Oh, the poor lad had his eye so set on first place that he scared himself on the start line, and never could recover to actually pedal as hard as he knows how.
My 8-year-old spent the last two months thinking of ways to improve his time so that he could move from second place to first. None of those ways involved actually pedaling faster. Within 10 minutes of the start line he realized what all of that talk can do to a boy’s nervous system, and it wasn’t pretty. His usual cocky smile was replaced with an angst-ridden snarl in front of dead eyes as he gazed across the small crowd of family and friends who had taken the morning to watch him cross the finish line for the fourth time in his life. He had his dad riding with him this time. The thought was that dad would encourage him enough to get him past the other kid – who had his dad with him the last two races. What he hadn’t considered was that with all of mom’s blabbering online that there would be so many more kids to show up – kids who were hungry enough for a win that they were willing to stand up in the pedals and spin them faster than ever before.
He started the race fumbling off of the pedals and then lightly spinning in an off-gear no matter how much I cheered from the sides for a harder gear. He cruised through the crowd for his second lap and wouldn’t even make eye contact or give up a lopsided grin. He was still spinning aimlessly in an easy gear, his brow glistening with sweat as kids blew past him. I knew he would be riding the technical bits. That was his forte. But the mood he was in might even cause him to step off of the bike with the thought of something hard in the horizon.
At this point I knew that I needed to say nothing other than, “Good Job!” when he finished, and “I’m SO proud of you!” Even with a bad attitude he raked in fifth place. Everyone has an off day, and more than plenty of us have a bad race.
Little 3-year-old Wyatt decided that he wanted to race too, and the whole drive up told everyone that he would be in “The Little Duder Race.” He was so proud to have his number mounted to the handlebars of his Strider. He had mastered the two-wheeler a week prior, but was still a little shaky on gravel and grass, so we agreed he would race his Strider, without the pedals. Plus, he wanted to do this race by himself. It was billed as 6 and under, so some kids were huge, on huge bikes. This did not deter tiny Wyatt, who started the race with his game-face on, shouting first for his camelbak and for mom to “GO AWAY!”