Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 34 - Tricycle Races

I have never been in a tricycle race. This is an entry on the list I had to think about for some time before determining I never actually participated in such an event. While I know I had plenty of bike races with neighbors and friends as a child, I have no memory of racing tricycles at any point in my life. Further, any race I did have as a kid was not an organized event for adults on a closed racecourse with prizes on the line. As a result, I decided to make a tricycle race a part of my “I have never…” journey when I learned of an adults-only race event at the Green Lake Solstice Festival taking place this evening. With another trip to Green Lake under my belt, the only I had left to do was hope for some good weather and make my way to downtown Green Lake for tonight’s event.

With a little bit of luck on my side, the threat of poor weather diminished as the day progressed. In turn, Rachael and I, accompanied by our friends Ryan and Natalie, made our way to the Solstice Festival a little before 5:00 this afternoon. Upon arriving, we located a parking spot along the main route running through the tiny city. As we pulled into our parking spot we took a quick look at the one block stretch of road to our left that was closed for the festival. Speckling the barricaded road were a few tents, food carts, and some basic carnival games. It was clear the event was humble affair well suited to the normally sleepy town.

The four of us walked leisurely through the blocked city street taking in the various vendors and festival participants as we chatted casually about the sights around us. I searched intently for some indication of a tricycle race signup as we passed each booth, until we stumbled upon two modern-looking tricycles next to a few other items for the festival. With knowledge we were close to my ultimate destination, I approached the table at the nearest tent and asked where I could sign up for the tricycle race. The woman on the other side of the table confirmed I was in the right location and signaled to another woman nearby. A few seconds later, I was signed up for a position in the second annual Green Lake Solstice Festival tricycle race.

With nearly an hour before the event was scheduled to begin, Natalie, Ryan, Rachael and I meandered back passed the tents lining the close street. We found our way up to the old Green Lake County courthouse, which was laden with art, advertisements for health classes, and several shops. Unaware the Green Lake County courthouse had moved some years earlier, I walked around stunned at my surroundings. I told Rachael, Natalie, and Ryan about how I remember the building as the old courthouse from when I was a kid; spelling out the last time I was in the building was for a speeding ticket I received in high school. We spent several minutes looking around and discussing its new tenants as I absorbed the changes that had occurred in the building. Eventually, my discussion of an old courthouse worn thin on the rest of the group, so we went back outside to find something with which to occupy ourselves until the tricycle race began.

Ryan’s discovery of a tent serving beer made it much easier to pass the time. With about 40 minutes left until the event began, the group decided to grab a few cans of beer and relax at a nearby picnic table. With beautiful weather now abundant, I sipped on my can and talked with the group as we soaked in the late afternoon sun. Perhaps a result of the perfect weather conditions, the beer went down faster than I expected, which prompted us to grab another round before the race began. We drank and chatted a little longer as we slowly made our way back to the closed street, ready for the races to begin.

Limber up!
I worked my way to the bottom of my second beer just as a woman walked out near two lines of orange road cones in the street and spoke into a microphone. She announced the tricycle race was to begin momentarily, which encouraged me to do a little pre-race stretching following some encouragement from Ryan. Shortly thereafter, the woman returned with the microphone and stated the races were ready to begin. I wondered what my heat would be as I listened to the woman give a brief explanation of the race. Suddenly, my name was announced first off of the list, placing me in heat number one. I jogged over to the woman who was again standing near the end of the two lines of road cones and confirmed my position in the heat. Another woman approached and handed me a helmet and a set of knee pads, stating safety was critical because the races can get a “little crazy.” Uncertain as to what was meant by the statement, I put on the gear and remained silent as I took my position on the little blue tricycle in front of me.

Learning the rules of the road
I sat, ready for the race to begin as another man’s name was called as my competitor in the race. As he approached and got ready another woman came from behind a nearby table and explained the race was a one on one heat with a three cone slalom followed by a 180 degree turn around the last cone and a straight away dash to the finish. I confirmed my required path through the cones with her to be certain while the man next to me found his racing position on the pink tricycle that would serve as his chariot in our forthcoming battle to the finish line. The woman finished explaining the rules before lining up in between the tricycles, taking two steps backward, and raising her hands in the air.

“Three! Two! One! Go!” the woman yelled as her arms dropped. The race now underway, I pedaled hard to gather speed. The tiny tricycle tires beneath me struggled to gain traction as I saw my competitor inch ahead of me. Finally feeling the tires grip, I pushed my feet hard toward the ground as we began weaving through our respective sets of road cones. I saw myself slowly closing the gap as I weaved around each cone, doing my best to find method to the balance and steering on the tricycle. Just then, my competitor slowed his speed as he struggled around the second cone in the slalom. Seeing my moment of opportunity, I leaned in and drove the pedals down hard. I was suddenly in the lead with one cone left to navigate.

Slow start... Ground to gain

Rounding the last cone, I flawlessly turned the tricycle tight into the straightaway. Not wanting to give back an inch of my lead, I pedaled as fast as I could without looking back. I Barreled toward the finish line as I wrapped my hands tightly around the streamer laden handlebar grips and leaned forward. Seconds later I passed the woman that had started the race and laid claim to victory in heat one… It was on, and I was ready for more.

Several more heats passed before I received my chance in the semi-finals. I knew the competition was going to be fierce when I laid eyes on a father-son duo wearing t-shirts indicating they were the defending champions. This perspective on the competition was reinforced when I saw an unassuming man in his early 20’s lay waste to his competition in heat four. I knew the only way I could make it through the semi-finals was to get ready and be aggressive. So, I talked strategy with Ryan and did my best to stay focused until my semi-final heat was finally called.

First to be called for my semi-final heat, I grabbed my safety gear and took a seat on the blue tricycle once more. Upon being called, my competitor broke through from the sidelines and made his way toward the start line. Upon seeing it was the younger of the two men wearing the defending champion t-shirts, I looked toward the ground and grimaced. “It’s now or never…” I thought as the same woman from the previous race took her position between our tricycles. Without delay came the familiar three count and the drop of the arms that signaled the start of our race.

Learning from my first race, I took a more steady approach to my start. While doing so prevented the slipping of the tires I experienced previously, this approach also put me behind very early in the contest. I focused intently on turning as I started picking up speed. Knowing victory was slipping away, I navigated the slalom through the road cones as tightly as I could. Doing so proved beneficial as my competitor’s lead shrunk with every turn. We were neck and neck as we rounded the final cone into the straightaway. Down by a nose, I knew I had to push as hard and as fast as I could to win the race. I leaned forward and drove my feet toward the pavement with force, gaining speed and momentum with every push. The tricycle tires spun in a whir as I picked up speed. I knew I could do it, but I just needed to push harder.

So close...

Still behind by less than a tricycle tire, we closed in on the finish line. Now less than 15 feet left in the race, I gave it everything I had. I pushed down with my right foot and felt the tricycle pick up speed. Seeking to keep the momentum going, I followed suit with my left foot, noticing a difference in the placement and grip on the left tricycle pedal. Without warning my foot abruptly slipped off of the pedal sending my leg flying to the left of the bike. I felt my balance shift and the right side of the handlebar sink toward my body as the bike leaned to one side. A moment later the side of my leg struck the pavement, sending my hand out to brace my fall. Lying in a heap of legs and tricycle on the asphalt, I knew my chances at victory were gone as my competitor crossed the finish line unchallenged.

Uh oh...

Down Goes Caleb!

I took a few moments to untangle my legs from the tricycle and dust myself off before my competitor graciously jogged over and offered to help me up. Unharmed by my tumble, I told him I would be all right before removing my kneepads. I climbed to my feet and raised my hands in the air to the sound of applause coming from the crowd. As I jogged off the racecourse toward Rachael, Natalie, and Ryan a smile crossed my face. “I didn’t win, but I went down swinging,” I thought as I made it back to the group. At first concerned, I advised the group the only damage from the wipeout was a pebble-sized wound on the palm of my hand. Realizing I was ok from the spill, Rachael, Natalie, and Ryan immediately began trading accounts of the race and giving me a few pats on the back. With my tricycle racing hopes dashed, the four of us walked down the street to grab a bite to eat, laughing as we rehashed my fall during my first experience racing tricycles.

Road rash... Chicks dig scars
Today’s “I have never…” adventure was a quirky contest that made an otherwise normal day into a lot of fun and funny memories. I didn’t know what to expect from a tricycle race, but the ridiculousness and hilarity of the event alone made me glad I gave it a try. I may have gone down in a ball of flames during the semi-final race, but I gained one hell of a good story from it. Plus, I now have something to motivate me to go back and take on the tricycle racecourse at the next Green Lake Solstice Festival. Sure, the tricycle got the best of me this year, but next year that race is mine…

1 comment:

  1. Highway cones are actually cute at first glance. Their colors and shape make them look like toys. But one must not forget their actual purpose: road safety. If you see a road cone placed on the road, stay on the lookout for a broken down vehicle or such.