2001 Race Reports
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