’s house to get them before heading to the finish of the race. He had been getting text updates on Leif’s progress and said that he was projected to arrive at 2:30pm earlier in the morning, but that the projection was now for 1:23pm. Which would be great, because that would put his time for 300 kilometers at around 9hours 30 minutes. And he arrived at 1:30 making his official time exactly 9:30. He was very happy with that time. I was just happy that he had survived the ride and seemed to have had a very good time with the group he rode with.

He was sore, needless to say, but nothing hurt and he slept like a baby. I did too, who knew a day spent mostly in silence could be so exhausting?

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