Friday, May 28, 2010

Excuse me. Where's the ladies' room?

I must begin by giving my fabulous sister-in-law Ryland (pictured in St. Pete with William) a little credit for the notion of this post. She's been a race enthusiast since the early years, so she has learned the ins and outs of this business right along with me.

Our first few event weekends were an extreme test of my germaphobia. I discovered quickly that  restrooms at tracks remain locked (LOCKED?) during these hectic events to obviously avoid clogged toilets and ensuing floods. Instead, tracks are surrounded by a blue army of odiferous port-o-pots. Hand-washing is non-existent.

Fortunately for me, I'm a distance runner. Many BMX tracks are located within city parks, meaning there is a restroom SOMEWHERE. I'm not afraid to sprint to the nearest one at the calling of nature, so I can at least wash my hands. There are times, however, when the restroom sprint fails.

Our first race in Sarasota was in the spring of  2007. Wyatt was three at the time, and not yet racing. I had cased the joint for restrooms upon arrival, so I knew there was one at a nearby ball field. Wyatt's universal symbol for "business" has always been two fingers raised in the peace sign. Seeing this during a race was not fun, as three-year-olds typically require a certain amount of assistance in the clean up department. Knowing I had to face the music, and quickly, I grabbed Wyatt up, and sprinted to my designated location. LOCKED. (LOCKED?) Oh hell. Now what? No way no how was I putting Wyatt's sweet cheeks in a port-o-pot, and no way no how was I going to stand in there with him. Desperate, I got the truck keys off of BMX Dad and drove to the nearest location. Poor Wyatt was miserable, but we made it.

January 2009 we were exposed to the most deplorable conditions I hope I ever see. The location: St. Pete BMX. The track itself was constructed atop a barren wasteland, which happened to be an old garbage dump. I searched as far as my eye could see, and there were no restrooms. When BMX dad checked the moto board, we were shocked to discover that there were 188 motos. My bladder typically only lasts through 60, but I was determined not to use one of the SIX pot-o-golds. Yes, 188 motos and six port-o-pots. You do the math. Ryland and her husband Greg had come to spend the weekend with us and watch the boys race. Ryland and I enjoyed our share of adult beverages, so that only worsened our situation. Yellow-eyed and uncomfortable, we headed off to adjacent port-o-dooms. Sucking in a final breath of air, I went in. My God, what is wrong with people? I thought, fumbling with my belt. The bilge  of a 17th century Atlantic vessel suddenly came to mind. Thank heavens I'm up on my immunizations. The bubonic plague must be rampant in here. Grateful for my strong quadriceps, I quickly came out of my hover and prepared for a speedy exit. Then..... clunk.

Now, I'm not fancy by any stretch, but my Grandma always stressed the importance of fine accessories. There in that God-forsaken port-o-pot my most favorite belt buckle tumbled into the muck... I can't go on. It's far too upsetting.

Fast forward to March 2009, in Morristown, TN. At last, an indoor track with bathrooms! Tons and tons of bathrooms! Now all I had to do was remind the kids to "go". Wyatt was five, and racing at this point. He was just learning to read in kindergarten, and was quite proud. He ran out of the bathroom with a panicked look. "Mommy! I just saw the F word that rhymes with duck. And it says king after it. Who is this king and what are they going to do to him?" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry-- picturing my sweet baby sounding out profanities in the bathroom. FFF... uuuuuu....
So much for clean bathrooms.

I leave you with some important tips for attending BMX events.

  1. Always carry hand wipes, clorox wipes, a jug of water and some hand soap.
  2. Make friends with track officials. May I use the restroom key? I'll be discreet.
  3. Get a friend with a well-equipped RV.

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dixieland Nationals: Great Competition and Great Friends

Lexington, SC boasts one of the best tracks in the the Southeast, and we had been looking forward to this event weekend for months. The Sox brothers didn't disappoint. The track was pristine, with a new pro-set that made for exciting elite mains. 

Weekend events kicked off on Friday with a skills clinic. The boys trained for three hours with pros Jeff Upshaw (shown with William), Chris Norberg, and head instructor Justin Travis. A special thanks to Chris, who rides on Schanewolf with the boys (more on teams in a future blog), for spending some extra time coaching William.

Racing kicked off Saturday. William's final race weekend as an 8-year-old proved to be no walk in the park. He's had stiff competition in both 8x and cruiser  from Zachary Von Bergen since they first met up at the Easter Classic last month. On Saturday, Zach put the hammer down on William in 8x, but William retaliated and took the win in cruiser. In spite of their fierce competitiveness, I watched these two fist-bump on the gate, and wish each other good luck. At the finish line, there were smiles and high-fives. 

Wyatt was on fire Saturday, and pushed hard for a win. He didn't miss it by much, and we came away feeling pretty confident for Sunday's race.

After the boys finished their mains, the Stacy Mitchhart Band kept us entertained while we waited for elite racing action to begin. We were fortunate enough to have our good friends the Greens with us. Their son Grant, and William have been racing together since they were 5. While the adults enjoyed live music and cold libations, the very same boys who strategize against one another on the track ate cupcakes and hot dogs together, and had an unfair match up of big brothers against little brothers football on the adjacent soccer field. By the end of the afternoon, the boys were tired, happy, and covered with South Carolina dirt and Duncan Hines chocolate icing. 

Don't think for a minute William wasn't disappointed by his loss in 8x. He played it over in his head and strategized like mad in preparation for Sunday. When morning rolled around though, the wins didn't come for him. He pulled seconds in both classes. Each race is a learning experience though, and he knows what he needs to do to prepare for next time.

Sunday's story was all about Wyatt. His day started out down-right crummy. Fortunately I was watching morning practice. Wyatt crashed hard enough to send me hurdling the fence like Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Mucho thanks to the random bmx dad who yelled "hold the gate!" and helped me drag Wyatt and his bike off the track before the gate dropped and released the stampede. After a hug and a kiss and a general once-over, he was back in the saddle again.

Our team, Schanewolf, came in 2nd overall on Saturday, and Wyatt was selected to ride in the Sunday morning parade lap (pictured right). Mr. Schanewolf has been applauding his efforts lately, and is anxious to try him on a team sheet after he earns his move-ups.

Wyatt's luck carried over into motos. In moto one, Wyatt came unclipped-- twice. He managed to get control though, and catch up to take third. Moto two was a close second. Before moto three, we told him he had it. He had won one moto the previous day, so we knew he had it in him. He shot out of the gate like a cannon, and took an early lead. No one was close. It was his. Then, he hit a jump wrong, and was down. We watched as the others passed him by. We watched him pick himself up and get on the bike. We watched him haul a** to catch the pack and still come in fifth. Truly, I had never seen anyone do that before. He came back smiling, covered in red clay from head to toe. Two people we didn't know complimented him on his tenacity. I bet you can't guess what happened in the main---- 

Yeah!! He WON!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

In the Beginning

Had I known then what I know now, William would have started racing at age 3. For him, the bike is an appendage. Like an arm or a leg, he wouldn't be quite himself without it. It operates as a part of him rather than simply being operated by him. These are the things his dad and I have learned as we've watched his skills develop-- somewhat naturally. However, there were early signs.

William was a stoic baby. I would force the smiles out of him with all the gusto of Barney the Dinosaur.  I would cherish every brief smile and "heh heh heh" which would quickly dissipate into a judge-like demeanor. His happiness measured my success so to speak.

On Christmas morning 2002, a chubby, 18-month old William toddled out to discover what Santa had left him -- a radio flyer tricycle. Suddenly the days of stoicism came to a halt. The grins and laughter coming from that child brought tears to my eyes. Even with his sumo wrestler physique, he had no trouble operating the tiny trike, and could soon travel up and down the side walk.

During this time, another biker was developing. By February, I was hugely pregnant. Not due until mid-May, I began to dilate, and was put on "bed rest". What a joke. Anyone with a 1-yr-old knows that there is no such thing as "bed rest".  We did the best we could, but William was restless for his forays on the sidewalk with his trusty trike. Thinking I could easily keep up with what was basically an overgrown infant, I set out with William. Before I knew it, he revved up those legs and was halfway up the street. My hollering only seemed to fuel his engines. I had no choice but to grab my contracting belly and run after William, who was already torturing his unborn brother.

Christmas 2004, William received his first 2-wheeler with carefully applied training wheels. "I don't want those. Take them off." "You need them", I said. "No, I don't." The training wheels were removed, and William was rolled down the slight decline in our front yard-- at least 100 times. Less than a week later, he could only be separated from his Schwinn Stingray at mealtime. (Shown above, a 3-yr-old William riding with his older cousin Ryan.)

A year later, William was invited to the BMX track by his pre-school buddy Shelton, who was also proficient on two wheels. Something happened that day as I watched William fall, slide down jumps, and drag his bike back up with all his might. William found happiness. 

It was then I became a BMX Mom. Every Tuesday and Thursday William was faithfully at practice. Our then track director, David Shields, raved about William's ability to focus at such a young age. He convinced us to buy William's first racing bike, a Redline Proline mini.

During the 2006 season, William raced 10 local races, just enough to qualify him to race in the Southeast Regional Championship. The race was held in Albany, GA, and combined with the Fall Classic nationals. We had no idea what to expect, or how he would fare. William's class, the 5 and under rookies, were out en masse. That Saturday, William faced qualifying motos, quarters and semis in both the national race and regional championship. William easily perfected both races, and suddenly we were introduced to the intricacies of move-ups and sandbagging. (Photo: William with his biggest supporter, brother Wyatt, after the races.)

That first event weekend in 2006 changed the course of our lives. Ever since, our weekends have been filled with training and events, and making new friends in the bmx community. William reflects regularly, "What if Shelton had never invited me to the track?" Funny thing is, we have no idea where Shelton is today. Wherever you are, Shelton, we thank you.


Monday, May 17, 2010

BMX and a Blog Defined

I've been a BMX mom since 2006, and I'm amazed at the experiences we've had. I thought it was time to share our memories, and hopefully offer some valuable information to other moms like me. This first blog contains important BMX terminology that I'll often refer back to in future posts. I hope you'll follow along with our family as we share our adventures.
  • BMX: Bicycle Motocross
  • BMX MOM: A seemingly "normal" mom who spends her weekends ruining her pedicure running through dirt to check motos, or schlepping through mud to wait in line for a trophy, while BMX Dad packs up the bikes in a downpour, and the kids stay dry in the truck. Ensures racers are properly fueled and hydrated. Frequently heard, but seldom seen, yelling--- as if it will make them go faster. Doesn't hesitate to yell out "HOLD THE GATE" when their pocket rocket is struggling with clips-- even though it's against the rules. (Put any gate operator up against a BMX MOM and I know who will win.) Also heads up photography and videography. Always ready with first aid to sterilize and bandage the battle wounds, or to say "suck it up". Packs the bags, reserves the rooms, provides toilet paper and handy wipes, brings the food. Gives lots of hugs, high fives, and pep talks. Dries tears. Sheds tears.
  • BMX DAD: Charged with head coaching and motivation, training, bike maintenance, equipment, cold beverages, and transportation. (I could go into more detail here, but this blog is by ME, the MOM.)
  • ABA: American Bicycle Association
  • NBL: National Bicycle League
  • MOTO: Qualifier leading up to the main. Most races have 3 motos.
  • MAIN: The final that determines the overall winner.
  • PERFECT: Winning all motos and the main.
  • CLASSES: Various proficiencies - rookie (beginner), novice (intermediate) and expert
  • MOVE-UPS: Points awarded to a rider that eventually move him up to the next proficiency.
  • SANDBAGGING: Avoiding move-ups to stay in a lower proficiency.
  • FAVORITE TRACKS: Both boys said Okeeheelee I have to agree. It's an incredible facility.
  • GEAR: Refer to the NBL's list of Necessary Equipment
I'll add to this list of terms as I see fit, and reference this blog as needed in the future. There is no method to this madness, but this is my blog and I can do whatever I want.