Roselawn, Indiana
Sand Goblin Enduro
April 19, 2015
11th of 25in +40A
In the world of off-road motorcycling, an uneventful race is a rare one. The
enduro version of my sport is probably the least likely to come off without some
form of incident, simply because it’s difficult to ride a motorcycle for several
hours under racing conditions and not find something interesting to talk about
afterwards. But the Sand Goblin enduro near Roselawn, Indiana was about as
close to uneventful as I've ever experienced. And for that reason, the Goblin
was one of the most fun races I've completed in a long time.

To start with, the entry system was flat-out awesome. Pre-entry took about one
minute, performed online inside the comfort of my home. The restart format of
almost all enduros these days has reduced my prep time to about that of a
typical hare scramble. No more need to mount my nearly obsolete Watchdog
enduro computer and wonder if it will function, or try to remember how to
program it the morning of the race, or load a self-made roll chart into a roll chart
holder and hope an ill-placed tree doesn't smash it to bits. The days of a
cluttered mess of digital and analog enduro equipment strapped to my
handlebars have been replaced by a simple Timex
Ironman watch. Even the venerable keytime clock is a nonfactor, now that cell
phones have pretty well linked
the world to one official time. Gone are all the minutes I've wasted over the
years looking for that darned clock, usually duct-taped to a random post in the
general vicinity of the signup area, surrounded by a dozen guys with watches in
their hands and profanity on their lips when the next minute would turn over
and they realized their subtraction skills needed work. Now I simply adjust my
digital watch based on what my cell phone tells me, and I'm usually within a
few seconds of the club’s keytime. And in a restart-format enduro, those few
seconds just don't matter that much.

With all of my pertinent information stored in the Cloud, I carried my AMA
membership card and an old Missouri Hare Scrambles Championship RFID
card to the scorer’s table and with a swipe of one card and a scan of the other, I
was officially entered. The electronic scoring would do away with the need for
score cards taped to front fenders, so all I was given for identification purposes
was a sticker with my rider number handwritten in black marker. The Grand
Kankakee Trail Riders could not have made this any easier.

As for the racing, that was pretty good too. During the Sand Booger family
enduro event the day before, rains had packed the famous Roselawn sand,
leaving the 40 or so miles of special tests in about as good a condition as could
be. The first of these tests was located about a mile south of the staging area,
where a large group had crowded around a pile of giant logs near the starting
line. Yellow ribbon surrounding the log pile suggested we would be riding
through this mess of wood, and orange arrows confirmed that the logs were
part of the race course. I joined the crowd to analyze two options through the
logs, one which could be conquered quickly by scaling a single 30-inch-
diameter monster log, or a longer path taking riders over a series of 16-inch-
diameter logs. I had no interest in the 30-incher. I've ridden over logs of this
size before, and in each case I either teeter-tottered the bike safely over, or
crashed fantastically. There really is no in-between with me and 30-inch logs,
so I knew my decision without giving much thought to it.

Back at the starting line, pleasantries were exchanged with some of the riders
on my row, and an informal pecking order was established for who would lead
our group of five into the woods. Sometimes this order is
fairly evident, like on this day when I was the lone “A” rider in our group. But
Brownsburg, Indiana native Zach Sanders was a bit of a wild card. He had
entered the 250B class, which is a common place for up and coming racers to
cut their teeth before graduating to one of the “A” classes. He had mentioned
that he’d only ridden a few of these events, and he seemed to be on the
younger end of the age scale for enduro racers. As an out-of-shape 43-year-old
who rides infrequently, I sensed some convergence in our abilities. We also had
+30B riders Dean Matthews and James Johnson on our row, and Kyle Worman
in the Open B class. Theoretically, I’d be the pack leader and go into each test
first, but that would be conjecture and speculation until the checkpoint crew
sent us on our way.

Zach Sanders tested my pecking order theory when a club member began a 3-
second countdown to our 10:15 a.m. starting time. When Zach saw the
countdown begin with the three raised fingers of the guy manning the
checkpoint, he dumped the clutch and took off towards the RFID scanning
chute. He halted after several checkpoint crew members shouted, and by that
time the rest of us were given the “Go” signal. I passed a confused Zach and
led our group into the woods.

This first test reminded me of the differences between the two enduros held
near Roselawn each year, the other being the Summer Bummer in August, with
some of its trails hand-cut in thickets that anything larger than a squirrel
wouldn't try to walk through. The Sand Goblin trails are more open and flowing
and beg to be ridden in third or even fourth gear. As quickly as I seemed to cut
through the sand berms, I could only imagine the crazy-fast Chase Robinsons
of the world running a gear higher than me through these trails. Does a tree
have any visible shape at 40 miles per hour? At a much more moderate speed, I
saw blurs of gray and orange, nothing more. I also saw my daughters’ smiling
faces and remembered that neither one would be much help getting me in or
out of the shower if I arrived home by ambulance, so I kept myself comfortably
under control.

When I feel I’m riding well, it usually means everyone else is too. I was sensing
this right away, as an abnormally long time passed before I caught up to slower
riders in earlier rows. My preferred minute #15 often puts me behind earlier
rows that are typically filled with the B and C classes, so I’m used to finding
some traffic in the woods rather quickly after test sections begin. Then again, I
don’t ride much anymore…maybe this was my new normal. And with the
sounds of faster guys approaching from behind, I wondered how well I was
riding today. When the log pile arrived, two guys from rows behind me had
located my rear tire and used the 30-incher to pass by. They cleaned the log
just as a spectator declared “There we go!” in a manner suggesting he had
already witnessed some fantastic fails.

While restart-format enduros have eliminated much of the thought process
involved with traditional timekeeper enduros, every so often I still get the same
feeling of confusion that used to follow me throughout many of the old-style
formats. Enduro rules are the same, no matter the format, so when I
approached mile marker 7.0, I grew concerned. In my mind, that was the length
of the first test. So where was the check? The answer: At mile marker 7.6, just
like the route sheet said. But of course my route sheet was exactly where it
always is: At the staging area, inside my truck. And in the approximately 14
seconds I had reserved for reviewing it before the race, I’d remembered the
mileage incorrectly. Things like that, as small as they may seem, can mess with
my head, and remind me that an enduro is still an enduro.

The second test was a brief sprint through 3 miles of singletrack, followed by a
short transfer to the third test. Upon arrival, only three bikes waited on the
starting line, and they all departed before I came to a stop. Minute 14 showed
on the flip cards, meaning I had arrived less than 60 seconds before my
scheduled departure. For sure, many riders were going to be late to this check.
Three of the other four riders on my row made it to the checkpoint on time,
although not all of us left exactly on our minute. In the confusion of multiple
late riders continually arriving in the short time I awaited my departure, our
minute came and went before the check crew realized it. A quick shout got
them back on track, and I led our group back into the woods.

At 10 miles, the third test was one of the longer ones of the day, and would
take us back to the staging area. In the mesmerizing flow of singletrack, I found
my focus drifting to the odd things inside the woods that almost no one ever
sees, like small trees next to the trail with U-shaped elbows in their little trunks.
In past enduros, did so many dirt bikers whack the same tree with their
handlebars, in the same place, so many times that it adapted by leaving a little
extra room for us to squeeze by? I noticed small pieces of bark exploding from
trees when I
edged my handlebars a little too close around corners, and if I exited those
turns with just the right amount of aggression, I could hear the sandy roost
from my rear tire raining down on dry oak leaves. This is what great singletrack
does to me.

And then, 40 minutes later, the test was over and I was back at my truck. The
previous hour and a half had come and gone in what seemed like a matter of
minutes. My KTM had performed flawlessly and hardly showed any evidence of
where it had been. My riding gear was clean, not so much as a boot buckle was
undone, and I felt good. Really good. After a few chugs of Gatorade and a
turkey sandwich in my belly, I gassed up the bike and began a 5-mile cruise to
the next test.

Temperatures had held in the low-60s during the morning, but clouds pushing
up from the south were about to find Roselawn. On the cool ride to test #4, tiny
raindrops hit my goggles. When the test began, Kyle Worman jumped ahead a
decided to lead for awhile, setting a decent pace until I passed by in an open,
sandy section. The trails in this test were familiar, especially the motocross
course built on sugar sand. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I sensed that Kyle did.
He stuck close to me until we entered an area full of pine trees, and then I
pulled away and found myself alone again. But this far into the race, I wasn't
alone for long. I began to hit my stride at this point and finally remembered how
to ride a dirt bike in sandy woods. The pine trees came and went, as did a road
crossing over Indiana Route 55, and I found a steady trail of slower riders from
the rows ahead of me.

I would drop 7 minutes in this section, which was scored as a safety check.
Somehow I thought the ending checkpoint was an observation check, so I ran
full throttle down a field lane which followed. It’s not often I go as fast as
humanly possible on my KTM, and this was the same lane where I once
witnessed a guy blow up his engine right in front of me. I wondered if I’d have a
similar fate.

The engine held up just fine, and then I realized we were in a transfer section
and my full-throttle blast down the field lane had been pointless. By now, the
raindrops were more steady and our wait for the next test section was less
comfortable. We finished the enduro with the longest section of the day, an 11-
mile trail which would take about 40 minutes to complete. As those minutes
wore on, I used about half my roll-offs, which up to this point I thought would
be completely sufficient for my next ride. But rain has a way of changing things
during a race. Fortunately in the Roselawn area, rain doesn't change traction in
the sand. What it does change is traction on every other surface, including
logs, now slick wherever the bark had been ground off by knobby tires.

The test finished with a final mile inside a narrow section of woods on the side
of a hill, parallel to a road. The trail was tight and twisty and full of logs, and I
can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. I've seen this little section at least a dozen
times, and it’s often at the start or finish of the Sand Goblin Enduro. This time it
was near the end, which made me happy. Also pleasurable was my arrival back
at my truck as the rain soaked my jersey, knowing
I didn't have to ride cold and wet through all of the final test section.

My final score was 61, same as the Bitter Start Enduro three weeks prior. As
usual, I finished in the middle of my class of old guys and felt satisfied that only
a handful of riders in the B class scored better. The past couple of years I’d
contemplated dropping down a class, based on sporadic riding and a complete
lack of physical fitness, but apparently these old muscles still know a thing or
two about dirt biking. And then, as always, those muscles made me pay it all
back on Monday. Goodbye Roselawn, hello Advil.
Roselawn, Indiana