Not ANOTHER middle-aged n00b racing thread?!?
Yup, it's all the rage.
I have been seeing some great threads about guys getting in to racing in their local areas. I thoroughly enjoy reading them and I credit Tbone in particular with giving me the final push I needed to finally give it a shot.
Tbone is Troy, and I have gotten to know him and his family a little because he is a fellow Floridian and we now race in the same club, Florida Trail Riders (FTR). Troy and his family are genuine, great people who made me feel welcome and eased my nerves before I started racing.
Here is Tbone's father/daughter thread:
Since I've now managed to survive a few races myself, I decided to share my story.
I had a few dirt bikes in my late teens/early twenties then didn't ride at all until buying a dual-sport bike in '06 at 41. (sound familiar?) I did some cross-country rides, Alaska, TAT, and started remembering the old dirt bike days. Living in Key West, there is just no place at all to ride a dirt bike so I was stuck dreaming of the past.
That started to change when the guys I ride with here introduced me to another Key Wester who rides named Brent. Brent and his friend Ivor then started joining Steve, Greg, and I on our weekend rides in and around the Keys. On one of these rides Brent mentioned that he had done a couple of hare scramble races at the end of the 2009/2010 season. He said it was a blast and that we should try it when they started up again in the fall. (FTR doesn't run in the summer because it is too hot, but winter is perfect weather).
I did not know what a hare scramble was so Brent explained it to me and one day he brought his KTM 450 EXC over for me to look at. I had recently bought a 640 Enduro that to me was like a street-legal dirt bike compared to my BMW F800. When Brent came riding up on the 450 I thought "now THAT is a street-legal dirt bike!"
I was more intrigued now, but still unsure if I could actually race. Brent told me that Ivor had raced in the Evolution class with his early 80's XR200, and that I should check it out.
So... jump to a few months ago, Brent calls to say that he has done a couple of hare scrambles in the new season, and I should really go to at least see one. He said his wife could not go and she didn't like him driving so far alone to get home at night after racing. I agreed and went with him to Myakka City, Florida.
I don't know about other clubs, but the whole FTR scene is a very friendly atmosphere. They are very family-oriented and while there are some very,very good riders in all classes, they look out for each other and never make anyone feel like they don't belong because of their skill level.
My overall impression was great, I met Troy and some other racing families and had a really good time. I had read Tbone's story here on ADV and to meet him and talk to him gave me a lot of encouragement. I was still not 100% but I was really considering giving it a try.
The next hare scramble was 2 weeks later (FTR also does enduros as well as mx), and I agreed to go with Brent again and possibly rent a bike to race in the beginner class.
That race (my first race) was in Samsula, near Daytona.
To really complete the in-over-my-head experience, the bike I rented was a full-on, race ready, tricked out 2010 KTM 250 2 stroke. I hadn't ridden a real dirt bike in 20 years, and technology has advanced a bit since then. To complicate matters, I was told the bike had a Rekluse. "a what?"
An auto-clutch.... "oh, yeah I totally know what that is....." :dunno
Here it is with the number I chose after watching a David Knight video. I was surprised it was available. So I got that going for me, which is nice...
"where's the start button? I don't see a start button" :lol3
I took a few slow laps around the parking/camping area and came to the conclusion that this could be a lot of fun if I don't kill myself. I was thinking it could go either way.
I would later find out that the Samsula course was very tight and technical compared to most of the other FTR hare scrambles. It was all woods, with no open fields or anything but trees and palmettos. And sand, mustn't forget the sand. I had ridden in a little sand on my F800 in Ocala NF, but that was my only experience with it.
The practice lap went fairly well, following other riders through the trees and berms. The course hadn't been ridden too much at that point so the ruts weren't too deep yet. I managed to make it around the 7 mile lap without going down, but I was fairly tired and wondered how I would go for an hour and a half without stopping in the race.
When race time came I was so nervous it was hard to breathe. I tried to tell myself it was just a ride through the woods but I was getting caught up in the race atmosphere. Standing at the line waiting to run to the bike I was light-headed. When the horn sounded I ran and jumped on. It didn't start on the first kick but another kick and it was running. I excitedly twisted the throttle (no clutch,wtf?) and the front tire was immediately 3 feet off the ground. I eased off and hit second and I was racing. I got to the first turn about mid-pack and tried to relax and just stay with the other beginners in my line.
The first few turns were in a field and flat and muddy, so I was a bit tentative and a couple people passed me. I was going to have to go a little faster if I didn't want to be dead last going in to the woods.
The course had changed since the practice lap, and the soft sandy spots were really difficult. There were some ruts at least knee-deep, and it was not long before I was down. The bike stalled and was tough to restart, so now I was hot, out of breath, and my confidence was shaken. I got going again and was doing well as long as it was hard packed and not soft deep sand. I was getting through the trees and leaning in to the berms.
A mile or so later there was more deep soft stuff and I made the mistake of slowing down because of lack of confidence. People say "throttle is your friend", but putting it to practice was hard for me. Down again, stalled again. Kicking was killing me, and the bike really was tough to start after being on it's side.
I got going again and managed to catch a couple riders but went down a third time. My mouth was so dry I had to drink a little from my camelback before restarting the bike. I should have rested more but I was in race mode, thinking I had to go, go, go.
My arms were now fully pumped and it was hard to grip the bars. The lap seemed like it was 27 miles instead of 7. When I finally got to the start/finish chicane I had to pull in to the pits. Brent was there and thought I pulled in to change goggles. I told him I had to stop and he looked disappointed but I really was afraid I might hit a tree at that point. I decided That was enough, I got a taste of it and had survived. I didn't want to push my luck.
It was a great learning experience. The parts I did well on were confidence inspiring, enough to make me want to try again.
We are fortunate in FTR that we have a couple of great photographers who provide us with photos for free because they enjoy doing it. They are Mike Belle and Glenn Gardner. They are both riders who race on Sunday, and take photos on Saturday, when the beginners, juniors and evo and vintage bikes race.
Throughout the thread I will post more photos taken by Mike and Glenn, as well as some taken by my friend Greg who came to one of the races, and some pics and video taken by my friend Steve who came to another race.
A couple more from my brief but very fun (especially in hindsight) first race.
More to come. Thanks for reading.
If you haven't yet, check out Neduro's thoughts about racing:
Nice try :D
Sounds like you had fun and did the right thing...
Here is a video I found from my first race in Samsula.
It was taken by another beginner in my line. It was misty out so his lens got wet and the quality starts to suffer, but you get an idea of the terrain and tightness of the course through the woods.
The rider won the beginner class at this race, and thus was promoted out of beginner. One win in beginner is all you're allowed.
The bikes in the lines in front of us that you see him passing are the Evo classes. These are older bikes that must be air-cooled with drum brakes and I think some other specifications.
<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/IrdsJCww1iI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
*EDIT* watch the very end of the video, he hits a tree. see, I told you so! :lol3
Well, after a few days the soreness started going away and I began to remember the good parts and how much fun I had more than the pain and fatigue and frustration. I started to think about the next race.
The bike I rented from Kurt at Atlantic Motosports was great, but if I was going to do more races I would need my own bike. By the way, Kurt is at every race with race bikes available to rent and will perform just about any service you need. He is a great guy, and his son Palmer is one of the best young riders in FTR.
I managed to find a great deal on a brand new, never started, 2007 KTM 250 SXF from a dealer in Orlando. I made arrangements to make the 7 hour drive to pick up the bike on Friday and then head to the race in Brooksville, about an hour and a half west of Orlando for my race on Saturday. This meant another race on a bike I had never ridden, but I was excited to have a new bike.
Here it is in my truck with the aftermarket FMF slip-on with the spark arrestor FTR requires.
First ride on the new bike in Brooksville.
I was in love... :raabia She's so beautiful :cry
I had heard that the Brooksville race was really fun. The property it is on was once used for some type of mining, so there is some elevation changes. The area also has some natural hills. They are small hills, but hey, it's Florida.
Another cool thing about this race was that my friend Ivor was racing. He rides in the Evo class so we race at the same time and also get to run the practice lap at the same time.
The practice lap went really well and I immediately like this course better than the first one. The woods were tight but there was not much soft sand and I was able to flow through it much better. I enjoyed the off-camber up and downs and there was also some large fields with high speed turns. The last part of the course was motocross track with a couple of big hill climbs and descents.
I liked the new bike right away. It felt like a better fit for me with more linear power and not so hyper like the 2 stroke. The hydraulic clutch is super easy and I didn't miss the Rekluse at all. I would also later find out that the bike doesn't stall easy when dropped or crashed. (no e-start on this one either).
Ivor on his XR, airing it out in the mx section. Mike Belle photo:
The race was really fun for me. I did so much better in the woods and the fields. I passed people, stalking them and waiting for an opportunity in the woods. I passed in the open fields by choosing better lines and using the great traction and acceleration of the new bike. I was having a blast and feeling good.
My confidence would cost me in the mx track however. There was a step-up jump on a steep uphill that I had hit perfectly in the practice lap, catching some air and landing nicely halfway up the hill and continued up over the top.
As I approached it in the race I wanted to do the same, but my adrenaline must have caused a little extra twist of the throttle as I hit the jump. My front end went straight up, but I thought I might be able to land it as the landing was very steep uphill. Wrong. When my back wheel hit the bike looped out from under me and flew uphill while I went back down. There was a huge groan from the spectators gathered in the area, as apparently it looked real bad.
I was fine and jumped up to grab my bike to keep it running, but was too late. I had to walk it back down the hill to re-start it, with help from course workers who are great and on the spot.
I said I was fine, and someone said "your bike's not". I looked at my bars and they were turning right while my front wheel was straight ahead.
My friends Brent and Greg tried their best to straighten them but the best they could do was get them to within about 6 inches of straight.
The bike didn't want to kick start, as I had not yet learned about the hot start lever. After many attempts we decided to push me over to the hill and i was able to bump-start it.
It felt really strange as I re-climbed the hill and continued on with the bars tweaked to the right, but soon wasn't so bad as I got used to it.
About a mile later was the start/finish and I didn't hesitate. I was going for another lap.
I soon was not even noticing the bars as I made my way through the woods.
I had a good second lap and ended up finishing 9th out of 15. I was exhausted but very happy. It is such a great feeling to see that checkered flag and know you have completed a race.
Post race, exhausted but satisfied.
Some shots from the race. Photos are a mix of Mike Belle, Glenn Gardner, and my friend Greg Needham.
More Brooksville photos.
Thanks for posting. It sounds like you are having a blast out there. The pics are great. Good luck and keep posting - it's fun to read.
I'm glad you took that second lap. That's racing..digging down deep and pushing yourself past your comfort level. If all you ever did was trail ride..you'd never get that satisfaction of knowing you pushed through. Great Job! :freaky
Glad you've got "the bug" as bad as the rest of us..:lol3 Really enjoyed the report John, and watching you race is better !
A couple more shots from Brooksville. It sure gets cold way up there in the north. :D
Good sleeping weather though, as long as you have a good bag.
Next race was in Brighton, Florida. It's up on the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee. This is one of the closest races to Key West, only a 6 hour drive!
Neither Brent nor Ivor could make this race so I was on my own. I got to the property around 10pm and set up my tent and went to sleep.
In the morning I got a coffee, signed up for the race, and had a pancake breakfast provided by a local Boy Scout troop.
I did my practice lap and was pretty happy. The course was real fun. Some tight woods as always, but some open fields and mud holes made it interesting.
There also wasn't much soft sand, which I was happy about, although I was getting more confident in those sections and throttling through much better than my first race. I'm figuring out that confidence is a big part of racing.
Beginners race on saturday in the very last row. Junior A riders start in the first row, meaning they will usually start lapping slower riders (me) in the second or third lap. These are 13-16 year olds and they have absolutely no fear. They probably started riding as soon as they could walk and it shows.
Seeing them fly through the woods is a little demoralizing but also a good learning experience if you can stay behind them long enough to watch how they ride.
As I was getting ready to race, a guy walked over and introduced himself as Mel and said he noticed I was alone and wondered if I needed someone to hold my bike at the start. This is an example of the spirit of FTR and most likely with races everywhere. People with a common interest and love for riding, competitive but all about fun. It is common to see riders stop and help a fallen rider during the race, make sure they're ok, pull the bike out of the bush, etc.
Mel must have given me some good luck because my bike fired up on the first kick and I was off, my best start yet. As I got to the first turn there was only one rider ahead of me. Nearly got the holeshot, I was stoked!
Fortunately, there was a photographer there to capture the glorious moment. :lol3
The glory was short-lived, however. After the first couple of turns there was a big mud hole and I did not choose a good line through it and lost a couple of spots. Another lesson learned. (Glenn Gardner photos)
Overall it was a good race for me. I was in the top 5 for most of the race until the last lap. This was my first time completing 3 laps and the fatigue set in towards the end. I heard some faster riders approaching so I pulled to the side to let them pass. When I did I got in a bad spot and the bike stalled and didn't want to start. I was hot and out of breath so I rested a minute and drank some water. My heart sank as a couple of beginners passed by.
I ended up finishing 9th again but this time there were 20 in my line, so not too bad. I did really well until I got so tired, and had a lot of fun. I was definitely improving with each race. Damn this racing stuff is awesome!
Doing it, not talking about it
Great to see and read John. Keep it up! One thing you mentioned that seems to be common among "noob" racers is that someone with experience and a passion for the sport, supported your efforts and encouraged you to give it a try. I think some of the real racers out there might not realize how important their words and knowledge are to someone starting out. Everyone is a beginner at some point... 8 years old or 48, it is still a leap of faith into the unknown.
Only difference I find so far is my mom won't drive me to races...:lol3
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Doug. I'm enjoying your story as well. I could have used that all-wheel-drive in those mud holes. :lol3
The next race was last weekend at Okeechobee, Fl. The course was really fun, with a bit of everything. The weather was getting warmer, which would make racing a little tougher.
I've been spoiled because my first few races were on cool days, cold by south Florida standards even. Now, with the sun shining and the race at 2:15, heat, hydration, and conditioning would all become factors.
The morning practice lap went well. Ivor and I had a nice easy lap checking out the course and trying to make mental notes. Ivor and I seem to be pretty close in our skill level (and he's riding a 30 year old bike) so it's a lot of fun to follow each other around the course.
My goal for the race would be to try to catch him, as he starts one line in front of me, one minute ahead.
At the start, my bike took about four kicks to start and the pack left me behind. I need to dial in just how warm to get the engine for a one-kick start.
There were a few slower riders, probably their first race, so I quickly caught up and passed them. That made me feel a little better and I set my sights on trying to catch Ivor.
The first lap went really well. I felt great and was flowing smoothly through the woods, passing beginners and some Evo riders too. By the time I exited the woods for the open fields section at the end of the course, I could see Ivor up ahead.
The fields can be tricky because you want to go wide open between turns but you really have to be careful. There are many dips and holes that can throw you if you are not ready. The courses are also made with as many obstacles and tricks as they can find to make it more interesting and ultimately more fun to race. You sometimes go from open field to a small stand of trees where you have to go between two with barely enough room for your bars to get through.
It's difficult to find time to take your hand off of the bars to grab your mouthpiece for a drink, but you have to make time. I need to realize that taking a few seconds throughout the race to hydrate and catch my breath is worth it to not get exhausted later causing crashes.
Crashes for me are usually just slow speed tip-overs. No drama, but having to pick up the bike or push and pull it back on to the course and possibly restart it really drain a lot of energy. So far I hadn't gone down and I was moving through the competition nicely.
After 2 laps I was right behind Ivor at the finish chicane, and third in my class. I was excited and pushing myself hard.
The third time through the woods started to take it's toll, however. I started getting hot and tired. There was a small pond with a very muddy section that went around the edge of the pond. After two laps of racers and a practice lap as well, the mud was getting thick and had deep ruts. I decided this would be a nice place to stop and proceeded to face plant spectacularly. I jumped to my feet and quickly went for the clutch to get the bike up before it stalled.
I managed to keep it running with a handful of mud as the left side of the bars had been buried in the blackness. I had to struggle a bit to get out of the deep mud and now I was really exhausted.
The rest of the last lap got worse from there as my fatigue led to more mistakes and I dropped the bike again. My hopes of catching Ivor and winning my class were now gone and I just wanted to finish in one piece.
I finally got out of the woods and the open fields helped with some air to cool me down and knowing I was nearing the finish. There was still a good couple of miles to go and I could hear bikes behind me so it wasn't over yet. I got a few sips of water and reached down for whatever was left in my 45 year old body. I managed to hold off the others and finished strong.
I ended up 6th in my class and about a minute slower than Ivor, who won his class.
Immediately after the race I was as physically exhausted as I have ever been. I tried to drink as much as I could without puking. I wasn't panting and gasping for breath but just overheated and spent. I started to think about how embarrassing it would be to die there in front of everyone. :lol3
It made me feel a little better that Ivor was in a similar state. He's about 5 years younger and plays soccer regularly. He's in much better shape than me and he was exhausted as well. I guess it's what you call "giving it all you've got" or "leaving it all on the field". Regardless, I need to do some cardio work to build some endurance. That is why I am sitting at my computer sipping a cafe con leche at 11:30 am. :lol3
Here is Ivor with his trophy.
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