March 2, 2003
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
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
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
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
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).