A Day in the Dirt
When I started writing here, I decided I would be honest. That means documenting the failures as well as the triumphs. To be honest, I’m not really sure where Day in the Dirt falls.
Over the last few months, I had done a fairly good job of turning myself into a guy who - from a distance - might be confused for a motocross rider. Last weekend for example, I spent the morning clicking off laps at Cahuilla Creek’s Vet Track. I was comfortable and happy and fully aware of the progress I had made since venturing out onto the baby track at Milestone unsure I’d come back to my truck without a broken leg.
After all the logistics of an RV rental, race entry and bike prep, I arrive at Glen Helen on Friday and am immediately surprised by the firepower out here. I just want to get out there and see what’s what with the track.
I sit around and wait for, “Open Practice” (since I can’t really take shelter with the vintage bikes or the children - no matter how much I want to) and I line up next to some serious looking dudes until the starter sends us into Turn 1 and they turn into a cloud of roost and rocks.
The course at Day in the Dirt makes use of almost all the features Glen Helen has to offer. Two of those features are steep, long, loose hills. I’ve looked for a picture that gives a sense of the hill and the best I can find is from Guy B. at VitalMX taken half way up.
Its here where my 125 feels like a poor decision. In order to get up them, I need to keep the bike pinned all the way on loose, rutted face. With my corner exit speed approaching the hill, closing the throttle even a little means the bike bogs and I find myself with a stalled bike stuck on a near-vertical slope with fast-moving bikes pointed at me. Ask me how I know this.
On the way down these things, I’m sitting on the back fender trying to keep my wheels sort of in line while Josh Grant comes by me on the limiter. I can’t get my bike to go slowly enough and he can’t get his to go fast enough. Right. So that’s where we are…
I spend the rest of my two, 10 minute practice laps just holding on. Well, except for the two crashes. I let go of the bike for those.
It was clear that I had underestimated this event. I think I called it more of a party than a race. It’s not. It’s Cole Seely coming with his game face on and Kendall Normal sitting in the pits drinking a protein shake.
Its braking bumps bigger than the whoops at Milestone and most of the field thinking that’s just fine with them.
I went to bed that night unsure if I wanted to race. Instagram is full of pedantic images about doing things that scare you.
What those disposable platitudes don’t talk about is the fear. Those moments when you’re simply unsure what’s going to happen. With racing, you don’t control how long those moments last. Unlike jumping off a cliff on vacation in Mexico, when practice finishes at 1pm and your race isn’t until 11 the next morning, there’s a lot of time where you can’t just go for it to put an end to the fear.
But I’ve felt this before. Its a familiar feeling and by the time the sun came up, I knew that I was going to line up. I had come too far and frankly if I went home without seeing a green flag, I’d feel like a pussy.
I decided I’d forgo the 2 stroke race since that meant I’d be getting in Josh Grant’s way (again) and I’d just do the Beginner / Novice race.
When those considering themselves Beginner or Novice motocross racers gather at the start, I’m among them. You can feel the nerves. When the bikes start, it’s an audible incarnation of what’s going on inside everyone’s head. The green flag drops and immediately - immediately - all the fear is gone. Replaced only with concentration at the task at hand.
By the time we’re down the second large hill, my start group has checked out but I’ve reeled in a guy on a Honda. I decide I’ll sit behind him for a while and just ride. The course is pretty chewed up and the two of us are just trying to stay on our bikes.
After a few minutes, I decide to pass him hoping that he’ll pass me back and I’ll have a race to make this more fun. He doesn’t. Four corners later, I’ve dropped him. I go back to just riding.
When I get to the finish line after one lap, I’ve had enough. I’m not having fun. I’m not playing. I’m not racing. I’m just trying to ride this course and I don’t see an upside to doing another lap.
I pull off, head back to my pit, pull off my helmet and immediately feel like I should be back out there. It’s weird. Being out there wasn’t any fun but not being out there was worse.
Whatever is going on in my head, the amount of fresh casts and new crutches in the pit remind me that the consequences are maybe a little high to go back out without some clarity.
I pack up my stuff and call it a weekend.
The next day, I watch the Novices race again and I’m consumed by the feeling that I should be out there with them. I’m fully aware of the small victories this weekend and at how far my motocross skills have come in a few short months but I’m as unsatisfied as I’ve been about anything.
I suppose there’s always next year.