"Just promise me one thing," she stipulated when I brought it up.

"What's that?" I said.

"You don't make this some big competitive thing." Competition is my omnipresent mania. The trait has even rubbed off on our three sons, who make a race of everything from milk drinking to book reading. "We're going out there to have fun."

"I can do that."

"You can?" she said as she stared at me like I'd just said the sky was polka-dotted.

RACE DAY
Temecula, California


The starting line is jammed with riders and runners, grouped in waves based on combined age, fidgeting as the time counts down to the first wave's 8 a.m. start. We are in the sixth wave. Calene is nervous and having second thoughts.

"Stay to the left at the start," I tell her. "The road bends to the right and the field is going to compress going around that first turn. That's where people are going to crash. If you stay to the
left -" "Honey," she says, cutting me off.

"What?"

"I want to figure it out for myself."

I take that as a sign to jog off for a warm-up.

"Where have you been?" she asks when I come back five minutes later.

"Warming up."

"Just stay here with me. Can you do that? Can you just stand here, silently, and be with me?"

"But you said you wanted to figure it out for yourself."

The lack of logic is killing me. Why can't a woman, Henry Higgins said so famously, be more like a man?

"That doesn't mean I wanted you to run off."

I am quiet for a nanosecond. "I think we should -"

"Why are you talking?"

"I'm trying to communicate."