Friday, September 7, 2012

Chanute Hare Scrambles Report

I can honestly say that I never wanted a weekend to be over as much as last weekends.  You would think a weekend of riding with your son would be fun, but I was a nervous wreck all weekend.  For one it would be Christopher's first race on a motorcycle.  He has ridden a few times, but finally asked if he could participate in a Hare Scrambles (Endurance Off-road Motorcycle race in the woods for those who do not know)  This alone was enough, but add to it that we had to park outside this little hotel (Tioga Suits) in downtown Chanute with the only hotel security was a couple of young employees who appeared to be getting high with paint cans also know as "Huffing".  Christopher described the process (how he knows I do not know and I did not ask.).

I awoke Monday and quickly checked the bikes.  Not that I got much sleep with all the noise downtown.  How people live in a city is beyond me.  I do not think it settled down until after 2:00 am.  Then at around 4:00 am I heard a tow truck or something down by where we parked.  All was good so I headed back up to make some coffee and get ready for breakfast.  The hotel had a coffee maker with coffee in the room but no coffee pot or cups.  Christopher found a pot and and I found a glass.  Nothing appeared to be working but then I released that little safety plunger thing as it needed to be pressed to release the coffee into our makeshift pot.   

During breakfast I kept asking Christopher if he just wanted to go home instead of racing, but he really wanted to race so I ended up allowing him.  He had all the protective gear and most importantly said he would ride within his ability level.  There were 125 riders on hand which is a little low for this race which had to be moved to Labor Day weekend due to last weeks rains. 

We rode 4 laps on Sunday so we opted to just ride a partial lap in the morning.   This turned out to be a nightmare for me.  I stalled my CRF250X while turning to cut under some tape they had up for the kids race.  My battery died on Sunday so I was left kick starting like the "good ole days".  Normally this would not be a problem, but I have been nursing a hip injury.  I have very limited range of motion in my right hip currently so kick starting is very hard.  I just cannot generate enough power to get a full stroke on the kick starter.  I ended up trying to kick start the beast which was not hot.  After about 10 minutes I gave up.  I told Christopher to ride back and get ready to race.  I would just push the bike back. 

How many times did I kick start?  Just check out the hole I wore in my boots.  I also injured my foot because of the hole in my boot.  Each kick resulted in a lot of pain after that. 

I finally made it back to the pits.  I was completely worn out from my attempts at kick starting and pushing the bike in 100 degree temps with full gear on.  Luckily someone with a similar bike mine got the bike started so I didn't have to push it back the 2 miles.  That would have been rough.  At this point I helped Christopher get ready and decided to try one more time to start my bike.  I used a stand which gave me the needed leverage to start her up.  At this point, I didn't care about racing.  I just wanted to ride the course and be out there in case Christopher needed any help.  Hopefully he would not end up like the rider below :-)

Christopher had the largest class of the day.  There was a mix of novice riders and a handful of what one fellow riders call "Farm Boys" who ride year around but only race once or twice a year so they just sign-up in the Trail Riders class.  This was one of my main concerns and wanted Christopher to just ride safe, continue to learn to ride and have a good time.

As for me, I lined up on the outside and waited to start.  I did not want to kill my engine because I knew I would have problems starting her.  With Hare Scrambles you have a dead engine start and I was required to kill the engine.  I did and hoped for the best.  Well you can guess what happened next.  When the board turned sideways and I went to start the bike and nothing.  The 15 Vet riders in my class were gone.  I tried in vain and gave up about about 10 kicks.  The next row behind me (rows start in minute intervals) was getting  ready to go.  I push the bike off course and some great event volunteer comes over and offers his assistance.  He tries and nothing.  I tell him you have to hold the clutch in for it to start (safety feature).  One more kick and she fires right up.  I jump on the bike and take off just as another class is starting.  I get to the turn/woods before they do and set off to enjoy the trails  Like I mentioned above I just wanted to ride.

So I am rolling on the throttle navigating the 7 miles course.   I am minding my own business enjoying the ride all the while wondering how Christopher was doing.  Turns out he had a very poor start like me.  He was in the second row of his class.  Due to his class size and limited starting area they had three rows of riders.  I had told him that each row starts with 1 minute between each row.  I should have said each class starts with minute intervals.  Everyone in his class starts and leave him there.  He realizes his mistake and gets going in near dead last.

After a few miles I catch up to a pack of riders.  I really had no intention of passing but every time someone made a mistake I ended up shooting by them.   Before I knew it I was passing riders left and right and picking up my pace substantially.   At the completion of lap one I glance up at the score board and saw that I was in 3rd place.   I continue on and kept catching riders and passing them.  Before I knew it was in full race mode and really hammering the course.  At the completion of the 2nd lap I moved into 1st place.   The next lap I maintained a good pace.  Nothing too fast.  I just wanted to ride safe and not crash or stall the bike.   With our lap times I expected to complete 6 laps so I started thinking I should conserve some fuel.  I really do not know many miles I can get on one tank.  I shifted up a gear in most sections and just lugged the bike around - which is kind of my riding style anyway.  Well being in one higher gear caused me to actually start riding faster. I limited my braking and started to flow very well and took the corners at a higher speed and also started to float more over the rough terrain.  I was feeling awesome. Like old times on the bike. On lap 3 I had a healthy lead and felt I had the win in the bag if I just did not do anything stupid and crash.  I saw Christopher at one point on the course where it had two way traffic.  I waved and was very glad he was safe.  All was good.  Roll on that throttle baby!

Looking back now I can only laugh.  But at the time what happened next was very, very frustrating.  I rolled on that throttle a little hard while navigating a small creek bed.  There was an easy line on the way out and you had to be careful not to hit it with so much speed as to jump out of the creek because you just might hit  the tree that was on the left which would cause you to miss the proceeding turn (which was still a little slick due to the recent rains) or worse crash.  Well you guessed it.  I hit the section with so much speed that I flew through the air. When I landed I tried to turn left to miss the tree but the Dunlop tires that came on the bike offered no grip (do not worry, I have a set of Kenda's on the way...).  I tried in vain to save it but as I mentioned before I was riding a gear higher and was going way too fast.  I was tossed like a rag doll to the ground.  I get up quickly and run back to the bike and grab the throttle in hopes to keep the bike running.   That was not going to happen on this day.  She died and I about freaked.  I compose myself and again attempt to start the bike.  Nothing but exhaustion.  My leg had no power what so ever.  I push the bike off the course and start watching riders go by.  After about 5 minutes I see what was 2nd place in the Vet class ride away.  Then second, third, then fourth.  At this point I just wanted to get a ride back and wait for a course worker to come by and tow me in.  One finally does come and offers to try and start my bike.  After about 5 kicks she fires up.  I put my helmet back on and take off.   I roll the next two laps and somehow managed to actually catch up to 3rd place and only 1 minute and 23 seconds out of first.  Yes that is correct, I now qualify to race in the Senior class - class just for us old riders.

As for Christopher he had a solid race and finished safely.   He passed a lot of riders and actually worked his way up to 12th place.  I think that is great for his first event, especially considering he really just started riding a few months ago on this full sized bike.   The temperature was  over 100 degrees on the day and he was exhausted after his 2 hour and 16 minutes on the bike.  He now knows what I mean when I say that Motocross riders are some of the best conditioned athletes in the world.

This weekend is the Tour de Lizard or another Hare Scrambles.  I have to work on Saturday and do not know what time I will get off.  If it's late we will have to miss the MTB race and instead have to go to the Melvern round.   Christopher is good with either.  I will tell you this, before I ride another Hare Scrambles I  am getting a new battery.  No more kick starting for this old man and his bum hip.  

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