The Beast was excited to be at the Grands and couldn’t wait to see her BMX friends. I noticed that most of her excitement was about seeing friends and less about racing. I assured myself that she is 13, a very social age, and that her focus would naturally be more about the social aspect and less about the racing. As I was falling asleep that evening, I thought about all the times my daughter has wrestled with staying in BMX; all the times we encouraged her to continue to race, even when she doubted her own abilities.
I decided, then and there, that I trust my daughter to make her own decisions about BMX racing from here forward. She has proven to me over the course of this long ride, that she is mature, insightful and thoughtful. She has devoted 9 years, on and off, to BMX racing. She has had times when she was driven and times when she was indifferent about her sport of choice. She has seen most all of America, experienced other lifestyles and cultures and often speaks with wisdom beyond her years. It’s time for us to listen. I fell asleep feeling a little more mature myself.
On Saturday morning, Frankenbutt was the first one up and checked out the moto boards. The Beast was in Moto 146 and had gates 1, 4 and 8 in her 3 qualifying rounds. I had the 2nd shift of scoring and figured that they’d be running 100 motos per hour; meaning that I’d probably be able to watch her first race before I started scoring. I wished the Beast luck, told her to go enjoy riding and that Frankenbutt and I would be watching from the final straight. She smiled and headed up into staging.
When the gate dropped and the six 13 year old challenger girls in her moto blasted out onto the track, the Beast was slightly in the rear of the pack as she cleared the first triple. She dove into the first berm and quickly skid out and fell. I was frozen in place and couldn’t breathe as I watched the corner marshall run down to help her. Two other track officials surrounded her and I couldn’t see if she was ok. I ran towards the finish line to wait for her, knowing that it was best to let the officials do their job and wait to see if she was able to get up and ride.
In short order, the Beast was back up and the announcer said, “that’s Neva Warren, one of the Ride the Nation family, who rode her bike over 3500 miles from Florida to here. She’s back up and ok. She’s as tough as a $2 steak at the Waffle House.” I found tears streaming down my face, relieved that she was ok. When she rode into the finish line area, I wrapped my arms around her and asked if she was ok. She said she was but that she realized that the fall really screwed up her chances of advancing.
She seemed to look at me with a question she wasn’t asking. I answered it any way. I said, “I don’t mind if you don’t win. I’m just really glad to know you’re ok.” She smiled through the tears and then Frankenbutt arrived and he wrapped his arms around her and asked how she was. They walked off together towards the chairs we had in the shade as I made my way to the finish line to score.
In the second moto, I was at the finish line scoring and didn’t see the beginning of her race. I noticed that she crossed the finish line in 5th place out of the 6 riders. When I finished my scoring shift, I found the Beast and she told me that she had fallen over in the gate and therefore had to race like mad to get the 5th place finish. She also acknowledged that it would take a miracle during Sunday’s 3rd round of racing in order to advance to the mains. We both knew it was unlikely and I told her to just relax and have fun with friends.
We prepared our Ramen Noodles and Broccoli dinner and just as we were about to serve it, Ellie called and insisted that we join her, Mike and a bunch of other friends at a local Barbecue restaurant. I resisted at first and then realized “resistance is futile!” We went and had a really good time, really good food and managed to leave the restaurant with a souvenir, a wooden pig! After such a fun evening out, I didn’t feel bad at all about wasting the 75 cents of Ramen Noodles we tossed out.
I fell asleep in the thick humid night air, reminiscing about all the fun times we’ve had with Ellie and Mike Kidd and all of our BMX friends over the years. As I rolled over, I felt something hard under the edge of my sleeping bag. It was a little wooden pig. Hmm. That’s funny. I didn’t recall bringing it back to my tent. I resolved that the pig would find a new home on Sunday; maybe somewhere in Ellie and Mike’s trailer.
On Sunday, we awoke to cooler weather and overcast skies. The Beast prepared to race her 3rd moto and Frankenbutt and I took our place along the fence on the 3rd straight. She finished last in her group of 6 riders although she looked great on the track. We met her as she came out of the finish line area. She was quite emotional and I assured her that we were proud of her. Frankenbutt said, “All I care about is that you did your best.” The Beast looked up nervously and said, “I don’t think I did. I didn’t try as hard as I could. I just didn’t think it would make a difference.” The tears rolled down my face and I smiled through them, thankful for her honesty.
I really don’t know what lies ahead for the Beast, as far as BMX is concerned. I’m sure we’ll talk about that soon. But there was no time for that since I still had 2 shifts of scoring to do. I typically help score the semis and mains at national events but I get a little nervous doing that at the Grands since the final rounds are truly the fastest riders in the country. But it’s also an opportunity to witness the thrill of first place finishes and the agony of lesser finishes, lost by mere inches. It was really great to see some of the Beast’s friends win their first time trophies at the Grands.
When it was all said and done, Frankenbutt, the Beast and I piled into our friend, Lenny Hicks’ Suburban. He had offered to drive us back to Jersey together with his 13 year old son, who raced amazingly well and won a trophy as tall as him. We had a blast riding with them and laughed our way through several states, arriving at Gmom’s in the wee hours of the morning. (I didn't even mind that Lenny almost ran a red light before leaving town and missed his first turn onto the highway out of Louisville; I just figured it was going to be another funny BMX memory!)
Forgive me for not getting this and other blogs posted in a timely way. I have many excuses but none of which I will drone on about. (FYI, I reminded Gmom to take the Bikers Welcome sign down; on a rainy day like today, cyclists might get word of her sign, show up and hang out in the comfort of her home, like we did!)