Thursday, September 22, 2011

BMX Friends

Kyle Wyatt and Wyatt Parker
Their first race was against each other when they were 4!
Today I asked William who his best BMX friends are. "How many do you want me to name? There's Grant, Ricky, Gabe, Zach, Dylan, Joey, Carson, Cole, Brady...." You get the idea. When I asked Wyatt, his answer was simple... "Kyle".

What's interesting about this is that most of their best BMX buds go at it with them tooth and nail on the track, with the most long-standing friendship/battle belonging to William and Grant Green.
William (left) and Grant Green- 5 rookies: Winter 2007
Last weekend we raced the Alabama state championship at Circle City BMX in Dothan. If we had to claim a home track, this would be it. Being from Tallahassee, we feel homeless in the BMX world, and Dothan continues to take us in like a cute lost puppy. Naturally I coerced the Greens into joining us to give William some good competition, and selfishly, me some time to hang out with Grant's mom, and my friend, Mandi.

William and Grant are the best race of the day in 10x and 10c. William powers out of the gate, but Grant's strength and endurance makes it a drag race on the last straight every time. Mandi jokes when William takes the win. "Dang! I told Grant to take him out!" "I expected him to run into William's back tire at any moment." I replied. Truth is, these boys would never do that. There's a long standing history of mutual friendship and respect that allows them to ride elbow to elbow, crank to crank.
William - gate 6, Grant- gate 7: 6 novice, Fall Classic 2007
Oak Mountain regional 2008: 7 novice

William (left) and Grant: AL state championship 2008?
Grant and William: SE Regional Championship 2011
William (center), Grant and "Little Joe" Herring (left)
AL State Championship Sept. 2011 (photo: Susanne Dube)
Wyatt got to race an old friend too. Kyle was there, giving it his all, despite the fact that he rarely rides anymore. As soon as those two cross the finish line, they're off to the woods or jumping in a ditch, looking for any kind of trouble to get into.
William, Wyatt, and the Dothan boys: Kyle, Matthew and Joe (2008)

Wyatt and Kyle (St. Pete 2009?)

Wyatt (#517) and Kyle (#31) Dothan, Sept. 2011
photo: Susanne Dube

Half of the year, while William waits for his birthday to roll around, he goes elbow to elbow with his other BMX buds, Dylan Shipley and Zach VonBergen. On the track, there's no holding back, as these guys push each other to go harder, while always maintaining that level of respect that one has for a true friend.
Dylan (848) and William- 2009?

William, Wyatt and Dylan in the Felt pits: Grands 2011

William and Zach always have a great race
photo: Jon Larson

New teams bring new friends as well, and William being welcomed onto Factory Felt made way for new friendships-- not just for him, but for our whole family!
William and team mate Ricky Castro

It's always a fun time in the Felt pits.
William, Wyatt, Gabe Hatem and Coleman Habib
I sometimes worry about Wyatt being the odd man out, or worse- the pesky little brother. He seemed to spend a lot of time in Louisville playing that part, especially with William's 13x team mate Anthony Catlow. As we said our goodbyes in Louisville and wished everyone safe travels, I thanked Anthony for being good natured and patient with Wyatt. "Sometimes William's friends think he's a pest", I said. To my surprise, Anthony smiled and said, "I don't. I think he's cool!"


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2011 NBL Grands: an Emotional Finale

"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."
-- Johnny Cash

On the first day of practice in Louisville, I received news that has sat like lead in my heart, dampening my spirit, and weighing down the corners of my smile. Knowing that I couldn't share this with my son before his biggest race of the year, I shoved my sad secret as far back as I could where it still crept out to cloud my thoughts.

The Felt Boys and Wyatt
Wyatt went 2-2-1 in motos
Photo credit: Kevin McMeans
It was a mostly joyful time in the Felt pits. We won our battle for scaffolding, and Vann, Wyatt and I thanked William for his "awesomeness" that afforded us this opportunity. He'd better keep up the good work because I don't think I could stand watching from the ground again.

Motos passed smoothly for both of my boys, and all the Felt riders. Wyatt cleared quarters easily, but ended 5th in his 8 challenger semi. In the 8 cruiser semi, he went down with his friend and Schanewolf team mate Derek Wright, which was equally disappointing for both boys.

Despite not making making his mains, Vann and I heard from several people who raved about Wyatt's improved riding. Vann and I are very proud of him, and he should be proud of himself too!

Misty Castro and I hugged each other in shared relief after William and Ricky qualified for the 10x main, only to have our hearts sink for the Hatems, who were standing a few feet away. Semis are tough, and Gabe Hatem not making the 11x main is a testament to the fact that sometimes the top riders don't. We heaved a collective sigh after all the Felt boys cleared cruiser semis.
As this video protest shows, Grant Green (10x)
is across the line and going to the main!

As mains began I felt my stomach lurch and the lump rise in my throat. Our first Felt rider up was Marcus Christopher in 8x. This little boy is so skilled and so fast. We knew the win was his. Our pit area was hushed as Marcus crashed going all out for his win.

William and Ricky loaded the gate shortly after, leaving me no time to offer a word of comfort to the Christophers. As the gate dropped in 10x, it appeared as if we might get our wish-- Felt riders in 1 and 2. William was well positioned on the inside, with a plan to sweep up to take the inside line on the second straight. All this was in William's head as he was sent down going into the first turn. Hurt and anger filled me all at once, and it felt terrible. Misty was there again. My sweet friend hugging me and shedding tears of joy for her son's 10x victory, and tears of hurt for William and me.
William dominated his 10x motos
photo credit: Mark Mascara

Ricky Castro celebrated another national title with his win in 10 cruiser. Fortunately this was a clean race and William pulled 4th. He rode well, and Vann and I were proud, but William felt shamed and disappointed. His winner's heart has trouble accepting it, and yet he must, and move on.

Yesterday I broke the news to William that his best friend Thomas, a kind-hearted soul who came back strong from a liver transplant, jumped our bike ramps, and climbed the trees in our yard, has been diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoma. He has been pulled from school to begin 18 weeks of chemotherapy. His mom asked that William please call and write to Thomas because they won't be able to see each other for quite some time. Learning of his friend's suffering helped pull William out of his black hole of self-pity and self-doubt that he's been swimming in since mains on Sunday.

I found it odd that through all of the sadness, joy, disappointment, anger, relief, pride and resolve, my eyes remained dry. Yesterday in the car, as Don Williams and Emmylou sang "If I Needed You", the tears finally came.
William, Wyatt and Thomas