The next race was called the "Buffalo Stampede" in Myakka city Florida. A mere 7 hr trip for us .... That's a 14 hr r/t. We left early Sat 6 am and were back Sun by 9pm.
I was Really Really looking forward to this race.
I made it a point to eat, sleep and do all of my workouts properly while maintaining an ever changing schedule. I even got some solo practice riding in the prior weekend at my favorite spot -Croom (8hrs away). I was up there for a wedding so I dragged the bike along.
I had just changed the rear spring and brought all comp and reb settings back to a stock baseline then tweaked from there. I needed seat time before racing with all those changes. I got just enought time to dial it in. The bike never felt better. I don't think I ever rode faster or stronger in the woods than after this practice. Besides a nagging pain in my left wrist from a crash in the sand 4 weeks ago... I was injury free.
To me this race was all about proving that I can run in the top of the class and can keep improving. I had scored 5th, 4th,4th in the last 3 races. I really wanted podium this time.
It was also about keeping my classmate and "teammate" John B 10c behind me. We have been battling all season. I have beaten him in every race so far this season and he was out to catch me. No question about it. He just got 3rd in a race that I missed and has actually run strong all season but has always had a major stall or other issue take him out of the race. He is not slower than me.... He has just been unfortunate.
Our story is the typical one told of two racers who will constantly help each other in the shop to improve and strengthen the bikes... Share tips on fitness and technique.... Even share the same workspace and carpool so we can bench race the whole way up and back. We genuinely want to help each other, we genuinely want to see the other improve and win.
But when we race it's real. And this race was as real as it ever got.
Raceday Sunday 2/09/14
Nice cool day. Rain overnight so no dust but a little mud. I do the full practice lap, trying to prep in anyway I can. I do a strong practice lap... Then after 4 miles of it.. My hand started going numb....i finish the 10 miles...and I take ibu after. John skips the lap to save energy.
John is now dialed in on his 300xcw so we are very evenly matched as far as hardware for the first time.
All I can think about is getting a great start and keeping out front. I practice kicking it to life with the bike in second gear so I can shoot off without a wheelie. I feel confident I can get out of the hole one kick this time. ( Prev owner removed the estart)
Racetime: Horn goes off and I run steadily to the bike, One big ass kick and dump the clutch. I get out of the field in 6th out of 14.
I can see John is running in 3rd just up ahead.
Within 1/4 mile I pass the two racers separating us in one move. I trail Johnny keeping him in sight at about a 3 bike distance. Just enough to keep a watch so I can see his moves, not so close that I'll crash if he does.
Somewhere before we are a mile or two in I get tired of waiting and blast past with a fury and get gone. I am running very strong. I even pass the leader Joel at some point after he went down on a sandy right hander. I didn't realize I was running in the lead at that point until the first lap was over and I saw that I came in second ....I knew He had passed me back within a mile or two after his fall, but I was sure there was another in my class up in front.... But there wasn't.
Seeing "90c -2nd place" on the scoring board after lap one really fired me up. I continued to charge as hard as I could. I concentrated on running my race my way and not getting distracted. I did battle with # 278... I could hear him shadowing me forever ... He has a 450 and it's sound is unmistakable. I never turned to look but I knew it was him. Finally he overtook me somewhere in lap 2. I still felt great. He has been leading our class all season. He pulled away and I tried like heck to keep up.
What I didn't know... Was that at the end of lap one John was 1 second behind me. I never heard his bike... I had no idea.
My left hand was completely numb. I could feel the clutch lever with the pinky only. It was as if. The rest of my fingers were not there. For the first time, I told my numb hand to go f - itself and I kept going fast.
I was almost 1/2 thru.... Damn this hand.
Then in an open field I hear yelling behind me. It's Johnny pulling up next to me out of nowhere. He yells and screams .... He's excited that he caught me as that we are now going to battle... -And We do. For the rest of the race we are passing back and forth and giving it all we got. I'm faster in the straights, only because I'm a little more nutz and have a but more trust in the bike since I have more seat time on my 300.
We are 1 second apart at the end of lap two & running 3rd and 4th. Scoreboard says I am 50 seconds behind #278. Thats far....I forget about catching him. My Hand is still dead.
John and I go into lap 3 locked in battle.
He passes me at some point...then I pass him back in some open flat curvy bumpy ass fields ... I take off into the woods. He catches me up a while later as I make a tiny mistake and come to a brief stop with my front tire against a small tree after making a last minute line change.
I had no idea he was still right behind me. I was
riding better than ever. I was impressed that he was still right on me after all this time. It caused me to doubt myself a little..... I was riding as hard as I could I thought... And there he was pulling away in the woods now after I made a tiny mistake. I lost sight of him..... It was tight so he could have been right there... The first opening I came to confirmed that he was indeed out of sight... Didn't even see any dust settling.
It was last lap... But still we had lime 6 miles to go I figured... Anything can happen. I started catching up to an orange and white bike... Swore it was him.... Followed and squeezed all I could... It wasn't him.... I passed him fast as I could though.. Didn't want to hang up... 5 minutes later I see three more guys up front ... Johnny was in the pack.... I slowly slowly reeled him in. I get up on him... He had stopped looking back.. He Thought I was gone he told me.
I took him in a narrow straight big enough to safely pass. I was yelling back at him as I slowly passed by going just a bit more on the edge.
I couldn't believe I found him.... Passed him... And now there was only a couple miles left and it was going to be tough for him to pass as it was some challenging slippery tight stuff between us and the finish.
As we got into another heavy woods section he tried to squirt in between two small trees to take a straighter line and pass me. He was so close I could hear him yelling to me that he was "coming to pass your ass !!!"
I thought he said "not in your class-" - which is what fast guys do so you pull over and let them by.... I was confused as to what I heard so I turned and saw it was in fact him.... I saw him hitting the ground by a small tree... Just a small crash.
I looked forward and kept my wits about me. My hand felt better. I had a lot of technical stuff ahead to do right.... Motocross, endurocrossish, slippery tight woods, a water crossing and a bridge. I went as fast as I could without slipping. I made it.
John came in 12 seconds later and was shaking his head but had the biggest smile.
Within seconds, both of us were already thinking about the next race ...Okeechobee next weekend. There can be no mistakes now.
Everything has to go right from here on out.
Holy crap that was fun.
Note: Due to a DQ of our class leader who was caught on camera blowing a double green ... We were all moved up one spot to 2nd and 3rd place. My first podium finish in any sport ever in my life.
To me... I can to relax and celebrate just a little...This is a milestone if there ever was one.
Now it's on to a win
All who wander sure as heck ain't lost