Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Push it…

Author: site admin
Category: Other Forms Of Racing

“Ah, push it - push it good
Ah, push it - push it real good
Ah, push it - push it good
Ah, push it - p-push it real good”
— Salt-N-Pepa

As I mentioned on Monday the Iron Butt Rally participants shoved off for their eleven day torture test at 10am on Monday morning. I’m writing this at around 10pm on Tuesday night, a mere 36 hours into the event, and already interesting things are happening. Now, I’m not a long distance rider and make no claims to being one. I’ve been known to cross one of these big, wide western states for a weekend trip and the thought of riding to, say, Yellowstone or Zion National Park doesn’t particularly have me quaking in my combat touring boots but I’m very aware that I have neither the endurance or desire to push myself like the Iron Butt riders. Last night I went to bed with visions of my morning walking around the Doubletree parking lot and then woke up this morning refreshed and ready for work. So imagine my surprise…nay…my complete disbelief when I checked the Star Traxx GPS tracking system web site for thirteen of the the Iron Butt riders and found that one of them was already south of Atlanta, GA! As if that wasn’t amazing enough, two others were outside Seattle, two just approaching Atlanta, one was in San Diego and two others damned near to Toronto. To me a weekend ride is to Wyoming or Utah. To these guys, its the opposite coast!

Now whether or not you are a motorcyclist take a moment to let that sink in. Someone got on a motorcycle Monday morning and then casually rode somewhere on the order of 1500 miles in 24 hours. That is an average of around 62 miles per hour for an entire day. I’m willing to bet Doug Chapman, the rider that reached that astounding distance in so short at time, took at least a short nap in there so that speed average is actually a bit faster. Not impressed yet? Well Bob Higdon, one of the sadistic maniacs behind all this craziness, wrote in his nightly rally update that the weather in eastern Kansas last night consisted of hard rain and hail. Okay, lets say you’re still tapping your finger and waiting for something that will really awe you…After turning in that 24 hour blitz across the country the FJR continued on. When I checked at 4:00pm this afternoon, 30 hours after the start, he was in Miami and now, 36 hours in, he is slogging his way down the parking lot that is the Florida Oversea’s Highway and is almost to Key West. That’s over 2000 miles in 36 hours. Come on, even the chronically blase’ have to awestruck by that kind of performance!

Doug isn’t alone in racking up some big mileage numbers in such a short time span. The Star Traxx web sites show that two riders chose to head north to New Brunswick, Canada. As of right now, they are pushing 2000 miles and are nearing their destination. Those that headed west, rather than east, have a different challenge ahead of them. Where the east coast only had a few possible bonus locations each worth a lot of points the west coast had lots of smaller bonuses sprinkled from Washington state to southern California. Additionally, there is an added restriction that these are “day time only” bonuses which means large chunks of time each day can’t be used for accruing the much needed points. Those that chose to go west have to ride like hell during the day and then use the night for rest and positioning themselves for another points grabbing run the next day. This means some big mileage numbers may yet be turned in by these riders but probably nothing on par with those who started chasing the morning sun on Monday.

This first leg, like a well played game of chess, means that the first decisions may well end up determining the final outcome for the riders. Those that chose to chase the big points on the east coast must make it back to Denver by Friday or be disqualified for missing the mandatory check point. If they have to turn back before reaching the bonus location, they can’t collect many other points on their way back to Denver in order to make up for their failure and may well be out of the running for the overall win. If, on the other hand, they grab the big bonus and get back to Denver they’ll be exhausted but probably ahead in the points tally. Those on the west coast have to carefully construct a route that maximizes their points while still finding the time to rest up. Their best bet is to get back to Denver with enough points to still be in the game but hopefully more rested than those returning from the east. Then they can make a big push in the second or final leg to try to win.

Then, as if all that strategy isn’t confusing enough, they have to wait and see what Friday’s second leg bonus packet looks like. The Florida Keys and New Brunswick bonuses may be back but with altered points values. Or, even more challenging, there may be bonuses in far flung places like Baja Mexico, northern Canada or Alaska that can be attempted while forfeiting the Maine checkpoint on August 29th. Will Doug Chapman find himself early next week once again swimming through a Kansas rain storm en route to the Florida Keys?

Jeff Earls still looking human

As of the first reports there is no update yet on my buddy Jeff Earls. When I spoke to him Monday morning he had his game plan and seemed confident in his decision. Since he, along with almost 80 other entrants, don’t have GPS tracking systems there is no way yet to know where he is located right now. Jeff is a shrew rally rider: this is his third Iron Butt, so he now ranks among the vets in the event. He was set for a top seven place in 2003 when his BMW’s final drive failed and he has been a regular in the Utah 1066 for five or so years. I’m confident he is doing what he needs to do in order to be a contender. I’ll be heading back to the Doubletree on Friday so I’ll give an update then if nothing about him shows up in Higdon’s reports for the rest of the week. For now, he’s just one of the many unknowns.

In fact, it is so easy to be excited by the highly visible progress that Doug Chapman has made that we may forget that any one of the 77 riders not being tracked at Star-Traxx could be doing even better. Perhaps someone has been busy sucking up bonuses in the southwest and is ahead in points. Maybe the Minnesota Team Strange gang are bettering their fantastic 2003 effort and have even mileage on their odometers than anything we can see online. What if someone took the sucker bet of a Panama Canal run and is right now closing in on Honduras. Who knows what further wonder these riders will bestow on us as the rally unfolds. One thing that is already clear is that all of these riders are pushing hard from the very start. Pushing *real* good.

[image from my photo collection.]

2 Comments so far


August 25th, 2005 at 3:46 pm

Amazing. It’d be hard to make some of those runs in a CAR, and driving is much less fatiguing than riding (and weather is less of a factor.)

Anyone ever get caught cheating in the Iron Butt? Switching out riders, following with support personnel and maybe a van they can sleep in, that sort of thing?

Just following the rider with a small camper would help, as they could eat and nap much more easily and quickly.


August 25th, 2005 at 5:09 pm

Given that you have to have competed in previous endurance rallies to get into the Iron Butt, given that outside the endurance rally circle the IBR is mostly unknown and given that the sum total of a IBR win is a cheap plastic trophy, I doubt there is really motivation for someone to cheat. I think people do this for the same reason people climb mountains, swim large bodies of water or bicycle long distances…just to prove to themselves that they can do it.

I don’t think there is a problem with having a support vehicle, as long as the rider does all the actual riding. ‘Course, having a support vehicle that can *keep up* with the pace set by some of these guys may preclude that anyway.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.