February 25, 2001
Lebanon, Missouri
5th of 13 in Open B
The first race of the year always gets me fired up, and sometimes
clouds my sense of logic.  The race schedules come out and I circle
the first date on the calendar and convince myself that I have to be
there.  Racing in February?  Last time I did that was Kahoka, Missouri
in 1996.  Frigid, biting wind, numb hands, two inches of slop and
frozen ground underneath...but that wasn't so bad, right?  It's a new
year and a new location.  Besides, Lebanon is in balmy southern
Missouri, so it has to be warmer down there, right?  And the drive,
well, the last time I was there in 1999 it sure seemed like a long way,
but heck, it wasn't that far, right?  Oh, and the rocks, yes they were
challenging, the dust was horrible and the heat nearly intolerable.  
But it's a new year and a new racing season, so I packed up the truck
with barely working fingers, drove to Wentzville to pick up Matt, and
headed down to the first round of the Missouri Hare Scrambles
Championship.

Lebanon is really just a point of reference for this race.  The actual
race site is over 20 miles from the town and the last few miles of
gravel road are painfully harsh, giving just a small flavor of what the
trail will look like.  Thanks to a bunch of rain, the formerly grassy
parking lot was a quagmire of slop that would have made a hog
farmer proud.  Fortunately my 4WD guided me to the last patch of
grass still intact, right next the Leivan truck (I gotta get me one of
those).  The owner of the property was adequately prepared with a
John Deere tractor that was ready to go at the first sight of a
two-wheel-drive vehicle attempting to spin through the center of the
mud bog.

The race turnout was larger than I had expected, considering the
recent rains and the fact that we were racing in February.  While on
the starting line I counted 13 in the Open B class.  When the flag
dropped, I jumped out to a pretty good start and went into the first
corner in about 4th or 5th before settling into something resembling a
rhythm.  I had made an effort to get as much riding in as possible in
the weeks leading up to the race, and for the first time this year I
didn't get a massive case of arm pump in the first half-hour.  The
course didn't seem anything like the '99 race, but then the conditions
were completely different.  Being from Illinois, I will take mud over
dust any day, and this day was full of mud.  The club guys did a
great job of re-routing the original course after the main creek swelled
up to about 5 feet deep.  I was impressed with the amount of tight
single track mixed in with a few high-speed sections.

The rocks were as sharp-edged as ever, but the mud kind of softened
things up so I didn't feel too beat up after the first lap.  I felt like I was
on pace for 4 laps, although I had absolutely no way of knowing that
since my wristwatch was covered with about 25 layers of mud.  One
of the rock "sections" (you could call the whole loop a rock section)
was just gnarly, with outcroppings of the most horrifyingly jagged
boulders sticking up from the ground.  Of course they were
immovable and the only way to get through was to weave in and
around them and pray for minimal pipe damage.  On the second lap a
few more alternate paths developed (thanks, A riders) in the narrow,
muddy sections.  For a few brief moments I actually felt as if I was
back in Illinois riding the ruts like old times.  But then I was brought
back to reality by the massive need to pee.  They say hydration is key
before the race, but I think I'd rather dehydrate than have to go so
bad that I actually considered doing it in my pants.  Heck, it was
muddy and wet, who would know?

On lap 3, things went from bad to worse.  A Number 2 alert came on
like Mt. St. Helens, circa 1980.  Although way worse than a pee-pee
problem, there was one added side benefit:  I really didn't want to sit
down...ever.  I can see it now, "The new training method proven by
KaTooMer...half a bottle of Colon Blow in the morning and a couple of
hours of riding in the afternoon.  Throw away that seat--you won't
need it anymore!!"  Anyway, I finished my third lap and cruised to
what I thought was the finish at the end of lap 4.  Scanned the board,
searched for the Open B class, but wait a minute...every other B class
was done except Open B.  Lord have mercy on my large intestine, I
was going to have to do another lap.

As I began lap 5, I started thinking, and for me that's a dangerous
thing while I'm trying to go fast (actually, I mean less slow).  I must
have passed through the main check about 30 seconds before my 2
hours was up, so what could be the odds of someone else in my
class coming in after me but prior to the two-hour mark?  That's when
I decided I would stop and take care of some business.  You do NOT
want to know what happened next, after I parked the bike and bolted
for a dense area of the woods out of sight from the trail.  So as I was
walking back to my bike and feeling a couple pounds lighter, a sweep
rider came around and asked me if I wanted to continue, and of
course I said no friggin' way.  He gave me directions back to the
staging area where Matt was already changed and loaded up.  On
the way back I came across a guy on a Kawasaki who had dumped
his bike in the creek and had it upside down, trying to drain the water
from the engine.  Been there, buddy.

Naturally I wrongly assumed that nobody could have checked in after
me at the end of lap 4.  A guy behind me squeaked in about 15
seconds before the end of our race.  So instead of a possible 4th
place finish, I ended up 5th.  Once again, Matt and I finished one
place apart, with him in 6th place.  We talked with Steve Leivan for a
while after the race, who along with his whole family spent many days
preparing the course (as they do most years at Lebanon).  They really
earn their "work average" points and should be commended for
re-routing the course after heavy rain and still keeping it challenging
and fun.

March 11, 2001
Belleville, Illinois
1st of 2 in Open B
Nice weather plus a dry course equals two hours of pure joy.  I got to
the club early and walked the entire 4.5-mile course, noticing some
interesting changes to the course layout.  On the southeast corner of
the club grounds, the BET guys had hand-dug some nice off-camber
trails around one of the lakes.  In one spot, there were actually two
levels of trails running parallel, one just above lake-level and another
higher up on the steep hill.  Pretty cool, technical stuff.  Another
highlight of the course was the "levee" built through the middle of a
lake.  The trail dropped about 30 feet straight down, went across the
lake, and then came straight up on the other side.  A longer, less
steep route was available up the other side and during the ATV race
we watched for awhile as all but a couple fast guys took the easy way
up the hill.  They also laid out a grass track on the north side, parallel
to the highway.  So there was enough tight stuff to make the course
challenging and some fast trails to make the ride fun.  Good job, BET.

Matt and I were the only guys who showed up to race the Open B
class and our starting row was combined with a 4-stroke class.  One
of the guys on our line was on an old Honda XR (or could have been
an XL) that was a relic from the 1980's.  Later in the race we would
see that Honda hanging off the side of the levee going through the
lake...not sure if he didn't make it up the other side or had problems
going down the hill.  On the start, we went about 100 feet to a
90-degree lefthander that had a double jump (motocross track) which
I didn't even attempt to double.  After the double was a 180-degree
turn that came fast and I smacked Matt's rear wheel trying to slow
down, just about taking myself out early.  I followed him for awhile
until he got off the course in an area where the ATV's had passed
through but on a slightly different path.  Naturally I knew exactly
where to go because I [am anal and] walked the course beforehand
and left the suckas behind, eating my dust.  Hey, who inserted those
brackets?  Anyway, I didn't see Matt again until near the end of the
race when I caught him just before the grass track.  I didn't see the
lap times afterward but can only assume that I was lapping him, but
usually we're very close in speed, so I don't know what happened.  
We raced hard on the grass track, which was fun.  But by that time
the silicon seal on my exhaust head had disintegrated, meaning
bottom end power was weak and the darned thing was loud.  
Probably time to replace that bent pipe...CHA-ching.  I was revving
the thing so hard that on the last lap I had to switch the gas tank to
reserve after it started bogging.

Bottom line, this was a fun race, I got the win, and took home an
Olympic-style gold medal.
Lebanon, Missouri
Belleville, Illinois