Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Ride From Hell. My Day At The Races - Ft. Ritchie, MD

Last time I wrote about my adventures as a new moto ref at the Poolesville road race. That was a great day. One of the things that made it great was the weather. It was sunny and warm most of the day. It wasn't supposed to be, but it ended up that way. No complaints from me.

Fast forward one week.

I volunteered for the Cascade Crit Race, promoted by the AVC team, and was assigned to be a moto ref for this new crit on a now closed Army base called Ft. Ritchie. I turned out to be the only moto ref on the day. No problems, I love to ride. As long as I get 5 minutes between races to pee or grab a bite and sip of coffee, I'm good to go. Put me in Coach!

About 2 weeks before the race my wife, Dana, tells me she would like to come along for the ride. Not as pillion mind you, but on her bike. Long ago her exact words were, "You ain't getting me on the bitch seat, I'll ride my own thank you very much!" Again, no problems there either. She can ride and ride well at that. Besides, I could use the company on the ride up and back. Not to mention a friendly face to say hello to during the breaks.

After yesterdays event, my wife informs me that she will no longer be accompanying me to any more races that I will be a moto ref.

What an awful day it started out being. We both awoke at 4:15 am to get on the road by 5:00 am. The event staff and officials needed to be there 1 hour before the first race starts at 8:00 am. I loaded the route in my Garmin GPS. It was 88 miles one way. That works about to about an hour and forty-five minutes with my wife in tow. Maybe an hour fifteen had I been going solo.

It was raining. Hard. No worries. I was expecting this and prepped the bikes and gear the night before for a rain ride. We both geared up, put on our rain wear and hit the highway. For the next two hours it was a brutal slog from Annapolis to Ft. Ritchie. The only saving grace of this ride was the hour we were doing it. There is not much traffic anywhere that early on a Saturday morning. My allegedly waterproof gloves were indeed not waterproof. I decided to forgo electrics that morning because it didn't seem like I'd need them. So I left them in the side case. Needless to say that by the time I was halfway there I was cold and wet not very comfortable at all. Dana was doing much much worse. She couldn't find her rain pants and decided to wear her over pants over her jeans. She ended up getting soaked to the bone. Her boots were not very water resistant either. Wet feet and socks. I on the other hand fared much better. My rain gear was first rate except for the collar area. It wouldn't stay closed and thru the course of the ride water seeped into and down my neck and shoulder area. The top of my t-shirt and Craft windproof turtle neck were soaked. As was the collar area of my Olympia Airglide jacket. My Revit Ergo 2 boots were very waterproof and continued to stay that way all day. Phew.

We arrived at Ft. Ritchie after getting very lost somewhere on Rt-550. Damn Garmin had me turning up Ft. Ritchie Road instead of staying on Rt-550. This duped two others heading to the race. Eventually we made our way back to the front gate. But not before riding some seriously twisty, sketchy roads in the pouring rain. Not exactly my idea of fun when my wife is along for the ride. As soon as we parked the bikes the both of us stripped down to assess how soaked with water we were. I managed to get lucky as it was only my gloves, t-shirt and turtle neck that got affected. Dana's jeans were about seventy percent soaked thru. Along with her socks. We brought our small tent for her to hang out in to stay out of the weather. The Easy Up we own is too big to strap to a scooter. It turned out that she never came out once set up and in there. She had her pants off and was wrapped in the blanket she brought sitting in the folding chair we also brought along. I checked on her a couple times and brought her some hot food I picked up while getting gas after the 30+ race. She had managed to hang up all wet stuff hoping for it to dry during the day. I even caught her napping a couple of times too. She's such a trooper. I think I'll keep her.

While Dane was getting set up, I got my bike and myself prepped for the races. This time the electrics came out of the case. My Gerbings jacket kept me warm and toasty until the sun came out. One of the added benefits of the dry heat, aside from keeping me from freezing from windchill, is that it dryed out my Craft turtleneck baselayer. By the time the sun came out close to noonish, my stuff was dry. I brought a couple of extra helmets with me too. Normally I sport a Shoei RF1000 helmet for all riding. But last year I bought an HJC skid lid with a removable ear and neck attachment. It looks like a motorcycle cop's lid. I got it to be able to take photos at cycling events since its easier to put a camera eyepiece up the my eye with an open face helmet. Since I need to be able to work a mic and talk to riders and more importantly, hear them talking to me, I drafted this helmet for moto ref duties. I also brought, on a whim, a third 3/4 helmet with a flip up full face shield in case it rained. Turned out to be a good decision as this was the helmet I used for the morning races while it was raining. Normally I don't advocate wearing anything other than a full face helmet on the on the street, but for races they are perfect. I feel less vulnerable at bike races speeds when I'm wearing them. I think I will purchase a Shoei modular for next season. I mounted up my stop watches on a RAM mount between the clip-ons and broke out the divers writing slate and strapped it to the tank bag mount on my gas tank. Neat little item that is. Lets me write down the numbers of all youse guys and gals who end up OTB in the pouring rain. Works in the dry too.

I was doing allot of writing lemme tell you. Ft. Ritchie is one hellava race course. Fast and selective. It's a 6 (4 rights and 2 lefts) turn crit in about .8 mile around a lake. This is a course you need to pay attention on and not let a gap open up in front of you. If you do, your done. There was quite a bit of that going on. The first two races, the Cat 5 masters and Cat 5 open were brutal. I filled my small slate with numbers in both events. More guys were off the back than were left in the main groups at the finish of both races. One of the guys who placed in the Cat 5 masters race ended up in a bush after the dumpster in the chicane section. He was OK, but his bike's rear brake/shifter was toast. That was the first of only two crashes the whole day. I like that. The other occurred on like lap 2 or 3 of the 1/2/3 race and he remounted and got back in from the wheel pit. The wheel pit got alot of use yesterday. Wet courses have a way of making that happen. Next up were the masters 50/60 the 40+ and the 30+. I'm quite happy to say that the boys in blue and green from the mighty ABRT ruled the roost in those events. I'm so happy to be part of that team. Great bunch of guys and gals, all. During the 30+ race the rain started to let up. Buy the time the women's races were going, the sun came out and much to my relief started drying up the course. I was hoping for this because I knew on this parcours I would need every once of grip I could get once the 1/2/3 boys started hammering it out. Speaking of the women, I have to admit that following them was probably the highlight of my day. You ladies really look good from my vantage point. I'm sorry if this sounds sexist, but so what. You all look great so deal with it. Turns out that women's race had the fewest numbers marked on the slate-o-doom. The big split aside, they kept their groups together pretty well. Speaking of big splits, What the heck happened in the 1/2/3 race? I mean, I know what happened, but fellas, before the split I was kneedragging thru the corners. You guys were fricking fast as shit until that split. Even thru the firehouse section, I never hit the brakes. I was having the time of my life out there on the Duc. It was like being at a free track day, but without the high speeds. I was getting down to bidness out there, especially on that last turn on to the home stretch. The chicken strips on my Contis are almost gone and I even managed to round off my rear tire again. Yeeeehawwwww! Then the split happened, you all sat up and no more fun for the Fatguy. Boooooo!

Just kidding. You guys really rock. It was a pleasure to work your event. You guys taxed my moto the least and never let me get bored. Except of course when I was stuck on the back with the laughing group.

The last two events, the Cat 4 and Cat 3 races were pretty good too. Nobody crashed. The cat 4 race was pretty standard stuff. No breaks got away and it came down to a field sprint. The cat 3 race was pretty wild. The break got established early and on to lapping the the field in short order. I thought they would ride thru and finish for the glory, but they didn't and the race came down to a field sprint.

Oh well.

Once the races were done, Dana and I packed and loaded the bikes for the sunny evening ride home. I got my check, said my good byes and off we went. I was never so glad to be home. Both of us. That was a long day. We climbed off the bikes and left them were we parked them until morning. My total mileage for the day was about 400 give or take a couple miles. We left home at 5:30 am and arrived back home at 8:30 pm. The only thing that hurt were my wrists. They still hurt.

I was supposed to crank out a 3-4 hr ride today as the capper to my rest week. I didn't do shit. My wife and I hit the sack at 9:30 pm and woke up at 5:30am. She went to work at the ice cream factory and I turned on the tube to watch GP2 and the Turkish GP. Later that day I hooked up with my dad and my wife's dad and the three of us went to see Iron Man.

That movie rocked! Go see it.




Kyle Jones said...

Thanks for reffing in horrible weather. And thanks for the offer of racing on your ducatti.

RayMan said...

Very cool posting.

We don't get inside of the head of a moto official too often.