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Hare Scramble Race Report

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  • Hare Scramble Race Report

    Yesterday I was able to get the day off and go do another Scramble. Been looking forward to it for weeks. My work schedule falls on the same day as the past few races, and all the rest of the races this season as well. So I was really excited to get the chance to get out and give it another go.

    This race was close to home, only an hour away, so I got there in plenty of time to unload, register, and go through tech inspection. All the previous ones have been frantic affairs to get to the start line on time, so this was a nice change. My wife came along to support and cheer. Despite all that, I was more nervous this time out than any of the previous races. I think it was in part because I was the most prepared and had the highest expectations for a good race. Even took my Gopro to record my glory.

    Fast forward to the starting line. For some reason, my class had been moved forward in the start sequence which meant there would be more riders passing me in the early stages than previous races. Three rows behind me, about 25 riders per line, meant that I would get passed by about 60-65 riders in the first 5 miles or so. Normally only a single row is behind me at the start. This should have been an omen of what was to come.

    Starting horn blows, I walk to my bike while everyone else is running and jumping on for a quick getaway. I sashay over and leisurely kick the old girl to be the last one off the line. My strategy works as I am the last one in my group to reach turn one. The sand is loose and deep, and the first few turns are sharp. Some riders are down, and others stuck behind them waiting while the fallen regain their mount and get going again. So I have gained a few positions. The first 1/4 mile is in open field with these mushy turns before heading into the woods. I'm feeling pretty good. 25 yards into the woods and I find myself on an unfamiliar surface - exposed palmetto roots. I know about these things but have never ridden them. I slow right down to take stock of the situation and find that I do not possess the skill or knowledge to cover this kind of terrain with any pace. I ride timid and slow, trying to pick safe lines that will keep me off the ground(Believe me, you do not want to fall on the stuff. They are firmly rooted in place, and hard as rocks). And now the passing begins. Faster riders are trying to get by me on a very narrow, root infested, tight, twisty trail. I try my best to keep to the right and allow room to pass. This works sometimes, more often there just isn't enough room, so I look for spots to get off the trail altogether and let the others through. I think to myself, this can't go on for long and the trail will become more friendly to me, with more open trail, and just a dirt surface. I thought wrong. 1 mile of palmetto roots, 2 miles of palmetto roots, 3, 4, 5, 6 miles of palmetto roots and I am totally defeated. Every muscle in my body is fatigued from trying to maintain balance over this horrendous surface. I am tired also from the numerous times I had to pick myself and the bike up off the ground and get restarted. My clutch hand is numb and useless. My goggles are forever fogging due to the slow pace and lots of sweat. Shortly after mile marker 6 I pulled off the trail to assess the situation. If there had been a shortcut back to the pits I would have taken it. I quit . . . . for about 30 seconds. Don't know why, but I refired the bike and took off with more determination than I had used in the previous 30-40 minutes. But honestly, it was to no avail. I continued to struggle, run off the trail, fall down, hit trees and fall down, and hold up all of the riders that were now lapping me. I finished the lap in just over an hour. Fast riders were doing a lap in less that half that time. I have no idea how they were managing to do that, it just seemed impossible. If I had to guess, I would say that 70% of the course was palmetto strewn, and 90% of my time on course was riding over the stuff. There were some deep sandy areas and few fast, firm straightaways. But I was truly blown away by how tough the course was for me.

    Passing through start/finish I briefly contemplated trying to do a second lap, but the reality was, I had made up my mind many miles back that I was not going to put myself or my bike through another lap of this torture. So I pulled of the course, found my wife, and slunk back to my truck feeling very defeated. I was exhausted, frustrated, and even a little bit angry at the organizers for plotting such a brutal race course. It took a little while, but on the ride home I decided that I needed to let go of the negative mindset and look for something positive to take away from this experience. And I did. Both me and the bike were still in one piece. I had just a tremendous full body workout. And maybe best thing to come of it, I learned that I can traverse palmetto roots, albeit slowly. Previously, I would have looked for a way around them, turned around and run away from them, or declined to ride that day at all. And I was pleased that I got back in the game after thinking about giving up.

    Not the kind of outing I was expecting. Today, a day later, sure, I need a chiropractor, a masseuse, a dentist to put my fillings back in, some new suspension bushings, a new tube for the front tire, etc. But I am glad for having had this experience. Hard times help to define us. Even if it only helps to define the fact you are not so good at some things.