DES MOINES, Iowa — Kittie Weston-Knauer isn’t the type of grandma you’ll find cheering from the sidelines.
“I really prep myself to go when that gate drops,” said the 67-year-old grandmother.
She says she’d rather be the one that the crowd is rooting for.
“I don’t like to be the person standing around watching somebody else having fun if it’s something I can truly do,” said Weston-Knauer.
Right now, she’s busy blazing a trail across the country in BMX racing.
“I’m in great shape and I want to stay that way,” said Weston-Knauer.
Even developing quite the following as the oldest female racer in the country.
“In the BMX world, I`m known as Miss Kittie,” said Weston-Knauer.
The BMX bug innocently bit her while watching her son race over 25 years ago.
“In 1988, we were in Marion, Iowa, and they had a Mother’s Day race. That was the first race I had ever run. I rode that race, came out on top and I said, it is time,” said Weston-Knauer.
For years she was not only teaching her competition a thing or two on the track but also Des Moines kids in the classroom.
“I was a principal at Scavo and I retired in 2007. It provided a mechanism for connecting with young people. They’d come into my office and check out the trophies,” said Weston-Knauer.
In typical “Miss Kittie” fashion, retirement isn’t a cause for slowing down, it’s given her the green light to go fast.
“Five days a week, I’m in the gym walking or strength training, doing some type of cardio and definitely, core training,” said Weston-Knauer.
It’s all paying off with national accolades.
“My first race for this season was in may in Isanti, Minnesota, at Rum River and I finished second. The following weekend I was in Springfield, Illinois, for the Gold Cup where I finished third,” said Weston-Knauer.
Kittie typically races in the 56 and over Women’s Cruiser Division.
“The cruiser class is the 24-inch wheel bike and not the 20-inch,” said Weston-Knauer.
She is often forced to race teenagers and men because female racers her age are hard to come by but it hasn’t bothered her, saying, “I can`t always beat them but they know I`m back there. It forces me to push myself but it also provides an impetus for them to go even better.”
Before Kittie, the cupboard for women`s racing in the BMX Cruiser Circuit was bare.
“We went from two women to now we have almost 1,000 or more racing in the Cruiser class,” said Weston-Knauer.
Whether it’s competing in her own division or against racers over half her age, she makes no excuses.
“I’m not looking for any gimmes. I do remind them though that I`m old enough to be their mother or grandmother,” said Weston-Knauer.
No matter the opposition, winning is the only option.
“Whenever you get on the bike you are going to win because regardless of what happens you are going to finish, so whether or not you podium is immaterial,” said Weston-Knauer.
Winning in any sport at her age does have its consequences, but even after tackling some of the most grueling courses here in Iowa and across the country, surgeries haven`t sidelined her yet.
“The knees were done in 2013 and the hips were done in 2014. All during the off-season. My hands will be next. No time soon because then you lose the ability to grip the bike,” said Weston-Knauer.
Her grip on life will never loosen.
“Some might call them the twilight years but these are the best years of one’s life,” said Weston-Knauer.
She is proving most importantly that age is nothing but a number.
“I do this because I`m having a blast and who would ever think that as an older woman you can have a blast out here racing with younger people,” said Weston-Knauer.
Weston-Knauer and dozens of BMX racers compete at Des Moines’ Ewing Park every Tuesday at 7 pm.