Event Report: April Fool’s Trial, 11 April 2010, Walker Valley

Check­ing the weath­er fore­cast on sat­ur­day con­vince me to take the chance and leave my portable shel­ter at home: 10% chance of pre­cip­i­ta­tion, highs in the upper 50s. If that actu­al­ly held up, it would be one of the nicest rid­ing days we’ve had in quite a while.

Sun­day dawns way too ear­ly, and chilly: about 36 degrees at Black Dog Farm. Break­fast, cof­fee, put the last few things in the car (lunch cool­er, wal­let, phone, etc.) except for the water bot­tles to fit in my fan­ny pack. This omis­sion will be impor­tant later.

Cinch the tie-downs on the bike down, and boo­gie north­ward. Only about 10 min­utes behind planned depar­ture time, should put me there right after 8 AM. Get up to the turn-off, expect­ing anoth­er 3 miles of dirt road, and whoa, here’s the whole gang, just parked right here in front of the gate. I park and ask why we’re down here and not up at our pre­vi­ous loca­tion, and I’m told that they don’t want street-licensed vehi­cles past the gate. Oh well. 

I unload, check the bike over, and gear-up for a lit­tle warm up. There’s not much at the gate, so I head up the road a bit, find­ing a turn-out with some downed logs in it, and warm up. Sec­ond attempt over a 20″ log, the front end digs in and over the bars I go! and onto my back­side on the sog­gy ground, to add sog­gi­ness to cha­grin. Well, hope­ful­ly I’ve got­ten *that* out of my sys­tem for the day! But no, 3 min­utes lat­er, drop the front wheel into the same hole, and over I go. Well, this is either good, in that I’m get­ting this out of my sys­tem, or this day is doomed to be a com­e­dy rou­tine from start to fin­ish. I ride over the log a few more times, just to teach it a thing or two, and head back to the truck to get ready.

I get my punch, pack a hat, good­ies, tools, etc. into my day-pack. Water, I should take some water.… Shit, where are my water bot­tles? at home, on the laun­dry room floor… oh well, I’ll deal with that lat­er. Head up the road a cou­ple of miles, and fol­low the rugged loop trail into the deep woods to Sec­tion #6. It’s right next to 5, so I have anoth­er observ­er to chat with when things are slow. Pret­ty straight-for­ward sec­tion, a climb and descent, fol­lowed by a cou­ple of tight, tricky cor­ners to the exit.
Most Novice and Inter­me­di­ate com­peti­tors do well in my sec­tion, i punch lots of cleans, and only a few fives, a cou­ple of folks lost the front end and sam­pled the dirt, and one gen­tle­man for­got where the sec­tion went and end­ed up rid­ing part of it back­wards. oops, I hate it when that happens! 

Around noon we’re done, head back to the pits to get ready for my turn. Now I must deal with the fact that my water bot­tles, which fit so nice­ly into my fan­ny-pack, were I also car­ry a few tools and spare levers, are sit­ting at home on the laun­dry room floor. Well, I decide i’ll just put my fan­ny pack and my gal­lon-sized water cool­er in my day-pack, car­ry it up to sec­tion 1 and leave it there until I’m fin­ished, and the retrieve it for the ride back down. Ok, that’s a plan, not a great one though: it means only hav­ing access to water once per loop, not opti­mal hydration.

Off to the rid­ers meet­ing, get a quick run-down of where the sec­tions are, and we’re off. Grab my pack and up to Sec­tion 1. A tricky sec­tion with a rock step, and a cou­ple of diag­o­nal log cross­ings near the end, depend­ing on how you tack­led it. I get into the sec­tion, and my per­cep­tion is all off, I’m way behind the bike, and end up with a 3. Much of the first loop was like that, I only real­ly start­ed get­ting in the groove on the sec­ond loop. By the time the third loop start­ed, I was feel­ing pret­ty con­fi­dent and had real­ly start­ed to ride up to my abil­i­ties. My judge­ment how­ev­er, remained at it’s his­tor­i­cal­ly low­ish lev­els. I enter sec­tion 1 the third time, resolv­ing to clean it this time: around the tree, over the rock, so far so good, up the chute, hey feel­in’ good, right turn here and out.… front wheel starts to slide and instead of just tak­ing the dab and escap­ing with my 1, I chase it with the throt­tle and wind up on my head! Cost me a 5, some bruis­es, a smashed fin­ger, and (i would lat­er find out) 3rd place! stoopid. 

Over­all, it was a well done event: good, well-marked, and chal­leng­ing loop trail. Good sec­tions with­ouit too many dan­ger­ous obsta­cles. Wish my rid­ing had been up to the chal­lenge. It seems obvi­ous from look­ing at the scores that my prob­lem is prac­tice and being ready to ride. As I get ‘back in the groove’, my scores go down every loop. Seems clear that I need more prac­tice. Now to devel­op the dis­ci­pline to do it!

On an admin­is­tra­tive note, this is the last event report you’ll be see­ing here for a while. In cel­e­bra­tion of achiev­ing ‘a cer­tain age’, I have tak­ing 4 weeks off in May and trav­el­ling around the west­ern states on my KTM 950. I’ll be using this space to chron­i­cle my prepa­ra­tions and progress as I go. Uni­verse will­ing, I should be able to make at least one day of the PST round of the PNTA cham­pi­onship, in ear­ly June. Watch this space!

keep those feet up!

About the Author

Jim Harriger