Sunday, February 1, 2015

Big 6 Grand Prix #2 (Taft) - 2015

In pursuit of my goal for achieving 20 races this year I decided to try another Grand Prix - this would be my second Grand Prix - the first for this year.

I started in row 5 with several other fellows and got a pretty good start but slowed down and took to the outside to let the faster riders go ahead.  I took the first lap easy to get to know the course and get my rhythm.  I was passed by four or five of the expert riders who started in row 1.

Early in the second lap one of the fellows from row 6 passed me and I decided to try to keep up with him.  For the rest of lap two and lap three we had a great back and forth battle.  We both got passed by many of the faster riders and finally he made a mistake and I went around him.  I was able to get around another two guys and almost got a third one but the race ended a little too soon.

I believe I'm honing my skills that will allow me to ride faster and to continue to stay in control.  I'm reading the terrain better which is certainly one of the critical skills I'll need for the rally races.

Thanks for reading and following along.

NHHA #1 - Desert MC Hare and Hound 2015

After watching the Dakar coverage I just couldn't wait to get out there.  I almost always have butterflies the first few races and this time was no different.  My mindset when this happens is to just go out and have a nice little trail ride - keep the bike and body safe.

So I lined up in between a couple of fellas and noticed there was a bush in front of me.  I told the guy next to me he could go first, I wasn't out there to race.  But then there was one minute before the banner dropped and I saw that I could probably bump up over the bush roots and go through the bush.  I usually get a good start - so when the banner dropped I started, hesitated to see what the guy next to me was doing, his first kick didn't catch so I popped the clutch and went through the bush.  I ran up to third gear and then backed off.

I had a pretty good jump on maybe half the line.  I moved left out of the dust and onto a good line.  I got up near the end of the bomb run and pulled over to turn on my handlebar mounted bluetooth speaker and turn on my GoPro.  Like I said, I wasn't there to race - just get better and finish.

I rode along fairly slowly and very in control for several miles and even at that slow pace I started catching people.  When I see someone in front of me that I can catch I just can't help but try to run them down (catch up to them).

So I picked up the pace a little, caught a few guys, picked up the pace a little more and passed some more.  It felt like I was moving pretty good (for me) and still in control - maybe I am getting a little better.

It was a pretty uneventful race.  I kept up my pace pretty good, passed several more people and didn't crash.  My fitness still isn't where it needs to be but I have decided to make this my year.  I've set a goal to race 20 times this year.  It's going to be hard on my family because the boys can be a handful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Wow.  It's been two years.  Let's recap them.

2013 - I only did a few races, maybe 4, but had one great accomplishment - I finished both loops of a National Hare and Hound race.  It was excessively difficult fitness-wise.  The course itself wasn't beyond my skill level but it was for my fitness level.  It took more than 6 hours for me to finish the course.  But I finished!

2014 - I sometimes have a punctuality problem, the first race I drove for 3 hours and ended up being late.  I started packing up to go home and thought, why not ride the course for fun?  So I did.  It didn't count as a race (points-wise) but I did ride it and had a good time.  The second race was uneventful, I only did one loop and didn't crash so that was a 'win' in my book.

2015 - I bailed on the first Grand Prix race and the first Hare and Hound.  I had also decided to skip the second H&H but after watching coverage of the 2015 Dakar this week I am now considering it.

I have several very time consuming goals this year including starting a 'real' business instead of putzing around with hobbies so I don't know where racing will land on my priority list.  If anything happens I'll update the blog.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jackrabbits 2013

The first D37 race of 2013 did not go as planned.   I did not hurt myself or the bike but I also did not finish.

I spent the night in Ridgecrest and met up with a friend, Ron, Sunday morning.  He had driven up in the morning and was already signed up and had done a bomb run before I even arrived.

Here he is next to his awesome F-350 Dually before his first race.

We eventually got dressed and rode up to the starting line.  It appeared the expert line was just about to take off so we waited until they finally took off in a curtain of dust.  We moved upwind towards the end of the starting line to avoid the dust when our time came.

Another rider's meeting and the Ammie line took off (or so I thought.)  We rolled our bikes up to the line and a guy from Jackrabbits noticed my green bar and black numbers and asked, "Weren't you supposed to go?"  I said, "no, I am on the third line."  He said, "That *was* the third line."  Oops.  I took off about two minutes after the rest of the pack and rode slowly up the bomb - as was my plan -'just take it easy and I should be able to finish both loops'.

Just after the bomb I came upon a downed rider and another guy who was with him.  I stopped and asked if they needed anything.  They said no and the guy didn't seem like he was in trouble so I took off.

I was riding along nice and slow, enjoying the ride when I came upon another guy who was down and yet another guy attending him.  I again asked if they needed anything - no.  This guy seemed like he had rung his bell pretty good so I memorized his number and continued on.  I went through some big boulders and then started down a small hill when I saw a jeep driving around a little ways off the course.  I rode over and found out it was an EMS crew so I told them about the guy I just saw, rode back to the course and continued my nice ride through the desert.

About 20 miles in, just over half way, I stopped to enjoy the amazing views around me.  Here is one panorama shot I took - and no, this does not do it justice.

As I was looking around I heard some bikes coming up so I switched to video mode and recorded the video below.

Now realize that those guys who just passed me were on the beginner line probably another 10 or 15 minutes behind me.  They may or may not have been riding faster than me but with stopping for riders, chasing down the EMS jeep and stopping to 'smell the roses' allowed them to catch me pretty easily.

About a mile later I was passed by a few more racers and just after that one of them went down.  I stopped to make sure he was ok.  His foot was hurting and he asked if I could start his bike for him so he could get to the check - we could see it just a half mile away or so.  I tried to get it going but couldn't so I held it while he gave it a mighty kick - and he was off.

A short while later and the second loop merged in with the first and I started getting passed by the 'A' riders.  Man are they good.  As I rode through the checks I was beginning to realize that I was going to be keeping these guys out here pretty late since I was taking so long.  I picked up my pace a bit and kept moving even though my hands and arms were starting to cramp a little.

I finally made it back to the pits and they shuttled me into the finish chute for the one loopers.  I told them I was a two looper but they said the  pits were closed.  I told them the riders instructions said it was open until 1:00 and it was 12:45.  The main guy then told me the pits closed an hour after the first novice came through.  I later found out that wasn't true.  Had I not stopped for the downed riders and not stopped to take pictures I would have been back in plenty of time to make it out on the second loop.

Oh well, no good crying about it now.  I got my first DNF but I'm sure it won't be my last so it had to happen some time.  In the end it was an uneventful race for me.  I just went at a slow pace and tried to keep it on the trail.

I only had to wait a few minutes before Ron made it back so we were able to load up and head out shortly there after.  Here's a pic of Ron and the bikes after the race.

We both had a good time.  I was happy to have not crashed and Ron only went down once with no damage to him or his bike.

The next race/ride is this coming weekend.  It is a National level race and is in the past been known as one of if not the hardest race on the calendar.  I plan to attempt both loops again since one loop at a National is a DNF for their rankings and I am hoping to capture the #1 plate for 40+ C riders this year (only because I go to more races than any other 40+ C riders - not because I am the best ;)

I brought the GoPro but forgot the mount for my helmet so I did not capture any first person footage.  Next time.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 - A new start and a new challenge

It is in the shadow of the 2013 Dakar that I write this entry.  NBC Sports has been showing daily 30 minute updates on the Dakar race and I've been sucked into the racing and drama like never before.  It makes the race more concrete in my mind and highlights just how far I need to go if I am ever going to take part of that most amazing race.

This year I have elected to bump myself up to a class C rider and in doing so will attempt to ride the full length of the D37 and NHHA courses.  As always the 3 main goals are to not get hurt, not damage the bike and finish all the races (by riding very conservatively).  The purpose of this year is to increase my riding skills and my endurance.

The first AMA District 37 race (the District where I live) is this coming Sunday.  The type of race is a hare scramble where the race course is one loop that is run twice.  That is a great start for my two loop debut since the loop should be made easy enough for beginners - the only thing I have to do differently this year is have the conditioning to do it twice.  Which is no small feat since every one loop race I've done to date has left me without further energy.

How am I going to run two loops when I've barely been able to do one?  Believe me, I've thought about that a lot.  The plan is to simply go slow to conserve my energy and take breaks to rest and enjoy in the scenery.  I've always pushed all the way through the race unless I had to stop for some reason and that really takes a toll.  On trail rides I rarely if ever get tired so I don't see why the strategy of going slow and taking breaks won't work.  What I don't want to happen is to get tired and shaky like last time and crash on an easy trail when it isn't necessary.

I still have a couple of last minute things to do to the bike, check the valve clearances, tape up a slow leak in the radiator fitting, change the oil, clean the air filter and check the chain tension - normal race bike maintenance.

Good luck to all the Dakar racers - the long 477 mile day 6 is already underway and I'm anxious to hear how they do.

Until next time,

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!