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Monday, November 2, 2009

Black and Blue Enduro, Stafford Connecticut Nov.1

One thing that comes to mind as I recall this event was the quote that I first read a long time ago in the Whole Earth Catalog, attributed simply to "a motorcycle racer", the quote was "When in doubt, gas it."

When I read that, I had no idea under what circumstances that advice might come in handy. I was not convinced that I'd ever try it because I didn't think I'd ever own, much less race, a motorcycle. Once I started racing motorcycles, I could rarely summon the courage to gas it if I wasn't fairly confident of the outcome. Now that I've raced an Enduro I suspect that the "motorcycle racer" probably raced off road Enduros.

Seamus and I had talked about entering this Enduro, but we didn't actually make the decision to do it till the night before. We agreed to meet at my place 4:00AM Sunday morning and drive down.

An Enduro is a cross country race that requires the rider keep track of his time as he goes through the event, using a route sheet, a clock, an odometer, a pair of scissors and some tape. There are check points along the way and you are penalized for checking in too early or too late. In either case the penalty adds points to your score. The object is to complete the race with the lowest score. My goal was to complete the race, score be damned. We were only dimly aware of what we were getting ourselves into.

The event starts with rows of 4 riders starting a minute apart, Seamus and I were on row 25, with only one row behind us, so that was good, at least we'd be able to see where everyone went. It started out pretty rough for me, I had an OK start in my group and I was riding well for about 2 minutes. Then we got into some rocks and I stalled the bike. Everyone kept on going. In fact the last row that started a minute behind us zipped past me as I was calmly trying to restart my bike. I finally got it started and took off, pretty sure that I was in last place. No worries though, there was still 63 miles to go.

Much of the next 63 miles was the gnarliest rocky singletrack that I've ever ridden. Through stream beds, river beds, hillclimbs, switchbacks, there were rocks all over the place. And where there weren't rocks, there were trees. Or water. So I got through the first off-road section and got to the first of several check points, where somebody writes a number on the scorecard taped to my front fender and steps aside. That's the invitation to continue, just follow the trail left by the previous 99 riders. Sometimes that's easy, but sometimes it's not so apparent, as when you transfer to a paved road and have to pay attention to the route sheet and hope you see arrows confirming your course.

I never did get lost or off course, so that was good. I did catch up with Seamus at a couple areas where riders could stop and reset clocks and ask other riders what minute they were on etc., but since he was making better progress in the woods he was always able to start ahead of me. That was fine, because every time I came up on some crazy section and didn't see him there, I figured if he could do it, I probably could too. I wish I could have taken some pictures on the trail, but it wasn't going to happen. Once you get going the last thing you want to do is stop, and if you do stop because of a crash or challenging terrain, the last thing you want to do is get out your phone/camera and take a picture.

At the top of one hillclimb I noticed a group of people standing around, as I got closer the trail made a sharp turn and a couple kids started yelling and pointing down the trail.."TIRES!GO GO GO!", and sure enough I look ahead and see a "tire trap" with guys yelling encouragement to hit it hard. This is where the "when in doubt, gas it" came to me. It certainly helped that the small group was screaming at me to gas it, but nevertheless...I did make it across on the first attempt, and was so proud of myself I waved to the folks as I continued on my way.

This is the trap, another rider attemting it. I lifted this from nedirtbikes.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKAvnPSDfmA

Other highlights in the morning, some riverbeds that had to be crossed with fairly deep mud bogs. I caught up to some riders in these. Then we got to some really fast fire roads that I didn't realize weren't intended to be taken so fast. Some of the fire roads had water holes that you had to cross. No big deal, except you never know how deep they are, or what may be lurking below the surface. Typically I'd cruise through them at a steady pace and the water would only come up to my boots, but at one of the last such water holes I got concerned when the front wheel disappeared under the water! I gassed it and made it out with the engine coughing a bit...

Then I finally reached the gas stop/lunch break. A welcome rest. I parked next to Seamus, he took one look at my front wheel and asked what happened. I said I could remember hitting a rock on one of those fire roads, 5th gear and ripping along, the rock jumped out and nailed my front wheel.



Lunch break, PBJ!

Do I look concerned about my front wheel?


This is the gas stop/lunch break, most of the riders have passed through already.


The ride got a little tougher just after the lunch break, muddy, slimy rocks, trees across the trail...really just more of the same but a little more intense for about the next hour. Then a long paved road section to get to the next trail. I think it got easier then, or maybe I felt like it was almost over so I relaxed, but anyway I cruised through the last bit feeling good and riding pretty well. We both finished and Seamus actually won his class! He was riding in "C 4 stroke", I was riding in "C Senior" and I have no idea how I finished in class. We stuck around to collect Seamus' trophy, ate at the $10 buffet and tried to learn a little more about how you're supposed to keep track of your timing and scoring.

End of the day...



This is the score board showing my class.

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