Abe and I were up by 5:30 am Saturday morning. We readied and ate a quiet little breakfast all in dim lighting. Abe filled water bottles and loaded his bike into the back of the truck, then the two of us drove through morning dark to Eagle Mountain for Abe's last mountain bike race of the season.
When we arrived, the sun was only just beginning to light up the hills. We parked in grass and weeds – careful not to hem other vehicles in.
As people got out of their cars, they squinted their eyes in the new light, rubbed arms and shoulders in an effort to warm up, and talked in quiet voices that carried far -- despite their subdued tones -- in the way voices only can on chill early mornings like this. Bikes were lifted from cars and shoes with clips were put on all in this state of nervous quiet.
But before long the pre-race excitement took hold. Voices got louder. Canopies, grills, and chairs were set up in the “pit zone” with school logos and colors boldly shouting their whereabouts to each arriving team member. Laughter was heard. Announcements began stretching over the crowd from the race announcer's megaphone. Jackets came off and numbers were pinned on jerseys. Racers began lining up at the starting line – parents jockeying for spots to stand to get photographs, the gun sounded, and the bikers were off.
Practices (and races alike) were never very close or convenient, but I will miss being drawn into that familiar atmosphere (familiar because I've felt it all before at various races of my own), being up in the mountains a little more frequently than I typically manage to be, and . . . taking pictures of Abe in this new niche where he has found enjoyment and confidence.