Think Daily Messages

December 5, 2016

#10 The Dragons Catch Up

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

The El Rosario Bridge, where I last saw my van, was at mile 250. I was almost 1/3 done! On the course, there are markers every 5 miles telling you the mileage. You bet I’d be doing some math in my helmet. What percentage done I was, what percentage until I saw my van again.  

I pulled up on a motorcycle that had just crashed in front of me – 211x. He was standing on one leg next to his bike holding it up. “Are you ok?” I asked. He just pointed down to his knee. He couldn’t put weight on it. “Are you ok?” I yelled over my engine again. We both had mirrored goggles on and couldn’t see each other’s eyes. He just pointed down. He didn’t speak English. There were riders from 18 countries. I saw his shifter was bent and pointing straight out from his bike. There was nothing I could do. I told him I’d report it at the next pit where they had radios to get the word out to his crew.

Ahead, Tanner was battling through his own race. He battled the dust, the terrain, other riders, and pain – especially in his hands. He went off course a bit, and it almost ended his race in disaster. He was approaching a drop in elevation, and skidded to a stop to find it was eight feet straight down. It was the wall of a wash, or dried riverbed. I saw this on the helmet camera footage later. He stopped 12” from the edge. In pre-running, I dropped off a five-foot cliff and saved a crash, but an eight-foot drop when you are slowing down would likely have you landing on your head and the bike right behind to pile drive you into the hot sand.

My leg was another short one – 42 miles. The intervals to see your crew during the race are determined by where the course crosses or touches a paved road. There are only a few paved roads in Baja – one on the Pacific side (Route 1), one on the Sea of Cortez side (Route 5), and one across the middle connecting them (Route 3). If you got to see your crew, you take the opportunity.

There was a part of the course called the “bow tie.” The course came into a point and turned 90 degrees right. It made a big 100 mile long loop and came back into the same point, as if the course would cross itself, but instead turned right without crossing. It made the shape of a bowtie, or like the waist of an hourglass. I got to the bowtie where the Baja pit was. The next 6 miles were fun, easy sweeping roads. I’d love to make miles that don’t beat me up. It was a relief from some of the silt and terrain that was behind me. Unfortunately, I was beginning to realize I had a problem. My neck was not just sore. It was… I tried to ignore it.

I pulled out near the road at mile 292, happy again to see my crew so soon. They massaged my neck, shoulders and arms. It felt great. I knew this was making a big difference. When you stay in the same position with strenuous limited range of motion, eventually you lock up in pain. These massages were helping a lot.

The next leg would be the hardest for me. 125 miles of mostly rocks. It would get dark. It would take five hours or more. Javier and Brian mounted the dual LED headlights on the bike and battery back-up lights on my helmet.  Wires came off my helmet to the battery packs in my backpack. I put flashlights in my pack and layered up for the colder temperatures that come as soon as the sun goes down. I had to eat, and I choked down more than I really wanted, because I knew I’d need the calories.

A helicopter approached. Bop bop bop bop. The crew next to us had the Trophy Truck radio communication blasting through speakers. When the truck navigator talked, you could hear the roar of the truck engine. The dragons were coming now. The race was about to change again.

A Trophy Truck roared out of the desert right past us, filling the air with violence and dust. Another followed a minute later. These were the overall race leaders, and helicopters covering the action chased their dust trails through the desert to follow it. By the time I got going again, two more trucks came by, with all the mayhem they produce. “That’s four trucks you won’t have to worry about,” Ralph said. He was right. Only 130 left to pass me. Gulp.

I thanked my crew, and remounted. I knew this leg would bring “the wall.”

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December 2, 2016

#9 Scorched Earth / "Get to"

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

I pulled into the van four minutes after the impact. It had been 122 miles since I saw them last. I was reeling from the non-crash. I told them what happened, still upset about it. After observing me for a few minutes, my friends could tell I was in shock. Kevin had my wife Wendy on FaceTime, which was odd as I didn’t think there was cell service here. It brightened my spirits to see her face. 

While I ate something, two guys dug into my trap muscle, neck and forearms. It felt great unless they touched the wrong spot in my neck. When I ride long distances, my right trap muscle locks up and really starts hurting.  My chiropractor told me why. There is a nerve that goes from your little fingers up to your elbow, through your trap and into your neck and spine. When your hand is in distress, the trap protests, too. He said by digging in there you can release it. It worked. 

Franz told me I was only 10 minutes behind my estimate which would have me finishing in 32 1/2 hours. The time limit was 36 hours, so I had a 3 1/2 hour cushion. I felt pretty good about that. In 15 short minutes, I was on the bike again. The next leg was short. I’d see the van again in just 39 miles. I like that kind of race. 120 miles on your own is a long way; too long. Unfortunately, I’d have to do this one more time, at night, on the toughest part of the course.

I’ll have to deal with that later. Now it was down the pavement a few miles, left into the desert for a 12 mile pennant pattern. Not too bad. Back out on the pavement, turn south, 10 miles, and right into the desert where I lost Tanner when his lights went out while pre-running. A sand wash that was a small canyon filled with rocks took a lot of work. You try to avoid all the big rocks (like basketballs or larger) in favor of riding on the ones that were smaller.  

Mercifully, it finally ended and now I was in deep sand, much of it whooped out (like waves on an ocean). My friends waited for me, and walked out onto the course. They had trouble just walking in the deep sand and silt. “Scorched earth” was the term they came back to the van with.

Tanner and I agreed that there must be more people watching this live than attend the Superbowl. 855 miles of people peppered here and there, with small crowds gathered near populated areas. Add it all up and it’s a lot of people. Baja is the off-road racing capital of the world. That’s how these courses, roads and paths get all beat up and whooped out. Lots of racing and there is nobody to groom them in the middle of nowhere.  

I made it to the rendezvous point at the El Rosario bridge. It was nice to see my team just 1 hour since I saw them last. If I could do this the rest of the race, it would help dramatically. The team said I looked better than the last stop. I drank some more Chia as Javier changed my air filter, and checked the bike over.  

“What’s the math, Trevor?” Trevor was Franz’s 20 year old son. He was into robotics, a whiz kid, so I figured he’d be the best one of us to calculate how long it would take me to finish at each stop. “At the rate you are going, you will finish this race in 27 hours,” he said. I was so happy to hear that. I must have taken shorter breaks than I figured I would. New life came into me.

There were kids hanging around us at this stop. About 9 of them, 7-13 years old. They asked us for stickers. My pack had little pockets in the front of the straps just big enough for our team stickers. I filled these pockets with stickers so I could reach them without taking my pack off. I gave each one a sticker, making a little game out of it. My team told me later that when they saw me do that, they knew I was ok, and their spirits were lifted.  

Some of the well wishers, some of you, said “have fun.” Another message I wrote on my gas tank was “love riding,” and “get to.” I do love riding dirt bikes. I have been doing it for 20 years twice a week unless the ground was frozen. The Baja 1000 was my chance to do it all day – and all night – and all day again! What’s not to like? I don’t have to do this, I “get to” do this.

A sticker on my bike just under the seat read “glad to be here,” a message Blue Angels pilot John Foley gave us, talking about debriefing after flights. When you say “glad to be here,” ultimately you are acknowledging that it is a privilege and you are expressing gratitude.

We should be grateful. Not only for the good things that happened in our lives, but for the suffering, too. Out of suffering comes a wiser, stronger, more appreciative version of ourselves. Our failures are the stepping stones to get somewhere better. And we should be grateful for all the things that DIDN’T happen to us. When you think about all the tragedies that could have happened but didn’t, it’s easy to feel lucky.

It was about 2:00 pm. I thanked my friends and crew, and took off up the wash, feeling lucky.

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December 1, 2016

#8 Trouble

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

It took 3 1/2 hours to run this section. It seemed like forever. At mile 209 it was almost over – the section, and my race.

Booby traps are known by racers in Baja. What is a booby trap? It’s an unexpected man-made obstacle designed to create drama for the cameras and spectators. Specifically, it’s designed to create a crash.  

Most spectators are race fans and want you to succeed. They will assist any way they can. But some think seeing a crash is entertainment. When we see NASCAR or Olympic highlight reels, they always feature crashes and failure. Wide World of Sports – “the agony of defeat.” I guess we all find it fascinating.  

Some booby traps are obvious. A man-made jump with spectators on the left and right holding cameras and phones. When I saw one, I’d always slow down and go around, to the crowd’s disappointment. Sometimes I’d see it was a legitimate jump – shaped well that may have been fun to hit. In my native dirt bike sport of motocross, I hit 23 jumps per lap on my own track – the longest one being 90 feet. Jumps are not the problem.  

Our Baja race bikes had suspension designed to suck up the bumps, not jump off them. The biggest problem, however, was what was on the other side of these ramps. Sometimes nothing. Sometimes the pit where they got the dirt from. Sometimes worse – rocks, big bumps, or who knows what.

Ahead there was an elevation change – a rise. The course was wide there, not funneling racers to any particular spot. I was right, and slowed from fairly high speed to about 25 mph as I went up the rise because I couldn’t see what was on the other side. As I came up I could see more. It happened so fast… I remember a pit of water and it was farther than my bike would clear at that speed. The other side was fairly abrupt. I yelled out audibly as I do when I know I’m going to crash.

I pulled the front end up to my chest to try to get the front wheel to clear the pit. I thought it would not and I’d cartwheel the bike and drill myself into the ground. The front wheel hit the opposite edge of the pit hard, and my body slammed forward. My head whipped forward so far I was looking at my own headlight.  My left wrist rolled back at impact and hyper-extended the tendons from hand to forearm, and I took the GPS in the sternum. I rolled it on the front wheel not knowing if I was going over the bars, but I managed to save it. I unexpectedly went from maybe 30 mph to zero in about 12 feet. I heard audible gasps and yells from the crowd as I piled in. 

All of a sudden, things changed. I looked around at the people near the track, and started yelling at them. Something about not warning riders of the hazard so they could be entertained…even if they didn’t know English, I think they got my point.  

I had put so much effort into this quest, those people had no idea, and it would be a shame for it to be over like this. Anyway, I saved it. I thought I’d be ok. I restarted my stalled bike and rode away, not knowing the damage that was done.

I’d know it soon enough…

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November 30, 2016

#7 Dreams require work

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

My hands started aching. I expected this, and I tried to save my right hand especially. This one you could never take off the throttle. For 30 hours or more, it had to clutch a grip that was attached to the end of a handlebar that would pull that hand when you accelerated or went uphill, push that hand when you braked or went downhill, and constantly vibrated it, often violently over rough terrain.

I knew my hands were the part of my body that would fail first. So we used foam grips, and a neoprene palm liner under our gloves to try to save them.

I emerged from the first 80 miles onto Rt. 1, and turned south 8 miles to El Rosario where my first van stop was. My crew held the big sign that read “714x.” A welcome sight.

After about 2 1/2 hours, I was 10 minutes behind my estimate of where I’d be. But I attributed that to the severity of the dust, which I did not account for. “Where’s Tanner?” I’d always ask when I saw my crew. He was 25 minutes ahead of me. Perfect.

My friends were getting their first taste of what this race adventure chase was really all about. They were excited to do anything they could to help. And they were a huge help. I looked forward to seeing them at each stop, and they looked forward to seeing me after sometimes interminable waiting, and wondering if something bad happened.

Trevor changed my helmet camera battery and memory card, and gave me clean goggles. Ralph was struck by how coated in dust I was. I would not see the van again for 122 miles – a long way. There was only one section between van stops longer – 125 miles. But that was later. One leg at a time.

My only concern was to get to the next place I had to be – the physical checkpoint one mile away. Then I’d have to stop at the Baja pit to get fuel a few miles after that. Then the next Baja pit. Then the next one, and then the van again.  

To remember what my goal was, I had written the mile marker numbers on white tape on my gas tank.  Black ink was fuel stops at Baja Pits. Blue was physical checkpoints, and red was the beloved van stops where I could see my crew, and get encouragement and food.

I sped away, weaving in and out of local traffic on the paved road for 1/4 mile. The roads are still open. The locals may or may not have any idea there was a cross-country race going on, and you had to be hyper vigilant around civilian vehicles.

Tanner pulled into a Baja pit and was one of three Ironmen side by side waiting for fuel at the same time. The winner and the second place finisher got served first. They fueled Tanner, but ran out of fuel from their quick fill jug. Tanner had to tell them “More!” They came with another jug with just a little in it. Still not full. The leaders sped away. “More!”  

You are responsible for how full your tank is. When they fill your tank, you have to look and make sure you are full. They had to run back to the drums and get another jug. Finally he was full, and sped away after the leaders.

At mile 150, Tanner passed 702x, and was in second place. Go Tanner!

This second section took us down along the Pacific Ocean. Blue water broke to snow white waves on our right – but you couldn’t look. Rocks appeared that could deflect your front wheel sideways and take you down at any moment, and you had to pay attention at every second.

The course took us on a rocky beach where there was only smooth round rocks the size of softballs to ride on – whooped out no less.  

There would be deep silt beds, deep silt uphills, rocky uphills, sandy washes, some peppered with rocks, dark gray volcanic rocks, and out onto a beach with pure white sand, dry and loose, where your wheels would sink a foot deep. A geological tour of the Baja California peninsula.

Knowing I was going to hit “The Wall,” I covered the left and right of my gas tank with white tape and wrote words on it, where I could see them while riding. These words could remind me of ideas, and thoughts to motivate me.  

One word I wrote was “Flow.” In the book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow describes a state of optimal performance that some of us refer to as “the Zone.”  Unconscious high performance. The more I could lose myself in the Zone, the better. It was helpful early in the race, but later when you are severely distracted by pain, it would be very difficult.

When we pre-ran this section, there were three water crossings. Water is very scarce in the Baja desert, but this section was along the ocean – sometimes very close. The tides brought water into spots. One water crossing was 25 feet across, 20” deep, and on the other side the bank was straight up 24”. I didn’t know if we could make it up the bank. I recalled our extensive water crossings in South Africa where we rode 200 feet in 24” deep water successfully. But those exits were gradual.  

I went for it while Tanner watched me. I got the front wheel up the opposite bank, but the back wheel just spun and dug in, leaving the bike almost vertical – and stuck.  I was soaked by my own roost. A local with an ATV tied a rope to my forks and helped pull me out. I gave him a few dollars, which he didn’t want to accept at first. Tanner used the slot I made in the bank to get out of the water with great effort.

I was worried about this crossing now during the race. If I fell over in the water, my boots would fill up and my feet would be soaked for nearly 700 more miles. That would be a huge problem. At mile 165, I was relieved to see they piped it and covered it over with dirt. Why? Not to help us. A few UTV’s (side by side vehicles) and buggies got stuck there.

I had been riding for over 6 hours now with just a 10 minute break. I was around mile 200. The fun was well over, and things were starting to hurt – hands and knees in particular.

It’s easy to say we are going to do something. It’s fun making plans and telling everyone how you are going for something. Actually doing it is something else. But chasing big goals always breaks down to hard work and sacrifice. Sometimes suffering and pain are involved – physical or emotional. Keeping it all together when it gets tough, and being able to make the right calls under stress is important to be able to keep going.

Thinking about how hard it is, or how hard it will be, doesn’t help. Often “hard” is what happens compared to what you thought would happen. I expected pain, so I wasn’t surprised when it came. There is a time to be an optimist, and a time to be real.

Reality was starting to kick my butt…

 

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November 29, 2016

#6 The journey of 1000 miles…

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

A few years ago, just two blocks from the start, a buggy blew a turn and ran into the crowd of spectators, knocking them down like bowling pins. This year, they put a 37 mph speed limit for the first eight blocks out of the start. It felt like slow motion.

Once I got past that, I sped up. I wanted to stay in control and not make mistakes. Last year, a motorcycle had a huge dramatic crash just four blocks from the start. That’s what happens when you’re all amped up.

I sped up in the wash with the city street bridges passing overhead. Fans lined the course, even now, at 6:23 am. I was calm. My strategy was to go smooth and as fast as I could without burning too much energy. Above all else, don’t break the bike and don’t get hurt. It was an “Energizer Bunny” approach.

I popped up out of the wash onto city streets again. Left, five blocks, right, a few left forks and then the road opened up to a highway under construction. Hold the throttle wide open. 90 mph wind wants to blow you off the bike. Course turns to dirt. Occasional surprise bump at high speed – be careful.  

I heard a bike coming up behind me at mile 9. I expected Tanner to pass me. I expected him to win this race. He did, too. Tanner has the riding skills, the fitness, and the determination to do it. We just didn’t know what the other guys were made of. We knew there were guys who were tough as hell – but could they ride? And we knew there were guys that could ride really fast – but for how long? Tanner was the whole package. And if I could finish, I could be on the podium, because historically only 2-3 guys even finish.

A KTM came past me on my left. Not Tanner. Huh? Someone passed Tanner already? Later I’d learn that this guy totally ignored the speed limit at the start and blew by Tanner at twice his speed. We also found out that his tracker was not working until the last 90 miles of the course, so he never got penalized for it. Controversy…

I heard another bike coming up. I looked over and it was Tanner. He looked at me. I said silently, “Go Tanner.  Good luck, son. I’ll watch your back, and I’ll see you at the finish line.”

I knew if he just did what he does, he would do well. He didn’t have to go and try to be a hero. He just has to be Tanner today. He is a calm strategist. He won’t make rookie mistakes.

I followed Tanner for a mile or so, but when we pulled into the hills, he blinded me with dust. My first taste of a huge factor in the race. The desert is parched each day with sun. The soil has zero percent moisture content. They do get rain at some time of the year, but it was far away from November. As vehicle wheels travel on the soil that fills the spaces between the rocks, it pulverizes it to weightless flour. When a vehicle, even one as small as a motorcycle, passes over it, the dust leaps into the air, and is in no hurry to end its flight. The particles are so small, they stay in suspension in the air for an eternity.

Wind helps. But there was no wind today in the morning, no wind in low areas, and no wind at night. Sunlight or headlights hitting the dust makes the dust glow like a back-lit shade being pulled down in front of you. When I couldn’t see, I had to back off. At times, I could not see 10 feet in front of me. I had to nearly stop many times.

Other guys were braver than I. They charged into my dust and would pass me. That made it worse for me with a whole new generation of dust to deal with. I thought these guys would eventually pay for their risks. In life, and in a race, you don’t follow reckless people.

In front of me somewhere, Tanner was making some passes. The field of motorcycles was closer now, in this first 88 mile section, than it would ever be. We’d all spread out, and later in the race, you may go for two hours without seeing another motorcycle.

The course wound up into the mountains. The steep inclines were filled with rocks and the silt was very deep. Wherever pre-running trophy trucks got on the gas – coming out of a turn or going up a hill, their wheels would grind the soil into silt deeper and deeper. Mile 55 to mile 80 were very tough.

I got to a switchback section where the locals pointed you down a very steep hill and back up another steep one on the other side. A shortcut you could take to save a few seconds. Last year I didn’t go for this shortcut – too risky. It looked like most vehicles took it due to the condition of the course, so I went for it. It was so steep down that there were rain ruts like wavy slots heading downward. One grabbed my front wheel tight, and I felt the rear wheel coming up…then the rut released my front wheel. Whew – that was close.

The entire course is an exercise in accident avoidance. Disaster awaits nearly every few seconds. The only way to be safe was to stop and get off the course. If you’re moving, hazards come at you like they were on a conveyor belt, and the faster you went, the faster they were delivered to you.

Small goals – small problems. Big goals – big problems, and lots of them.

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November 28, 2016

#5 Time to Perform

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

I woke up at 3:30am, a half hour before my alarm was set. I couldn’t squeeze the extra half hour of sleep in, but I just laid there, conscious, unmoving. At 4, we both got up. All our gear was laid out, and we dressed quickly.  Then we had to eat. I’m never hungry early in the morning, but I knew I needed to get some food down. An apple, a banana, and an avocado.

We went to the lobby and met our friends. Then we went outside into the cold night where the mechanics had the bikes ready to go. Pack, helmet, neck brace, gloves, goggles. Tanner and I rode our shiny clean race bikes to staging before the starting line.

Tanner’s GPS was displaying upside down. Uh-oh. Did we have time to dive into the menus and figure out how to fix it? Yes. Get heart rate back down.

They lined all the Ironmen up. I was fourth in line, and Tanner was fifth.

Was I supposed to be here? Was I good enough? Was I ready? At 52, I’d be the oldest rider to ever finish the Ironman class. Maybe the oldest to start. Next to me was Jeff Benrud. He crossed the finish line first last year, but was penalized for missing checkpoints and got second. Jeff was a Special Forces soldier. He was the one who found Saddam Hussein in his underground bunker. No joke. Now he trains Delta Force military personnel to drive motorcycles and other vehicles fast off road.

I noticed Jeff had a hose coming out of his pants above his boot. A catheter. He wouldn’t have to stop to urinate, saving time. He’s in it to win it. Serious business.

Ironman was filled with elite athletes. The best endurance riders in the world. Nobody else would be crazy enough to enter. The immense challenge was no secret.

I think if we have a desire, we can do incredible things. Sure there are limits. I could never be the next Michael Jordan – I’m not tall enough, talented enough, and I’m too old to start learning how to play well. But if we put ourselves in the spheres of the world we belong in, and we have a burning desire, we can do more than most of us believe we can. We define what is possible for us.  If we believe we can, most often we are right.  Maybe our time table will be off, but we can get there if we don’t give up. And as the old saying goes, if we shoot for the moon and miss, at least we will land among the stars.

The Chaplin came over and prayed with me. Then he prayed with Tanner and Chad. It felt like the right thing to do right now. Like it needed to be done – now.

My friends were very nervous standing nearby. Many months of preparation on the part of hundreds of people were necessary to field the 11 Ironman motorcycles lined up right here, right now. I was calm. I knew it was a long race, and I’d have plenty of time to set my pace. It didn’t matter much what happened off the start, so long as you didn’t crash out. The middle and finish was going to matter most.

The lower edge of the deep purple sky began to turn dark blue, and then orange.  

Ready?

What if I fail? That is the wrong question. What if I succeed? That is the right question.

I pulled up onto the podium with its bridge spanning the stage. A huge red sign above me read “Baja 1000.” I pulled forward. The smell of exhaust and the rap of high performance engines filled the air. Fans were 10 deep to the left and right. An official marked my engine and frame with a unique mark (to ensure you don’t swap bikes).  I pulled forward. I looked back at my son.

Ready?  

The first Ironman got the green flag and spun his tire getting off the line. I pulled forward. Every 30 seconds they let another bike go. I looked back again. Here we go son…

Jeff sped off in front of me. I pulled forward. The green flag dropped in front of me to hold me. 20 seconds passed and an official counted down with his fingers – 10, 9, 8…2, 1. The green flag lifted. I let the clutch out.

Only 855 miles to go.

 

 

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November 25, 2016

#4 Talk to Yourself

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

It’s Thursday, November 17, 2016. One day until go time.

Today, we packed our packs we’d carry with us during the race. Hydration bladders with water and electrolyte powder added. Multi-tool, knife, wire cutters, wire ties and tape. A small tool kit, flashlights, headlamp, and battery back-up lights that attach to your helmet like two Mickey Mouse ears. Energy gels, Clif bars, a rag, extra goggles; tinted for day, and clear for night. And of course, race team stickers – highly collectible in Baja, even by the military at checkpoints.

We packed a race bag to be kept in the truck with extra jackets and warm shirts to layer up when night came.

We put reflectors all over us. I went nuts and put them on the back of my helmet, boots, inside the rear fender of my bike, on my pack, my riding jacket and neck brace. I did not want to get run over by a trophy truck. It has happened too often here. I wanted to reflect their billion candle power lights back at them through the dust.

Then we went to the grocery store. My wife Wendy, and then Tanner, taught me how to eat. While I’m not perfect, I have changed my diet a lot. While Tanner had his own ideas, I bought bananas, apples, ham and bread, and something Tanner turned me on to – Chia.  

After listening to the book “Born to Run,” we learned about the Tara Humara, an indigenous people in the remote mountains in Mexico, who were long distance runners. They could run more than 100 miles. I heard much farther than that. What did they drink before this? Chia. You mix Chia seeds in water and add some lime juice and maybe a bit of sugar for taste. The seeds expand and look and feel like frog eggs in your mouth. You get used to it. Chia is rich in slow burning fat (calories). You can eat and drink at the same time. It’s like a natural Red Bull, without the roller coaster. I prepared three bottles for the race, and Tanner prepared four.

At 7pm, we went to the mandatory drivers/riders meeting. In this race, there are various classes of vehicles.  Besides motorcycles, there are different types of four wheeled vehicles. Trophy Trucks are at the top of the food chain. They cost a million dollars to build from scratch. 800 horsepower, four feet of suspension travel for huge tires – they can do 100 mph over rocks and rough terrain – and they do. Truly impressive – and scary as hell for motorcyclists. These guys don’t play around.

Then there are multiple classes of buggies. Don’t let the cute name fool you. Buggies are two-wheel-drive versions of trophy trucks, and nearly as capable. Behind that are a variety of other four-wheeled desert racing machines. This year more than ever, I realized this race was all about the trucks. The motorcycles are an after thought. That’s why they don’t do the safe thing and let the motorcycles race the day before the trucks. Because the spectators come for the trucks. That’s why they start us at 6am and the trucks at 10am. The spectators will come out more at 10am.

The trucks are faster and catch up to the bikes midway through. This means that 150 trucks have to come through 100 motorcycles. That is a recipe for disaster. The riders meeting was all about “safety.” The conversation was all about the motorcycles getting out of the way of the trucks in time so they don’t get run over, and don’t hold up the trucks. God forbid the truck should lose a few seconds to give a bike a chance. No admonishing the truck drivers to be careful of motorcycles. I was angry.

They did start using a tracker system called the “Stella” system this year. This is a box that is bolted to your handlebars next to your GPS. The Stella allows the race organizers to track your every move on GPS to catch cheaters, making sure you don’t cut the course and assessing penalties if you do such that it is not worth it.  Another thing it does is really cool. If a truck comes up behind you and he sees that a bike is ahead, he can press a button and “light you up.”  Your Stella tracker will light up bright blue and a siren goes off to tell you to get out of the way before you get run over. It sounds great. Now let’s see how they work in real life.

After the meeting, we needed to sleep. That, of course, was a problem. How could you sleep knowing you had to wake up at 4am for a race that could last 36 hours? Sleep under pressure! I managed to get some sleep, but keeping my mind off the race was not easy.

Controlling your thoughts and emotions is really important in all areas of life. If we think about failing, or how hard things will be, or that we aren’t good enough – then that becomes our reality. Of course, you have to prepare because that is where confidence comes from – preparation. But you simply must control your inner dialogue. Your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is real or what is imagined. It acts on the messages it gets.  

Let’s say you are talking yourself down and saying you can’t do something. And let’s say it is not true – you really can do it. Your subconscious hears the message and makes it come true. You will take yourself out of the game, or perform badly to validate what you already said was true.

Pay attention to your self-talk. Then change it. Even if you don’t believe it at first. Keep talking positive to yourself.  

I laid in bed at the San Nicolas hotel hours before the most difficult race in the world, telling myself I could do it – and that I would not stop until I saw the finish line. How hard could it be? If anyone could do it, I could…I got this……zzzzzzzzz.

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November 23, 2016

#3 Preparing to Win

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

With the race starting at dawn on Friday, we had a busy Wednesday preparing.  We officially registered for the race and got our wristbands with our medical information on them.  Then we had to pre-run from the start to mile 38.  They had just released the GPS coordinates for that part of the course that morning.  This is so the locals in the more populated area near the start aren’t endangered by pre-running trophy trucks for a month before the race.  

 

Then we’d meet our race bikes for the first time.  They were built for this race for us in California by our race support team.  We had to shake them down, and ride them for a while to make sure everything was ok.  Then we’d take the wheels off, put the spare ones on, and get them up to speed to make sure there were no problems.  

 

Our tires did not have air in them.  Instead, they had a hard foam donut in them.  This way we couldn’t get a flat on the sharp rocks.  When it got dark, we put four different combinations of lights on the bikes, and tested and adjusted each one.  If your lights go out, which happened to Tanner at night and me during the day while pre-running, you’re stuck in the desert until morning.  Jimmy, the race bike builder, put a second power supply on each bike.  If the lights went out, he showed us how to disconnect the old power supply and use the new circuit to see if that would fire up the lights.

 

I wanted lots of rest before the race.  Unfortunately, we wound up riding nearly 100 miles on Wednesday testing, just 36 hours before the race.  Not energy I wanted to use up so close to the race.  Everything counts.

 

I was excited because today, our friends came in.  In an unusual move, I invited seven friends to come and chase us during the race.  Why?  You’ll see.

Bobby Miles, Kevin Koval, and Todd Lutinski would chase Tanner in a Jeep that Todd borrowed from his friend in Tijuana.  (You can’t rent a car and drive it to Mexico – it’s illegal in Mexico, and against rental car company rules.  If you get caught in Mexico, you go to jail).

 

Franz Froelich and his son, Trevor, are from California.  They picked up my friends Ralph Carpinella and John Sayour in San Diego and brought them down.  They each met us in Ojos Negros where we were testing the race bikes.  I was glad to see them.  The group ranged in age from 20 to 73 – a diverse group to be sure.  These friends didn’t hesitate when I asked them.  But I don’t think they realized exactly what was about to happen.  An adventure was about to begin that will never be forgotten by any of us.  

 

When we got to the hotel that night, they only had two rooms for seven guys.  A snafu with little cure as the hotel was sold out with racers and crews.  Four guys in a room?  No problem in Baja.  

 

It’s amazing what we’ve come accustomed to complain about.  In a country like Mexico, when a mother holding her baby walks up and down lines of cars waiting at the border selling churros to people waiting to get back into America, or when that 8 year old girl who learned how to juggle comes by your window and shows her skill and waits for you to hopefully approve…

 

The size of obstacles is relative.  My friends cheerfully accepted their situation without much discussion.  This was nothing…

 

 

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November 22, 2016

#2 What's inside?

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

On day two of pre-running the Baja 1000 course, we did another 200 miles. That’s it. It got dark and Tanner had a dim stock headlight on his bike as the proper, bright race lights had failed the night before. We got a motel and for security, we pushed the bikes right into the $15-a-night room! I thought we’d get in big trouble if we got caught doing this. When we had no hot water and needed a shower badly, I became less worried. In the morning when I could see more of the place, I wasn’t worried at all. It’s Baja. It’s a different world here.

We asked where the best restaurant in town was. Two blocks. On this road, of course – there are no other paved roads on the entire Pacific side. We went in and the Cubs game was on – 9th inning, tied score, several locals cheering them on. By the time we left the place, the Cubs had performed their miracle. “That’s what I need,” I thought. A miracle.

On day three, we did another 220 miles. We were beat. Our hands were numb. Tanner was ahead of me as we bounded down a whooped out (wavy) sand section. He didn’t see that the spaces between two of the whoops were four feet deep – a wash. He cartwheeled his bike and was thrown over the handlebars. Lucky the bike did not land squarely on him. We were miles from help.  

He regrouped. Lucky the bike was ok to ride still. Two miles later he had the head of a dead cactus stuck in his hand. It looked like an anemone. A few hours after that, I missed, a little dogleg on my GPS and went straight instead. On the course notes, this is where it said “Danger, drop off.”  As I appraoched, I could see the trail fell away, with a much lower elevation ahead. I figured it was a grade going down, as I braked into it to see how steep it was. To my horror, it was straight down, 6 feet. Because I was braking, all the weight was forward; I’d surely flip over the handlebars if I went airborn now. My motocross skills kicked in and I instinctively blipped the throttle. It was too late to get the front wheel up. As I dropped, I didn’t know if I’d save it or not. After a hard hit on the front wheel, would the rear end go down, or up and over the front one? Lucky. I looked at my GPS and realized my small mistake. I missed a turn 15 feet before the cliff.

This section of Baja is called Borrego. It’s the most brutal terrain in Baja. That’s what the driver of the broken down desert buggy said to me a few miles later. He was pre-running too, and had become a Baja casualty that day.

The fourth and last day of pre-running gave me some hope. The course flowed better and there were some faster sections. I was encouraged for a bit. Tanner reminded me that it took us four days to ride this, and we still didn’t do the 38 miles out from the start, or the 40 miles back into the finish line. More than that, we had three 8-hour periods of sleep in between our rides. Yes. I knew this. I had little reason to be encouraged. On race day, we needed to do all of this – at once.

We flew home. One week later, we were to fly back for race week – the race being on Friday, November 18. I controlled my thoughts and self-talk as best as I could. I talked myself into being excited for the challenge.  

We can talk ourselves into things. You know this.

On Monday of race week, we went out with the video guys to get some drone footage over the beautiful desert. We decided to go to a 12-mile-long sand wash that we did not pre-run before. (A sand wash is a dry riverbed.) Jesse Dostie put the drone up. I pulled off the paved road into the deep sand. A quarter mile later I look back expecting to see Tanner. No Tanner.

I stopped and waited. No Tanner. I went back. I thought maybe he stalled because we forgot to turn the gas valve on. We had just started! There he was 20 seconds off the pavement, where he hit a watermelon-sized rock sticking up out of the deep sand, camouflaged in the shadows. His front wheel slammed the rock, the back of the bike kicked up violently, and he went over the handlebars. His footpeg jammed into the side of his boot as the bike landed on him. Lucky it was soft sand and he didn’t hit any rocks. His helmet was full of sand, and both wheels were bent, but he wasn’t badly hurt.

Later, we reviewed helmet camera footage, and we got the whole thing on video.

While there was no reason in the world for us to believe we could actually pull off this 855 mile non-stop race solo, we never thought of not trying.

What makes someone attempt a feat so dangerous when their chances of failure are so high? Why would anyone face such a challenge he did not have to?

There is something for each man to discover within himself. The Baja 1000 is where I discovered what was in me.

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November 21, 2016

#1 – What are limits?

Larry Janesky: Think Daily

Are limits physical or mental?  Are they real or created by us?

Finding out can be a spiritual experience. 

After nearly a year of preparation, planning, and sleep lost for what the possibilities were, we were as ready as we were going to be. The Baja 1000 was the longest non-stop race on the planet on the most brutal terrain a motorcyclist can imagine. My 21 year old son Tanner and I were lined up for the start in the dark in Encenada Mexico.  Half the teams of up to six riders don’t finish. We had chosen to race in the Pro Moto Ironman class. This means you are on your own.  You’ll have to race 855 miles in one shot just to finish. Historically, the odds of this happening were very slim.  

Two weeks earlier we were on the Baja peninsula to pre-run the course.  You don’t show up for a survival race having never seen what you’re in for.  While we ran this race as a two man team last year, the course is laid out different each year. We had three bikes, Honda 450X’s, one for each of us plus a spare, packed into a van.  We had a GPS and stared out into the desert.  What now?  Ride out there and try to pick up the GPS line at mile 38. They keep the first 38 miles of the course a secret until two days before the race.  There were barbed wire ranch fences with locked gates.  It took us 40 minutes to even find the race course. A frustrated start 

What possible difference could it make to take four days to ride over 855 miles? Think about how far that is from your home. Now think about traversing that far through the wilderness.  How could you remember every turn, fork, boulder, rut and hazard? That’s what I was thinking.  Amazingly, it helps dramatically. With practice you can make a strategy and be mentally prepared. It can also scare the crap out of you when you realize the magnitude of what you signed up for.

The most I have ever ridden in one day was 390 miles. But that was in last years race and I alternated with Tanner. Every few hours I could rest while he was riding and get myself regrouped.  It was a 25 1/2 hour race, but I only rode for half of that time. Besides that giant effort with its “hurry-up offense” pace, the most I’ve gone was 270 miles. I felt half-dead afterwards.

My plan in pre-running was to ride 12-14 hours to find “The Wall”. I had been training hard since winter broke.  I had been trying to keep up with Tanner with Spartan work outs and races  I was running in the woods regularly. I had lost 15 pounds I did not think I had to lose.  I had taken my body to where I thought I could not go on anymore up Killington mountain.  Now I wanted to do it on a dirt bike.

My plan was foiled by a delayed start for preparation, and what happened when it got dark.  Tanner was behind me by a mile or so. It was ink black.  So dark the night sky looked light with its stars laced gracefully over the unnamed desolation you viewed it from. I got to a barbed wire gate across the course.  These gates would be down during the race, but until then they were holding in cattle and horses.  If you ride into one the wire would get inder your helmet and chin and take your…well – don’t run into one.  

I got off my bike and took the makeshift gate down, with its sticks holding the wire apart. I waited for Tanner. He didn’t come.  With my own lights off, I should be able to easily pick up and glint of light for many miles.  Nothing. I rode back a mile to higher ground.  No light.  I took my helmet off to listen.  I only heard the dry wind. 

Really? We’re supposed to race 855 Miles on this course soon and we can’t go 200 miles without a mishap? Yes…of course.  This is Baja.  Baja doesn’t care about us. The majesty of the desert and mountains can lure you in with its beauty or end your life, without any preference. 

Where’s Tanner? Why does that question sound familiar? And what does a father do now?  I could see for miles behind me and there were no lights.  I decided to go forward.  Maybe he took a different wash down to the lower elevation.  In the shallow parallel canyons maybe he passed me and I didn’t see him. 

I went four miles ahead into the black, and started to feel like I was doing the wrong thing. Something told me to turn back.  So I did.  I saw a white four door pickup truck coming.  We came together.  In the desert, your survival is at stake and when you see someone, you stop and check with each other; not like in places where there are plenty of people to be ignored.  The four guys in the unmarked truck had guns and didn’t speak English. I figured they were police because guns are illegal in Mexico, and they were trying to understand me, not rob me.

As I tried to understand the guy sticking his head out of the rear window, the driver pointed ahead into the dark. A light, far dimmer than Tanner’s approached.  But it was Tanner!  The reason I didn’t see his light is because it failed. Oddly it didn’t go completely out, but glowed like a cell phone.  He picked his way though the rocks at 1 mph this way.  

We rode alongside each other for miles, sharing my light, trying to get to the road.  His light came fullon for five seconds, and then went out completely.  An electrical problem.  The locals built a huge jump, Which we know are often booby traps for racers because they’d have a pit on the other side where they got the dirt from.  If you didn’t clear the pit, you were going to take a dirt nap.  In going around it, I lost Tanner again.  Why?  I went back and shined my headlight on him to find a big bail of wire wrapped around his rear wheel, sprocket, and brake. We worked to get it all out by beding dozens of strands of wire back and forth and back and forth to break it. Finally.

Tiny towns were scarce and had few amenities. We knew we were close to El Rosario.  We found the road and found a small dusty hotel. One problem. Chad, our driver and mechanic, was waiting for us 40 miles away.  I left a tired and cold Tanner at the hotel and set out back into the night to find Chad.  I wasn’t dressed right for high speed in the cold night.  By the time I got there my core temperature had fallen. We loaded the bike in the van alongside the spare one, and I got in telling Chad what happened.  As we drove back to El Rosario, I shivered and my body began to give me signals.  Distress signals.

Riding a dirt bike in this terrain is not like driving a car or even riding a motorcycle on the road. For the first 20 minutes it’s fun. The it’s work.  Then it’s a workout. Then misery. It’s physically punishing.  After 260 miles of riding that first pre-run day, I felt nauseous.  Sick.  Dizzy.

Thinking about the 855 mile race….how could this even be possible?  I was worried.  No, I was more than worried.  

I was terrified…

 

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