The velodrome

Almost every Friday night these last five months, I have raced my bike. The Harry Jarome Sports Centre in Burnaby has a 200m indoor velodrome. If you can ride at least 30km/h, you can go fast enough that you don't slide down the steeply banked corners.

If you're comfortable being in close proximity to other folks at 40-50km/h, you can race there.

Friday night racing goes from about 7-9pm, with my races generally being done by 8:30. You get to do three races each night, which makes for more casual racing. If one doesn't go well, you have another one coming up in twenty minutes.

I had raced there several years ago. It was one of the cycling things I really wanted to try and as of January 2011, we were a ten minute drive away. There are currently something like three or four indoor velodromes in North America. This is a special building.

If we moved away at some point and I hadn't ridden on the track, I probably would have regretted that. Regrets just wouldn't do so in the winter of 2012-2013 when Isaac was about a year old, I raced most Fridays.

I didn't really go back until this year.

Hillary and I had talked about my cycling. She knew it was important to me, but she also knew and understood the balance I had with the time commitments and everything else. We talked about it in the spring. Road racing was too large of a time commitment and was mostly out. I liked cyclocross, but again, it tended to burn a big chunk of a weekend day. Considering Isaac would have soccer games in that same window, it didn't seem likely for the fall of 2018.

But the velodrome? Racing was Friday evenings. We knew we'd have tons of family support around so we would have someone to help Hillary with the kids those evenings. So we more or less decided that I would start doing the Friday night races again in the fall.

The first racing night was October 5th. I spent hours, literally, debating if I should go that night. Thinking about it as I sat at the hospital with Hillary and she slept. When I went home at night and the kids were asleep.

She was dying, and I wanted to do something fun? Hillary, as I have mentioned before, was withdrawing and I don't think she really cared one way or the other. I think she liked the idea that I was doing something. I don't know though.

I decided to go. We had talked about it and that was the plan we'd made months before.

I stewed and was mentally and emotionally exhausted and out of it.

Then, as I got ready for that first race, something happened. I couldn't think about anything else. The race started. One hundred percent of my brain was taken up with riding my bike, watching the race unfold, being in oxygen debt while keeping up.

That happened two more times that night. For maybe 30 minutes, my body had forgotten about what was waiting for me when I stopped. Or maybe not forgotten, just that it got utterly pressed out by the physical and mental demands of racing.

I can't remember if I headed directly to the hospital afterwards, or headed home to have a shower first. I think it was likely the latter. Hillary woke up not long after I got there. I told her I'd raced. She smiled, but clearly didn't care. That's fair.

We then had the last real conversation we would have.