2001 Race Reports
August 26, 2001
Sedalia, Missouri
My first work experience
Sometimes I'm not a very forward thinker. On Saturday morning prior to
the event, I was still nursing a sore shoulder and was in no condition to
race, instead planning to spend a lazy Sunday as the Matt Sellers Chief
Executive Head of Mechanical, Nutritional and Gastro-Intestinal Functions
at the Sedalia hare scramble.  My duties were to include tool
arrangement, beef jerky selection, and providing adequate supplies for
Matt's customary pre-race port-a-potty visitation. But then a thought
occurred...why not work the race and get Work Average points for this
round of the series?  For most of the day I exchanged messages with the
race promoter, and finally talked to him via cell phone at 9:00 on
Saturday night.  He said no problem, just show up at 7:30 on Sunday
morning and work both races.  Doing the math in my head, I figured I
would have to leave at about 4:15 a.m. to arrive on time.  Oh boy....

The adrenaline rush of the 4:00 a.m. wakeup lasted approximately 23
seconds.  I threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth, shoved five
Mountain Dew's into my 6-pack cooler, asked myself why the hell this
sport means so much to me, and pulled out of the garage at 4:18 a.m.  
Two Dew's and 3 hours later I arrived at the race site and reported for
duty.  My first job was to help back up the computer scores by writing
down the numbers of the ATV riders as they passed by the scoring
trailer.  The shady spot I picked out beside the trailer provided what I
thought was a safe vantage point to yell out the numbers to the guy on
my left who was recording them on paper.  The scoring lane had been
marked with multi-colored ribbon that directed riders through a 90-degree
turn just before the scoring trailer.  As the race wore on and the riders
tired, guys began edging closer and closer to the 5-foot metal posts that
were used to hold up the ribbon.  With time running out, one exhausted
rider slammed his left wheel into the post I was standing next to, and had
the post not been there, he would have taken me for a ride.

For the motorcycle race I was placed at the first checkpoint about one
mile into the course.  Two other guys were on hand to help check the
riders, along with one of the sweep riders who on the first lap stood in the
creek and directed the bikes into the ribbon-marked area where we were
set up.  To get to the check, the riders had to cross foot-deep water, ride
over about 30 feet of a flat, slippery rock ledge, and then climb up the
10-foot creek bank.  After conquering that obstacle, they encountered
our checkpoint, where they were to shout out their rider numbers as they
negotiated the 180-degree cattle-like chute where we were stationed.  At
that point I would scribble on paper their numbers in order of passing,
again and again throughout the race.  About 170 riders entered the
event, so I was very busy for the 2+ hours of racing.

On the first lap we could hear the Pro riders flying down the creek bed
and prepared ourselves for 15 seconds of hell broken loose as they
charged up the creek bank.  I found a new appreciation for the volunteers
who man the checkpoints at these races.  Imagine 15-20 riders launching
themselves up the bank, one behind the other in a train of aggression,
shouting out numbers, deafening engines, wheels kicking up dirt and
mud, and me straining to read a small number printed on each person's
helmet.  The most challenging were the C and Beginner classes, which
were large and closely spaced on the first lap.  With more and more
riders crossing the creek, the bank became damp and very slick, causing
some bottlenecks as the less experienced riders struggled up the greasy
slope.  On their own, all of the riders were capable of climbing the bank,
but while following each, small mistakes led to fallen bikes and traffic
problems.  Fortunately there were no injuries from the mishaps, but a few
people put themselves into precarious positions.  One guy on a CR80 fell
over just after ascending the creek bank and killed the engine.  While the
little racer struggled to right the bike and restart the engine, I walked over
to suggest that he turn off the fuel and get the flooded carb cleaned out.  
At the last moment I held back from offering this advice, making use of the
four recreational years of my life that some would describe as "college,"
and concluded that a "little guy" with a mustache was probably not a
Junior class racer in need of guidance.  A regular Stephen Hawking,
that's me.

In the Pro class, Aaron Shaw led most of the way, followed by Brandon
Forrester as the lead group passed through our check on their 5th and
final lap.  After trailing in third position for nearly all of the race, Steve
Leivan closed the gap and passed both guys on the last lap for the
overall win.  As the defending MHSC champion, Steve's number was
pretty easy to hear as he shouted "ONE!" each time he passed by.  Steve
showed off a solid racing strategy at Sedalia, riding a steady (some would
say "insanely fast"), controlled pace and keeping in sight of the leaders
while saving just enough juice on the last lap to make some moves and
win the race.  I thoroughly enjoyed working the Sedalia race and want to
thank George, Allen, David (the promoter), and Richard for getting me
where I needed to be and showing me how it's done.  It was fun to see
Matt, PizzaMan, and Lars pass by and give them some encouraging
words.  For anyone who has raced but never worked an event, I would
highly recommend it.

September 16, 2001
St. Joe State Park
Park Hills, Missouri
2nd of 18 in Open B
After a long 5-week hiatus, I was ready to get back into the racing scene.
What better way to test out my still-recovering shoulder than to compete
in a 3-hour National hare scramble.  As we used to say back on the farm,
that's like stuffin' the pig through the python.  Or something like that.  I'm
not sure how that relates to what I was just talking about, but it sounded
kind of cool.  Anyway, I had ridden at St. Joe the weekend before and felt
minimal pain (with the help of a large dose of Ibuprofen, the Wonder
Drug), or at least not enough cause any tree-smacking distractions.  I had
also been training on the mountain bike, so I felt ready to get back on the
motorcycle and resume torturing my body.

Matt and I drove down to Flat River in the big Dodge and pitted next to
the sand track.  St. Joe is a punishing place to ride because speeds are
higher and the rocks are plentiful and come in all shapes and sizes.  If the
trail is fresh and rock-free on the first lap, you can be sure that on the
next lap it will break down into a choppy, rutted rock garden, causing
relentless pounding on all body parts, high potential for pinch flats, and
even higher potential for expression of colorful metaphors.  When
conditions are dry, as they were on this day, you can throw in some
blinding dust.  The only thing missing was temperatures in the 90's, and
come to think of it, this was the first hare scramble I had ever raced at
Flat River without scorching heat.  With no practice lap for this race, Matt
and I hung out at the truck and leisurely took our time getting ready
(although I did rush to beat him to the porta-potty, used up the last of the
T.P., and quietly giggled while he searched for anything in the truck
remotely suitable as a substitute).

For the National race, the 250 B and Open B classes were combined on
row 6 of the starting area.  Matt and I lined up next to Andy Mueller, a
regular in the Open B class, and watched as a guy in the Pro class went
down in the first corner and got run over by guys following blindly in the
dust (he didn't get up).  After a couple minute delay for the promoters to
move the first corner away from the injured rider, the next rows began
taking off.  Our row consisted of 29 guys, all aiming for the same corner
about 100 yards off the starting line. When the 15-second board
dropped, my bike fired up on the first kick but with all the noise of 29
engines starting at the same time, I couldn't quite tell if my engine was
running.  After half a second I could feel the familiar, hand-numbing motor
vibration emerging from my KTM, but my slight hesitation before dumping
the clutch was just enough to set me back in the pack amidst a cloud of
dust.  The first mile was open sand, and at times I was riding completely
blind, occasionally catching a glimpse of a rider ahead of me and staying
within the general course of direction. The dust settled a bit at the
entrance to the woods, where the trail followed a recognizable path from
the hare scramble earlier this year.  The riders ahead of me were still
kicking up enough dust to make it hard to see the smaller details of the
trail, including some very sharp-edged rocks that I hit hard in third gear.  I
could feel the front rim make direct contact with a particularly nasty,
square-edged, softball-sized rock and was sure the tube would be
pinched.  But the flat tire I expected never came, and I continued my
charge.

The goal in any dusty race is to find clean air, which means getting ahead
of the person in front of you.  Easier said than done, especially when you
can't see much of the trail while in their dust.  But midway into the first lap
the field spread out and I found my rhythm. The promoters put in a cool
section that took us under a 4-lane highway bridge, and then eventually
we crossed under a culvert to get back to the other side of the highway
[Editor's note:  O.K., it wasn't actually a bridge we went under, as Matt
was quick to point out.  Just some strange old relic that used to be part of
the lead mine. But is sure looked like a bridge...].  Also included for our
pleasure was a punishing rock garden, borrowed from the Leadbelt
Enduro last May.  The final 3-4 miles was a fast section down a power line
trail that was a roller coaster on the ground.

The first of the 16-mile laps took me about 45 minutes to complete, which
suggested I would get 4 laps and would pit once near the end of lap 2.  
About halfway into the first lap I ran straight into a tree, but somehow kept
the bike upright and didn't lose much time.  In the second lap I tried to
launch myself over some tree roots lying diagonally across the trail but
got out of control and hit another tree very solidly.  I dropped the bike but
it kept running, so I remounted and continued riding without losing much
time.  After that, I decided that I would not run into any more trees.  When
pitted near the end of my second lap, I could see that Matt had not
stopped yet to gas, so I figured I was ahead of him.

The laps seemed to go by fast, even though they were long and were
getting rougher each time.  At the end of lap 3, Shane Watts passed me
just as I exited the long power line section.  Because the area in which he
lapped me was very open, his pass was much less impressive than it was
earlier in the year at Kahoka.  But the guy does ride fast.  On lap 4 the
other pro riders caught up to me in the nasty rock garden.  With their
fancy foam tubes, they flew through that section without a single thought
of pinch flats.  Past the halfway point in the final lap, Steve Leivan was the
first MHSC regular to lap me. By that time my lower back was starting to
ache, and I was glad to finally come to the power line section for the last
time.  I finished the lap at the 3:17 mark, tired but not as sore as
expected.  Matt followed about 15 minutes later.  We were both so tired
that we decided not to wait for the results to be posted and headed for
home.  The next day when PizzaMan told me I finished second, I was
pretty happy.  But when the results were posted on the internet, I
discovered that a few Open B regulars in the MHSC series had ridden in
the Open A class and had finished ahead of me, so in terms of series
points, I had finished 5th.  Even so, I now have 11 solid scores to count
for the MHSC series, which will hopefully be good enough to maintain my
3rd place standing.

As I write this, the weather is turning cooler, the season is winding down,
and I am a week away from closing on a house.  I've been an apartment
dweller for over 8 years and will finally have a 2-car garage in which to
begin building my dream shop.  PizzaMan already has me drooling over
his real-life fantasy shop at Pizza Headquarters near Columbia, Missouri.  
The wheels are turning in my head....
Sedalia, Missouri
Park Hills, MIssouri