Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Checkers Hare and Hound 2012

As usual Checkers put on a great race and this year they tried something brand new. Those who were doing all 3 loops could do them in any order.  What that meant for a newbie like myself was that fast riders would be riding on loop one while I was.  That's not usually the case.

For those who don't know, District 37 of the AMA puts on a couple dozen off-road races every year - most of them out in the desert.  The Hare and Hound races are 2 or 3 loops which usually total between 80 and 100 miles.  There is a one loop option for those in the Novice, Intermediate or Expert classes but most people run the whole course.  Those in the beginner class (like me) are only allowed to race one loop and that's just fine with me since I haven't yet built up my stamina to race more than the first loop - usually 35 to 45 miles.  That's not very far but the terrain isn't a walk in the park either and I'm usually completely spent afterward.  I definitely need to work on my conditioning.

I will post and provide a link of the video of my two crashes in this race - the first one wasn't bad but the second one messed up my foot pretty good.  I had to go to the hospital and was on crutches for about a week.  Fortunately nothing was broken but there was some soft tissue damage that had me hobbling for about a month.  I had high hopes for doing more races but that's not how it worked out.

The race was at the end of February and in late March I was able to walk longer distances without any pain.  I didn't want to try running because it still hurt a little at times.  My next step was to try riding my mountain bike since that should have less impact than running.  I went for a ride and the foot felt pretty good but the next day it started aching a little - nothing bad but I wanted to take it easy.

About that time I also lost my job of 14 years.  To top it all off I started having some sciatic pain.  I was able to ride my 'city bike' for a while until something happened and the pain became almost unbearable - I mean I halfway seriously felt that cutting off my leg would be preferable to the pain I was in.  I went to the doctor and was given some pretty strong drugs to help with the pain and started physical therapy (PT).

Long story short, PT didn't work, steroid injection didn't work and I ended up having surgery in August to remove a fragment of material that had leaked from one of my spinal discs. I had two herniated discs but only one of the fragments was causing any issues.

The doc said to take 6 to 8 weeks before returning to my normal routine but I would make a full recovery and could continue racing.  Good news!

A month after surgery I finally found a new job.  My savings has been depleted and my credit card now has a balance so I think any more races this year is out of the question.  I have to pay off the credit card and build my savings back up first.

I hope to start 2013 with a new District 37 number and make the first race of the year.

Bottom line - my old body just isn't made for the abuse I've been giving it all my life.  I'm going to have to be a lot more careful out there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Preparing for the next race

As I suspected I was indeed the only rider in the 40+ beginner heavyweight class at the Desert MC hare and hound race a couple of weeks ago.

Since then I found I was leaking a little oil and a little anti-freeze - on a brand new bike!  I hate that.  Well, I found out the oil leak was coming from the oil drain plug - a little turn of the wrench to snug it up was all it took to fix that problem.

The anti-freeze appears to be coming from the sensor.  I haven't touched that one yet but I'll probably put some plumbers tape on it after the next race.  It only had a drop every couple of days come out so I don't think it will be a problem (fingers crossed.)

I changed out the pads on my new knee braces since the last race was somewhat painful with the thick pads in place.  I hope the thinner ones are a better fit.

I also put air bags in the coil springs of my minivan to help keep the trailer a little higher off the ground.  I would scrape at nearly every sidewalk crossing (like when turning into a gas station.)

The last thing I need is to clean the air filter and a new goggle lens since I can't seem to find the clear one I bought a while back.

I hope to learn from my last race and make sure to eat a little more before the race - it is horrible to barely be able to pick up the bike after having only ridden 5 miles or so and have another 35 to go!

I'll have a video of this next one so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Hare and Hound #1

Raced in the 1st race of the National Hare and Hound series last Sunday.  I'm still racing as a beginner and as such I only race the first loop of the race.  Even then those 40 miles were very difficult - not terrible but my physical state was probably my worst enemy.  I was/am out of shape but even more important was that I had not eaten in 5 or 6 hours before the race and I was out of energy.  Lesson learned!

I haven't seen the detailed results yet but it appears I was first and last in my class since there was no one else there.  This particular racing club has the distinction of offering the toughest race of the year so I feel good having finished it without breaking anything on the bike or myself.

In a couple of weeks I'll be heading out to the next race in the series and I hope for a better showing.  My new bike and attitude should help me to run a better race next time.  Last week I was very aggressive in the rocks.  Before I was apprehensive and that usually had me ending up going very slow and falling down.  Last week I was tired and annoyed with all the rocks and started powering through them.  Every time but 2 worked out well for me.  Of those two times I went down once and went halfway down the other time, stopped from going all the way to the ground by a rock and a terrible crunching sound that I thought had busted by radiator and ended my race.  But, apparently nothing was wrong because I continued another 10 or 15 miles with no issues.

Last year I participated in four races - I am hoping to be able to double that this year and hopefully even more next year as my kids get a little older and a little more self sufficient.  My wife is barely tolerating this but she knows it is important to me so I have to give her a huge THANKS! for letting me do this as much as I hope to.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Catching up and starting anew in 2012

Wow. A whole year has passed and I haven't written a thing.  Very disappointing.

Many things have happened over the last year some have helped me move forward in my quest and some have set me back a bit.

First, I never did write a ride report about the LAB2V ride we did over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2010.  It was a 2 day event where we rode more than 200 miles each day.

Here is a pic from day two of the ride:

As noted in a previous post, later that day something happened and I went down hard, was unconscious for at least 10 minutes and ended up with a cracked rib, sore shoulder and a mild concussion.  I was able to finish the ride but had to take some blacktop to get back on schedule - though we still finished after dark.

It was a great ride and I hope to be able to do it again someday.

I found out about the Southern California Desert Racing community in December of 2010 and figured it would help me prepare for Dakar should I be so lucky as to actually enter and ride in it.

I'll keep this part short - I entered 4 races in which I crashed in all but 1 of them - nothing serious just some scratches on the motorcycle - fortunately no damage to the rider. :)

I finished all four races which was my primary goal (other than not hurting myself or the bike too much.)

What I found after the fourth race though was that I was beating up my KTM690 too much and didn't feel like it was the right bike for this kind of racing.

For the next couple of months I was preoccupied with buying the house our children will grow up in.  We moved in at the end of June.  I wasn't doing much riding at that time although I was taking the bike out for short rides once a month or so just because I had the 'urge' to get out there.

I was supposed to take part in the 'Kings of the West Rally' 5 day event but the date got moved and my wife was quite pregnant by the time the ride began.  Luckily I did not take the chance and go on the ride because she went into labor and had to be taken to the hospital on the final day of the ride.  A few days later (October 3rd) we had our second baby boy.

Given the newborn and a rambunctious two and a half year old I was not going to be able to do the LAB2V again in 2011.

Over the year I had kept thinking I'd like to get a different or another bike to continue doing the desert races since they were quite fun, helped increase my skills and made me exercise.  When I saw that the new KTM dual sport bikes were going to have fuel injection I got pretty excited and decided I wanted one.  After months of putting it off I finally advertised the 690 on Craig's List and sold it the next day!

I was debating between the 350 and the 500 and finally decided on the 350 for a number of reasons.  It doesn't have the torque of the 690 but it is WAY lighter and so much more nimble.  Here it is after riding it home from the dealer.

I've had it in the dirt once, about 70 miles or so, and it was great out there.  The power was a little lacking as expected but the weight and ease of maneuverability made up for it tenfold.

I'll get to my complete 2012 plans in the next post or two but the next event I'm hoping to do is Sunday.  The Desert MC National Hare and Hound will be my first desert race for 2012 and I'm hoping this new bike will help me to finish a lot less tired than last year.

Speaking of that, I really need to get in shape.  I am the heaviest I've ever been - 170lbs.  My goal is to get down below 155 in the next couple of months.  Lots of work to do!