Back in 2008, while Jill Kintner was flying toward Bronze in BMX at the Olympics, I was barely edging out the 5-year olds at Calabazas Park. I stumbled upon this post I wrote for my friend Bev’s blog back then, long before I dreamed I would have my own blog. So long ago, but nothing’s really changed. My friends still push me.
Occasionally, I let my curiosity trump my dignity. When I told Beverly and my buddy Jill that yes, I’d try this pump track thing, it seemed like a good idea. So I threw my flat pedals on my mountain bike, grabbed my skate shoes and drove down to Calabazas Park, feeling confident ’cause I knew my friends would be there.
But when I rolled up to the BMX area, filled with guys of all ages and sizes, flying across the jumps and doing acrobatic moves, I almost said it out loud: “There’s NO WAY I’m going in there.” I felt conspicuous enough just riding down the sidewalk looking for the Strong Light and Beautiful (SLaB) gals.
I found Beverly and her friend Cindy with the camera. The Channel 11 news truck was just leaving and the young BMXers were out in force, checking out the media attention and checking out the “old ladies” who ventured near their play zone. Before long, Jill and Elizabeth showed up, as did a few other SLaB women. Two saw the scene and immediately turned tail, claiming to be on their way to Fremont Older. But Joann, a 50+ beginner, pushed herself out of her comfort zone and stayed for the ride. You go girl!
After Bev’s friend Shane from Evolution Bike Shop arrived, it was time to ENTER THE PEN. Elizabeth suggested we get away from the crowd and warm up on the berms on the other end of the park. So we rode past the youthful eyes, attempting to find some privacy. We didn’t expect the boys would follow us to watch.
Despite the unwanted attention, the berms were great. You’d come down a tabletop, swoop one way then the other in a series of links. Shane had some suggestions: bend your elbows more, put your weight here, push here, lift there, but I was content just to see if I could get through the series without pedaling too much or having to brake. A good start.
Then it was time to go back to the main area for the rollers. More instruction: bend your arms on the upside, push down with your legs on the backside. Or was it something else? I forget. The idea was to pedal as little as possible, but I was once again content just to not stall out on top of the rollers.
We played until it started to get dark, and then talked until it got really dark. Oh, and we took a photo with all the BMXers for Jill Kintner. I’m sure the good vibes we sent helped her in the race.
What impressed me most about the BMX park was the healthy, safe environment it provides for the risk-taking that comes with youth (and for some doesn’t end at youth). Every neighborhood should have such a place.
So while I’m not going to buy a BMX bike anytime soon, or seek out time at a pump track, in the end I was glad I came. I got to try something new, I got to support an American female athlete in a sport dominated by males, and I got to visit a new bicycling culture.
Go Jill Kintner. Go BMX. Go Olympics for recognizing this sport. Go Bev and SLaB for organizing a great event.
How do you push yourself outside of your comfort zone? Does it come from within or do you need a nudge?
Note: Photos in this post courtesy of SLaB.