It was late May and Dietricht and I were having trouble putting a day together for some off-road riding. D, had recently picked up a CRF250L and was having fun on the local dirt roads and trails by his house. We had both joined NETRA to further our off-roading choices, but these things are far more fun when you have a partner in crime. Girlfriends, work and other roadblocks kept getting in the way, until D texted me: “How about June 30th, Martin’s Mayhem Hare Scramble?” I texted back “Why not?” So it was on!
Had I actually known what a Hare Scramble was, I may have tried to discouraged D and make other plans, but ignorance is bliss, I marked my calendar and before I knew it, it was time to get ready. I was riding motocross 1-2 times a week, pushing out at least 20 laps (4, 5 lap motos) per session since early May and felt I had the physical part down. So I looked around the internet for videos of other Hare Scrambles and it didn’t look too bad. Except everyone was on a 2 stroke motocross/woods bike and I was bringing a TW200. I had survived The Hancock Quarry Run in 2011 on the Tee Dub so I figured it would make it. Of course I had no illusions of doing well in the race and would just focus on the ride and finishing.
About a week before the race, I searched ADVrider for info on the Hare Scramble and asked some inmates if they thought doing my first HS on a TW200 was a bad idea. I got some encouragement from Team Ghetto (who would be there) and few others, so that sealed the deal.
At first, I wanted to get up there early Saturday, camp and maybe ride the course. Unfortunately there was no such option and the earliest we could arrive was 7:30am on Sunday for registration and tech-check. I decided to get up early Saturday, bust out some laps at an MX track I belong to in Ronkonkoma, go home, unload the bike, power-wash the RM-Z250,..(deep breath).. re-load the van with the Tee Dub, pick up D and head out to a hotel a few miles from the course. It mostly went according to plan, but it was a TON of driving for one day (6 hours including the MX ). We got to sleep around midnight after a mediocre (but cheap!) chinese dinner.
I slept surprisingly well and awoke to very few aches and pains. My back had been bothering me lately and I was worried it may hamper my meager off-road skills. We ate breakfast at the Days Inn and headed over to the course. We had wanted to stop at a deli or gas station to get more ice and beverages, but arrived without passing any. We decided to make do with what I had leftover from the track on Saturday. It looked like enough. It wasn’t. We arrived around 8am and it was already hot; 78 degrees with 98% humidity. I had to lose the shirt immediately.
I meet Kenny (Team Ghetto) a really nice guy and he wishes us luck. He’s also pretty fast and took 11th in the overall C class. We headed over to Tech-check and the registration booth where the friendly ladies signed us up, gave us our transponders and took our money. $30 for the transponder and $45 for the race fee. We also got our race numbers which corresponded to our new transponders. (I’m rockin’ the 2127). We decide to register in the 200 C class so I could race with D. I also could have entered the Super Senior (over 50) class, but I knew I wasn’t getting any trophies and D isn’t old enough. Later, I realized that D had a 250cc bike, but it wouldn’t matter. We ambled back to the truck and slowly got ready. It was hot.
We had another first-time racer pitting next to us. Brad was very friendly and chatty and was riding a KX-250. I would say it was at least 85% of the entries were riding two-smokes; the majority were KTMs followed by Yamaha. There were few other dual sport bikes that I saw with a license plate except for D and I, and I think I was the only air-cooled machine as well. Also at 200cc I most likely was riding the smallest displacement 4 stroke machine, but I never saw the Tee Dub as a disadvantage at all.
The ring-a-ding of two-smokes filled air as the youths took to the course at 9am. Some of them were really fast! You could only view a small part of the course from our pit area, but it looked like a ton of fun. I couldn't wait! I noticed that VERY few of the kids were wearing goggles as they rode past and wondered why.
A short while later, we filled our hydro-paks ( I use a cocktail of Gatorade and Pellegrino) and headed over to the staging area before our race was to begin. Soon we were herded along with 50 or so other bikes into a field where we formed lines. For some reason D lined up behind me and I couldn’t maneuver enough to get next to him. It was a dead-engine start while on the bike and I was told more than once to shut down. The Tee dub is silent compared to all the other bikes and didn’t even realize it was running. I feel a full foot shorter than every other bike as I look around.
He was letting the lines go every 30 seconds and soon it was my turn. I tried to not start and wait for D, but they yelled at me and I took off. I wouldn’t see him on the course until I passed our truck on the second lap and he was standing by the fence cheering me on.
The start of any race is exciting and this was no exception! I was able to catch the pack and even make a pass or two before the faster guys pulled away. The terrain was rough but I was able to handle it just fine. Line selection was everything. Steep uphills filled with rocks, roots, mud and trees followed by steep downhills with the same features. Not much worse than I thought. The goggles lasted about 5 minutes. At 11am it was 93 degrees and God knows what the humidity was. The good thing about riding in the woods is guaranteed shade. The bad news is, it locks in the heat and humidity. I was sucking hard on the Camelback.
Soon lots of faster riders were passing me from the groups that launched behind me. At about the half hour mark, more and more riders were going down and the trails started to get jammed up. Every second you stood still, your strength was sapped from the heat, so the wait was torture. I finished the first lap exhausted at about 45 minutes and managed to keep it on two wheels most of the time, dropping the Tee Dub just twice as riders crashed in front of me. I believe I was ahead of several riders at that point. The guys at the checkpoint gave me words of encouragement and I was on my way for lap 2. Each lap was about 6 miles.
After about 2 miles I got stuck behind a downed rider in a gnarly section and took a break. I noticed at that point that my helmet cam was never activated so I turned it on. What timing! All of sudden a bunch bikes show up and it was pandemonium! .All I can say is watch the video.
Soon the sweep guys show up and give us a hand and help clean up the mess of bikes. He notices that I’m probably running too much tire pressure and asks if I want to lose a few pounds. I decline and it makes him really mad. I want to tell him that it’s my road bike too and I had no trouble on the first lap and I’m riding sloppy because I’m tired and I appreciate his advice but just want to go home....But I can’t because by now the heat was consuming me and I’m unable to speak in complete sentences. He rides by telling me he’s been woods racing for a million years and I’m going to get hurt if I don’t listen. I want to thank him for his concern but in a blink he’s gone.
My problems really started when I was unable to get up on the pegs because of fatigue. You simply can’t ride that course from the seat. The last 3 miles I crashed every ½ mile or so; once going pretty fast. I felt no pain, except in the form of fatigue from picking up and restarting the 2127 machine. This of course was sucking every ounce of energy that I had.....3/4 of the way through lap 2, my Camelback went dry.
My final crash nearly ended my race as the bike would not restart. My Tee Dub has an electrical issue that when it gets too wet, it won’t turn over. The wet muddy puddle I landed in did the trick. I lost about 15 minutes here. A nice sweep guy with a big green GAS sign on his helmet said he would go get an ATV and tow me out. After he was gone about 1 minute, it started! The only thing keeping me going was the thought of the cooler back at the truck. Not the beverages in it (There were none) but the icy water I would pour over my head. I cannot lie, If there was a sign with an arrow that said “All Pussies Leave The Course Here” I would have taken it.
I knew I was getting close when I went by the truck and D was waving and cheering me on.
Less than a mile to go. I tough it out and the the checkered flag was the most beautiful sight in the world. The guy checks me off and says “Outstanding!” Now to find the truck. Not easy! after asking 3 people where the registration booth is, I find it!!! I fill an empty gatorade bottle with ice-cold crystal-clear cooler water and pour it over my head..... again and again until most the water is gone and all that’s left is brown from the mud washing off me. After 30 minutes or so I felt good enough to get undressed.
We walk over to the registration area in search of food and beverages. I buy a gatorade and water, mix them in my camelback and suck it down along with a hot dog and cheeseburger. As I limp back to the truck, I notice I’m limping. Uh oh looks like a foot injury, oh well. Many people come over to me and congratulate me on finishing the HS with the Tee Dub, but I never looked at it as a liability. I actually own 2 motocross bikes (a Suzuki RM-Z250 and a Husky Cr125) but chose the Tee Dub for two reasons: 1. low seat height and 2, electric start. I’ve nearly died trying to start the RMZ in the summer heat and if I tried to put a foot down on either bike in a tight area, all I’d find is air.
As we walk back to the truck I notice the table full of trophies....I said “D, let’s see how I did (He had called it quits after one tortuous lap)” We walked over to the fence that the scoring sheets were stapled to. I was scored a DNF! What??? A guy told me this is the protest period, so I walked over to an Orange shirt guy and tell him my tale of woe. After all, paying $75, going through a near death experience and finishing the race only to be scored a DNF is beyond unfair. He asks me how many laps did I do and I tell him that I completed 2 laps and had the checkered flag waved at me. He said I needed to complete at least half of the winners laps in order to have technically finished. That sounded fair. I spent at least 45 minutes on the ground or waiting behind and helping downed riders. …....The winner completed 4 laps so I finished! Ahead of 12 DNFs. I limped back to the van with D and we said our goodbyes as we loaded up. I had a 2 ½ hour trip home which included dropping off D in Beacon.
On the way home I reflected on the ride and how much respect I now have for these woods racers. I thought I was in shape, I thought motocross was tougher.....Wow was I wrong! What an epiphany I had Sunday. Both the bike and I sustained a few bruises, but none life threatening. My foot is kinda purple from one of my many crashes and my hands cut up from picking up bikes from the mud. I lost my Jimbo windscreen in one crash and a turn signal lens is still on the course but other than that (and mud that won’t come off) she’s fine.
Many thanks to the Salmon River crew for putting this on and giving me this incredible life experience!