Dad and I after a triathlon- yeah, my shirt says My Dad Rocks. © Molly Hurford

Dad and I after a triathlon- yeah, my shirt says My Dad Rocks. © Molly Hurford

byMolly Hurford

If you see me at a cyclocross race, road race or triathlon, the odds are good that you’ve noticed the big burly guy standing with me, fiddling with my bike or yelling at me to go faster. You also may have seen him racing Masters, rocking bib shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. That guy is my dad, and he is awesome.

Because it’s almost Father’s Day and because my dad has been so influential in my athletic life, I wanted to take this chance to say thank you. Later in the week, we’ll have a Father’s Day Special interview article on the website, featuring a father and son who race together a lot during cyclocross and we’ll hear about how they feel their relationship works. If you have a father (or anyone in particular who’s been influential in getting you involved in cyclocross) that you’d like to tell us about and say thank you to, please do it in the comments!

Since before I was born, my dad has tried to get me into sports. Seriously – two days before I was born, I was in attendance at the last triathlon my dad ever did. He was a fairly serious athlete before I was born, but after, he gave up after-work bike rides to spend time with me, and I will be forever grateful for that.

The story goes that, as a baby, I would fall asleep super quick – but only when I was on the back of his bike, out for a ride. When I was three, I got my first bike and my first spandex kit for my birthday. I was psyched. I lost the training wheels pretty fast, thanks to my boy neighbor who didn’t have training wheels on his bike. I wanted to be just like him, and begged my dad to remove them so I could go fast. And after just one trip down a flight of stairs, I got the bike-riding thing down.

Even a three year old cyclist needs a cool spandex kit. © Molly Hurford

Even a three year old cyclist needs a cool spandex kit. © Noreen Hurford

However, after I started school, it became painfully apparent that athletic, I was not. Rather, I was more a bookworm/nerd type. And you know what? Dad never seemed to mind. I went through a brief phase where I went hunting with him, and we went through a surfing phase as well, but never cycling. We occasionally rode the towpath near my house with my mom and younger sister, and I would accidentally drop them every time we’d ride, getting into my own world and pedaling hard. But even though I may have had a natural inclination toward cycling, he never pushed it because he knew I wasn’t interested in sports at the time.

But when I hit the college years, I got interested in sports, saw my first cyclocross race and signed up for my first triathlon. And that’s when Dad and I really started getting close. He’d ride with me on weekends, surprisingly adept at riding for a guy who hadn’t been on a bike in years, he’d ride next to me while I ran mile after mile and he even bought a Cannondale Series Six, saying it was for him, but it was in my size.

Of course, after I crashed that bike and broke the frame in half, he also immediately drove to my apartment, glanced at my scrapes and bruises for a few seconds and grabbed the frame to take to the shop to get it replaced as fast as possible, since I was racing that weekend.

When I started racing, he didn’t miss a single race and became a staple at collegiate races. My teammates called him “dad,” and he would cheer, work checkpoints or be ready at the line to take our jackets before the start. He’d also be there to tell me to “kick ass” before every race, and yell helpful hints like “go faster!” as I raced.

Dad and I after I won my first trophy in a 5K. Noreen Hurford

Dad and I after I won my first trophy in a 5K. Noreen Hurford

He ran 5Ks with me when I was in my “running phase,” and when I trained for a year for Ironman, he helped every weekend with training, read everything he could about the race and then actually drove me to Kentucky, hung out for a couple days prior and biked the entire run section so he could egg me on to get to the finish line.

When I got into cyclocross, I knew we’d found the perfect sport for us: loud, heckling spectators, short laps, interesting obstacles like barriers and, of course, the beer. Dad was in heaven and so was I. It wasn’t long before he bought a cyclocross bike and started practicing, and he wasn’t half bad! He only had time to do one race last season, but he made it count: racing in the Hawaiian shirt and bib shorts, he fell towards the back of the Masters field quickly, but kept on truckin’. The crowd loved him, and I’ve never heard that many people cheering for the guy in the back of the pack. On his last lap, I ran the entire thing next to him, in kit and in mountain shoes, since my race was immediately after. I’ve never felt so proud!

He’s been there for me for everything, from long weekend rides to phone calls about asinine mechanical issues to the purchase of a toolkit and stand so he could help keep my bikes in shape and the later purchase of a small tent so I could avoid warming up in the rain and he could hang out during races. Yeah, he’s a pretty great dad.

If you’re a dad (or a mom, aunt, uncle, grandparent, whatever), taking a child out for a ride or to a race can really inspire a new generation of cyclists. If it hadn’t been for my dad always making sure that I had a bike, even if I wasn’t riding it all the time, I don’t think I ever would have developed such a deep love for this sport.

So, Dad, thanks for being awesome. Your support and love for this sport are what has helped me get to where I am today, and I am forever grateful. I can’t wait for this coming season, I know you’re going to be awesome. Happy Father’s Day, I love you!

For all of you reading this: who has been your support system as you got more and more involved with the sport? I want to hear about them, so tell me about who’s helped you below in the comments. And for all you cyclocross dads out there, whether racing or spectating, thank you from all of us ’cross kids!

If you want to read more about my training, racing and editing exploits, you can find the painfully full version of events here, updated with minimal regularity but with the best of intentions: Molly’s CX Adventures.