Sometime in 2010, I first heard the words "Hare Scramble" uttered by a buddy. I laughed out loud and said "Really ???? Hare scramble? WTF is that ? " Then I got sucked in. I went and saw just 2 races last year. I just observed and took pics. It awoke in me an ancient desire to race. The desire rose like an iceberg re-surfacing from the depths of my youth. The Berg broke the surface when last month I sold my xr650l and bought a yz250f and all the best protective riding gear I could find. Then I read and read and read ADV and FTR and TT forum posts about racing until my lady begged me to turn off my iphone so she could sleep. Everynight for 2 weeks this happened i think.
I'm 45, 210lbs. I'm in reasonable shape. My riding history: I have been on street bikes since 2004. I got my first dirtbike an xr600r, in 2010 at age 44. I have since done several 10 to 30 day extended offroad trips with it. In '09 I rode the TAT on my Buell Ulysses. Last year I went to Highland Park Ga and got some great practice riding several different sizes and flavors of bikes on the 85 miles of awesome, safe one way trails there. I had a quad for a couple years when I was in my late teens.
Here's what I wrote to my buddy a few days after experiencing my first race in Bartow Florida. The race was put on by the Sunrunners...a fine organization within the Florida Trail Riders. My buddy Greg (fellow adv'r) is the one who prodded me to post my story as I told it to him in an email. It is pasted below. I hope I dont look too foolish.....here goes. Thanks to riding buddies Brent, John & Ivor for their help and support. Big thanks to my buddy Chad Newman for taking the awesome pics.
Here's my Email:
Greg, Haven't written in a while... so I thought I'd catch up and give u a rundown of a first timers experience racing ftr...
I looked forward to my first ever Ftr scramble like a kid looks forward to Christmas.....excitement and anticipation that never lets up and even increases as the day approaches.
The biggest worry I had was getting past the first big turn, where a mass of metal and footpegs and bark busters funnel down to a narrow path. I was taking a new to me machine to do something I have never done. Scary. I spent 4 weeks gathering all the best info and protective gear. I got just about everything, except my leatt neck brace. I ordered the best / carbon fiber brace and it's back ordered for weeks.
I'd had the bike for 4 weeks. I test rode it for 5 minutes, then purchased it and since then I rode it once up in sugarloaf on the busted bridge road with our riding buddy Ivor. It is fast, light,strong. I am not dialed In on it, but neither are guys who rent a bike at the races and go for it I figured. After one ride, I'm going to race on a Sunday as Super Senior #90. I chose to skip beginners/saturday class and go to C /Sunday. Sunday's races are longer and tougher than Saturday / beginners.
A mix of respect and anticipation washed over me as I waited for all the preliminary motions including prayers and the national anthem before this "Salute To Veterans" race started.
My reasoning for doing Sunday/C class ?? Brent's buddy Doug came to a race I was at last year and borrowed some gear, rented a bike and went for it in C class. He finished, was last on the course, tired but with a huge grin. He did two laps only, but finished.
Doug had about the same offroad exp as me I think, maybe less. He has a dirtbike out West like me that he rides occasionally. He was my benchmark. My goal was simple: finish 2 laps in C class and not come in last and not get hurt.
Race Day / Bartow - 11/6/11
The weather was cool, breezy, dust was a minimum. Nice.
My super senior class line was huge.
As the gun fired I walked to my bike as the others ran. I did not want to be in the middle of that mass at the first gate/turn. The yz started first kick (Shit) and I was off, I wheelied second gear by accident, got thru the first few turns with 3 guys trailing me. Whew
#90c rounds turn 3 ....
I was excited and a bit shaky.....I had three guys behind me, the rider in front of me was roosting me in the face on the first three up hills so I backed away cause It's a bit challenging riding with your face pointed at the ground so the visor deflects all the dirt. I was determined not to ride over my head, not to be pushed. I felt good throughout the first lap. I felt like I was going slow, but the riders behind did not pass too often. I wasn't tired, and I even passed a few guys that were wrecked or were resting 20 minutes into first lap. A few people passed me and it tempted me to squeeze the throttle and get closer to the edge.....but quickly I would then back off and settle down.
Further on the first lap as the mile markers went by very slowly, I saw some good wrecks. One even closed the whole MX track section. We rode by slowly, respectfully, slowed down by the flagmen and women who frantically waved us to slow down and take the path next to the mx section...
I stopped for one dude by a tree who wrecked with 2 others but had the worst of it. 10 riders stopped. I took off. Sobering. I went on and started lap two. I had no idea what time it was. I passed a rider or two, and was getting passed more now by the lead racers. On a sandy tight uphill with a sharp left entry and then a sharp right exit, I was passed by a good rider in a frenzy to squeeze by before the right hander at the top. I lost my line. I went up on the right side bank and crashed back onto the track. I was about to throw the still running bike back up but saw a few riders coming around the blind left to discover me.... I stayed down, two riders went around me and a third ran clean over my right leg. The sidi protected my leg 100%. The dude looked back and screamed sorry ! I waved him on... "Im oK..go get em " was my message I guess. I got up and going. I was followed by a couple C riders and i was changing places with a Red C class rider on a Honda 250f. I was breathing good, no where near exhausted....I kept drinking water. I was ok.
2/3rds thru the second lap we were up in a woods section. Sandy, tight, dark. I had no experience in these tight tree sections really. There were three lines and I think i was on the upper. All of a sudden there was a tree, right there and I had a second to think...I had no choice but to hit head on...no time to deflect...which would have thrown my head / shoulders into another tree a couple feet away anyway. I squeezed the brakes and basically did a stoppie on the tree....My front tire hit, my front fender climbed up the tree until it split and turned inside out. The back of the bike came way up and whacked my left rear thigh, my helmet visor hit first as I bent my head down....so my face didnt get hit by a branch i guess... I felt my spine compress a bit...helmet made contact with right shoulder and then i was thrown right. I remember thinking.... "WOW that was fucked up" whichwas followed by...." shit I feel ok I think" On the ground I started up immediately removing my gloves and hat. I think i removed them to force myself to do a check up and rest. A rider sat there talking to me...asking if i was ok...and if he should send help etc. I picked up the bike and punched the front fender back into the right shape and told the guy to go ahead...thanks alot...I was ok I think. He stopped for at least a minute or two. He told me I hit the tree pretty hard. I looked at his # and tried to remember it. I wanted to thank him after. I never saw him again.
I got my shit together and took off after a bit, the bars were a little tweaked. Front fender flapped. My rear thigh had a bruise in a weird spot. I rode a but more cautiously. I had a long way to go still. I still passed others who were stopped, wrecked. I thought hmm,,, I can do ok just by staying in this thing....It gave me a good feeling. Still no idea of the time but felt like I was really behind everyone. I always had good long distance endurance so maybe I was good after all. Back to race.....
I got to the MX section at mile 8.5 and this time did some small jumps.
I thought the bike felt a little different but i pressed on. When I got near the end of Lap two, I was still a bit shaken by the crash. Before I got to the chicane I envisioned being flagged off for going too slow....and i made peace and felt ok with that. I felt it was time to stop...I did my two laps.....I made my goal and was still riding. I crashed pretty bad, but was still going. I didnt want to crash again.
I got to the chicane and this mid-aged woman was waving frantically and I heard her say "PIT PIT !!!!" ... I surmised that I was too slow...and thank god, they were taking the decision from me...I had to stop. Cool.
I pulled in and saw a girl that was with Brents buddy Justin standing by a gas can in the pits. She was in our camp, she was Justin's student, she wants to learn the whole deal. SHe asked if I needed gas. I took off the helmet and said "shit I was just waved off for going too slow",,,,, She kinda looked at me funny. I sat there and asked where the others were ...she said they went by, and were still racing, but Justin was done with an injury from a crash into a tree. I sat there and watched people go by. I Sat there and finally asked Kayla, hey what time is it ? SHe said about 10 to Noon......I said, do you know when we started? She said after 10:45 for my line. That meant I was only 1 hr or so into the race ! I had 2 hours to race ! I was doing way better than I thought ! ! I went over to the ladies by the start line and asked why the lady waved me off the track..... They weren't sure what happened. I went back and thought shit, WTF ???? I was doing 30 minute laps...why did they call me off, Then a lady ran over and said "Im so sorry..but the lady who made you pit was waving at her daughter right behind you at the chicane...." She was really really sorry. She and Kayla told me to go back and race..... I said you know what ? It's meant to be. Im done. I felt good that I did two laps in a bit over an hour. I really needed to stop. A few minutes later, a guy pointed to my rear tire. It was nearly flat. Had I gone back out I would have been in trouble. I'D have to walk back or ride 10 miles with a flat on a race course with really good riders lapping me. Thank god I stopped. Later, Chad's photos revealed my tire was flat all the way back at the MX track. No wonder it felt weird.
I stayed to watch the others come in. John did 3 laps, Brent did 4 !
Later we saw the Elapsed times. I did 2 laps in 1:09:54. I was 24th out of 27. 11 points. I averaged 34.5 min per lap. That includes crashing 3 times and stopping a while after the tree hit. Time wise, guys who were alot better, and came in way before me, averaged about 27 -29 min laps. I didnt do too bad for the first race on a new to me bike after all !
The trees. They are something to reckon with.
William St Laurent, was the only guy I spoke with before the race..He was the guy next to me in my line at the star. He is an excellent rider....he came in 4th. It happened that he was behind me when I wrecked on the tree apparently because at the end he came over and said "Dude you hit that tree hard I saw the whole thing ! " Sobering.
Right after the race I knew that I needed time to digest to decide if i would do it again.
BY the time we were 1/2 way home, I was looking up parts I needed to get for Myakka in December ...new tires, tubes, wheel bearings, 7 other things....... and oh yea. Never again will I race with out a neck brace.
My neck still hurts today.
I must be nuts to want to do it again !
Super Senior #90 c