Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trial By Fire Part II

I found myself at the Actiontown MX park in Dillwyn, VA for the VXCS cross country race I had been talked into by friends.  The week prior was spent prepping the machine, greasing and replacing bearings, new sprockets, new rear tire and giving it a good going over for small things that could turn into big problems in the woods.  One thing holds true for all forms of racing: most failures can be prevented in the garage.

What might not be preventable, and what was now most on my mind, was possibly breaking my aging body into a million pieces coming down off the first jump.  It had been twenty years since I flew very high on a motorcycle and it's not like I was very good at it.  Walking the track prior would have been great, but the group I travelled with was running behind, (go figure), leaving just enough time to register.  And then sit on the starting line for nearly an hour.

That's another truism of racing, apparently.  The waiting.  Sunday proved no different as we sat on the starting line, bodies and bikes growing colder by the minute in the 40 degree temps.  The two-stroke riders kept restarting just to keep some heat in their expansion chambers.  I knew if the KDX cooled off too much it would run muddy for the first minute, so keeping it hot was the only choice.

Finally they began waving the rows off in sixty second intervals.  The faster A and B riders were off first.  The start was dead engine, meaning he who got it lit first was usually first in Turn 1.  I was at a disadvantage due to being kick-start only, but I also knew this was a two hour race, there was no way to win it with the holeshot.  In fact, my plan was to dawdle on the start and let the quick starters lead the way.  I didn't want to get caught up in some first corner pile-up of thirty dummies from my class all diving for the lead.  So I took it easy.

Not easy enough, because I was about sixth into the first turn, with riders surrounding me, fore, aft, starboard and port .  I expected to be bumped and battered around, but was very impressed that no one made any contact.  These guys were riding with a lot of smarts and respect and as we all clear the first corner, I am already enjoying myself.

That is, until the first jump.  I am following another rider in my class as we approach what any motocross rider would call a small, easy, dare I say '"pussy" jump, but to me it looks like I am about to be hurled into the stratosphere like a doomed space shuttle.  I think I actually said a little prayer as I launched in third gear, off the edge of the world.  The one thing my brain keeps telling me is to spot my landing and be ready for it.  I can see that I am going to come up a little bit short on this tiny double, so I won't get a gentle landing using the downslope on the other side, but the top of the landing is rounded off enough that I won't "case" it and shatter my brittle bones.  The landing is a bit hard, but not terrible.  The shitty part is that my handlebars move forward from the impact and now I can't operate the brake or clutch levers without a huge reach.  The whole bike now feels weird, and there are more jumps coming up.  I can't trust whether the bars will move again, so I have to grip the tank on the landings with my knees and keep my grip loose on the bars.  It's not graceful, but I survive the entire first go round on the motocross track, saying a silent thank you to whomever designed it in such a forgiving way.

As we hit the woods I come to the first bottleneck of about fifteen riders and take the opportunity to pound my bars back into place with my fists, possibly refracturing my fifth metacarpal on the right hand (old snowmobile injury).  I keep reminding myself to calm down.  We've got almost two hours to go.  Make time by not losing time.  Don't fall. 

That doesn't last long.

The second half of the starting grid.  I'm in there somewhere, wondering when the hell things are going to get going.

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