2002 Race Reports
March 24, 2002
Finger Lakes State Park
Columbia, Missouri
2nd of 14 in Open B (18th overall)
Finger Lakes in March is pretty predictable: mud, and lots of it.  But after a
warm, sunny Saturday spent outside digging what my neighbors would
later describe as "a moat thingie" around the house (actually, was
installing underground drainage for my gutter downspouts,
whatever...homeowner stuff), I was cautiously optimistic about trail
conditions.  All optimism failed on the drive to Columbia.  Over the phone,
Matt wussed out on me (again) but I stopped by his place anyway for a
quick weather update.  The internet meteorologist said wet and cold. Not
good.

Just north of Columbia, weather predictions came true as a steady mist
followed me into the park and stayed for the whole race.  At the entrance
to the staging area, I overheard the club guys mention something about
an ATV racer with a broken leg, confirmed later by Pizza Man who greeted
me while in the midst of working the race.  He said the trail conditions had
been pretty good until I got there, and I should expect some slick, nasty
hills.  After signing up, I walked a bit of the course and was shocked to see
evidence of dirt (more like clay) that appeared semi-dry in areas where
the sun had reached the ground.  But the mist continued and within a
half-hour everything was damp.  By that time the ATV's were finishing their
race and I stopped to watch some tired, mud-coated 4-wheelers and
riders cross a creek.  One guy on a Honda 250R blew out his entire
silencer core just after the crossing, and it landed in the mud, smoking,
while the ATV continued on with a noise level approaching that of Lambert
Field at 8:00 a.m. on a weekday.  Nice guy that I am, I picked it up and
carried it with cold fingers back to the staging area, where by miraculous
luck I happened to walk right past the guy and handed him his silencer
core.  As I would later discover during the race, I needed every ounce of
positive karma that came from that good deed.

I decided to warm up with a practice lap and found the course to be
challenging but very doable, with only a few potential bottleneck sections
but no bottomless mud.  Afterwards, I discovered that the bolts to the left
radiator had fallen out and it was only being held on by the plastic
shrouds.  Since I had left in the morning thinking Matt would be coming
along, I didn't pack any spare parts but improvised with the old standby:
safety wire and duct tape.  On the starting line, I repeated the previous
week's 3-kick performance and began dead last on the motocross track.  
Again, a temporary tear-off kept my vision in decent shape and I passed a
few guys on the track before heading into the woods.  The first lap
showed a few signs of riders having difficulty with the course, but I rode
well and moved toward the front of our class.

At the beginning of the second lap, the course was decomposing into a
snot-slick rut, and I managed to slide out just after the scoring trailer.  The
right handlebar dragged in the slop just enough to jam a bunch of mud
between the end of the throttle tube and the handguard, so there was
basically no return-spring action - hold it open and it stayed open.  Just
before the MX track I attempted one of my classic "shortcuts" to get
around a couple guys and ended up headed straight for a tree.  It was
one of those instances where there was a split second to realize there was
no saving the bike and to prepare for much pain.  I smacked the tree head
on but bailed ever so gracefully, tuck-and-roll scoring 9.7 out of 10 (point
deductions for artistic interpretation and use of the F-word multiple
times).  I got up just in time to get passed by the guy in my class with
"Davey" painted on the back of his helmet. Kind of cool, but I prefer to
avoid any distinguishing attributes so that maybe the guy drafting behind
me thinks I'm in another class and doesn't try too hard to get around.  
That's why I wear an all-black helmet and apply lots of duct tape on my
bike, because it really helps me blend in.

Still on lap 2, at the exit of the MX track was a short, steep uphill leading to
a 30-foot-long plateau, and then an abrupt 40-foot drop-off down to an
open area.  This is where I attempted to entertain the fans, who were
braving the cold wind, steady mist, and mud to watch us climb the short hill
and skate down the long hill.  I flew up the hill in third gear, caught some
air at the plateau, heard a "Whoa, boy!" from one of the spectators and
had just enough time left to scrub some speed before sliding down the
other side.  Still in third gear at the bottom of the hill, I kept the throttle
pinned and attempted to bunny-hop a narrow gully in the middle of the
open area.  The front wheel cleared easily, but the spot where I crossed
the gully was a bit deeper than I expected.  The back wheel dropped
down, smacked the opposite side of the gully and the rebound catapulted
my ass high into the air.  So high, in fact, that I performed a
half-handstand on the handlebars and my face was almost within kissing
distance of the front fender, all while traveling at about 30mph.  To the
fans, this stunt may have resembled Carey Hart's Kiss of Death, except
the bike was horizontal and wheels firmly planted to the ground.  I was fully
prepared for pain, but somehow the bike stayed under me and I continued
riding.  From now on, I'll leave these tricks to Pastrana.

I caught back up to Davey and passed him for good, but on the third lap
the hills were in really bad shape.  The toughest climb, by virtue of length
alone, began with a deteriorating creek crossing and a well-greased,
rocky hill that the ATV's had completely destroyed.  The hot line from the
first lap was getting slicker with every bike, but I was able to use enough
momentum to scale the hill each time.  Alternate routes were developing
around many of the hills, and they all got harder as the race wore on.  
The worst was a climb that was spaced between a couple of lakes, with
only about three lines to choose from.  By the time I made my fourth and
final pass through this section, a stuck rider was blocking the line I had
used three times before, so I took the most-used line that had just opened
up, but strayed about a foot to the edge of the well traveled rut down the
center, and the less-used dirt gave just enough traction to barely get me
up the hill.  By this time fatigue was a big factor, and I limped to the finish,
quickly changed clothes and sat in my warm truck for about an hour.

Double-A Ron took the overall, after busting out a huge lead and riding
safely to the win.  The fast guys didn't even seem affected by the mud.  
Shaw lapped me about 3/4ths of the way into my 3rd lap and was just
flying. The next guys didn't catch me until I was almost to the scoring
trailer.  I finished second, behind Keith Kibort who finished strong in the
Open B series last year and has continued to ride very well this year.  
Another year, another Columbia mud debacle.

April 14, 2002
Steelville, Missouri
6th of 22 in Open B
Ever stopped for gas on the way to a race, looked in the back of your
truck or trailer and saw a noticeable void that should have been occupied
by a crucial piece of equipment or gear?  If it's happened to you, then you
know the sick feeling.  I pulled into the Mobil gas station in Steelville at
about 9:00 a.m., stretched my stiff legs with a stroll around the backside of
the truck, and the unthinkable question hit me like a bad episode of
MacGyver: why is there so much empty space in the back of my truck?  
The answer was pretty simple: I didn't pack the Rubbermaid container that
holds my helmet, gloves, goggles, and Camelbak.  I'm sure MacGyver
could have built me everything I needed out of plywood, Bazooka gum and
the shirt off my back, but I certainly didn't have the skills.  So I checked my
watch, did some math and figured that if I turned around and drove like
hell, I could make it home, grab the box, and get back to the race site just
before signup ended.  Which is exactly what I did.

Steve Weible was about 2 minutes from pulling the plug on the scanner
when I showed up at the signup table.  At that point I was sort of in a
semi-haze, just trying to get the bike and gear unloaded, get dressed,
warm up the bike and get to the starting line in time.  With beautiful
weather, all the fair-weather racers came out of the woodwork to ride what
was billed as the last race to be held at this location.  After 20 consecutive
years of holding hare scrambles here, the MHSC will give other clubs the
opportunity to be on the schedule in 2003.

In the four years I've been racing at Steelville, the course has changed
very little.  The only deviation that stood out this year was routing the trail
around the manure pile, instead of straight through it.  You would think
that after 4 years of racing the same course, I would at some point figure
out how to ride it.  But once again, I would only be able to muster a
top-third finish in my class.  With so much racing on the same path, the
trails get choppier every year.  My legs were not in shape to stand up 90%
of the time, which seems to be the only way to ride fast there.  On the first
lap I got behind Dave Gerbes ("Davey") and Keith Kibort and followed
them for awhile.  On a long uphill, I tried an aggressive pass on Dave and
found myself heading for a rock about the size of a truck tire.  I cut to the
inside of the rock and basically shoved Dave out of the way (sorry).  He
passed me back later on (and much more courteously), after I stalled out
in a tight, rocky section.  At some point I got back around him, but then at
the end of the second lap, Dave caught his second wind as he flew by me
in the pit area like I was standing still.  After that I never saw him again.  
So I went from 3rd near the end of lap 2, to 6th at the end of my third and
final lap.  With riders in our class spaced so closely, the fall I took on the
last lap probably cost me a couple places.  On one of the many
off-camber climbs, I got a bit sideways and hit a tree, and the bike end up
pointed down the hill.  It took some time to get started and get back on the
trail.  A small mistake, but costly.

Even though my results were disappointing, I had fun and rode safely.  I'll
miss Steelville...sort of.
Columbia, Missouri
Steelville, Missouri