Last Sunday I turned 41 which means I am 2 years into my 5-year plan. So, how is my progress?
I constantly amaze myself at how little I knew when I got started. The thing that surprised me the most was just how much more difficult enduro racing is than I expected. The courses used for enduros (at least in New England) are much more difficult than the typical “Turkey Run” trail rides. To be fair most of the trails don’t have too many sections that I can’t get through, it is just hard to get through them with any speed and it takes a lot out of me physically. This is turning out to be a great way to prepare, if I can get to where I can easily finish most enduro’s that I enter and still feel like I could do it again the next day I will have a better chance of surviving the physical demands of the Dakar.
I have had the opportunity to meet the Rauseo brothers David and Charlie. They entered and completed the Dakar in 2005. David finished it with a broken leg! Charlie now runs Rally Pan Am who supports pro Dakar rider Jonah Street and also does support for hire for amateurs like me. Both have said top fitness is likely the most important aspect to having a chance at finishing Dakar. Also as Charlie puts it you need to be more comfortable on a bike than walking.
My fitness training routine has been somewhat inconsistent. When I first announced this plan this was top of the list and I did a very good job of getting into better shape. I did physical therapy for my bad knee and kept up with the exercises. I dropped about 15 pounds at the best point. Due mostly to my fitness I was able to survive a few of my first trail rides even with poor bike skills and riding a way too heavy DRZ400. Most importantly I was able to survive riding nearly 500 miles in around 17 hours in the Paris 2 Dacre.
Then, around mid year of last summer I was riding so much that I decided that was my workout. That wasn’t a really bad plan but the problem was it got me out of the routine and once winter came I didn’t get back into it.
When riding season came this spring I wasn’t nearly at the same fitness level. For the first few rides I actually rode about the same even though I was on my much lighter WR250 and now have started to develop some actual riding skills. The lack of fitness pretty much offset that. To be honest I was getting fairly frustrated since I didn’t feel like my riding was improving. It really wasn’t until late summer that I honestly started feeling like my riding was really improving. I occasionally ride with a few other MVTR members and while I certainly am still slower than the fast guys I am no longer always the tail of the pack.
While trail riding and enduro riding is great for basic bike skills and amazing for getting into shape it doesn’t do much about high speed riding. All through last summer I still felt a little nervous with fast corners on loose gravel/dirt roads. Obviously this is something critical for a 2-week long 500 or so mile per day rally race.
This year on the weekend prior to Memorial Day, a bunch of us did some riding in Vermont, then on Memorial Day weekend up to Ontario. With all the gravel riding it finally just clicked. My brain finally made the connection between the skills I started to pick up when ice racing and realized they applied directly to gravel. Once again, I am certainly not the fastest guy but the important thing is I am comfortable.
This gave me the confidence to try RallyMoto racing which gave me the opportunity to ride all-out on closed gravel roads. In Rally West Virgina I managed a 4th (out of 8) and in Black River Stages a 6th (one again out of 8). Now, in both of these there was at least 1 DNF but I wasn’t the slowest and it was great experience and I hope to improve through next year.
So where does this mean I am with respect to the Dakar in 2015. To be honest I have a LONG way to go and I have to admit to myself the possibility that it will take longer. There is a strong possibility that I will end up doing a smaller rally such as Rallye du Maroc (Rally Morocco) in 2015 and the Dakar one or two years after that.
To keep my progress I need to have a plan for the next year or so. One thing that I need to re-focus on is fitness. I have started getting back into a light routine already during the week and am still riding most weekends. Once the riding season wraps up (which essentially means this weekend) I am going to step up the workouts. I want to be in shape to finish most if not all of the enduro races I enter next year. I don’t care if I am still slow as long as I can keep my regular pace throughout the race.
I plan on riding all of the non-tarmac RallyMoto races this year (Sandblast, Rally WV, Black River Stages) and hopefully shooting for a good overall place in the championship.
I really need to try some desert riding. I had planned on doing a Rally training class that Charlie Rauseo holds but is taking some well-deserved time off from running the rally training to spend with his family. So I had to do a little re-planning and I found “Baja Bound” who does off-road motorcycle tours in Baja. I won’t get the rally specific training, but will be a fun way to experience desert riding.
Then, I need to step up my racing experience. I have been looking at the Vegas to Reno race for a while. Granted this is an all-out one day point to point race and not a multi day rally but should still be great Dakar prep. The other nice thing about this is Baja Bound will rent a bike and provide support for the race. That simplifies the logistics significantly. I am going to consider it for 2012 but certainly by 2013 this is in the plan.
So, appears I have rambled on for over 1000 words already. Now I need to go pack up the van to go enduro racing tomorrow!