THE RACE- THE GRIT
By: Alan Westerfield #7
Why is it called ‘The Race’? This event is at the top of the food chain; a superior competition by any standards. This is ‘The Race’ that promoter Gusse spends weeks preparing for. During this time, phones do not get answered, bathing is overlooked, meals are skipped, even going to the bathroom and sleeping drops near the bottom of the priority list. Cutting and preparing a fresh 35-mile loop is a momentous task that is not for the faint of heart. When asked why he would spend a half-day cutting a rider shaped pattern through a log jam/brush-pile, Lead Dog replied, ‘Because I can!’ Lets just say the Morrison area chain saw shops consider Bill a very important customer.
‘The Race’ started off in a mad dash around a large, soft, loamy field. It was every man for himself as all of the ‘A’ classes battled tooth and nail with the Pro class trying to establish an early rank. I found myself somewhere in the middle of painful dirt clods and a black cloud of soil. The insanity did not stop on the motocross track as I continued pursuing the leaders. I was quite impressed with the top end performance of Sally, as she gave up very little to the other machines. I had never really held a bike completely wide open for such a long period of time before but found it necessary to reel in some of the other riders. About 2 miles in J-rat pulled up beside me bouncing off his own rev limiter with the consistency of a midget basketball game. His RMZ450 appeared to have approximately 2MPH more speed on top. JJ was laughing at me and it ticked me off. Reaching the first wooded section, I worked my way into fourth position but the leaders were already out of site. My woods speed satisfied me until we reached the next field section a few miles later. I may have ridden the timber sections like a seasoned Pro, but quickly turned into Helen Keller. It was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine, which forced me to play squint-eyes. I couldn’t see the markings going through the massive farm fields.
It is not possible to get lost in the Timber sections of this race, which is where the majority of the event took place. The Northern Illinois woodlands give a new meaning to ‘tight woods’ racing. The growth is so thick you can’t get off the trail- and you would be a maniac if you wanted too. Prehistoric trees have produced logs with a larger diameter than a Volkswagon beetle. Lap 2 found me to be very lonesome, and my speed seemed to fade. I switched to energy conservation mode during the first half of the lap, making sure I had something left at the end in case a ‘racing situation’ happens to arise. Rhythm eluded me through the wood lots. Vegetation is so thick that every 10 ft section of trail either produces a log or a turn. Trails like these make me content to have 6 ft outriggers for legs. The only draw back to long legs is that my riding pants fit like knickers, or as we say in KY ‘kneeknockers.’ My boots always seem to fill with twigs, mud, and even fairly sizeable sticks. If a campfire is needed on the side of the trail, I always have available kindling.
There was one section of the track that was absolutely dreadful. The pathway was through some sort of wrist-sized saplings that were relentless, and they call them “The Willows”. The only bike suitable for this area would be a Z-50 with 12′ wide handlebars- and then it would be faster to put it on your back and run through. By using the steering stops and holding your tongue just right, you could just manage to squeeze and adult sized machine through. An undesirable section of ‘potting soil’ whoops waited on me towards the end of the first loop. What is disguised as a section of harmless rolling black peat is actually a quicksand deathtrap.
Hitting the middle soft section almost always ends with a trip over the bars while your machine serves as an upright monument to on coming riders. I gave myself plenty of time to assess the area before dropping a wheel. It paid off, as I was now only a half-mile from the finish.
A very satisfied feeling engulfed my body. The sense of accomplishment from conquering Mother Nature’s obstacle course cannot be imitated. The most important quality a person can possess when faced with adverse conditions like these is ‘grit’. Grit is a mouth full of sand- swallowed whole. Grit is giving a full on head-butt to professional cage fighter after he has already broken your arms and legs. Grit is? marriage, and coming home one day to find ‘Sally’ and all your old trophy’s in a yard sale because the kitchen would look so pretty with new cabinets. (OK so that’s not grit- its stupid, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.) My end result was a 4th place finish and another great memory.
Till next year,