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Old 11-26-2011, 10:45 AM   #16
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Breaking The Rules

For some people, Black Friday means getting up at the crack of midnight to go stand in a ridiculously long line to buy Christmas stuff. As I learned on Thanksgiving night, my soon-to-be-wife is one of these people.

I am not one of those people. My idea of shopping is Amazon.com. Besides, I couldn't go out at midnight to Occupy Wal-Mart and risk oversleeping, I had an appointment on Black Friday to drop my dirt bike off at Agent Smith Racing for some much-needed TLC.

Always one to take advantage of opportunity when it arises (which, in this case was a disinterested, sleeping-in-late-after-surviving-Black-Friday soon-to-be wife) I decided before dropping Mid-Wife Crisis off at the doctor's office, I'd brave a different kind of Black Friday; Rookie Day at Hungry Vally OHV Park.


Mid-Wife Crisis


Long weekends and holidays bring out droves of rookie riders, those people that maybe ride once a year. I have no problem with them directly, riding and family time are good and fun and important and all that, but tons of rookies clogging trails in their jeans, wife-beaters and skull cap helmets adds a certain element of danger that isn't present on a normal weekend.

This ride would be my first solo adventure. Normally Fiona and I attack the desert as a team, fully supported in our Mobile Desert Assault Vehicle. There's nothing better than bringing all the comforts of home to the desert, but hauling the toy hauler to Hungry Valley didn't make sense for this one-day adventure. The fact that Sleeping Beauty is a nurse is also comforting, because I am still learning this whole riding in the dirt thing, and I do tend to fall off the bike more than I like to admit.

I slapped all my protective gear on and headed for the hills, doing my best to dodge strafing runs from lunatic ATV rookies. I managed to break rule number one of desert riding - Always Carry Water - because my Camelback was safely packed away in the trailer, which was safely parked in the driveway. I also broke rule number two - Have A Way To Get Help If You Do Something Dumb - because my SPOT Tracker was next to my Camelback. Since I violated these important rules, I vowed to ride safe and slow (the slow part isn't really a problem for me) and stay close to my truck, where at least I had some bottled water.

The trails were fun but packed, so after about thirty or so miles of near misses, I decided to take the track less traveled, and explore a black diamond rated 'motorcycles only' path that I'd seen a few times. Since Fiona rides an ATV, this trail is off limits to her, and since we ride as a team, the trail is normally off limits to me as well. However, my lovely betrothed was still sleeping at home, so this new motorcycle only route seemed like a good opportunity to test myself a bit.

Sometimes I can be so dumb.

The trail started off tight, and quickly climbed a huge hill. On one side was a cliff, on the other side were clawing tree branches trying to push anyone foolish enough to ride this trail down the cliff. Just to make things more interesting, giant boulders and deep ruts lined the trail at regular intervals. Five minutes in I had my only rational thought of the day - Turn Around - but as it always does, my stubbornness got the best of me. I soldiered upwards and onwards.

I had my first good scare not too long after that epic decision. My front tire caught a jagged rock and nearly sent me over the edge. Once my heart rate slowed, I gathered my wits and continued following this goat path. The trail led off the sheer mountain face, directly into the next fun obstacle, a field of baby head sized boulders loosely strewn about. I set off to climb the rock field. It didn't take long for me to catch another big stone and before I knew what was happening, I was ass-over-teakettle on the ground. In my spectacularly graceful dismount, I managed to bash my knee on a big rock. I then learned I'd violated Rule Number Three - Wear Better Knee Protection. I also learned that hitting your kneecap really hard when you are all alone without water or a way to call for help can be a scary experience.

The bike restarted, and I continued on this great adventure, quietly cursing myself as I rode forward and upward. When I started down this trail, I assumed - wrongly- that it would lead to the main OHV park in a mile or two. Yes, broken Rule Number Four is definitely Buy A Map! The tiny trail wound its way upward and onward, and I stubbornly followed it, tackling each obstacle as it came.

I had another near miss when I hit a thick patch of mud. Mid-Wife Crisis ended up stuck in a thick bush, motor still running. I ended up on my back facing the sky, adding another bruise to my growing collection. "Buddy," I said to my ride as I picked it out of the thicket, "we've got to stop crashing!" The engine revved in agreement.

One obstacle I wasn't prepared for was snow. After about an hour of splashing through puddles and bouncing over rut after rut, the trail simply ended in a blanket of white. I had no idea when I set out that I broke Rule Five - Bring Snow Tires Or A Sleigh. I rode through the snow, finding the trail again after about a mile.

My odyssey lasted nearly three hours, for thirty seven miles, up and down and around I went, cursing myself for breaking all the rules and being lost like an Easter egg, worried about running out of fuel, knowing that Fiona would by now be wondering where the hell I was. Finally, to my great relief I spied a road below me. The trail worked its way down toward that road, and I finally relaxed a bit. That relaxation was short lived, because standing between the road and me was a very large, very locked gate. I knew I didn't have enough fuel or stamina to turn around and follow the trail all the way back to the start.

Oh shit. I stopped to think for a minute. I realized that there had to be other dummies like me that had strayed off the beaten path, and I wondered what they did to get free. I followed the fence line, and sure enough, there was a point where someone (not me!) had cut the fence. I plowed through the gap and got on the road, breaking another very important rule - No Dirtbikes On The Road. This rule is a pretty serious one to break, but I had no choice. I cranked my CRF 450x into fifth gear and screamed down the road, praying that the rangers were too busy with the rookies to be out patrolling.

My gamble paid off, and I soon found the back entrance to Hungry Valley. Thirty minutes later I was back safely at my truck, gulping water by the gallon. I called Fiona to put her mind at ease. Instead of putting her mind at ease, my call woke her up instead. Who knew midnight shopping could be so tiring?

I took the now filthy dirt bike to Agent Smith Racing, where Paul, the owner, laughed at my miserable trail tale. Casually, he mentioned I should check out the U.S. Desert Racing Series, because they have a beginner's class which he thought I'd be perfect for. I miss the cutoff age by one lousy year, so if I made the bad decision to try actual motorcycle racing, I would have to run in the Senior 1 class. Bad decision? I am an expert at making bad decisions! Senior? I'd be the youngest senior in the field! And, the idea of racing a few laps on a well marked course does have a certain charm to it....

In other news, the 'Just Because' running contest is nearly complete. With five days to go, it seems the very stubborn Frenchy has jogged his way to an insurmountable gap.



The main reason for all this silly running, besides general fitness and overall fat loss, is I am competing in my first ever Warrior Dash this Saturday in Deerfield Beach, Florida. I think I am about as ready as I can be for this race. On Saturday I'll be armed with a video camera, and if all goes well (or, more likely, extremely badly) there will be a video posted shortly after the event.
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frenchy750 screwed with this post 11-27-2011 at 05:52 PM
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Old 11-27-2011, 12:15 AM   #17
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Looking good. I'm starting from the same place in fitmess, but going for the baja 1000 next year. I'm following along....
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I used to say "one day" a lot. But then I got scared I would wait one day too long. So I am doing it all now
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:21 AM   #18
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i do not have the cash for the dakar but the sandblast rally will do for me for now

keep up the good work !!!
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:45 PM   #19
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Love the Dangerous parts of the dunes and your "blog" in general....

Meanwhile as you prepare I'll sit here drinking beer and putting off my Prep till, Ooooooooo let me see, maybe till its way too late !
I'll go back and reread your posts to see if you've mentioned it already but incase you didn't, where are you starting and what are you riding ?

See you on the Rally

Neil.
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Old 12-25-2011, 03:15 PM   #20
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A month since last update and Frenchy is MIA.......
Change of heart, bitten off more than he can chew, or scared? Lol
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Old 12-25-2011, 03:29 PM   #21
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None of the above!

I have been editing another lousy video - this one is my experience in the Warrior Dash race. That lousy video will be posted shortly after New Years Day.

Thanks to work and the holidays, other than running, most of my Rally training has consisted of playing Baja 1000 on the Wii. I'm taking my kids out to ride their ATV's at Gorman this week, so I'll get a little riding in.

And maybe edit another lousy video as well.

My next goal is finishing the LA half marathon on Jan 15. As of now I run about 25-30 miles per week. Still don't like running, but since the day I signed up for the APC rally and started running, I've dropped 37 pounds, so the cardio and fitness are slowly getting there.

On the half marathon application, I put down my estimated finish time as 99:99, so I will probably be in the 'crazy cat lady' pace group.

Then, my first ever USDR race in February. That will get its own post, I'm sure.
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Old 01-17-2012, 05:56 PM   #22
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Racing Before The Race

It's beeeen such a loooong time....

Yeah, that's definitely one of my favorite Boston songs, and also should be the subtitle for this saga. Recently, people started implying my silence must indicate I've realized that the Australian Property Center Rally was more than I could handle, and I must have taken up crochet instead.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

With the holidays and a brutal end-of-year work schedule, I have not been riding in the dirt nearly as much as hoped I would be. Nor have I written much of late. Regardless of that, I can guarantee I haven't picked up the crochet needles, or hooks, or whatever the fuck those things people use to crochet are called.

What I have been doing is trying to get my cardio, strength and overall fitness to improve. Which, aside from running up to twenty miles a week, means a lot of this:



And this:



While it didn't involve motors, my first actual race was quite a success. My friend Pat and I signed up for a Warrior Dash on December 4th. Part of he reason for my lack of progress updates was I was learning how to use all the miscellaneous software involved in editing the video I shot of the race. How real video editors do their jobs without cracking up I will never know. It's a stupid amount of tedious work.

Anyway...

Finally, after WAAAY too much ado (about nothing, really...) here is the World Premiere of my first ever feature length video - the Warrior Dash 2011!



Since that epic adventure, I've run a 10K race, finishing 32nd out of 141 runners, and coming in second in my age group (full disclosure: there were only two people in my age group, but whatever... it counts!)



This past Sunday I participated in the LA Half Marathon, finishing 13.1 miles in one hour and fifty three minutes:



So just what exactly does all this running around have to do with preparing for a motorcycle rally in Australia? Well, in my opinion, a lot. The cardio and stamina benefits are already apparent. The day I signed up for the APC Rally, I weighed in at a portly 210 pounds. The most exercise I got, in between shoveling food into my gut was opening a bottle of The Macallan. Now, some five months later I tip the scale at a more respectable 175, and opening those bottles is no trouble at all anymore! While I wouldn't exactly say I was lazy back then, most other people probably would say I was.

To be completely honest, I hate running. Despise it in fact. Despite the despising, I do it. The reason is simple. I figure during the APC Rally there will come a morning when I simply do not want to get back on that motorcycle and continue. But, just like I feel every morning before I run, I will suck it up and get on with it. I've learned the easiest, and hardest part of the game, be it running or dirt biking, is the mental part. The body will do whatever the mind tells it to do. I'm working on that mind over body part every single day.

The so-called 'experts' at this point always say, "That's great, but all this fitness shit isn't enough to improve on a dirt bike, Dumbo. You really need to ride that dirt bike."

"Yup," I say. "I know." Since I really need a concrete goal to get anywhere, I've also decided to challenge myself by entering Round 1 of the US Desert Racing series on February 5th.


502 S! 'S' is for... SENIOR! UGH!

My goal is simple. Finish the race. For me a finish = a win, since I've never attempted anything like a desert race before. Am I ready for it? No. Does that matter to me? It probably should, but it doesn't. I must have Senior-itis!

I spent some time getting my old red sled nicknamed Mid-Wife Crisis ready for the complete thrashing in store on February 5th and all the practice leading up to it.





There will be a report of some sort after the race. It more than likely will not be one of those reports where the dude says, "I entered my first ever race, passed every single bike, and I won it! Dirt racing is sooo easy!" I hate reports like that. Mostly because I know I will never write one.

Now, off to celebrate my birthday with my lovely fiancee and the old red sled in the desert!

More to come....
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Old 01-19-2012, 12:48 AM   #23
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Still following. Keep it up. I need to get a kettlebell. I used to work out with them and it's the best workout *I've done.
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I used to say "one day" a lot. But then I got scared I would wait one day too long. So I am doing it all now
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Old 01-22-2012, 07:08 PM   #24
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Great following your progress and dedication.

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Old 01-24-2012, 09:55 PM   #25
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APC Rally - Birthday at Jawbone

"What a perfect night! The stars are so bright!"

Fiona was right, the stars were bright. It was a perfect night, the night before my birthday, just me and my lovely fiancee out in the middle of Jawbone Canyon OHV park, surrounded by rolling hills. We sat in front of the fire and watched the stars a while, noticing one that was particularly bright.




Then we noticed that particularly bright star was moving in a peculiar fashion, almost as if it was slowly coming down a mountain. It dawned on us that this star was in fact coming down the mountain, because this star was in fact a miners helmet light attached to... someone walking down the mountain path directly toward our little Mobile Desert Assault Base Camp.
Within minutes this strange, mountain climbing dude was standing in the middle of our camp.

"Shit! What a long way down!" he started. "My dog ran away and my truck is stuck up at the top... you know that cabin up there? Yeah, well I got a flat and then I had to walk all this way down and..."

And? And then, with no further explanation, he turned and marched out of our camp towards the main road, never to be seen again.

As the miners light disappeared in the distance, we both looked at each other, wordlessly saying, "What the hell just happened here?" Didn't get much sleep that night.
Spent my birthday doing my second favorite thing in the world:





Later that day, my good friend Keith, aka Unleaded from the Great Unsponsored Nova Scotia Expedition and his son stopped by to help me and Fiona celebrate my forty-second year on the planet.



We shared the story of the mysterious mountain man. Keith immediately wanted to ride to the summit to see if we could find the dog, the truck, the cabin or anything at all.

Here is a video of our Ride to the Summit:



No luck finding mountain man, but the junkyard at the summit was pretty impressive!

Without a doubt, my APC Rally off-road riding training is coming along nicely, and of course, this was the Best Birthday Ever!
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Old 01-29-2012, 05:57 PM   #26
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APC Rally - Motoventures

During my forty-two orbits around the sun I've been fortunate enough to ride a bunch of different street bikes to a bunch of different places.













I've spent a lot of time on the road, covering vast distances to point at a sign and take my picture next to it. I even managed to make it to Australia to ride once before, though all of that riding was street oriented as well, though riding on the 'wrong' side of the street.



When I signed up to participate in the Australian Property Centre rally, I realized how much of that street riding experience will come in handy on the 7000 kilometers of dirt trails this rally will cover.

None.

Incidentally, that brilliant insight also covered the fact that in my then-present shape, best described as 'Entirely Out Of' I would never make it to the finish line.

So, I made a few decisions. First, if I was going to actually participate in this rally, I would have to make a commitment. I would need to get into a shape other than 'Dough Boy.' This fitness commitment is coming along nicely; that quest continues to this day and will continue right up to the day I get on the plane for Australia. Nowadays I spend far too many hours a week running, at Crossfit, kettlebell training, P90x and doing whatever other torture I decide to subject myself to, and little to no time at all in the bar. Sad, but that's what commitment means, I guess. My overall fitness has improved enormously, and it's nice to be able to see my feet again.

Lack of overall fitness was a big part of my problem with the rally, but not the only problem. The other half of the equation is the fact that other than a few dirt detours on Rain Cloud Follows, my trusty Yamaha FJR road bike, I really have zero experience riding in the dirt.



Thanks to a windfall from Mohegan Sun Casino, I bought a dirt bike, nicknamed it Mid Wife Crisis, and started trying to learn to ride in the dirt. Where my lovely fiancee Fiona and I used to spend time exploring the back roads, now we explore the deserts of Southern California. The learning curve in the dirt is pretty steep, so I set out to get some help straightening the learning curve out.





His name is Rob, and he works for Motoventures, a highly recommended SoCal off-road teaching facility. For two days Rob's job, difficult as it is, was to teach this old dog some new tricks. During the pre-ride meeting the first day, Rob asked why I was there. I told him I had signed up for a 4300 mile off road rally in Australia.

He asked how many years I had to learn to ride before the rally.

I replied, "Six months."

With a low whistle, he shook his head, knowing he had his work cut out for him.

Rob is one of those guys that make dirt riding seem effortless. His bike can fly, he can wheelie over anything, ride up or down a hill so steep it would trip up a mountain goat, and never, ever breaks a sweat.




Rob Flying Through The Air

My poor bike can't fly, the only time I ever wheelied it scared me so badly I had to stop, and on the hill climbing section of the lesson, I fell off so may times I lost count.

Yeah. That's right. Six months from now I will be riding around Australia.

I took one class with Motoventures before our trip to Jawbone, then repeated the same class with Rob the week after. Rob was impressed with my improvement in the second class. I made it up the hill that stumped me the first time, and made it through the technical trails without even having to put a foot down. I was pretty proud of my accomplishments, though I still have a long way to go.

The only way to improve is to keep on riding, which is exactly what I plan to do.

I learn best with a little pressure, so to make my steep learning curve a little more interesting, I am racing in my first ever US Desert Race this coming Sunday. My class, Senior One Beginners, has a one hour time limit on a six mile course. I have no illusions of being anything but horrible in the race, but I know it will expose more weaknesses that I'll need to work on. If nothing else, it will be an endurance test, and of course the race will be a hell of a good time.



More to follow.
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:55 AM   #27
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You do know this is a non-competitive ride don't you. Sounds like you're preparing for a major off road race not a 2 week ride....... there are no prizes for finishing first or even at all. Other than that I admire your determination.
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Old 02-07-2012, 04:40 AM   #28
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You do know this is a non-competitive ride don't you. Sounds like you're preparing for a major off road race not a 2 week ride....... there are no prizes for finishing first or even at all. Other than that I admire your determination.
Couldnt agree more,its not a race,sure you will be amazed at the scenery of australia........as we would be if we went for a ride over your part of the world,ride and enjoy it.
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Old 02-11-2012, 08:50 AM   #29
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APC Rally Prep - US Desert Racing Series Round One

The day I'd been anticipating with a healthy mixture of fear and dread finally arrived. One thing I know about myself is I am very goal oriented. If I have something to strive for, I put maximum effort into whatever it takes to reach that goal. My current goal is to learn to ride off road well enough to get me through the four thousand plus miles of rugged outback terrain in the Australian Property Centre rally in late July.

Somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that if entered a desert race, I'd be forced to learn how to go fast, how to make quick decisions on the dirt bike, if my months of cardio and physical training were enough to give me the endurance and stamina to finish a somewhat grueling off road race, and if I was any good at racing at all.

I raced my first US Desert Racing race on Sunday February 5th. Here is the little video I made to tell the story of my conquest:



I finished. Not well, but at least I finished. As I sat in line with the other Senior One Beginners waiting for the green flag to drop, every instinct told me to get the hell out of there. When the flag dropped, I fully expected to be left behind in a cloud of dust, which I pretty much was. But then I realized that I was actually keeping up with some of my fellow Seniors! The guy next to me sucked at racing just as much as I did. As soon as I realized this, I instantly started having fun.

The best thing about a race is there will never be traffic coming at you from the other direction, the only traffic I had to contend with was the really good racers lapping me about three laps in. I moved out of their way, and enjoyed pushing my personal limts; sliding harder than I ever had through the turns, and even jumping my bike a bit. I managed four laps in an hour and sixteen minutes. My first lap took 21 minutes. The number one racer finished his first lap in 13 minutes. I have no idea how the hell he managed that.

I probably will never have any idea what it is like to be that fast.

As the video shows, I am pretty much a shit racer. Cyril Despres and the rest have nothing to fear from this mid-life crisis suffering Frenchy fool. Neither do the rest of the USDR racers. But it was fun, and I have already signed up for Round Two on March 11th.

My goal for Round Two? A top eighty finish!
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Old 02-13-2012, 02:00 PM   #30
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