Monthly Archives: April 2008

April 27 – Loretta’s

The sun poked it’s head up for a few minutes this morning.  From about 6:30 to about 8.  After 8 it was all clouds.  That is ok, because it is much nicer to race when it is cloudy than when it is stinking hot.

I am in a hotel in Marion Illinois.  I am sitting here after a shower, hurting body and all, chewing on advil and trying to type this note.  My whole body hurts.  Even my hands are cramping trying to type this.

At 47 years old, I finally got to race at Loretta’s.  When you grow up motorcycle, there are a few things that are held up on a pedestal.  Driving a bike down through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca (I have not done that), riding Baja (I have not done that), racing a national enduro (I have not done that yet, but I will next year), racing at Undadilla (I have not done that yet, but I will this year), jracing at Loretta’s (I have done that now) and a few others.  But, Loretta’s is certainly on the list and now I have raced there.  And OMG, was it tough.

I already mentioned that the sun was shining a bit this morning, and then it got cloudy.  If you have read my earlier posts, then you know that it rained cats and dogs on Friday night and Saturday morning.  The ground was saturated and overflowing.  The forecast called for more rain today on Sunday.  It was looking like we might have the super saturated raining on us at the start race that I have feared.  I am not much of a mud rider, and the thought of the huge hills at Loretta’s in the rain, was not thrilling me.  But, I was here to ride the course for my one time in my life.  Nothing was going to stop me.

During the morning race, I got to watch Rodney Smith take on the course.  Rodney is basically my age, and has retired from racing, but I guess that Loretta’s is a special course for him and he decided to ride the sportsman class in the morning.  Not really fair, as he is a national MX champ, and a multi time GNCC champion.  But, I did not care because I was going to get to watch him ride.

Right away, when the flag flew you could see that he was going to be something special.  He was riding one of the new RMZ450 Suzuki’s, and he looked a lot like Ricky Carmichael, only able to ride at that pace also in the woods.  I watched Rodney come down one of the super steep hills that I would struggle with later in the day, at a pace that was incredible.  I mentioned that he is my age, but he has more talent in his pinky than I do in my whole body.

On the MX track, Rodney cleared all doubles and the huge tabletop with ease.  I know he was on a 4stroke, and that makes it easier, but I think he could have cleared them all on an RM85.

Rodney shredding the morning race.  He was absolutely hauling the mail at that point.  Impressive.

I just have to show this picture.  THAT IS LORETTA LYNN’S STARTING AREA!

Ok.  How was the trail at Loretta’s.

– fast

– rough

– rocky

– HUGE hills

– crazy steep downhills

– braking bumps with holes bigger than your front wheel

– did I say rough?

I had an ok race.  I started well and left the MX track in probably 5th.  But, I went downhill from there.  I crashed on one of the steep downhills on the first lap, and broke the end off my camelbak hose.  The liquid just came pouring out.  I drank as much as I could, but I was gagging trying to drink it all.  So, I was halfway around the first lap and my camelbak was dry.  It was going to be a long day.

Did I mention that the course was rough?  My hands are toast.  There were so many rocks it was not even funny.  The trail is mostly rock, actually.  Imagine rocks from the size of a marble to the size of a bowling ball, mix in about 40% dirt and that is the trail at Loretta’s.  Rock.  Lots of rock.  There were a couple of super long sections that were non stop whoops 3 feet deep where the whoops were made of loose rock.  I am not kidding!   Loose rock whoop sections.  OMG!  The downhills were scary steep, with lots of holes and braking bumps the size of automobiles.  My suspension was not set up for that.

In the end, the sign at the finish said that I was in 9th.  Not bad, but as I said I went backwards in that first lap.

Now for the big drive home.

over and out…

Joe

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Saturday – April 26, Loretta’s quad day

During the night, we had another spectacular thunderstorm. The heavens opened up for most of the night. When we woke up, it looked like it must have rained 2+ inches during the night. The field that was dry and dusty when I arrived, was an absolute quagmire. The gravel road had puddles 2-3 inches deep in every low spot. There were trucks stuck everywhere. Still not as bad as the muddy field that we saw in Crawfordsville last year, but a mud pit nonetheless.

The poor little kids. This is what the course has looked like for the little kids on quads every race this year, and if you look closely at that kid, you can see what they end up looking like. Covered in mud, head to toe.

By the time the pros raced in the afternoon, it was much better. Here are a couple of pictures from there race.

McGill chasing Balance down the hill.

Whoops! Be careful. That downhill was actually really steep. Pictures never do it justice.

It turned out to be a really nice day.

Shane gave me some jetting specs, but I did not like them, so I am going back to what I had before. I had my bike apart a few times today, and it looks like I will have it apart again tomorrow.

The quad guys are mostly gone, so it is really quite tonight. I can hear a generator across the field, but there is nobody riding around the parking field and parking lot. And, the guys with the dueling country and western music are gone.

Tomorrow is 70% chance of rain. I am guessing that it is going to be a mudder tomorrow. Oh well. I should be happy with mud now. GNCC races are always muddy.

Men Yana!

Joe


April 25 – on my way to Loretta’s

Doesn’t that sound cool? What I wouldn’t give to be 13 all over again, and be heading to Loretta’s. I guess this is my middle aged breakdown. Doing all these races at all these really famous places.

Last night was a tough night to sleep. I am pretty excited to be going to Loretta’s, Scott is not with me so I have to handle it all on my own, I was in Asia all week so I was suffering some serious jet lag and we experienced one of those great Midwestern middle of the night thunderstorms last night. It all conspired to allow me only about 3 hours of sleep. To top it all off, the storm made the alarm go whacky and somehow it went off an hour early. I only discovered that when I was already eating breakfast an hour earlier than I needed to. Oh well.

Liz dropped me off at the airport at about 6am because I am driving home alone, and if the truck was there I would struggle to figure out how to get it home. I am flying to Atlanta, picking up the van at airport parking, driving across town to pick up the trailer at my friend Dan Thornton’s place, stop at a store to pick up groceries and blast to Hurricane Mills, Tn.

It seems my pulled calf muscle from last weekend is mostly gone. Hopefully that is true and it does not act up during the race, as it was bad enough that it cut my training ride early last weekend. It will be grueling to tough it out through it for the whole race if it does act up. But, I promise that I will not pull out early for that. It is Loretta’s, after all.

My bike needs some work still from Big Buck. I intend to turn my rear tire around, to put on new brake pads, to check my clutch, to put in a fresh plug, to check my jetting (especially if it ends up hot and humid as it normally is there), possibly I will need to mount up some new grips etc… It will be a normal Saturday prep.

Later the same day.

I arrived in Atlanta, picked up the van, picked up the camper, filled the campers water tank, went to the grocery store and then headed out of town. It was good to get out of Atlanta for good. That is not my favorite place. My favorite things happen outside of a city, so when I am in a really big one I definitely feel out of place.

I made my way out of Georgia and then across Tennessee. Unfortunately the van started cutting out again. So, my pace was not the fastest, as it runs best if kept below 70. It is going to be a long drive home.

I am sitting here, 8:30 at night outside my camper, typing notes from the day. It is probably about 70 outside still. Really nice. There are stars showing, but rumor has it that we should get a couple of hours of rain tonight. Typical. It is a GNCC race after all. It needs to be muddy.

I am at THE Loretta Lynn’s ranch. There is a big sign outside that says “Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch. The Coal Miners Daughter.” Wow. I feel like I had better like country and western or I will be ostracized from the place.

The hills are pretty big here. I think there could be some really big hills on the course. It is going to be fun.

It was hot here today. It is supposed to cool down. But it was hot today. Hot and dry. And of course there are a bazillion quads around as well.

These are the rules for proper Quad etiquette:

  1. Your quad must be loud.
  2. The day before a quad race you must ride your quad around and rev it a lot.
  3. Don’t wear a helmet on your quad except during a race.
  4. The day before a race you must start your quad every 30 minutes to insure it will run on race day.
  5. When you do start your quad, you must rev it high enough to bounce it off the rev limiter.
  6. Shorts and a tank top are the preferred attire to ride with when not racing your quad. (when racing it is best to revert back to Carharts – camo models are best)
  7. If there is nothing else to do then ride your quad in circles or back and forth doing wheelies.
  8. Burn outs in the dust right next to someones campsite is ok if you are on a quad.
  9. Acceptable hours to ride or just rev your quad are 6am to 11pm.
  10. My quad is louder than yours. I can prove it.

I am pretty much done being here for quad day. I think I will just show up on Saturday from now on for our races.

Joe

April 23 – Loretta’s minus 3 days

I am on the plane on my way back from a trip to Taiwan. Although this GNCC racing thing is a huge dealeo for me, I still have a family and a job that has to be attended to. This week I was in Taiwan for a few meetings and then home on Thursday. Friday, on the plane to Atlanta to head to Loretta’s race. I have gotten pretty good at avoiding the jet lag thing over the years, and keeping my biorythems on the US schedule. I know I will be a little bit tired, but I have 3 days to recover and be physically ready for Loretta’s.

You may know by ready Scott’s blog, that Scott cannot make it to Loretta’s. His damaged wrist from Big Buck, will keep him home. Hopefully it will be healed and ready by the time of the Penton race in Ohio. For now, I will head down to Loretta’s on my own. No one from home can go with me either, as both of my daughters have soccer games over the weekend, and my wife will need to be there as well. None of my friends are interested in going to the race, just so that I can have some company.

I will miss Scott at the race. He is my teammate and racing buddy, and on top of that we are just really compatible friends. We have similar habits as far as sleeping, eating and prep before the race etc… He even tolerates my need for a cup of coffee in the morning, although I know that he thinks I am being stupid over that. So I will miss all the shared experience of the GNCC scene together.

But, what I am really not looking forward to is the post race packing and cleanup, alone. I can handle the travel down to the race alone. I can handle the shopping at the store, getting supplies before hand alone. I can handle the finding the race and then finding a campsite alone thing as well. I can handle the race alone, after-all we have been doing our own pits etc… alone during the race. I can even handle the nearly 800 mile drive home alone after the race (Loretta’s is the last commute down race until the fall. The van and our bikes and gear will be back at home for the first time since February).

The part that I am dreading is the packing up of the campsite and my bike and the tents etc… at the race. OMG! Normally, Scott and I are both so worked after the race that it is a major major ordeal to get things packed up after the race. Sometimes just getting out of my race gear is a multistage, take something off – sit down and rest, rinse and repeat, affair. Getting the bikes loaded normally takes both of us, and a rest between and after. Hopefully I can find some other person near by to give me a hand with that. I imagine that I will get it all done, then drive a couple of hours to a KOA campground and get some sleep in the camper. Monday after the race will be a big drive day.

I kind of enjoy driving across the country. I love seeing the scenery, listening to music and the time to think on my own. It has been a while since I did that.

I think back now to our drive down to Florida at the end of February. Everything seemed so new and a huge adventure. Something that I don’t think Scott and I have felt for a long long time in our lives.

Enough of that. Loretta’s is coming! This is the oldest race in the GNCC series. It also uses the MX track from the amateur nationals. I get a few chills just thinking about it. Someone at Big Buck told us that Loretta’s has hills like Steele Creek did. I am not worried about that now – can it really be worse than Steele Creek?

It is normally hot and humid at Loretta’s. That would be a big change from what we have experienced with this GNCC thing yet this year. It has been generators with heaters running all night, fleece jackets, rain gear and mud boots at every race since Florida. Florida was warm, and I still remember that one night of sleeping in the camper there. If we get the traditional Loretta’s weather, it should be fun.

I hope/think I have finally figured the GNCC race out. Racing at home is all about the woods and maintaining a heads up pace in the woods. You stand up a lot and work your bike through the trees. Usually at a 2nd or maybe 3rd gear pace. GNCC racing is a lot different than that.

Last year I went out to California and did a WORCS race with Ty Davis. I thought at the time that those races were just long MX races. They covered all of a really technical MX course and then had a lot of wide whooped out straights in the woods and out in the open. I remember at the time thinking that GNCC racing wasn’t really like WORCS racing. And in the end, they are different. But, GNCC racing has a lot more in common with WORCS racing than it does upper Midwest HS racing. GNCC racing is fast, it is whooped out and it requires riding it a lot like an MX race. GNCC racing doesn’t have a lot of jumps, but other than that the pace and the courses are similar between GNCC and WORCS. Certainly the bike set up is similar.

But, GNCC is still harder. There is always mud and a GNCC race is 3 hours long. WORCS does have a manmade log pile/tire/rock section to get through, but only for the pros and there is never any mud. ALL GNCC races have mud, ALL racers hit the same obstacles as the pros AND pros/AA/A/B riders all race for 3 hours. It is grueling.

I cannot wait.

See you at the race.

Joe

Big Buck – I finally cracked it!

Last night was another cold one. It was only supposed to get down to about 50, but it cleared up after dinner time, and the temperature plumetted. It was another of those nights that feel really really cold inside the camper. Scott got up to step out and pee at about 3:30 am. I laid there curled up in a ball, trying to stay warm but not doing a very good job of it, for about another 30 minutes before I broke down and went outside to start up the generator and get some heat going. After that, I slept like a baby until 7am when the first kid had to start up his bike and ride around the pits.

It is always funny to hear dads and kids getting ready to race. The dad will say something like, let it warm up! While the kid is revving it like crazy. Or, the dad is working on the bike while the kid and his buddy are jumping their BMX bikes over a makeshift jump. The dad finally bellowing at the kid to come and get ready to race. GNCC is really a family event. The entire pits is full of RV’s and campers. Wow!

After my usual breakfast (oatmeal, a bunch of fruit cut up into it, a bunch of vanilla yogurt stirred into it, juice, coffee), and Scott’s usual breakfast (3 different kinds of cereal, fruit cut up into it and 2% milk, glass of juice), we got started right away working on bikes and gear. We both were ready to go by the time the morning adult race started.

We rode over to the start of the morning adult race and then made our way down to the creek jump.

They had the creek jump closed off for the morning race, saving it for us and our race. Basically, you would come bareling down the side of the mountain, make a sharp turn and the launch over a 20 foot creek on a jump that they had built specifically for that. But, the morning guys were not doing it, so we were not sure

how it was going to work. Oh well, I guess you learn some things on the fly.

We made our way over to the 10 mile creek crossing where we discovered absolute chaos. The trail came up to the creek and fanned out into a million different lines through the creek. It was meant to be hard, but it was not really that hard. The morning race was having an absolutely shatered time with it though. There were bikes and bodies everywhere.

A few photo’s from the morning.

I can’t get up the creek!

Neither can I!

I hope I don’t drown!

I always wondered why the magazines always ran phtos of someone going through a creek, and then said something below like “Here is Bob getting ready for GNCC racing!” I know why now. There is always a few creek crossings like this in EVERY GNCC. They love dragging us through this kind of stuff.

We made our way back to our pits, but along the way we went by the GNCC trailers, and saw their whole set up.  They drag around 2 big semi trailers that are full of 2-3 bulldozers, and a couple of bobcats.  There are dozens of trailers and ez-ups all over the place for official things like registration and timing and tech inspection and…  There are also at least 5 serious work Quads, miles and miles of ribbons and stakes etc…  it is incredible.  They do trash pickup as well.   I would guess that there must be a work crew there at least 3-4 days in advance of the race – getting it all ready.  I would also guess that there is a work crew there for a few days afterward, cleaning up as well.

I snapped that shot of the back of one of their semi trailers.  Notice the stack of 20 bags of grass seed also.  I think they even go through and reseed everything that the race tears up.  Pretty cool.

So our race got off as usual, at about 1:20.  Of course, i don’t get to start until almost 15 minutes later.  We start so much after the pros, it is impossible to get the same number of laps in as the pros.  This race, only the top 5 in my class even got in just one fewer than the pros.  Most of us got in just 2 fewer than the pro’s.

I don’t have a photo of the creek jump, but it was pretty cool.  I did not know if I was going to hit it, but I followed someone right over it.  I did not intend to, but that is how it worked.  There will be photos of me going over it on the Racedaypix.com slide show.

I got a horrible start, and then rode like an absolute fleeb in the first lap.  I crashed 3 times.  Once on my own, i just got my front wheel on the wrong side of a tree.  But, it was hard to get going again.  Another time, I could not make it up a hill and had to rodeo the bike back down the hill and try it again.  The 3rd time, someone smashed into me from behind in the woods and sent me flying.  I ended up a complete yardsale up against a tree.  The bike was on it’s side, and there was a tree between the front fender and the front tire.  That took a huge effort to get going again.  At this point, the first lap is not over and I have to be in about 25th place in my wave.  Yow.

I finally got some rthym, and got going.  By the end of the first lap, I was in 19th place.  I continued to put my head down and at the end of the next lap I was in 14th.  The next time around I was in 11th, and finally at the finish I was in 10th.  I did it.  It was not pretty, but I did it.  I said I was going to be in the top 10 today, and I just barely made it.

So, we are 4 races into the GNCC series, and I have learned a few things.

1.  GNCC and WORCS racing are not that different.   The big difference is mud and trees for GNCC and MX tracks for WORCS.   But GNCC courses are generally wide like WORCS, and completely whooped out and super crazy rough – like WORCS races.

2.   GNCC racing and local HS racing are 2 completely different things.  GNCC’s are fast and rough and whooped.  Local races are slow and super tight in the trees.

3.  I have got to figure out the first lap thing.  There are so many racers in my class (this one was 34, and that is as small as any have been), that the first lap is really really chaotic.

4.  I am decently fast, but I do not ride fast enough or with enough confidence at the start.

5.  I rode with my glasses inserts in my goggles today, and that did not work so well.  I was better without them, after I switched goggles.

6.  I ziptied 4 GU packs under my chest protector.  I pulled them out generally, one per lap.  Magic stuff.

7.  David Knight is a freak of nature.  (yes, he won again today)

8.  You cannot trust a redneck with a beer in his hand at the creek crossing.  They will point you toward a bad line, just so they can watch you get stuck.

9.  Suspension set up and fresh tires make an even bigger difference than I thought they did.  I am really picky now about my suspension, and I would not start without a fresh rear tire and a really good front tire.

10.  I bike with a button is a really good thing.  I love my Suzuki, but I would love it even more with a button.

11.  Everyone has a story.

12.  Late in the race, when the Pro’s are coming around again, and now the A riders are also putting you a lap down, it is really hard to ride with any kind of pace or confidence.  I am not used to being passed so much.  In our local races, I might be caught by a couple of the local AA riders at the end of the race, but that really is it.  Generally, I am doing the passing.   Not at a GNCC.

I did not do to bad.  10th place in my class out of 34 riders.  That puts me in the top 30%, which is good.  I finally cracked it.

Next week, I would like to move a little bit deeper into the top 10.  Maybe even get close to the top 5.

Thanks for reading.

Joe

Big Buck – Saturday

During the night, we were hit with the most awesome electrical storm ever. Huge multi second long lightening, with immediate ground shaking thunder. Over and over again for about 15 minutes. It was absolutely spectacular.

I have always like thunderstorms, but somehow in the trailer they are even more intense, yet super enjoyable. Wow, it was really cool. During those things, it sometimes feels like the whole ground going to cleave open and swallow up the trailer. Sort of like some sort of prehistoric beast is thundering down onto the trailer.

Once the initial shock and awe over the thunderstorm wore off, then I started to think about how the rain just meant that we were now going to have mud. Not just small amounts of mud either. Copious amounts of the stuff. Rivers flowing with water and mud. Mud on the trail, must sticking to everything on the motorcycle. Mud in my boots, Mud in my googles. Ugh.

And so it rained. It rained the rest of the night and it rained all morning. Finally it stopped, but not before the course was literally inches thick of mud.

We had a bunch of stuff to do this morning, so just after breakfast, we gave it all a start. I started working on getting the sink pump wired in, and the water lines rearranged. It took a while to get it right, but I now know all about the wiring in the trailer. It is odd wiring. I need to get a few things when I get home to get it 100%, but it will be and it will be sweet. The faucet itself needs to be remounted to get it over the sink more. All in all, the trailer is working great.

While I was fixing the faucet in the trailer, Scott was getting the bikes and van all orgainzied. He pulled out the bikes, and then went to move the van to the other side of a quad bunch.

Wow, look at those trenches behind the van! and look how close the van is the Quad course!

Wow! Look at the trenches behind the van! And look how close we are to the Quad course! Uh oh!

Apparantly the ground was already really wet, and the van promptly got stuck right on the edge of the track.


We found a ton of really difficult sections out there. Lots of mud. Lots of roots. Lots of deep trenches. The creek jump looked doable, if the approach stayed in good shape.

So now we are heading to bed. Hopefully no more rain, and we will get some decent race conditions for once.

Men Yana,

Joe

Big Buck – travel day


In the past week it has rained enough, that I have seen no fewer than 10 ARC’s being built. The animals are lining up 2 by 2, people are begging to get on the arc. Small children and small dogs are being floated to safety by their owners… I think I saw a guy with a long beard, and I am pretty certain it was not Santa. But seriously, it is raining huge at home. I have never seen the amount of rain that we have had at home. Wow.

Rick Anschutz, the district 16HS referee, told us today that the first local race at home has been cancelled because the property it was to be held on is under 7 inches of water. The expected high on race day at home is 38, and 3-4 inches of snow are expected. Ugh. I bet many of the guys that I ride and race with at home have not even been on their bike yet. I feel pretty privileged to be able to be doing this this year.

Meanwhile, we are here at the Big Buck GNCC race, sitting outside in tshirts in 80 degree weather outside the camper typing my GNCC log. Damn!

So, as usual, we struggled to get out of the office on time today. Our flight was at noon out of Milwaukee, and we barely made it. Actually, the flight was delayed but we did not know that until we got there. Lots of spring storms around the US today.

In fact, the flight to Charlotte was really eventful. We were swooping and swirling around storms for more than an hour longer than we should have been. The plane was bucking and bouncing like it is not really supposed to. Turns out, Scott is not the greatest flyer. He was pretty white and was searching in the seats in front of him for a barf bag. He managed to hold it all in, but he did not look good at the end of the flight. It was pretty funny, for me.

Then, there was the landing. We were on the normal, although really really bumpy approach into the airport at Charlotte. Just as we should have been throttling back to put the wheels down, the pilot gunned the motors and shot back up into the sky. We turned hard and climbed at full throttle. We were all the way around, before the pilot came on and told us that he was too heavy to land so had to go around to burn off some fuel. Yeah right… I am imagining a truck parked in the runway or something like that. I don’t think that whole experience was too much to Scott’s liking. (not that I really liked it or anything.)

We hit the ground and went into our already familiar routine. First we got the trailer and van going, filled the trailer with water, went to the grocery store, got gas for the van and bikes etc… got some dinner and then headed to the race site. Candi got us there as usual. When she said “You have arrived at your destination”, you could just see the glow of the race village. Ah, the comforts and friendly feeling of the traveling circus that is the GNCC race series. The glow from the lights and the generators at the start area was really comforting. Sort of like the soft glow of electric nirvana. The temporary GNCC city, as Scott called it.

We are surrounded by quad guys now, but we are right against the edge of the course. No need to move tomorrow.

It is just about time to hit the sack, and get going tomorrow. Make breakfast, set up the pit area, go say hi to the Suzuki guys, the Pirelli guys etc…Then, we have to do a little bit of work on the bikes. Not much, but a little. I always get really excited when I am messing with my bike. My Suzuki is so sweet. I am running a completely fresh set of Pirelli tires this weekend . SWING!

I also want to fix the sink in the camper tomorrow. I bought a new inline pump for it, that will make the sink work like a sink in a house. Just turn the tap, and water will come out. Should be sweet.

Pictures of everything tomorrow.

Over and out.

Joe