A group of us reach the first hill climb to find a bottleneck of about 10 riders stuck on the hill. It doesn't look particularly difficult, so I am wondering what the holdup is. After about five seconds, riders in front of me start taking creative lines to avoid the crowd, so I figure what the hell.
Quite impressed with my first hill climb, I approach a creek crossing with a rickety bridge covered in chicken wire. Two riders in front of me slide off the bridge into the creek, so I make it a point to slow way down and get across. And then promptly crashed in the mud on the other side of the bridge. At least it wasn't in the creek.
I would have been embarrassed except that I am seeing so much piss poor riding and bad technique I feel right at home. I'm making a million mistakes, holding the bars too tightly and generally tiring myself out. I've got massive arm pump less than half-way through the first lap. I know the key is to relax and slow down, but I'm in sprint mode. Roadracing gives us very little time to get a job done, so you have to go balls to the wall for those twenty minutes. I've got at least eighty-five minutes left here, my body will never make it like this.
The woods section ends, dumping us out onto the grass track section, wide open but bumpy, it's deceiving, because underneath that grippy grass is slimy mud, so you have to be careful. I am wrung out in 5th gear with one gear left, but I don't dare use it. I've found the limit of the KDX suspension, the rear is hopping all around, any faster and I can tell the ends of the motorcycle will be swapping positions. I would prefer not to crash in front of all the spectators lining the side of the course. Better to do it in the woods where there is no one to laugh at you!
The second lap is much better. I handle the motocross track with a basic competence and have a better idea of what to expect in the woods. There are some fairly technical hill climbs, which while difficult, prove to be fun as well. It's satisfying as a 42 year old man on a 27 year old bike to pass younger bucks on shiny, brand new machines who are stuck in the middle of a hill, digging trenches and wasting the piss and vinegar of their youth. Of course, for every brilliant move I make out there, I make at least three mistakes. By the end of the day I will have fallen off ten times.
Third lap I finally think I have the hang of things, but the course is deteriorating rapidly, especially in the woods. The ruts are getting over 18" deep, and in some places the trees are so tightly packed you have no option but to ride in them. The 60 horsepower 450s ridden by gas happy douchebags who don't understand the meaning of "throttle control" have trenched damn near the entire woods section, exposing roots and rocks that prove treacherous to feet, rims and the continued forward motion of motorcycles. Creek crossings have turned into nearly impassable morasses, and hill climbs have been dug down to slippery rock. I am tiring out, but the course is demanding more. I make it to scoring at the end of the third lap to see the white flag. One more lap. I can make it.
Five minutes later, I don't know if I can make it. I'm on about my fourth wind and fading fast. I spent too much energy too early on, now it's just survival. There is little comfort in the fact that every other rider I see is just as exhausted, some of them can barely keep their bikes upright, many don't and I pass anyone I can.