What have you been wanting to do? How about this year?
I made the last turn. People lined the streets. I could see men standing in front of the podium. When they saw me, they erupted. I was happy for them. I was happy I did not let them down, for they had come so far. I rolled up the podium…
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman I raced away into the beautiful desert afternoon. I wound through the brush, up the hills and…
“When an idea’s time has come, it cannot be stopped.” – Ram Dass I was in pain. I had been in pain for 24 hours. I was 32 ½ hours in. My butt was raw, even though I had an extra wide gel seat, and two layers of bicyclists padding…
I was spent. I knew what came next. Uruapan again. Steep hill climbs, rocks, whoops – a challenge. I sat down in the chair they had for me and had a Red Bull. It was a reward of sorts. I figured by the time I crashed from it I’d be…
“Everyone winds up somewhere in life. Wind up somewhere on purpose. You are the only one who can determine where that is.” I had two more stops at my chase truck. The next one was 737 at Santo Tomas. The course wound up another section of mountainous terrain above the…
“Practice until you get it right. Then practice until you can’t get it wrong.” Sometimes you have to be mad enough or fed up enough to push through and do what it takes. To see my 3 ½ hour time cushion evaporating was enough. I rode as fast as I…
The course was chewed up and slower than in pre-running. I had tape on my front fender with all my stops written on it. I was looking for the Baja gas pit at race mile 591. Mile 591 came – no pit. I pressed forward to 592. No pit, just…
“It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary “No pain no gain is crap.” When I heard Phil Maffetone, trainer to the world’s greatest long-distance athletes say it, it changed how I was training, and it changed my fitness for this race for the better. …
I was struggling, but I kept my composure. My abs were burning as I had to hold my knees up to my chest for long periods to keep my feet from dragging in the silt. It was up to the seat in places. Thirty-year truck racing veterans would say later…
Follow what's inside
What have you been wanting to do?
How about this year?
Chapter Twenty One – Redemption
I made the last turn. People lined the streets. I could see men standing in front of the podium. When they saw me, they erupted. I was happy for them. I was happy I did not let them down, for they had come so far.
I rolled up the podium ramp and they ran to me. Bobby grabbed me and hugged me and declared the result. “You did it!”.
They put the finisher medal around my neck. On the strap, it said “Ironman”.
I became the oldest finisher, and one of only 20 riders in history to finish the Baja 1000 Ironman.
I finished 4th out of ten in 33 hours and 45 minutes.
Five riders of the ten starters finished, including Liz Karcz who rolled up 45 minutes after I did.
I finished in second place in the season championship points.
Tanner and I are the only father and son Baja 500 and Baja 1000 Ironman finishers in history.
I qualified for the “Milestone Award” having finished every mile of every race in the SCORE desert racing season, only the third Ironman in history to do so.
Special thanks to –
Tanner Janesky – my son and inspiration
Victor Abitia – Chase driver and friend for the entire season.
Bobby Miles and Kevin Koval – great friends who never gave up on me.
Arturo Davila – Mechanic/gentleman.
Javier Gonzalez – mechanic/driver and good luck charm.
Oscar Hale – 1000 pre-run riding mate/sage of Baja
Jimmy Holley – Hot Rod bike builder.
Chris Haines – Racing legend and mentor
Jesse Dostie and Ted Waldron – Videographers, tech whizzes, enthusiast
All those who cheered for me at home, staying up all hours tracking me, and pulling for me. I knew you were there.
You, Think Daily readers, who compel me to get better. It’s amazing what YOU can do.
Great friends all.
“An extraordinary life of shared experiences.”
THE END (?)
Chapter Twenty – The Return of 714x
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
I raced away into the beautiful desert afternoon. I wound through the brush, up the hills and down into the valleys. I dared the switchbacks and flaunted my machine ever closer.
I know there were some that asked “What if he doesn’t finish?” I asked, “What if I do?”
The course here going back into Ensenada was the same course as when it came out over 33 hours earlier. The danger of this adventure was worth 1000 days of ease and comfort. Getting close to Ensenada I was on paved roads now. Five miles to go. From my elevation, I could see over the city now – the gleaming vast Pacific Ocean just beyond.
I had lived this before. I had finished the race in my bed, many times. Now there was rushing air and the vibration under me. This was glory not for another hour, but for this hour.
I dropped down into the river wash in the middle of the city. I was one mile out at an altitude of 10,000 feet. My muscles and joints were lubricated by the magnetism of a checkered flag and knowing my team and 1000 people scattered across the globe were waiting for me at the finish line.
I popped up out of the wash onto the city street.
Four blocks and two turns to go.
“Very important for your life”.
The dark night of my soul.
Gasoline and whiplash and spikes.
Heat and cold and dust.
Mis-takes, and pain and the Weatherman.
Faces and hearts.
Last turn. One block.
Love and honor and promises.
Chapter Nineteen – Talking to Spirits
“When an idea’s time has come, it cannot be stopped.” – Ram Dass
I was in pain. I had been in pain for 24 hours. I was 32 ½ hours in. My butt was raw, even though I had an extra wide gel seat, and two layers of bicyclists padding on my undergarments. My upper back and shoulders ached, and my hands hurt. My legs – everything hurt, and yet it didn’t.
I prioritized what I value most, finishing, over what I wanted now – to get off this bike. That’s a formula for any of us.
It’s amazing what you can do. Your body can do more than your mind wants it to. Your potential is far greater than the mind wants to allow. Your mind’s job is to protect your survival. It avoids risks and wants you to take the easy way. It does not want you to drain your body’s resources like this. You have to hijack these natural tendencies with powerful conscious thought.
The sun was high and the landscape in Uruapan was beautiful. Hostile in places, but beautiful. I raced up the hills and down the descents. I tried to keep a rhythm – a flow in the whoops between the golden boulders and outcroppings.
The team put a tiny audio recording device in my helmet. It was the size of a flash drive and recorded for 50 hours. I talked to it during the race. I dedicated sections to my daughters Autumn and Chloe, and to Tanner and my wife Wendy. I talked to my Dad, and my Mom. Both of them are gone now – but I talked to them. I gave commentary on what was happening, and how I felt. I talked a lot here.
This was the last of the really challenging terrain, and I was moving through it with precision and speed. I summoned strength from somewhere. I was getting faster and making up more time. During the entire race, now, 32 hours in, I had never ridden better.
Baja wasn’t going to give me anything. It beat me the last two years and it couldn’t care less if I never came back. But I did, and if I was to beat it, I must beat the old version of me to do so. We must believe in ourselves and take bold action.
I came out to a familiar dirt road outside Ojos Negros. I thought I had it made for a while on this road but had forgotten the course drove me back into the whoops and up the mountains for another cycle. I emerged again and raced to my last van stop where Javier and Oscar were waiting for me.
The other vehicles with Victor and Arturo, and Kevin and Bobby had gone to the finish line to wait for me. I had 33 miles to go. Javier went over the bike. Oscar refilled my hydration pack while it was still on me. A woman and her husband were next to us waiting for their vehicle to come in. They knew I was an Ironman and congratulated me.
She took over for Oscar and rubbed out my shoulders and hands wanting to help in any way she could. 33 miles to go. “I am going to be the oldest Ironman finisher ever,” I told her. A spurt of emotion welled up in me. I hid it in my helmet.
The stop was only a few minutes as usual. I rose again. The last time. I threw my leg over the bike. Javier and Oscar encouraged me. I recalled what Oscar had said earlier.
“Remember, this is very important for your life.”
I was spent. I knew what came next. Uruapan again. Steep hill climbs, rocks, whoops – a challenge. I sat down in the chair they had for me and had a Red Bull. It was a reward of sorts. I figured by the time I crashed from it I’d be across the finish line.
Bobby knelt down in front of me and looked straight into my eyes. He said loudly and with firm resolve, “Now listen. You need to ride strong and ride fast. And when you get a chance to go fast, you go fast. You gotta finish this! Do you hear me?!”
I knew what I had to do, but hearing him say it filled me up. I knew I wasn’t on my own. Three years…I had come so far, and I was so close. They didn’t want me screwing this up now. I was working for them, and me.
A guy in checkered sneakers and a pony tail was at the stop videoing me. He was giddy. He was a fan of the movie and could not believe I was in another race right there in front of him. His smile was ear to ear.
They filled me up with gas so I didn’t have to worry about the next gas pit a few miles down the road. When I got there I went by it; an eerie feeling as if disaster would come in 25 miles or so.
I was 69 miles from the finish line – close enough to feel it’s magnetism.
Chapter Eighteen – Man against himself
“Everyone winds up somewhere in life. Wind up somewhere on purpose. You are the only one who can determine where that is.”
I had two more stops at my chase truck. The next one was 737 at Santo Tomas. The course wound up another section of mountainous terrain above the ocean for 15 miles or so, where I could look down and see the Pacific. Down to the coastline again – so beautiful but, I couldn’t look; I had to focus on the course.
Turn back inland with switchbacks to get to elevation again, then sweeping dirt roads. When I crossed mile 707, the math was easy. 100 miles to go. It sounded like nothing. But it was something.
When I pre-ran I came around a switchback at speed and had to drift to the left side of the road. Around the corner, a pick-up truck was coming. I couldn’t make the turn tighter without crashing, so I drifted all the way to the edge of the cliff figuring the driver could go by with me on his right. His brain didn’t figure that out and he came right at me with his brakes locked up on the dirt. We both stopped, my front wheel 12” in front of his bumper. I was looking right through the windshield. He had a choice look for me. Of course, I would have lost the contest.
I kept my encounter in mind as these roads were open to the public during the race. I descended into Santo Tomas and onto Route 1 – the paved road on the Pacific side of Baja. I turned left and saw my truck. Race mile 731.
731. That’s a big number. I was 30 hours in and unexpectedly, I felt good.
I was riding for my life.
Chapter Seventeen – Born Again
“Practice until you get it right. Then practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
Sometimes you have to be mad enough or fed up enough to push through and do what it takes. To see my 3 ½ hour time cushion evaporating was enough. I rode as fast as I could. The terrain here was smooth along the ocean. The course was on the beach at one point.
A crowd was gathered around a spot where a giant washout had you going down into a gulley and back up. I spied a natural jump that I hit when we pre-ran. I thought I’d give the crowd a thrill and I launched about eight feet in the air off of it, employing my motocross skills. It felt great.
The morning breeze came in off the ocean, but there was no fog. I put miles behind me. I felt great. I couldn’t make a new beginning, but I could make a new ending.
I saw my crew at 7:47AM. They were thrilled to see me in great spirits. I was not losing time anymore, but gaining some. They had a warm breakfast burrito and a coffee for me. It was so good! I gulped the coffee and was gone again. I had somewhere to go.
If I was a night watchman and had to stay awake for 36 hours or more, I could not do it. But, when you are on a dirt bike with your life and safety threatened, your survival mind wakes up and pays attention. When there is a conveyor belt of fast moving hazards coming at you, and you are exerting yourself physically, you aren’t going to fall asleep that way. Just don’t stop.
I pressed on. I knew there was a huge wide silt field coming up. In the riders meeting I overheard some drivers saying there was a way to go around it to the left. When it came, I went left and found it! Before the next turn I went back to the corner of the course to catch the Virtual Check Point. Such is the value of sharing information.
I pulled into the chase truck stop at mile 673 in Colonet. Always glorious to see my team. Late in the race, teams who chase other race vehicles look for bikes that begin with a 7. They know we are Ironmen, and to have made it this far…they wave with a different kind of respect. As I pulled out a team of 12 crew members waiting for a buggy cheered me on along with my own team.
A quarter mile later a steep long hill climb, but gravity did not exist for me.
The course was chewed up and slower than in pre-running. I had tape on my front fender with all my stops written on it. I was looking for the Baja gas pit at race mile 591. Mile 591 came – no pit. I pressed forward to 592. No pit, just desolation. 593 – nothing. Now I was seriously worried. I was having flashbacks of last year. Did I miss the pit? I was in the desert and had not seen a person or structure or vehicle in many miles.
I see a weathered old man with a walking stick in the middle of nowhere. I was desperate. “Gasolina?” I yelled to him. He shook his head. I was looking for some knowledge (or gas) from anyone I could get it from. I pressed forward. The course went up a mountain. I knew the pit would not be up here. 594 – nothing. Did they move the pit? 595. Oh my God.
A downhill followed by a very steep hill climb was in front of me. I was great at hill climbs and I crushed it. It was starting to get light. I saw about ten people watching the hill. I stopped and yelled. “Gasolina?” They pointed up the course and yelled “Baja Pit”. Thank God. A little higher in elevation and I could see orange signs and a pop-up awning in the distance.
I pulled up and told the guys “I was worried! You are supposed to be five miles back!” I looked to my left under the tent and see a bike. 722x. It was Liz’s number. I raise my gaze and see an unnumbered bike and a rider who didn’t look beat down like a racer would be by this time. Then I see Liz eating a pop tart. I said, “How are you doing Liz?” She just waved at me.
I found out later that her team got her a pace rider in two of the hardest sections to ride with her and make sure she was ok. Interesting idea. Some long distance runners have a pacer run with them for ten mile stretches to keep them going. I never heard of a rule against it.
Just two miles later, I came out to the road to see my crew. Liz’s truck was in front of ours waiting for her. I made it to 598 by dawn. Nearly on my “minimum” goal, but 2 hours and 15 minutes behind my plan. Nighttime, the silt and fatigue had taken its toll. The situation was critical. If I lost another 45 minutes against my plan, I would not finish in time. I cut the stop very short – just a few minutes. Liz rolled up and I rolled out.
Race or not, the night is a desperate time, especially when things are not going well. When the sun comes up we feel new life, hope and energy. It’s clean and new. It’s as if the race had started all over again.
I headed toward the Pacific Ocean in high spirits.
Chapter Sixteen – New Life
“It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
“No pain no gain is crap.” When I heard Phil Maffetone, trainer to the world’s greatest long-distance athletes say it, it changed how I was training, and it changed my fitness for this race for the better. I had been pushing my body to failure too often at the gym. It was killing my shoulders and knees. Too often I was injured from my workouts. I changed up my workouts. I stopped doing what injured me.
Phil said that when you finish a workout you should feel like you can do it all over again. I started bicycling instead of running to get my knee better since surgery. His book told me to train in my cardio heart rate zone – 180 minus my age (54). So, I’d train with my heart rate between 116 and 126. In a race longer than one hour, 90% of your fuel is fat. In a race longer than two hours, all you are burning is fat. This is why energy drinks and sugar are no good for an event like the one I was in. I’d eat and drink plenty, and still lose 8-10 pounds during the race.
I trained intelligently. I recovered just as intelligently. When you train your muscles break down with little micro tears. It’s in the recovery day that they mend themselves and make you stronger. You have to rest in between the right workouts. Just six weeks before the race I started doing it right.
When you show up to the starting line, the sales call, the presentation, or the performance, it’s too late to prepare.
The course wound up mountains, along ridges and back down. Up, around and down again. My goal was to get to 600 by daylight. It was 5AM and I was at mile 573. There was a steep descent from a high elevation Oscar called “The Snake” for its switchbacks.
In Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit” she lays out a formula. Talent + Effort = Skill. Skill + Effort = Achievement. You will notice that EFFORT factors in twice. Read that again.
Many people try to be happy by avoiding effort. But what if effort was the secret to happiness?
Effort is how we become our best selves, and in that, is true happiness and contentment.
Dark Night of the Soul
I was struggling, but I kept my composure. My abs were burning as I had to hold my knees up to my chest for long periods to keep my feet from dragging in the silt. It was up to the seat in places. Thirty-year truck racing veterans would say later that it was the worst silt they have ever seen. Even some 900 hp racing trucks got stuck in it.
It was 3AM, 23 hours into the race. When I saw the silt coming I tried to look ahead to see how long it went. If it went far I’d try to get off the course and pick through the brush if that was possible. Sometimes, I’d wind up a hundreds yards off the course and lose track of where it was. If I was on the left side of the course and it turned right, I’d be getting farther away. My GPS was indispensible. I’d have to zoom it out to find the course line.
There are some plants that are like groups of 16” balls of spikes. They are very hard. If I hit one it would stop my bike. If my front wheel got on top, my bike would teeter on it as the spikes held up the full weight of my bike and me. We have a video of these plants stopping a race buggy.
I’m desperately picking through thick brush in the dark and don’t have the option to turn the way I want to turn. All of a sudden, I feel a sharp pain in the top of my foot. It is not going away. I look down and see a stub of something sticking out of the leather on the top of my boot. I stop and take pliers out of my side pouch, grab it and pull it out – all 2 inches of it. It was under my skin. I didn’t take my boot off to inspect my foot – there is nothing I could do. I put the spike in the side pouch with the pliers and kept moving. “Obstacle immunity”…
I went down about four times in there. The last time I bent my shifter and couldn’t shift easily. I had to slam it with my heel and rode most of the way in the same gear.
Mile 538 was a big milestone for me. It marked then end of this horrible silt and the beginning of easier terrain. Of course, easier is a relative term and it was broken by periods of hell – but the worst was over. I was sure of it.
Finally, I got out to the road and found my van. I sat in the chair in the dark while they replaced the shifter. I started the night an hour ahead of my schedule. Now I was an hour and forty five minutes BEHIND my plan. If things didn’t improve, I’d be against the 36 hour time limit to finish the race.
This night was a dark night of the soul.
I had a moment with Bobby. He asked me how I was doing. I had been battling the worst race conditions I had ever seen – maybe anyone had ever seen, for the last 9 1/2 hours in the dark. I told him “I’m fighting for it ”. I almost broke – but I didn’t.
The team told me that Liz was there a bit before me. She got to the road and couldn’t find her chase truck. She saw ours and knew Victor and my crew would help her. She got in the van and was cold, shaken and delirious. She was in the silt for ten hours. My crew video recorded her sitting in the back of the van for nearly an hour. She was in rough shape, but she was still in the race. She was tough.
I got myself together, looking forward to a new course ahead. It was 3:28 AM, and my team cheered again as I disappeared into the night.
“Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. It’s only impossible until someone does it.”
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