The plan was to head down to the Tour de Lizard MTB race this past weekend, but work duties called on Saturday so we had to cancelled those plans. I was looking forward to racing and seeing how Christopher would fair against those Oklahoma riders. Next year for sure. The venue and course look awesome.
A family ride was out because Carolynn had a funeral to attend on Sunday. It was either an easy long mountain bike ride or head to the next round of the Forward Motion Hare Scrambles Series. Christopher opted for the later so off we went to Melvern, Kansas. The course was said to be "beginner" friendly which I was thankful for. I was also thankful for the rain we received on Friday. A quick report from the venue was that they had perfect course conditions for the mornings events. Hopefully they would be the same for our 2:00 pm start time (the Melvern round also had split format with 1/2 the events run in the morning and the other 1/2 in the afternoon).
First things first. While I was at work I remembered that I had not gotten a new battery for my bike. There was no way I was going to go through what I went through last weekend so I asked Carolynn to go pickup one for me. Luckily Sears had a battery available and cheap. I think a gel filled battery would have been better and lighter, but it was 3x as expensive. I have always had good luck with Die Hard batteries, but I never had to add acid to one for it to function. When I got home I was a little concerned that there would not be enough charging time before we left. Time will tell.
The venue had about a 7 mile course and included a Endurocross course. I was a little concerned about this since Christopher had never ridden over something like a giant tire or a set of telephone poles. We watched several riders go over the obstacles and some did not fair so well. I heard some had some serious injuries - one broken leg and a broken clavicle.
A quick note about the facility and the organization. The folks at Forward Motion have it going on. Their sign up process is very quick and efficient. Once you sign up for your first event of the year, your entry card will be in one of three boxes. You find your card, sign and date it and then go the the registration trailer. They simply scan the scoring bar code that is affixed to your helmet and you are go to go. As for the facility and land owners. All so far have been extremely nice and have provided a safe and fun atmosphere for families. I wish they would have some mountain bike races at these venues. The course at Melvern would make a fun mountain bike course. Christopher and I talked about this and he came up with an idea to have a MTB race on one day and then a Hare Scrambles the next. Two events on the same weekend and the landowner would bring in twice the income - encouraging more landowners into allowing us to use their land.
At 1:00 pm we headed out for our recon lap. It was indeed an easy course, but might not be the safest. Because it was so easy and the course included plenty of long straights the speeds were high. The "black-loam" terrain of the morning turned into a "Blue-Groove" affair by the second start. Christopher did not like this at all. He likes a more technical course that is slower. So do I, but I can deal with this type of terrain also. We completed our lap without incident and headed back to refuel - both our bikes and our bodies. A little over 2 hours of hard racing was on tap so we needed to be ready.
The new battery was working well. I still was not 100 % sure it had enough charge so once we got to the starting area I cut her off and lined up in my row. No practice starts for me. When the card did finally did turn sideways for the Vet 45+ class to begin I pressed that start button and was so revealed that she started that I actually forgot to put her in gear and go. That only lasted a few seconds and before I knew it I was sliding through that slick dusty first turn in around 7th place. The Endurocross section was up next and I somehow felt very confident that I would be in the lead before we hit the single track section. Well, I was correct. By the end of the first straight I doubled jumped myself into the lead. I rode my own pace and took it easy on the bike short shifting and using all the low/mid range power that bike had. My main goal today was to have a safe race and ride within myself and continue to get used to a motorcycle again. After the first lap I was still in the lead but only by 4 seconds. The race is was going to be at least 6 laps so I knew patience would come into place today. On next couple laps I kept catching other classes and had a hard time passing. I really did not feel like taking any chances or stuffing anyone. Eventually the other riders would let me by or they would make a mistake and I would quickly shoot past them. I would really make up time on the Endurocross section.
The course was drying up quickly and was getting rough in some areas like the entrances of the corners. The braking bumps as they are called can cause you all kinds of problems. As I began the 5th lap I started to worry about Christopher. At the pace I was going I should have lapped him by now. I had already lapped the majority of his class but no sign of him. He was either have an awesome race or he had crashed. Turns out the later. He crashed on the braking bumps. He did precisely what I said not to - grab a handful of front brake while turning. His WR 250 did not run so well after that crash so he stopped after two laps. Thankfully he was o.k. Bikes are easy to fix, bodies not so much.
The only problem besides passing I had on the day was my ability to focus. Riding a motorcycle fast once was very natural for me. Just like riding a bicycle is now. With a bicycle you can just go into the "pain cave" and pound away at the pedals. No so with motorcycle racing. During Sunday's event my mind would wonder some and I would start thinking about "hey wouldn't it be nice to ride a bicycle on the course" or "that was a long day at work yesterday". Then I would grab a handful of throttle and the rear end would just about come around on me because of the really slick corners. I kept having to really thinking about my riding technique - roll on the throttle, keep your weight centered, weight the outside foot pegs, keep that foot high so it does not catch a root, square that turn so you miss that big rock that is now in the middle of the course, etc.
It was a fun event. I finished with plenty of energy left. Lead every lap and really made no mistakes, but this took a lot of focus. With time I am sure everything will become more automatic. It felt good to get a win and I am looking forward to racing the entire series next year. Christopher is also looking forward to more events. I think I will let him use the Honda to see how he likes it. I believe it is a much nicer bike than his WR. Lets just hope he keeps it in good shape and stays off the ground.