Monday, November 24, 2008

What's so great about Kisscross?

You name it, it's great. There's just something about the crazy atmosphere, the cheering fans, the cowbell and the fun courses that keep me coming back, even when I continually finish last. Yesterday's race was at Manhattan Park in East Grand Rapids. I was sweating and panting amongst the fancy houses, laughing at the disdainful looks I got from the ladies wearing Rolexes and walking their designer dogs.

The ambience was classic Kisscross. The sun was shining, my toes were freezing and the grass was crunchy with frost as I rode my practice lap. Trombone players in wigs and masks were warming up. After taking off my jacket, putting in back on, taking it back off, finally putting it back on, I rolled up to the starting line. I looked around, sizing up my competition. At the back of the pack, here's what I saw—guy on a commuter bike with rack, seven- or eight-year-old kid, racing type in a team jersey riding a cross bike with a trail-a-bike. I resolved to stay in front of the trail-a-bike and took off.

The pack thinned out pretty quickly. I got in front of the trail-a-bike before the first hill. I jockeyed for position a bit with the little kid, finally passing him when he stalled out going up the hill. I thanked my lucky stars for my gears, shifted and crawled ahead. I felt pretty good about how I handled most of the downhills. At one point, I mishandled a chicane on the biggest downhill and ended up crashing through the tape, but I recovered without biting it.

I was in front of the commuter for a while, but he finally passed me for good sometime during lap three, after I'd already been lapped by many. One girl who flew past, seeming to sense I was laboring, announced cheerfully "we're almost there." "You're almost there," I shot forward, harsher than I meant to. "Oh, sorry," she yelled, sounding contrite.

The trail-a-bike made a planned exit after two laps. It was just me and the kid competing for last place. At the end of the third lap, the kid's dad walked his bike up a long hill for him. Someone from the crowd asked if that was against the rules, but dad said it didn't matter anyway because he was in last place. "Oh no, he's not," I declared, coming up from behind. The kid ended up beating me.

I checked the prize table on my way back to the car, thinking my luck had finally run out. After all, they can't keep giving prizes for last place when I'm always in last place. Then I saw it. It was labeled "Last C Women" and it was the best prize I've won at a race ever—a women-specific saddle. I guess I have no excuses left for not setting up my road bike on the trainer.

I didn't make any progress this year. I finished last in every race and there's only one left to break my streak. But when I'm out there sweating, barely able to breathe, and when I'm back at my car after the race, chugging down my beverage of choice, feeling warm, tingling and flushed from the effort and glowing with the accomplishment, I'm not thinking about how many times I came in last. I'm just enjoying being there.

1 comment:

Anne said...

"feeling warm, tingling and flushed from the effort and glowing with the accomplishment, I'm not thinking about how many times I came in last. I'm just enjoying being there."

THAT is what it is about!
It is VERY cool that you have been racing CX. Keep at it. Showing up and racing it. That's the reward.