March 2, 2003
Lebanon, Missouri
2nd of 16 in Vet
About 100 years ago Albert Einstein hypothesized that the faster you
go, the more time slows down. I'm pretty sure I proved him correct at
Round #1 of the Missouri Hare Scrambles Championship near
Lebanon, Missouri. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity definitely
helps explain why the AA's make such darned good time on the trail.
But more on that later.

The 2003 racing season began for me with a new class and a new
bike. My trusty '99 KTM 300EXC now sits idle in my garage, waiting
for a new home, and in its place on the racing circuit is an '02 KTM
300MXC. After winning the Open B class in 2002, a change was in
order and despite encouragement from others, I eschewed the A
class in favor of the Vet class. Rather than accept the fact that I've
passed the Big-3-0 (almost two seasons ago, to be exact), I prefer to
say that I have matured to the extent that I am now eligible to race
with the experienced, crafty veterans of the MHSC.

The day began with a chill, as Missouri has had one of its snowier
winters of the last several years. Snow was still on the ground as I left
to meet up with Matt Sellers at our usual I-44 meeting place. When
we arrived at the Elk Creek site, the absence of ATV's (they raced the
day before) left plenty of room to park. Thankfully, the ground
appeared to be unfrozen with relatively decent traction. Temperatures
were in the low 30's while we signed up and unloaded the bikes, but
as the morning progressed the clouds gradually moved out.

I took a full practice lap to work out the arm pump and loosen up. The
previous weekend I had met up with Lars Valin (MHSC #9) at Flat
River and he thoroughly flogged me. My left knee was still a bit sore
from a minor twisting while attempting to keep up with his "leisurely"
trail riding pace. But during the practice lap, I didn't notice any pain at
all and actually felt good about the 30-minute run. Lebanon is one of
the more punishing courses on the MHSC schedule, with an
incredible amount of rocks. My rock-hard KTM seat wasn't broken in
yet, so I knew I was in for a good ass-beating.

At the start, the Vet class was lined up many rows back and I was
able to watch Matt fight for the holeshot with Karl Harris (MHSC #191)
in the Open B class. Karl was first into the woods, and as Matt said
after the race, "He was gone!" When the board dropped for our class,
I was outside of the top 5 at the first turn and began a slow move
through the pack. I could see Kevin Ruckdeschell (MHSC #94) ahead
of me and a bunch of unfamiliar bikes. I got around a couple guys at
a muddy spot just after the first open run through a muddy pasture,
and eventually caught up to Tom Eidam, MHSC scorekeeper and
Senior class fast-guy. Tom let me around, but a couple miles later I
tangled with a guy while trying to pass and crashed. It's very
depressing to watch all guys you just worked so hard to pass go
flying by you while picking up your bike. I righted the bike and
re-passed most of them by the end of the first lap.

The bikes were spread out more on the second lap and passing
became easier, although I did have to follow a freight train of riders
through a long, tight section. But I was finally able to ride at full
speed and make up some time. At the end of Lap 2, I had moved up 3
spots to 2nd place, a minute behind Robbie Jo Reed. The bike was
running flawlessly, despite the torture I was putting it through by
locating with my front tire about 80% of the rocks on the course. One
particularly unpleasant rock smacked my rear disc guard hard
enough to knock it off the brake caliper carrier. I found Matt early in
the third lap and moved on by, catching some lapped traffic along the
way. I glanced at my watch at the end of the lap and it showed I was
about 90 minutes into the race. With that pace, a fast 4th lap would
get me to the scoring trailer just in time to get in a 5th lap. I had mixed
emotions about that, as my body was taking a beating (mostly just the
ass part).

I dropped the bike once or twice on the last lap but arrived at the
scoring trailer without incident. My race was over. My reliable Casio
Ironman watch had shown 12:47 at the start and read 2:48 at the
finish. Brandon Forrestor had passed me at the 7-mile mark of the
last lap and was the only AA rider to lap me. Brandon started out the
season right with the overall win, finishing about a minute ahead of
Chris Nesbitt. I wasn't able to catch Robbie Jo Reed and finished less
than two minutes behind him in 2nd place, 27th overall.

Now here's where the Einstein theory kicks in. I showed a total time of
2:01 and the scoring computer indicated 2:04. Man, I must have been
going fast. After the race I was 3 minutes younger than the
spectators! Special Theory of Relativity, proved once again.





March 16, 2003
Columbia, Missouri
6th of 21 in Vet
Finger Lakes State Park tends to bring out the bitchiness in the
Missouri hare scrambles contingent, as evidenced by the new
ChatRats discussion board. Yes, folks, at some point prior to the race,
it IS going to rain, and there IS going to be mud on the course. Deal
with it and have fun, for cryin' out loud. Personally, and very
seriously, I pray for rain before this race.

Mud is my friend. I relish the experience, especially when it's
captured
on
film by the HammerDown crew (last year at Kahoka).

The rain gods granted my wish, but too soon before the race. As it
turned out, the course was in decent shape, the sun was shining the
whole day, no major obstacles were covered in slime, and rider
turnout was strong.  The practice lap revealed a few moderate mud
holes, a small amount of new singletrack, and the usual pass through
the motocross track.

I lined up near the center of the 21-strong Vet class and viewed a
straight shot into the first turn on the motocross course. When the
starting board dropped, the bikes took off but I didn't. Two kicks later,
I was on my way in last place. I could see the next-to-last bike ahead
of me as we approached the woods, and I accelerated hard. The track
had a rough section leading to a gentle right-hand turn into the
woods, and as I accelerated hard, my back wheel
violently kicked
from side to side
. For an instant I had that fleeting thought of being
able to save it, but that moment passed in a nanosecond and I took a
violent header into the dirt. Great entertainment for the spectators; not
so good for my arms and elbows. Note to self: put the arm guards
back on the chest protector. A guy along the sidelines came out and
helped me pick up the bike, and in a slight haze I took off into the
woods. The haze cleared up soon enough, but I was out of sync. I
tried to make up some time by launching my bike down a rock ledge
about a 1/2 mile into the course, but when the suspension bottomed,
the skid plate thumped so hard against the solid-rock landing that I
decided maybe it wasn't such a good idea to try that again.

I finally caught up to a few guys in my class and started making some
passes. I got around perennial fast guy Rick Kinkelaar but promptly
dumped the bike in the fresh singletrack. He and several other riders
sailed on by while I righted the bike. The soggy pasture section was
already developing some nasty, tire-sucking whoops by the time I got
there, and a few creek crossings were showing signs of trouble.
When I arrived at the scoring trailer, my number failed to show up on
the display. The RFID failed my crash test.

The 7-mile course was still in decent shape on the second and third
laps, and in some areas was actually improving. However, a few creek
crossings were becoming downright hazardous. One particularly
nasty crossing was already taking its toll on riders, with Illinois-style
ruts developing quickly. Some creative lines and lots of momentum
kept me out of trouble through all the nasty sections, and I gradually
advanced through the pack. Near the midpoint of the race, I was
climbing a small hill on a well-traveled ATV trail when I came up on a
stalled bike. The rider was apparently having trouble getting it started,
and since the trail was more of a narrow ravine, there was no room to
get around him. He began a futile attempt to frantically push the bike
up the hill. The helpful guy I am, I slammed my front wheel against
his rear tire, again and again, and pushed him out of the way.

Once again, Matt had started several rows ahead of me in the Open B
class, and near the end of the 4th lap I caught up to him. He had run
out of gas and had to pit; otherwise I might not have seen him. Doug
Stone passed me just before the first check and was just flying. Steve
Levian followed, but the gap was too large. On my 5th and final lap, a
few more AA's lapped me. By this time the creek crossings were plain
nasty, but I avoided any bike extrications and continued on to the
finish.

My poor start kept me out of contention, as Robbie Jo Reed took his
second victory in the Vet class. I finished 6th, about 3 minutes behind.
Doug Stone won the overall by about a minute over Steve Levian, with
most of the AA guys completing 6 laps.

I would like to thank PizzaMan not only for helping put on a great
race, but also for complimenting me on my youthful appearance (yes
folks, I
am old enough to ride the Vet class).
Lebanon, Missouri
Columbia, Missouri
Crash Tested