Number 1 item on my bucket list was always to compete and finish a desert race on a bike, so I entered this years Vegas to Reno, the longest off road race in the US. It was 534 miles of the nastiest terrain I have ever ridden. I built my 2012 CRF450X bike up for the race with the help from Johnny Campbell Racing who were more than happy to advise me on how to set the bike up, and all the parts I'll need to buy for it.
My goal was to do the race in 14 hours, averaging just under 40 mph. I did it in 24 hours, 42 minutes, 11 seconds. I was physically prepared, been conditioning and training, was in the best physical shape of my life since my teenage years. I was NOT prepared for the mental factor of night racing (I'll get to that later). My only goal was to simply finish the race. If I beat any other riders, then that is just extra credit.
My friends went so far as to get motocross legend Ricky Johnson to send me some support as he was doing the race in a buggy.
The race started in Beatty, NV. First bikes left the line at 545 AM, I left a little bit after 6 AM in the Ironman Amateur class, race number 075.
The first 280 miles were an absolute blast to race. Lots of wide open, very fast areas that you can really wind the bike out and hit rolling hills to catch some air off of. Seeing photographers coming up also makes you want to go faster. At 280 miles in we were at pit 8, this was the first time I actually took a break, a breather, got some protein bars in my system.
My wife took care of me, my good friend Jeff Christiansen took care of my bike. Best way to describe Jeff is he is a 60 year old man with a 22 year old spirit and lifestyle. I'm convinced Patrick Swayze's role in Point Break was based off of Jeff.
Up until then it was just gas and water at each pit, I didn't want to slow down I was having so much fun. I actually over-hydrated myself and had to piss so bad, but didn't want to stop because everyone was still clustered up early on. So I ended up peeing in my rider gear going about 70 MPH down a dusty road standing up, that was a whole new experience for me. By this point I was feeling good. I had found my groove and was pacing myself to finish in about 16 hours if I could keep going at the same average speeds. This was the pit we also got word that some of the trucks were getting close, Jason Voss was about 30-45 minutes behind us.
Voss passed me around race mile 300, and I didn't see another truck or class 1 buggy for at least a half hour, that's how big of a lead that guy had on everyone.
My next stop was at pit 10, race mile 334. This was the start of the serious silt beds. As I took off I could hear the thunder from A LOT of trucks and buggies coming up behind me. They were spaced out just enough to where I couldn't ride the silt beds because they would run me over. Their 37" tall tires made ruts so deep in the silt that your handlebars touch the sides of the race course. Myself and 2 other bikes ended up making our own path about 10 feet to the side of the course just so we could continue on. It was that or sit there and wait for 2 hours to let all the trucks go by.
Pit 12, 387 miles in, was when the sun went down, and the first real problem with my bike developed. The front forks damn near stopped working, felt like they only had 1 inch of travel. My arms took a beating to the point where I thought they were broken.I tried to get some food in my stomach but I could barely chew it, and it didn't even stay down. Puked it right back up. I knew this was going to be a tough section because I could see the buggies and trucks going slow up the mountain, not to mention it was pitch black. The first 6 miles after pit 12 was an uphill mountain climb of nothing but rocks. Since the trucks had already been through it, it was nothing but whooped out rock sections. It took me an hour to go that 6 miles to the top.
Gotta love LED headlights
I reached pit 13 around 1am, 431 miles in. Baja Pits gave me some popsicles to eat, and it was the most relieving meal I had the whole race. This was the part where the mental factor really took it's toll. I was riding for hours on end in the darkest of night without seeing another racer, either off to the side or someone passing me, and I began hallucinating. Every cactus I saw looked like a person. I constantly thought I saw lights and heard engines coming up behind me. Was looking over my shoulder every 2 minutes, at least. I'd stop, shut the bike off, and realize it was dead silent, not one person was around me for a long distance. This made me ride smarter. The fear of getting hurt in the middle of no where and not knowing how long help could be away. Also rabbits and coyotes LOVE bright lights. They run out in the middle of the course, do a 360, then run off the course. There were A LOT that did not make it back to the side of the course due to the trophy trucks.
By pit 14, 457 miles in, I was literally blowing bubbles and not making sense when I talked. My hands and arms were damn near completely numb. My chase crew, comprised of my wife and my friend Jeff (Jeff has more experience in Baja and desert racing than almost anyone I know), were talking me up, keeping my head straight. I later found out that they wished I had quit at this point because I was so out of it. They told me after as well that they watched 5 other bikes call it quits at pit 14 as well. My adrenaline was still pumping and I was still going, and still hallucinating.
Pit 15, last pit, came and went with a splash of gas and some more water, I was determined to hit the finish line and ride under the Red Bull arch.
They warned us the day before that the first and last 20 miles are a shit show, due to being washed out from the rain storms. I didn't think the first 20 were all that bad, the last 20 damn near killed me. It was 20 miles of 1st gear riding through a damn boulder field. I had to stop, look at the rocks and plan a route through them, and it was still pitch black during this. I finally made it through without falling, and met my wife and Jeff at the finish line. I was so exhausted they had to help me off the bike. I couldn't even take my gear off, they had to do it for me. I was told that I was the last bike on the course, not another bike was left out there. When Casey Folks handed me that finishers pin and congratulated me, I started to tear up, because I now knew I had done what most thought was impossible. I had just finished the longest off road race in the US. I finished 4th in class out of 14 riders (only 4 finished), 73rd for the bikes, quads, UTVs out 126 (only 73 finished). The next bike in front of me finished nearly 7 hours earlier.
Here's some video from the first part of the race
Pre race jitters talking a million words a minute
First 2 hours or so of the course