Savage… If I were to sum up “The Holler” in one word, that’s the word.
Humbled… by mother nature; but also the tenacity of my fellow racers.
Grateful… for the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and expand the family of racers.
Do hard things.
The greatest things in life are things that you work for. Beat up with a broke bike sucks, but when you find yourself in that position on the far side of the finish line, the sacrifice is worth the effort. It’s a lot more comfortable on the couch watching Netflix on a rainy day, but the experience gained by doing things previously thought impossible is invaluable. The price paid to learn new skills typically means you won’t be replacing those parts next go-round. On the flip side, that means you can raise the stakes, and again, the reward. For most folks, this is a long way from their definition of fun. Even if slogging it out in the rain in the Kentucky Clay isn’t your cup of tea, I still suggest you push the envelope on what you believe is possible. On or off the motorcycle. Remove “can’t” from your vocabulary. At a minimum, force “can’t” into a shotgun wedding with a semicolon. “I can’t do this; YET.”
Looking at the forecast on Monday, it wasn’t looking good. I was dreading another “mudder” in the bluegrass, especially on a two-stroke machine more prone to wheel spin than her docile stablemate. Saturday night the forecast held a glimmer of hope; hope that storms would pass by Clay City. Saturday has dumped a lot of rain already, and there was no such luck Sunday morning. If you’ve not heard me say this elsewhere, I hate being wet. Sliding around the trail with loaded tires and a wet crotch is an insult to injury. Despite wanting to stay home, a little voice in my head said this was “good training weather” and “an opportunity to succeed.” A little peer pressure didn’t hurt either. My buddy Bill decided he was going to give racing a go. Despite knowing the weather the same as I, he wasn’t backing out.
Placing tear-offs on my goggles, I knew it was going to be bad. What I imagined didn’t remotely prepare me for what lied ahead. Sliding backward back down one of the first hills… I rapidly realized the quagmire I got my buddy into…
KXCR Round 2: “The Holler” was an 8-mile course laid out through the Appalachian foothills in Clay City, Kentucky. The course was spectacular. I can only imagine how fast and yet challenging it would have been if remotely dry (we may see this fall). Stuck in traffic on the hillside of an epic climb, I realized I needed to get out of gridlock fast before it got worse. I push the engine too hard and didn’t go fast enough to keep the Husky cool so it overheated. To my shock, I was only passed by one rider while I caught my breath at the top of the hill. I picked Ellinor out of the clay at least twice on the way up that hill; at which point I told myself the goal was simply to finish. I managed to get some pretty decent footage of the race, but there’s no doubt a lot was lost to mud covering the lens. That lost footage included 3 failed attempts on a hill climb around mile 6. The camera died with a clean lens right before my successful run.
I crossed the finish line with 7 minutes to spare; enough time that I was actually permitted to do a second lap. I thought about it for a moment and realized I barely made it up two of the climbs, especially that last doozy. Wasted, I took my single lap as a “win”, assuming it would mean being towed back to camp if I tried to struggle on. 141 racers lined up in their rows for the start. 76 crossed the finish line. I finished 6th in my class (Vet C 30+). I’m pretty confident there were at least 20 people in my row. I grabbed a sandwich and went back to the finish line to wait for my buddy Bill. Suspecting I may have oversold the whole “racing experience”, I was concerned about how he was managing. His first motorcycle race ever, he also finished 6th his class; with so many DNFs, that also meant he beat half the field (and everyone that stayed home). I don’t know if I’ll manage to drag him back to another race, but I know I’m really proud of my friend; it was a test of my mental fortitude, I can only imagine staring down those conditions as a first-time racer. A true testament to his ability and resolve.
The Husky still needs some tuning. I’m messing around with the suspension to get things where I like them. I’d say a set of radiator braces and probably a fan are in order if I’m going to keep up this mudder madness. I made a joke with the racer organizers that I’m probably going to wear a Hawaiian shirt to the first race that’s not a mudfest, just to celebrate. We all laughed… I hope my bluff gets called. Despite the savage conditions, it was worth every minute. I was punished and totally tapped multiple times. Crossing the finish line never felt so sweet. A couple weeks from now we’ll be lining up again. I can’t wait.