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Red River Enduro 2009 – Part Deaux

Red River Enduro 2009

Hole Shot1

Last year I got a wild hair and I decided that I was going to race my dirt bike in the annual Red River Enduro Race in Bulcher, TX.  Well, if you read my blog from last year you know how well that ended.  Well, this year, I decided that I needed to redeem myself.  I was going to finish!  So I undertook the quest once again to race.  Wow, what an adventure it was this year!

I have always wanted to compete in the “6 Days of Michigan” since I was a little kid with my first Honda XR200.  There is nothing more fun then racing through the woods as fast as you can, going through the trails which are just wide enough for your handle bars to fit through, practically sitting on the gas tank  to get better control and maneuverability.  What a rush!  Of course I am super competitive and I have to always be the best and fastest!  We raced from start to finish, last one was a rotten egg.

So last year, when my parents finally moved to Texas, I convinced my dad to not sell my beloved dirt bike and bring it with him.  Although it was close to 20 years since I rode it last, I was on cloud nine when it came home to me.  It is a shame that I neglected one of the things I love to do the most for so long.  Unfortunately when I moved to Texas in 1993, I could not bring my dirt bike with me.  Life seemed to get busy for me and took it’s twists and turns and I never met anyone else interested in the sport.  So I put it on the back burner, that was until my baby came home to pappa!   As you read last year, I went nuts, buying all new gear in order to “look good”.  I didn’t even make it 20 minutes into the race when I broke downa and ended up DNF because I didn’t have any parts to fix it.

So, a year has gone by and I have had this date on my calendar ever since.  My plans of training, conditioning and getting ready to conquer this race was my mission.  Ok my first goal was to fix the bike, I thought it was a tougher problem then it actually was, so of course I neglected it for about 6-months.  I thought I needed a couple new parts and since I have a 1982 CR250R, they don’t make hardly any parts anymore.  But after further review all I really needed was just a bolt.  So I got it fixed and I let it sit in the garage some more.  I joined a couple of online forums and I tried to find some friends to ride with.  I really hate riding alone (so does everyone else, not sure why they assume I am going to break a leg or something), so I tried to find new riding buddies.  But the Texas summer heat deterred several hopeful candidates and the rest of the time I couldn’t meet anyone to ride (it really sucks not having a truck to haul your bike around).  Well it was safe to say that I only ended up practicing twice before the big day.  But, I am pretty confident in myself and I had “No Worries.”

I remembered that last year everyone had camelbak’s on and I thought to myself, self, you need to have one of those.  So this year, I went out and got one along with the fanny pack to hold the essentials, I forgot were necessary for riding.

  1. First aid kit
  2. Spare bolts (got me last year)
  3. zip ties
  4. duck tape
  5. electrical tape
  6. tools

So this is going to be my year! I am ready, I have all of the extra gear, tools, and heart!  Once again I got up at the butt crack of dawn and headed to Bulcher, TX, home of the Red River Motorcycle Park.  I am pumped, I aim to finish this year, that is my goal, I don’t care how I place, just as long as I finish.  While standing in line I meet a couple of guys that end up being brothers, Britton and Winston.  As we approach the registration window I convince them that we should ride as a group since they told me they “don’t ride much” and I figured at least I would know someone here and they would help look out for me. Well, I was half right!

So this year as I stated, I bought a camelbak, I was going to fill it with my PowerAid and hydrate myself and quench my thirst out on the trails.  It was quite chilly on this particular morning, a bone chilling 45 degrees and by the start of the race it still was cool and I figured I wouldn’t need the camelbak yet, so I left it in the truck.  Biggest mistake I made this year!

Ok so the race starts and we head out, 9 minutes later we hit check point one.  What a rush! I didn’t fall or crash and I am only 20 seconds behind my group mates.  They were hauling butt and I tried to stay in control and keep up at the same time.  We get to the waiting area for us to begin the 2nd leg and I am pumped.  Fist bumps and smiles all the way around. We waited about 10 minutes and then we were up for leg two.  Off we went and that would be the last time I would see the Foster Brothers until they came back from checkpoint seven.

We head out into the great unknown, I pictured the course to be like what I had just encountered.  But no, that was a warm up to get the blood pumping and bikes warmed up.  For the next two and half hours, I went through hell.  If you were to speak in downhill snow skiing terms, they label the hills or runs by a symbol and color.  A green circle is the easy hill, followed by a blue square and a black diamond being the hardest.  Well, this course was a black diamond, possibly a double black diamond!  We went up and down hills filled with rocks (boulders), tree roots, and deep ruts.  This had to be the hardest task physically I have ever under taken.  I am sure that plenty of people quit and if I was not so darn stubborn, I may have quit myself.  Honestly, it took every bit of my fortitude to keep going.  The first hour or so I was on fire, just going through everything like no big deal.  Then my conditioning or lack there of started to set in.  When I crashed the first time, and no it was not some horrible over the handle bars type crash but a “damn!, I can not believe I just did that” type of crash!  The sand monster got me.  So by the time I picked the bike up and kicked it a couple of times, I was pretty much winded.  But I forged on.

Here is where my knowledge of two-stroke engines dirt bikes and how to properly get the best out of them came to haunt me.  When we got to the hellish hill climbs, these things were nasty, large rocks, straight up hill most of the time and just my luck that there would always be other people stalled or crashed when I get there.  So I have to try to avoid running over someone and at the same time try to maintain my speed to get up the hill.  Probably about 60% of the time I stalled out about 1/4 to 1/2 way up.  So I either rolled back down the hill, fell over, or got stuck.  Needless to say that it took endless amount of time kick starting, balancing, and trying again.  At least four hills I can remember took me more than 3-4 tries to get up.  One time one of the officials came and helped me push my bike up the hill. I know you maybe laughing right now, but that guy helped about 5 people while I was there.  This has to be the single most energy draining part of the whole thing.  I can remember breathing so hard, my chest protector felt like it was choking me like a python around my chest.  Another time I wanted to throw up in my helmet!  This is where the camelbak may have come in handy. Note to self, just wear the damn thing!  I could have used the liquid to re-hydrate myself.

Ok, so last year I gave an exhausting play by-play account of my wonderful fifteen minutes.  This year, I could go through all six check points, but I don’t want to have a 5000 word blog.  So I felt as if I was riding for an eternity trying to reach the checkpoints.  One by one I arrived only to find that I was to continue onward, no stopping.  I ended up getting behind a father and son (about 13) and lucky me, either up every hill they were stopped or at the bottom they were crashed.  I never caught a break, I couldn’t build up any momentum and I continued to stall out myself because of the slow speeds.  I was glad to see however, I was not the only one exhausted from this.  I remember after check point three, I asked how much further and I got “just around the corner” which ended up being over an hour and a half!  So anyway, at this one hill the kid crashes and can’t get up and I stop and wait (unlike many of the other contestants who would just blow by and didn’t care about anyone).  When I stopped there was another guy, his number was in the 60’s I remember and I thought to myself, wow, I don’t feel so bad, he started over 20 minutes before me and I caught him!!!  (I was #89A)  This guy had his elbows on his handle bars and looked at me as I was catching my breath and said “how much longer” like he was going to die.  I laughed and said, “it should be just around the corner!”

I passed checkpoint four and five and thought I was doing so well.  I guess I had lost track of all time and had no idea how long I had been out in the woods.  I eventually had to stop for about 10-15 minutes and I just sat down and rested.  I was just exhausted, dehydrated, and sweating my butt off.  I thought for a minute of just taking a nap and forgetting the whole thing.  I had no water, and I had not seen or heard anyone in quite a while.  But the competitor in me would not let myself give up.  My legs were so tired I could hardly lift them to kick start the motorcycle and at times barely enough to lift them back onto the pegs!  So, I missed a turn and I ended up on this service road.  Now guys with numbers in the top ten were catching up to me and I ran into these guys on the road and I asked them where the trail was (yes they were race marshals) and they told me that I was real close to check point six just go down the road, and I was like “no, I’ll go on the course” then I was politely notified that I was starting to get lapped and I timed out of the race.  So I hung my head and headed to check point six.  Yes indeed I had timed out I was told, they wouldn’t even give me a time.  But they did have some fine quality H2O!  I asked how far til camp and I was told about a mile on some easy trails. Yeah right like I am going to believe that.

So I am headed back to the truck, one last leg to go.  It was actually the best riding I had encountered, some nice whoop-to-do’s and jumps.  But I was too tired to stand on the pegs and try to do any worthwhile jumps.  I motored my way back and I relief came over me as I headed back to the truck.  I later learned that there was another loop (number 7) and it was projected as an hour and half to complete it.  I was in shock, needless to say I was out on my loop so long that they were going to return within a half hour.  So I waited and saw my group mates return.  I was glad they actually finished in one piece.

What a ride, even though I didn’t get to complete the whole course, I was surprised at myself.  I actually finished without breaking down or getting hurt.  So, I technically had another DNF this year but I finished #27 out of 36 riders in my group (30+ Novice C, short course) and in the novice class over all I finished #132 out of 141 riders.  Definitely something to build on for next year.  I was also told that this was the hardest enduro course in the country, so that made me feel good, I was able to compete and almost conquer it.

I now have the 3rd weekend in October blocked off, if all goes well, I am going to retire my 82 pinger and get an up dated 2000 something model thumper.  I am going to condition myself physically as my mental conditioning seems ok, and I am going to practice more and rock the Enduro 2010!

Red River Enduro 2008

Dirt Bike Enduro Racing – Red River Enduro 2008

I am writing this blog to tell a tale and document how truly foolish we can be sometimes when we do not wish to admit that although our mind wants us to think we are still “young at heart” our body is right there to hammer back into us that no, you really are not.

I grew up in Michigan and received my first dirt bike at the age of 14.  I have been a motorcycle enthusiast ever since.  Ever since our first trip to Northern Michigan to ride the trails, I have been hooked. Of course once you know my personality, you will soon understand that once I discover something I love, I dive in feet first.  So, I instantly had to have all of the “gear” associated with dirt bike riding.  Blue jeans, hunting boots and a recycled motorcycle helmet would just not do.  Oh no, I had to look just like my new idols from team Honda, David Bailey and Rick Johnson. I spent all my hard earned money on a new full face helmet (yes it was very hot, but hey I looked good!), riding boots, riding pants and team Honda shirts.

Now that I looked the part, I was ready.  I bought every dirt bike magazine possible and learned everything there was to know about the sport.  Then I saw it, I begged my father to let me do it, it became my holy grail quest of all time.  The ENDURO race.  More specifically the 6-DAYS OF MICHIGAN.  One of the most challenging enduro races there is out there.  I was never allowed to even think of entering this and eventually it faded from my mind.  As I grew up, went to college and then moved away from home, I began to ride less and less as I left my dirt bike in Michigan and moved to Texas.

Fast forward to 2007 now close to 20 years later, I have my dirt bike once again.  After working on it and getting it running, I have the 1982 Honda CR250R up and running like a champ.  Of course my mom thought it would be a good idea to provide me with all of my old gear, needless to say none of it fit!  So of course I have a new outfit! So now my challenge is to find out where to ride this thing.  So my search began for local places to ride.

Since the movie the “bucket list” came out, everyone seems to be making a bucket list of their own, mostly things they would like to do and probably never will and some that you can get to before you kick the bucket.  So while looking for a place to ride in North Texas, I came across the “Red River Enduro Race”.  I immediately added it to the list, of course I was doing this!  This of course led to endless ridicule from my family and friends, telling me I was too old, I will kill myself, my bike won’t make it.  I was determined to prove them all wrong.  So I started to practice near my house on some trails and hill climbs.

Move forward to now, the date is November 9, 2008. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, not able to sleep at night in anticipation of the big race.  I knew this was going to be a good day, the date itself was positive, since my favorite number is 9 and that was the date! So I get up at 5:30am and drive to the Red River Cycle Park for registration and the 7am rider meeting.  First off, we could not have asked for better weather, although a bit crisp in the morning, it was 42 degrees at the time of the meeting.

Upon arrival, as I enter the park, I have to sign some waivers and promise not to sue if I get hurt.  As I am doing so, the guy asks me if I am entering the “vintage class”? and the group of them start laughing (again the butt of jokes) but he reassures me that 1982 was a great year for the CR.  All I can think is great, now I am being compared to how wine is judged!

So I registered and received my number – 67E. That means I was in the 67th group to leave. Another great omen, 67 was my investigator number and badge number when I was a PI, E my middle initial, the Gods are smiling on me now!

And so the race begins. The first 10-miles are considered the “warm-up” to get in the groove of things.  We start off and I am pumped, just like old times.  There are 5-of us in a row that starts, so one guy takes off and the other is with his son and tells me to go first.  I get a fast start, but the first guy is totally out of site he is hauling.  I have to keep reminding myself, stay calm, just a warm up no rush no points yet.  Not even into the 3rd turn, I stall.  Crap! So I pull over and everyone else goes by, I immediately start kicking the hell out of the bike to get it started, but you know when you are rushing and you temporarily stop thinking and panic…yeah that is me right now.  So I finally get started and the next group (68) is now on my butt and passing me.  Good grief, what do I have to do!  I slowly get into a grove, I am working the bike, down shifting and breaking, tight curves, open fields, I look up and I see two riders from my group (67).  YES! I am Rick Johnson again in my own mind, just like in the woods of Michigan again, talking to myself, calming myself down…reeling them in!

One turn at a time, I am slowly catching them.  Oh yeah, and group (69) just passed me.  My heart is racing I am getting pumped up (could it also be the mug of coffee or the 2-Full throttle energy drinks that I had before the race?) then I stall again. Many more expletives are spewing from my mouth like some nasty sailor you often hear about. Group (70) just passed me. Yes that is right, I have not passed a soul yet! Kick, kick, Kick, Breath, Breath, breath, Kick, kick, kick…off and running.  As I come around the corner, whoa, rider is down, now that is funny, I just passed group (68).  Not more than 2-minutes later, group (68) pass me again.  But I can see my boys ahead and I am gaining again! Hey I just passed group (69) another rider fell, and I am thinking, how did he do that? Nothing here to cause that he must really suck!  Ha Ha I am passing you suckers! Group (71) just passed me. Almost two minutes later group (69) passes me.

So I end up stalling about three more times and I finally do catch up with the two members of my group (67) and we finish the warm-up all together.  All in all, groups (68, 69, 70, 71) all passed me during this stage.  Not too bad for me and my vintage bike.  That was actually a lot harder that I thought it was going to be.  There were very few whoop-to-do and jumps, mostly all tight turns, up and down hills, through the woods and all sand.  Yes the dreaded sand, the hardest surface to ride on.  Not to mention that most of the trail looked like it was just cut a day or two prior! Several of the tight turns and trails were heavily rutted and if you didn’t hit the trail where you tire was to go, you would be screwed.  I am very proud of myself at this point, no falls, and the bike is actually running pretty good. While we are waiting to go again, the other guys in my line obviously have done this before, they have mileage trackers (digital) on their handle bars and mileage cheat sheet dials that look like rolodexes. So he leans over and tells me, “know is when the fun begins, it going to be balls to the wall from here on out” and I am thinking…what? That was pretty much BTTW for me already!

No worries, I have the kinks worked out, they are not going to get away from me this time, no stalling out, going to keep in a gear lower than needed. And we are on it!  The start is going good.  We have 8.5 minutes to get to the next check point without getting a penalty.  I am staying right behind the 12 yr old and his dad, because they are on my pace! Then the road drops about 20 feet, the boy is down and his dad is almost over his handle bars trying to stop and I am sliding with all breaks on and I am starting to go over my handle bars, they finally get out of the but the time I get to the bottom.  But guess what, you guessed it, I stalled that SOB! And to make matters worse as I was stopping, my front tire did the infamous slide out and the bike fell over (I was not moving and this does not count as a fall!) I pick the bike up and kick it (yeah that’s right, I am on 1-kick starts now!) and I am off, in no time I am caught up to my group, this is some very tight crap we are in, start and stop every two feet. I can’t believe this crap we are going through.  Then the next group is on my butt.  All I can hear is that damn loud KTM motor behind me.  Now I know what my mom felt like when I was behind her. I can hear him yelling at me, and I am like thinking to myself, “dude, where do you want me to go, I am trying to get out of your way.” And the more he yells, I faster I try to go and that is not a good thing, because that is how you crash.  Well we get bottle necked in the wicked sand and tight turn canyon and the guy yells again and I look at him and he is pointing to the rear tire.  I look down and yes…I am broke.  The rear arm that attaches to the rear break is dragging on the ground, which explains why it was so hard to stop going down that hill!

I pull over and now I am just plain mad and depressed at the same time.  What an idiot I am, I brought tools and some supplies, but they are back in the truck.  I am lost in the middle of the woods and parts are dragging.  I can’t fix this now, I wonder if I can make it to the next check point, no I better not try, I could hurt something.  And the way this is going, not having a rear break will not do well for me.  So I let about 6 groups go by and I limp up the trail and to add insult to injury, one of the idiots here try to pass me where there is no passing and he falls down, yes I ran into him! I did not fall but I looked at him and shook my head.  If he had said anything to me, I definitely would have gone psycho ninja on his butt as I was not in the mood for idiots.  Obviously he was not at the rider meeting when they said not to pass on the right; because us slow riders were instructed to get over the right and let people pass. So I laughed at him and then just drove on by as he couldn’t get his bike started! Served him right!

I made it back to camp after the nice officials told me how to take the service roads there and my group had already made the first check point and were gassing up. I was very disappointed that my very first encounter with the mythic enduro race ended up the way that it did. I was pretty much mad and pouting the rest of the day.  So I loaded up and went home.

I discovered a couple of things for the next time I do this, oh yeah, I need redemption, you can’t cross it off the bucket list if you don’t finish.  I cannot handle a DNF. I need friends to go with me, so that I have a group and I need to take parts.  Hey I get to buy more stuff now (accessories).  I also have to say that with this experience I have now decided that the 2-stroke engine is defiantly for motocross and I need a 4-stroke dirt bike to compete in the next enduro.  EBay here I come!