Park Hills, Missouri
May 2, 1999
3rd of 3 in Open B
Sometimes the drive to a race can be a good indication of how it's all
going to turn out. My buddy Rob Rogers came along to watch the race
and take some pictures, and we got lost trying to find Fosterburg. We
pulled into a gas station near Alton and asked the teenager behind the
counter for directions. His reply: "Yeah, Fosterburg. Duuuude...I used
to hang out up there with my boys." I knew we were screwed. His
directions were completely worthless (a little too much "alone time" with
the bong, I presume). We finally found the place and pulled in 30
minutes before the start.
I usually finish my races, but one mistake cost me what might have been
my first win. There were only 3 guys in Open B, and after the first lap I
was in first place. That never happened before. The course was typical
Illinois riding with tight woods and some mud. On the second lap I tried
to go around a messy little stream crossing and ended up getting stuck
deep in the mud. The back wheel was buried in slop that would have
made a hog farmer proud. I spent about an hour trying to dig myself out
and finally did, but it was too late. On my third lap, the radiator started
spitting out all of its coolant. I stopped and filled it back up with the water
in my drinking bottle, and then cut out of the race just before it was over.
Rob didn't end up seeing much of me.
Damage Report: Huge dent in pipe
May 16, 1999
We'll call this the race from hell. It was my first enduro of the year, and I
decided to make the long drive up. I usually enjoy enduros because
they are long (60+ miles), you rarely ride the same trail twice, and I feel
like I'm getting my money's worth. The surrounding area got pounded
with a couple inches of rain the day before, so everything was wet. I
ended up starting on the very last row, which turned out to be an unlucky
position. All the prior riders used up what little traction there was to
begin with and created some huge ruts to negotiate.
An enduro is different from the hare scrambles I typically race in. The
focus is on maintaining an average speed, rather than finishing fastest.
The riders leave every minute, about 3 or 4 at a time. You get checked
at several points along the route (usually the checkpoint locations are
unknown) and have points added to your score if you're early or late.
This race was supposed to be about 60 miles long, but I could only do 7.
The hills were just about impossible to get up. Like Cuba, I pushed the
bike as much as I rode it. There was a water crossing that was almost as
high as my seat! At one point I just couldn't get the bike to turn left. It
was driving me crazy. I finally stopped and found that the steering
adjustment bolt had worked its way loose and was severely limiting the
turning radius. Nothing like making a bad race worse. After nearly 2
hours of torture I packed it up and went home. The poor bike got
abused pretty bad but didn't let me down. One rule for enduros is that if
you reach a checkpoint one hour or more later than scheduled, then
you're done (called "houring out"). I houred out in the first 5 miles!!
Needless to say, this was a race to forget. To add further insult,
somebody ran their truck over the end of my bike stand.
May 23, 1999
St. Joe State Park
Park Hills, Missouri
This was the longest race I have ever done. I normally ride the C class
in enduros, but the C class loop was only about 40 miles. I figured I
might as well get my money's worth and ride the longer B loop. If I had
known... As usual I was completely rushed in getting prepared for the
enduro, but more so this time because I thought the race started at
10:00. I knew something was wrong when I pulled in to the staging area
and people were already leaving the starting line. Bad sign, very bad.
The fortunate thing about enduros is that it's not a mass start. About 4-5
people leave the starting line every minute, so the start of the event
occurs over a period of an hour or so. The race started at 8:00; I got
there about 8:10. I ran to the sign-up area and saw that there were
about 55 rows, meaning that with riders leaving each minute, it would
take 55 minutes for all of the riders to depart. I chose one of the last
rows, which meant my start time wouldn't be until about 8:50. That gave
me about half an hour to set up, which really isn't much time. Especially
when it usually takes me about 20 minutes to get my roll chart set up to
match the route sheets that are provided. A roll chart helps you keep
track of what mile you should be on at a given time in the race.
Fortunately they were selling the roll charts at the sign-up, so I bought
one and didn't have to use my computer-generated roll chart. Saved me
valuable time, and it turned out my self-made chart wouldn't have worked
anyway because during the first 20 miles of the race they changed the
average speed requirement several times. All of the enduros I had done
up to that point had been a straight 24-mph average-just go 24 mph for
the whole race and you don't accumulate any points (like golf...lowest
score wins). The roll chart I brought was set up for 24 mph (no speed
changes), so it was basically worthless for this race. The guys with the
programmable enduro computers don't have to worry about speed
changes-they just plug in the speed variations and the computer does
the math. I haven't made that $400 investment yet, so I keep track of my
speed the old fashioned way...roll chart and a couple of digital clocks
duct-taped to my handlebars.
Anyway, I just barely got going in time to leave on my row. Only problem
was the guy at the sign-in gave me the wrong key time (the "master
clock" that everyone sets their own clocks to). My clock was set about
two minutes different from key time, so that messed up my timekeeping. I
constantly had to compensate for the error and try to do the math in my
head to figure out what mileage I should be on. The speed averages
were kind of screwy at the beginning. There were some 18-mph
sections, and even a 12-mph section. There were some youth and
women's classes that only went about halfway through the first loop, so
the promoters made the speeds easier in the first part of the race so the
slower riders wouldn't have really bad scores. I had a hard time with it,
though, because usually with a 24-mph average I can never keep up so I
just ride as fast as I can. But an 18-mph section is sometimes
achievable for me, and the penalties for being early to a checkpoint are
much worse than for being late. At times I actually had to slow it down to
keep from being early. The race was held at St. Joe State Park and
used some of the trails there, along with other areas outside the park.
The trails are a little more open than those of the Illinois and Indiana
enduros I had done in the past, so the speeds were higher and the risks
of being early were greater. Being early to a checkpoint (called "burning
a check") gets you penalized way more than being late, so that's
something I try never to do.
At the 20 mile marker was a gas stop, and I had sent one of my gas jugs
on a truck that was supposed to deliver it to that spot. It got delivered,
along with about 200 jugs that looked exactly like mine. Apparently I was
supposed to have put my row number somewhere on the jug, so they
could sort them. Mine ended up in a group of unsorted jugs of people
like me who missed the riders meeting and didn't get the instructions.
Fortunately I had put a distinguishing band of yellow duct tape around
the handle, and that narrowed my search to about 50 jugs (why in the
hell is yellow duct tape so popular?!?). I knew I had found the right one
when I started pouring in gas and the familiar leaky spout sent a steady
trail of highly flammable liquid down the side of my piping hot motorcycle.
After the gas stop the speed average was mostly 24-mph throughout the
rest of the loop. However, there were not any major resets (a point
where the route sheet instructs you to advance your odometer a certain
number of miles forward; it's like being magically transported into the
future and gives you the opportunity to get back on time if you're late like
I always am), so I never did get a chance to stop and rest. All the other
enduros I've raced had sections of paved road linking the woods
sections. This enduro was entirely off-road, so there were no easy
stretches to rest and make up some time. From that point on, I was
continually late for the rest of the race. I had to stop once and tighten
the rear brake pivot bolt, which was about the first time I'd ever used the
tools in my fanny pack for anything other than un-sticking the bike from
mud holes. Good thing, though, because the brake pedal would have
fallen off if I hadn't tightened it. This is important, because as most
people know, brakes sometimes (but not always) keep guys like me from
smacking into trees on a regular basis. A light rain came off and on,
making the rocks extra slippery but keeping me cool. The first loop
ended where were started, about 40 miles in total. I grabbed a quick
snack, filled up the gas tank, and got back on the trail. I wasn't too tired
at that point, but in retrospect it would have been an ideal place to quit.
The rocks were taking their toll on my back. Ten miles into the second
loop (50 miles overall) I was a hurtin' unit. At the gas stop (60 miles
overall), I had serious thoughts of cutting out early. Finally after 72 cruel
miles the B-loop ended. The A riders had to finish the whole loop, for a
total of about 80 miles. I was never so glad to get back to my truck and
go home. My back was so sore that it hurt no matter what position I tried
to sit in. I didn't bother sticking around to see my results.