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Aug. 15, 2005

I didn't finish last. I didn't crash. I didn't die.

I didn't start.

My bike felt loagy toward the end of my warm-up before yesterday's criterium in Winfield, but I chalked it up to fatigue or nerves.

And nervous I was. In the front row of the starting line, standing ahead of more than a hundred riders, the largest field I've ever been in, I had, as George Lucas would put it, a bad feeling about this. I was almost looking for a reason not to compete, and when I felt my front tire, a reason was found: It was flat, probably the victim of a slow leak caused by glass on the ride down to Logan Square in the morning. There was no time to fix the tube, and I had no spare wheels in the pit. I pulled out, changed clothes and started taking pictures.

It sure would have been nice to have had a spare set of wheels.

For weeks I've been debating whether I could afford to upgrade my wheelset. I spent a lot of time in Yosemite thinking about this. Over one shoulder a toga-clad angel squawked something about saving for retirement. Over my other shoulder, a bearded devil in Lycra danced from foot to foot and made promises about visits to the podium. I can fund my IRA later, his airtight logic went, but the only time I could only win races was now.

I resisted temptation. I even went to the bike shop last weekend expecting to buy wheels, but when 20 minutes passed and no salesman had come to help -- because of a coupon I had gone to a place other than my regular local bike shop; never again -- I took it as a sign. (I bought new shoes instead.)

When there is something I want to do but know I shouldn't, I'm big on signs. On destiny. On deflecting responsibility. In the vending machines at work there is a candy bar I like to indulge in that costs $1.10. When the sweet tooth strikes I will say to myself, "If there is a dime in this drawer, it is my destiny to buy a candy bar." I make massages contingent on whether I win at the poker table. If there is gelato across the street, I will say, "If that light turns green within three seconds, it is a sign that a higher power wants me to have some gelato."

Sometimes that three seconds turns into 20 seconds, sometimes into 20 minutes. In any case, there apparently is a higher power that wants me to eat a lot of candy bars and gelato, and who am I to argue? (It's a bit like the joke of the preacher who throws all the offering money into the air. Whatever God takes, God gets. Whatever falls to the earth, the preacher gets.)

So yesterday morning I prepared myself for the possibility of a sign, a revelation, a Post-it note from God: "Buy those wheels. --G."

I wondered what the sign would be. Doves of peace? A hundred-dollar bill in the gutter? A crash? Suddenly there I was, walking my flat tire down the sidewalk because I had no spare, and my destiny was clear. Whether I could afford it or not, I would buy those wheels.

I'm just glad I didn't have to make the decision on my own.

Photo taken: Aug. 14, 2005