2013 Mexican 500
Race Day 3 - Saturday September 30, 2013
So we had a great evening in San Felipe. I was
super jazzed about winning a stage. We enjoyed a great home-cooked meal (and I
love Mexican food!). I had a great night's sleep. The bike was prepped and ready
Originally, the bikes were going to be able to head east and run the coastal
route (my favorite), but since there were so few bikes entered NORRA decided to
run the bikes on the same course as the cars for Day 3.
There would be four racing Specials for the
day. And the first Special would simply be racing in reverse the stage that I
won yesterday. It would leave San Felipe, head west and then run north along the
eastern edge of Laguna Diablo to Hwy 3. So I was pretty pumped about having at
least the chance of winning another stage. I mean - what could go wrong?
We were up early enough to catch the sunrise over the Sea of Cortez...
I got out to the start area while it was still
a bit dark. Joel and Chris showed up a few minutes later. Cory would head
directly to the end of the 1st Special at the top of Laguna Diablo. Chris had to
wish the NORRA girls a good morning...
Here's Mike Pearlman, President of NORRA. He
and all of his NORRA personnel (and assisted by CODE) are bringing a whole lot
of FUN to racing in Baja!!!
Octavio showed up ready to race...
Tibi showed up a few minutes later (and as the
day was beginning to get a bit brighter)...
Octavio just before the start...
And he's off...Day 3 has begun...
Then Tibi races off..
And a minute later, I'm on my way...
I really do want to try and win this stage
again. We head out on dirt roads towards the San Felipe dump area, and then hit
the long section of Trophy Truck whoops. I think I run a pretty good pace
through them, and then it's back on the dirt road that heads west towards Laguna
Diablo. I'm basically running wide open in sixth gear, and I start being able to
see the dust of Tibi ahead of me, and I'm slowly reining him in.
He's just a few hundred yards ahead of me when I see a washout in the road. No
time to really slow down much, and I hit it pretty hard. I didn't even get much
of a wobble out of the hit, but I could tell immediately that I had just blown
the rear tire with a pinch flat (and I run about 36 psi in the rear just to try
and avoid pinch flats). Bummer! I go ahead and stop to verify it's a flat rear.
I have a front tube with me that I can put in
the rear, but there's no large rocks around to use as a lift for the bike in
order to pull the rear wheel off. I tried a few times to run the bike up the
berm at the side of the road in order to raise the rear tire but the weight of
the Rally Berg just collapsed the berm. In the excitement and the chaos of the
moment, I make a critical mistake.
I should have just continued on and ran on the flat rear to the end of the
Special. But I wasn't that far from San Felipe, and I decided to call my chase
truck that was just leaving San Felipe and have them come out to me. I just
didn't realize how long it would take them to get to me. We had some
miscommunication on how to find me, and it took them much longer than I had
thought in order to reach me. NORRA had live tracking for all vehicles, and
could tell I was stopped so they sent out a truck to find me. The big worry was
that the cars and trucks were about to start, and NORRA wanted to make sure I
was off the course by the time the cars started up. I got into a sand wash and
off the racing course, and my chase truck reached me just about the time the
cars started racing. Chris switches out the rear wheel from my backup bike, but
then NORRA held me up until all cars and trucks had passed by before letting me
continue the race. The really don't like the bikes and cars racing on the course
at the same time. So at this point, I'm now hours behind.
I did get a nice pic of the first truck (Mark Post) passing by...
Once I get the go ahead from NORRA, I start
racing to complete the Special.
I run a pretty good pace for the rest of the
Special; and finally roll into the finish. Cory's been waiting there a long
time. Then he spots a little problem with my front wheel...
Somewhere between fixing the rear flat and
finishing the 1st Special of the day I must have hit something hard - but I
really don't remember hitting anything hard enough to actually break an Excel
A60 rim (about the strongest rim made). I can't remember hitting anything that
even came close to taking me off my line or hard enough to break the rim. And I
hadn't even noticed I was running with a front flat. I simply have no idea how I
broke the rim, but it was definitely broken...
And unfortunately, Joel and Chris in the chase
truck with my backup bike were still a long ways away, having had to head back
out toward San Felipe and then taking the highway around to the finish of the
1st Special. Cory took the front wheel off the race bike, and then we waited
about 45 minutes to an hour before Joel and Chris showed up and we were able to
switch the front wheel with the one on the backup bike.
Cory did get pictures of Octavio and Tibi
coming into the finish...
Tibi actually won the stage in 58 minutes 46
seconds, and Octavio finished in 59 minutes and 30 seconds. I finally finished
in 4 hours and 22 minutes. So much for the plan to win the stage!
What could go wrong? Sometimes everything!!! Crap - it's Baja!
Anyways, the bike was back together and there's still 3 more racing Specials to
finish the day!
So after switching out the front wheel on the
Rally Berg, I'm off to race the 2nd Special of the Day. Joel and Chris would
drive to Valle de Trinidad to hopefully meet me at the end of the 2nd Special;
while Cory would drive directly to the start of the 3rd Special.
After totally blowing the 1st Special of the day with tire/wheel problems, I was
hoping to at least be competitive on the 2nd Special. It would be a fairly short
Special of about 32 miles that would start from Hwy 3 on the easy road to Mike's
Sky Ranch. Before reaching Mike's, it would head west on the cutoff road and
then take the harder route from Mike's into Valle de Trinidad. It's a route I'm
pretty familiar with, and so was really hoping to have a decent time.
I reached the start, and was ready to go. About the first 10 miles is a fairly
straight dirt road, and I had the Rally Berg hauling a$$ in 6th gear. The next
20 miles or so gets just a bit rougher, before getting into some pretty tight
twisty curves, including a bunch of off-camber turns. The Rally Berg is not
quite as nimble as a racing bike in the tight stuff. Got through it pretty well,
before hitting another pretty straight section into Valle de Trinidad. I passed
a couple of the 4-wheel vehicles during this stage. Octavio again had the
fastest time in about 40 minutes and 40 seconds. Tibi finished in about 43
minutes; and I finished in about 44 minutes 30 seconds - not too bad.
As I passed the finish, and then rode through Valle de Trinidad I never did see
Joel and Chris. I reached the highway, and called Cory who was waiting at the
start of the 3rd Special and told him I was going to just head directly there
(about an 11 mile liaison stage). Apparently, Joel and Chris had stopped by the
taco stand in Valle T, and I probably rode right past them!
Anyways, I reach Cory at the start of the 3rd Special, and he gasses up the
Rally Berg and I get ready for the start. At this point, I have 2 racing
Specials to go and decide that I will now just treat it as a dual-sport ride,
without taking any chances and just riding to finish.
The first few miles were on some pretty good
farming roads, and were a lot of fun. I kept reminding myself that I'm no longer
racing, and just riding to finish! So I rode a good pace, but was definitely not
taking any chances. And that was probably a good decision. I mentioned earlier
that there were no hazards marked in the road book, and before too long the
course was running on roads and trails that had definitely been affected by the
recent rains. There were some pretty severe washouts in places, that may have
potentially been quite dangerous had I come at them at all-out racing speed. As
it was, I passed a few more of the 4-wheel racers; and at least 2 of them had
experienced pretty severe crashes. I didn't have any problems at all, didn't
push myself too hard, and had a really enjoyable ride.
Octavio had definitely raced through this section and finished in a quick 32
minutes. I finished in 44 minutes, and Tibi finished in about 51 minutes. For
about a 32 mile Special, Octavio had averaged just about 60 miles an hour
through this stage - that's fast!
Successfully finishing the stage, all of my pit crew (Cory, Joel, and Chris)
were there to meet me at the finish. It was only about a 5 mile liaison to the
start of the 4th Special of the day (and the final Special of the whole race).
So I headed down the liaison with my crew following, and then Chris checked out
the bike and I got a bit more gas before checking in and starting Special #4.
Just one more racing stage to go...
The last Special of the day (and for the race)
is a 32 mile section that heads west from Hwy 3 towards Tres Hermanos, and then
heads north towards Ojos Negros. I'm not that familiar with the first half, but
quite familiar with the section from Tres Hermanos toward Ojos Negros which is
basically just some fun dirt roads.
We had just a few miles liaison from the end of 3rd Special, and I arrived at
the start with my two chase vehicles right behind me. They filled me with gas,
and one more check of the bike and I was ready to go...
Like the previous Special, I was just going to
treat this like a fast trail ride. Try not to take any chances, and finish the
I'm ready to go...
The first few miles are on a fairly nice dirt
road, and it's easy to go fast. But again, I keep telling myself that I'm just
riding to finish now, and keep myself from going all-out. Soon enough that pays
off. There's a sharp curve and a bit of a washout that comes up without much
notice. No problem for me; however apparently a 4-wheel vehicle had crashed
pretty badly there not too long beforehand.
The course veers to the right, and it gets just a bit tricky. Some rocks, some
sand - typical Baja stuff. It's actually a pretty fun ride. I finally get to
Tres Hermanos and know that it's basically all downhill from here (figuratively
not literally)! It's just graded dirt roads heading north. Pretty soon, the
finish is in sight...
For this Special, Octavio again set the fast
time at 46 minutes, 45 seconds. Tibi finished in about 53 minutes and 50
seconds, and I finished in about 55 minutes.
At this point, I'm thrilled. I basically
just finished the Mexican 500!!! The Rally Berg ran well (other than a
few tire/wheel issues). I thought I rode pretty well, and had taken one stage
There's just a short liaison section (all pavement) into Ensenada to go.
BUT the excitement is not over yet! And it all has to do with this picture that
I had just completed all of the racing stages
for the 2013 Mexican 500! I had a rough first day, but finished. I had a great
second day, winning the 2nd stage and leading the first stage before a
navigational error cost me some time. I had a rough start to Day Three, with a
rear flat and a broken front wheel, but managed to get those problems fixed with
the help of my crew and rode well the rest of the day.
There was just a short 27 mile liaison, all paved, back to Ensenada to go. I was
elated at having completed all of the racing stages, and still quite pumped up
about winning a stage. I took my helmet and some of my gear off, and drank a
couple of bottles of water. Definitely starting to relax after 3 long and tough
days of competition.
Then Joel comes over and shows me the picture above that he took of me coming
into the finish.
I'm only in one half of the frame, and he
suggests I hop on the bike and go back up the course to ride into the finish
again so that he can get a better picture. Sure, no problem. I get my gear and
helmet back on, ride down the course a ways, turn around and make another run
into the finish. Stupidly, I decide to make it a very fast second pass back into
Joel gets a good pic of me coming into the
first of the signs that basically say Slow Down for the finish! And the next
thing that happens is...
I really don't have any idea what happened!
Next thing I know is I'm on the ground, and looking up and the people that are
looking down on me. I know I've crashed but don't really remember how it
happened. I'm sure I must have grabbed way too much front brake and locked up
the front wheel, and went down but I just don't remember any details about it. I
told the guys looking down at me that I just need to lay there for a couple of
minutes. I get my helmet off, and they're asking where it hurts. I know my right
hand hurts, and my left arm is bleeding, but it really doesn't hurt that much
anywhere else. I just need to get my wind back.
Finally I sit up, and take the glove off of my right hand. Well this doesn't
look good. My thumb is in a position that clearly is not correrct - bulging out
into my palm. Now I've never dislocated anything else in my body before, but
this clearly looks like a dislocated thumb to me (and hoping it's not broken
instead). My jersey is shredded on my left arm, and my arm is bleeding and
clearly has some road rash, but it doesn't hurt all that much. Otherwise I don't
feel all that banged up. Most of the pain seems to be focused on my left hand.
I finally get helped up, and definitely know I need to go to a hospital. Cory
will drive me in my chase truck back into Ensenada. Chris is going to ride my
bike into the finish so it crosses the actual finish line back at the Hotel San
Nicolas in Ensenada, and Joel will drive his truck and follow Chris.
On the way into Ensenada, Cory and I are discussing the options. Do we try to
find the first hospital we can? Should we head all the way back to the San
Nicolas, and ask NORRA where to go? We're not even sure where the hospitals are
in Ensenada. But as we are driving back, we see what appears to be a kind of
hospital road sign but then can't find it. We stop at a Pemex and ask, and they
point to what looks like a kind of medical clinic a few blocks away. We stop,
and Cory goes in to check it out. I don't really remember what the situation
was, but I think it was going to take some time to get in and so we decide to
just head to the San Nicolas and check in with NORRA - what a good decision that
As it turns out, the checkpoint back in Ojos Negros had already radioed in to
NORRA that I was hurt and on my way into Ensenada. We arrive at the hotel, and I
see Jennifer (one of the NORRA personnel) over in the parking lot and head over
to talk to her. Yep, she's already been alerted, and already contacted the
medical insurance agent that NORRA uses. He will meet me in the hotel lobby, and
accompany me over to the hospital (which is only a few blocks away). We get to
the hospital, and the insurance agent gets me checked in at the front, and
within just a few minutes the doctor is ready to see me. They take an x-ray of
my hand, and its just dislocated - not broken. The doctor gives me a few
injections around the thumb joint to numb it up, and then it's time to have it
reset. As I mentioned, I've never dislocated anything before but from what I
could tell from TV and movies or whatever, it's not exactly a pain-free
experience to get things back in place. The doctor pulls on my thumb, and gets
it back in place - but even with the shots to numb up that area around my thumb
it is intensely painful (and I usually have a pretty good tolerance for pain).
That frickin' hurt! But the thumb is back in place, although it's very swollen
and quite black and blue. The doctor makes a soft cast for my right hand to
immobilize it, and gives me a prescription for antibiotics.
Due to the pain in my thumb, I'm not feeling much pain anywhere else and so we
get sent on our way. We get back to the hotel. Chris has pulled into the finish
on my Rally Berg, and NORRA credits me with the official finish (very nice of
them since Chris was not an official rider). I head up to the room to get my
gear off, and take a shower. But as soon as I get my jersey off, and take a look
at my left arm I know I should have had it checked out at the hospital while I
was there. This is going to need stitches. I contact Jennifer again, and she
contacts the insurance agent. He arranges for me to go back to the hospital.
Joel drives me over this time, and the doctor is actually waiting for me at the
front. Takes me right in, and gets one of his assistants to get my arm cleaned
up, suture in four stitches, and I'm on my way back to the San Nicolas again.
I can't say enough accolades about how well NORRA, their insurance agent and
company, and the doctors at the Ensenada hospital dealt with this. I was in and
out (both times) at the hospital as quickly as possible. Everybody was so nice
about the whole matter. NORRA's insurance covered all costs, and the medical
care was first rate.
I also can't say how stupid I felt about the whole thing. It was just a dumb
idea for me to get back on the bike for the sake of a photo (and not Joel's
fault at all - I was the one that decided to do it). But after getting through
all of the racing stages, I should have just rode in on the last liaison and
finished. One of the things you're supposed to learn in Baja is to not take
chances that you don't need to take. I had been telling myself that for three
days, but forgot that in the thrill of the moment after completing the last
Special. What could go wrong???
Anyways, there's still an award banquet to come...
After getting back from the hospital in
Ensenada for the 2nd time, I finally get that shower and get cleaned up. NORRA
hosts a really nice buffet dinner at the end of these events, and I'm hungry!
Surprisingly, I don't feel too bad. My thumb is really sore, but my body doesn't
feel too bad (felt much worse about 3 days later when I really got sore). Don't
know if was from being in shock, or just from the adrenaline rush of finishing,
but I really didn't hurt much that evening.
Had a great Mexican fiesta buffet...
Ate at a table with one of the car crews that
we had been talking with since before the race started...
Octavio stopped by the table. He was wondering
what had happened to me all day, because he thought I would probably catch up to
him on the first stage (when I had the tire/wheel problems). Then I had to
explain the mishap at the end...
Finally, it was time for awards. I end up 3rd
Motorcycle overall, and first in the Over 50 Class (not such a big deal when
there's only 3 motorcycles entered and only 1 in my class, but hell, I only have
to tell my close friends that)...
Tibi got 2nd motorcycle overall and 1st in the
Octavio was 1st motorcycle overall and 1st in
the Rally Class (and well deserved - he was fast and consistent throughout)...
Tibi's was about to attempt to ironman (ride
solo) the Baja 1000 about 6 weeks later. Octavio is entered in the 2014 Dakar
Rally in January. Good luck to both!!!
It's important to realize that none of this happens without a team! And I had
some great support...
Joel, Chris, and Cory were invaluable as
support and chase throughout the race. I don't finish without them. Thanks guys!
Also, Les Martin (with Chris) prepped by bikes beforehand - again, I don't
finish without a tremendously prepped bike. And my wife and family allows me to
follow my crazy post-midlife crisis dreams and race again.
Despite some problems, despite some mistakes, I managed to finish and simply had
a complete blast! For those that want to race in Baja at an amateur level, I
can't say enough about the NORRA events. They make the whole experience FUN!!!
I'm looking forward to more events in 2014!
Race Day 1
Race Day 2
Race Day 3