YHN (the Flying Ace) returned to his hangar to don his signature leather helmet and goggles, seeking both courage and hydration. He left the gunner's gloves behind. Perhaps today would be the day. And as it turned out, the dogfight would reach epic proportion before its conclusion.
The Flying Ace had not flown any training missions since their last encounter. A dangerous gamble when one takes to the skies against such a foe, for certainly he had seen as many battles as there were weekends since they last met.
The start was slow. The Flying Ace showed patience. Yet it was before mile 1 that the Red Baron was to inhale the sweet smoke of the Flying Ace's Sopwith Camel. Cautiously, YHN held the throttle steady and took fuel at the first opportunity. He held through the mile 2 pylon and gauged his lead. The salt stung his eyes and his goggles steamed. "You must hang on" he kept repeating to himself.
But with less than a mile to go the dilythium crystals were glowing white hot. "She's breaking up Captain!" Scotty charged from below. The Flying Ace brought the Sopwith to a stall hoping to cool the engines. He tactfully veered into the shaded section of the course, readying for the final push. To his amazement, the finish line came into view and he had yet to be overtaken.
Yes!!! The Flying Ace crossed the finish line in vainglorious victory! (and then coughed, wheezed, and bent over in an attempt to regain normal operating levels). This was followed by a blinded stagger to the chairs. When at last the blood from his eyes was cleared from the inside of his goggles, he lifted his head to see the Red Baron cross the finish line. From the front, for once. The Red Baron casually started talking to some friends, as if he had just gone down the drive for the newspaper.
And to the victor, the spoils!!! The Flying Ace paused to take stock. Sure, the Red Baron probably was just having a bad day (as the Flying Ace had for the previous 12 years). And only one word could describe my performance..."acceptable".
But there was a sense of victory. Not over the Red Baron necessarily, but because I chose to show up that day. I met some friends at the race. The fees went to a good cause. The event was well managed and the Sock Monkeys were rockin' it. So I stopped to take that all in, hoping to meet again. And I realized it is just like all moments in life, only victorious when seen, and always fleeting.