Cross Crusade #7 and SSCXWC: A new cross racer is born

Cross Crusade #7 and SSCXWC: A new cross racer is born
Dylan, post race.

Dylan, post race.

Somehow, and I’m not quite sure how, my eight-year-old son, Dylan, decided he wanted to ride in a Kiddie Kross race. I tried not to pressure him, just suggested it. Really. I made sure he was aware of the risks, the trials and tribulations of cross racing, the veritable behemoth of obstacles that lie ahead of him. He still wanted to ride. Then, I pulled out the big guns. I told him to do it for him, not for me. I told him I wouldn’t be disappointed if he decided not to ride.

He still wanted to.

I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a small tear of pride forming in my left eye, so I won’t pretend that there wasn’t. At any rate, last Sunday we got his bike ready, dressed him up in some bike/rain/mud friendly attire and ventured out to the Portland International Raceway for Race #7 of the Cross Crusade 2009 Series. Shannon and Stella came along and we also met my friend Jeff, his daughter Esme and even saw my coworker Nathan there. Truth be told, I think I was actually more nervous than Dylan was.

Nearing the finish line.

Nearing the finish line.

I’ve been watching ‘cross racing from a distance for some time now, admiring its curves, leering at its muddy slopes and run-ups, dreaming of leaping over barriers with the speed and grace of a unicorn on steroids. I even built up a ‘cross bike (but use it as more of an all-purpose ride, really). You know, the stuff fantasies are made of. However, I’ve had to face up to the fact that I need to be in much better shape before I can tackle such a challenge. As a surrogate for my ill-fated desires, I’ve been living vicariously by watching cross races when I can, reading about cross racing, following cross racers on Twitter—generally being the wallflower. So yeah, when Dylan took an interest, it was a moment of prideful synchronicity between father and son. And you know what? He rocked. My 8-year old son inspired the hell out of me.

As we arrived at the race, it was clear this one was going to be different. I’d been to race #1 at Alpenrose, which was fun, but at this one, which also was home to this year’s SSCXWC, there was more excitement in the air. The SSCXWC racers trolling the grounds in their costumes, more sponsor tents, more action—it was like Disneyland for a bike nerd.

Wating at the starting line.

Wating at the starting line.

We found Jeff and Esme as soon as we entered the gates and he helped me find the registration booth. After waiting in line and filling out a waiver, Dylan was assigned his number and we were ready to go. As I waited at the starting line with Dylan, surrounded by kids of all ages—some of them on push bikes, some on trikes, others with training wheels—it became clear to me that this was going to be a fun event for Dylan. I explained to him what he was going to face. I told him if he falls, to get back up and keep riding if he’s not hurt. If he’s hurt, to get off the track and wait for me. And I said I’d try to keep up with him on foot as much as I could, but would probably have to drop out and try to catch him at various points (a plan that later backfired on me).

Once they split the kids into long course versus short course, the race was on. Dylan started to ride and I swear, not more than a couple hundred feet, he left me in the dust. He was gone. I quickly changed my plan and tried to plot where I was going to see him next. Spying a set of barriers, I decided to camp out there and wait for him, as I saw a couple other kids hitting it. So I waited. And I waited some more. And then I started to wait nervously. And he still didn’t show up. Nathan strolled up and we chatted a bit, trying to figure out where Dylan might be and at that point, I began worrying that he’d taken a spill and was sitting off to the side of the course crying for help, surrounded by indifferent strangers. I began visually scouring the course for him and couldn’t seem to find the throng of kids on their bikes. Where had he gone? And what course, exactly, were they riding?

Just as I told him he's almost there.

Just as I told him he’s almost there.

After some wandering, I discovered the finish line and camped out there with Nathan for a bit. I saw all kinds of kids come through—little tiny ones who were surely slower than Dylan, even. I became more anxious and even more sure that he was caught in a bear trap somewhere, crying for mercy. I began walking away from the finish line, looking for him in the distance, and as I rounded the corner, I saw him. He wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t crying. He was preparing to come down the last hill of the race; a respectable hill, covered in a thick, viscous mud. He took the hill like an old pro and suddenly, all of my concerns were gone. Almost. I began watching his face as he came closer, looking for signs of tears or fear or frustration. All I saw was pure concentration. As he rounded the corner to pass me, I began yelling to him, “Hey Dylan! Dylan!” He looked up, realizing someone was yelling his name. “You’re almost there! Go! Go! Go!”

He suddenly perked up, raised his head into the air, put on a look of sheer determination as he began putting the proverbial pedals to the metal. He knew he had conquered the course and he was a new kid. He did it all on his own.

Mud.

Mud.

I ran down to the finish line to catch up with him, where Shannon, Stella, Jeff, Esme and Nathan were. He was getting his picture taken by a proud mama and was beaming with pride. The post race followup revealed that he took on the big hill of barriers, but some bystanders gave him a hand getting over them. He also had to ride through a mud puddle of gigantic proportions and took one spill along the way—he had the mud all over himself to prove it. When asked if he wants to to it again, the response was a very enthusiastic, “Yes!”

Single Speed Race takes the barriers.

Single Speed Race takes the barriers.

After that, we watched part of the regular Single Speed race, got some lunch, then watched the Women’s race, which was highly thrilling due to the rainstorm that hit and the incredibly generous amount of mud—not to mention the portland drum corps lending their talents to the soundtrack. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the Men’s A Masters race or the SSCXWC. The kids reached their limit of rain and mud and demanded we go home. It was okay, as I saw what I really came there to see. I left feeling satisfied, but wanting more. Truly a perfect day at the cross races, rain and all. Even more, it, and Dylan, have me inspired to get into shape and try a beginner race next year.

We may be at Barton this weekend so Dylan can ride in the Kiddie Kross race there, since it’s the last of the Cross Crusade series. If you’re there, I’ll be the bearded dad with the beaming look of pride on his face.

One more thing, I have to say how impressed I am by the ‘cross community. It really seems like everyone respects and helps one another. I was honestly a little teary-eyed when I saw a guy help a young lady racing in the kiddie kross race get over a barrier and then a group of people cheer her on at full volume as she struggled to get through some extra thick mud. Awesome.

3 Comments

  1. Fern
    Nov 13, 2009

    Brought tears to my eyes. Congrats to Dylan. Let us know how he does this weekend.

  2. Jeff
    Nov 14, 2009

    Awesome! Dylan inspired me too. I REALLY wanted to go for a bike ride when I got home.

    Regarding cyclocross next year: if you do it, I’ll do it. Maybe we can motivate each other to get back into some kind of respectable bike racing shape. We better start now!

  3. Bret
    Nov 14, 2009

    Yeah, that sounds like a plan, Jeff! I need to seriously start training. Going to set up the wind trainer this weekend… at least my TV watching can be somewhat productive!

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