Dakar race numbers published today, lucky 105! This is not only my race number but also my starting position on day one. A little further up the list than in 2012.
Dakar race numbers published today, lucky 105! This is not only my race number but also my starting position on day one. A little further up the list than in 2012.
Dakar 2018 training became real the end of July with the official acceptance letter from the ASO. It’s tough keeping up a good training regimen with an irregular work schedule and extensive travel a part of it. To keep myself motivated and have some personal accountability I started logging some of what I have been doing. A few stats as of October 30th:
I’ve run 93.8 miles, swam over 4600 yards, rowed 11,021 meters, climbed 18.5 miles of stairs, cycled 568.9 miles and have done 10,315 push-ups.
Still a long way to go but progress is being made…
Thanks to my good friend Angelo “Woolfey” Vlcek, I have teamed up with him and Team Klymciw Racing to compete in the Dakar 2018 40th Edition!
Acceptance letter form the ASO.
Most of the bike footage came from my bike!
One year ago today I was traveling alone making my way to South America to participate in the Dakar. At the time I had mixed emotions of excitement of what was to come, questioning preparedness, nervousness to the unknown and a little sadness as I was embarking on this great adventure alone. Though the outcome was not what I had expected and during the moments of defeat I often questioned why, I look back at what a great experience it was. I made new friends, had tons of support from people I knew and even more from folks I hadn’t met. Thank you to all who made this possible.
There is something indescribable about the call to do something as challenging as the Dakar and the desire to succeed at it. As those who followed last years events know I did not make the finish line. Now over the course of the past year reflecting and pondering the “what if’s” I hear the saying of “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again” over and over again.
The last year has been extremely busy, always on the go for work, a race or a little personal adventure. I did not keep up with the blog but will soon post a cliff notes version of the past years adventures and mishaps as well as news of things to come for 2013.
Thank you again to everyone who made last year’s go at the Dakar possible, from sponsors, individual contributors and those wishing encouragement, I greatly appreciate it.
For those going to the Dakar this year, good luck and enjoy the moment!
I’ve always had a curiosity to the origins of sayings, unique words and the such so I looked up the phrase “try,try again”. As always I find there is more to it, an entire poem;
Try Try Again
by T. H. Palmer
‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear
Try, try again;
Once or twice, though you should fail,
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;
If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again
If you find your task is hard,
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again
All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view:
Try, try again.
Day 2 part 3
The bike pushed safely out of the way I take off my gear, catch my breath and realize how hot it is and no it´s not a dry heat. The sun is high overhead with nothing but prickly sage brush type plants around, shade is minimal. I take off my gear; try to get the bike to turn over, still nothing. Realizing I could be here a while I decide to create some shade for myself. The sun is coming from the left side of the road and there is about a two foot shelf down to the road surface. I clear some old limbs away and dig a hole in the embankment under a live bush. No real leaves or anything but the maze of twigs offer some cover. The plan is now to wait it out, hope the bike cools down, someone comes along with some oil and maybe I can get it going again.
An hour goes by and only two bikes roll by. I decide to give the bike a try. It actually cranks over now but won´t start. I crawl back in my hole and try to take a nap, conserving as much energy as possible. While laying there the thought of my rally ending here really starts to sink in. I begin to think how foolish I was thinking I could put together a rally bike and compete with all the teams who have big budgets with fully R&D´ed bikes. But I also remembered passing a number of bikes including factory KTM 450 Rally Replica´s with mechanical issues on the first day and even earlier today. I still had plenty of time to ponder the amount of money I have spent chasing different forms of racing over the years. I was beginning to believe it´s time to give this all up. I was also bothered by the horrible failure of a part I designed but settled for an adaptation of the mounting points. No one’s fault but my own.
It´s now has been two hours with a few more bikes and an occasional quad. I stop all the quads asking if they have oil, no luck. I remembered the course split four kilometres back and there were groups of spectators there, I thought someone had to have some oil. I start walking back and after about a k and a half another quad rolls up, he has a quart of oil and is willing to part with it. I ask him for a ride back to my bike. He was a little reluctant at first as he said he had over heating issues but finally obliged. Back at the bike with no funnel, I lay the bike on its side on the ground to pour the oil in. Most of the oil makes it in but now gas is pouring out the rear tank. The pin hole leak had vibrated to a full on crack. Bike now has oil but still won’t start. I crawl back into my shade hole.
Partialy asleep I hear this loud noise coming my way and isn´t a quad or a bike, by the time I get up I see a Kamaz truck barrelling straight on by only a few feet away. I thought the cars and trucks where taking the alternate route 4k back. Guess not. The dust storm these trucks produce is ridiculous. I needed to find a new shade spot much further off the roadside. Tried starting the bike again, still nothing, then dug another hole about twenty yards off the road. I could see my bike but no one was going to see me if they rode by. I didn’t’ want someone stopping unnecessarily but I wasn´t going through another dusting like that again. A few more trucks blew by. I decided to give the bike another go. The starter cranked and cranked and there was actually a pop or two. It´s actually igniting now, I´m thinking this thing may fire. I try again and bike cranks over coming to life. I quickly put my gear on hop on the bike and away I go. It’s been about three hours at this stop, sometime close to 5:45.
I´m rolling again, feeling good though awfully thirsty. I still have energy water mix in the hydration pack but plain cold water would be great right about now. I´m making my way slowly and more trucks are coming by. I need to practically come to a stop the dust is so bad. I come down a hill to make a turn in a river bed. There are hundreds of spectators. I pull over asking for oil. No one understood me but I guess I´m good a charades. A few people come running with jugs of oil and many offering water. Unfortunately all I see are used soda bottles filled with water, I´m not that desperate yet. Leaving the bike running I top the bike off with oil and get underway again. Running down this wide river wash I looking over my shoulder the whole time as more big trucks were coming. The wash narrowed up and there started to be small streams and puddles. I was happy to hit every puddle and stream I could as the cooling effect was good for me and the bike. I spot a vehicle with Dakar numbers on it so I stop and ask if they have water and oil. They give me two bottles of water; I drink one and stuff the other in my pack. Hot water does not quench thirst. The guy didn´t have any motor oil but offered a quart of tranny oil. By now any thick liquid would work. I stuff it in the pack and continue on. Exiting the wash I make my way up an extremely deep loose sand road with crazy ruts to find a car stuck in the trail. I have to jump out of the rut into the deep loose stuff and the motor bogs down dying again. I´ve now made it 234 k´s. A local helps me push the bike out of the way and again I look for shade. I asked the stuck car crew if they had any oil, they did not but offered some water. By now I wasn’t passing up any bottled water. I topped the engine off with some tranny fluid. It took probably forty five minutes before the engine fired again but when it did I quickly hit the road again.
The road was dug deep into the ground with a steep shoulder ranging two to four feet above the road. The track continues to get worse as it was deep sand chewed up by the big trucks. I made it probably another 15 k before coming across an organization vehicle. I stopped asked for water and oil. They asked why I wouldn´t turn the bike off I explained and showed the repair site. They asked if I was done. I said not till the motor give up. They gave me a bottle of water and I was gone again. The road continued on in the same fashion but now with lots of ups and downs. This would have been great to ride had I had a good bike to ride and it had been five hours earlier. I slowly made my way trying to stay out of the big trucks way. Not easy since the road had such a large shelf to climb each time a truck came by. I definitely didn´t not want to stall it climbing out of the road bed. I run parallel to the road for a few k´s as the trucks kept coming. I made it to a crazy whooped out section. The surface was more hard packed but big woops. All the trucks that passed me were now crawling through this and I slowly made my way past most of them.
I came to another security vehicle around 260k. By now I was physically beat and getting a little dehydrated. I had been drinking water like crazy but it wasn´t doing much. They crew gave me water, this time I took the time to put some nuuns in it and let them dissolve before drinking. I laid down in the shade of their truck trying to keep the dust of the trucks roaring by out of my eyes drinking water. One of the crew offered me a granola bar, I tried eating it but it turned to a saw dust paste in my mouth all the while my bike idling in the background. About ten minutes later I dumped the rest of the tranny fluid and was back on the bike under way. It was about three k to the dunes of deep sand ruts.
I approached the first small dune and there where cars and trucks strewn all over. I made my way up only to have to change direction near the top to avoid dropping into a deep bowl with even more vehicles stuck. As I neared the top once again the bike died. Locals helped push the bike a little further up and out of the way. A security crew asked if I was ok and if I could continue. I said I wasn´t sure but I wasn´t done trying yet. Another rescue crew came to me asking for gas for another rider stuck in the dunes. I said sorry I only had enough to make it myself plus there were plenty of locals around, somebody had to have gas. About a half hour later the bike fired again. I switched to clear goggles as the sun was setting.
I made it this far, now at 263 k, I had to try. I knew 6k of dunes was going to be tough but I was going for it. I headed past the large bowl where all the trucks and cars where having issues crested a large dune, hit the first of many waypoint and headed toward the next. I hit that marker and looked at the direction the gps was pointing. I noticed the safety vehicle that had asked for gas up ahead. I knew they knew where they were going. I followed in their direction, once again avoiding a group of stuck trucks. This lead to a short but steep climb, turns out it was too much for the motor to take. It bogged again and just wouldn´t re fire. I made it about 1.5 k´s into the dunes. I was willing to let it cool again and give it another go. Darkness was coming though. I set off the sentinel which sends a loud audible signal to any vehicle within 500 meters. I climbed about ten yards to the top of the dune. I could see cars and trucks all over the place making their way through the dunes.
I watched and helped direct trucks through the section I was at until one truck coming from the other direction ignored me waving them off nearly running me over crashing over the top of the dune headed straight for my bike. They stopped and barely made it past my bike. As it was now getting dark I pulled out my strobe light and put it at the top of the dune directly above where I was hoping it would let trucks know someone was stuck there. Bike still wouldn´t start and the traffic died down so I decided to rest a little bit before attempting again. I dug a comfortable hole in the sand a few feet to the side of my bike, put some ear plugs in as the sentinel beeping was crazy loud and laid down for a nap. I woke to a loud roar of a truck plowing only a few feet from my bike straight for the strobe beacon I set up. Had I been on the other side of the bike I would have been run over. I guess that strobe worked more like a light attracting bugs than a warning beacon because every vehicle after that headed straight for it. I wanted to move my bike but it just wasn´t budging in the deep sand. Several more trucks tried the same lane, one having to back down several times. The second attempt they backed down over the front tire of my bike. As they got closer I tried to get them to help push the bike back out of the way. They had no interest in helping. Finally the truck slid further back with the front wheel rolling on top of the wheel of my bike. The truck door was up against my bike and one of them getting out wasn’t going to happen unless it was the driver. I was now pissed; I started beating on the side of their truck yelling at them. They may not have understood English but they knew the situation. I was able to dig the front tire out and drag the bike back enough for them to back up. The passenger gestured for me to chill a offered me some water. I took their water but he knew what they did wasn´t cool.
Again I tried starting the bike, no luck it was now 9:30 pm. I decided to push the green button and let the ASO know what was up. They called back, I informed them it didn´t look good but I was trying. They said whatever I do don´t leave the bike, they would call back shortly to see if I made progress. I played with the bike some more, still no luck. I was able to drag the bike a little further down the dune out of the lane the trucks where creating. I moved my strobe to the bike itself, dug another wedge in the sand. This time I used my head lamp on strobe so I would also be seen in case the reflective striping on my riding gear didn´t show up. I laid down again trying to get some rest. More trucks were coming and going. Around 10:30 the ASO called back, the bike still wouldn´t start. I knew even if I got it started I probably would have to deal with this again before getting out of the dunes. Knowing there was at least 1.5 hour liaison after the dunes, getting back to the bivouac in time for an engine swap was highly unlikely. I didn´t want to drag the team down. It was time.
The ASO said they didn´t know when but someone would be there, hopefully before dawn. I laid back down disappointed it was over but felt I gave it an honest try. I made it 264.5 k, almost 100k with no water and leaking oil, only 30 from the finish of the special. I slept some and watched the lights of trucks and buggies make their way through the dunes. Finally the night became still and I slept a little till the truck showed up at about 1:45. It was the same crew That tried to bum some gas from me. I told them I had to try. They said they were impressed I got this far in the dunes. They figured I bee with in a 100 meters of where they last saw me.
It took about two hours to get from to the bivouac. The dropped me off at the food tent. I ate a little and went looking for our camp. I found the camp looked for a tent but they were all taken. Ned woke up and said he was worried. I told him I was having such a good time today and I was sorry for being a downer the night before then briefly what happened to the bike and let him go back to bed. I looked around again in the tents, there were all occupied. The ground looked good, so I curled up and crashed.
Day 2 part 2
I pull up to CP1, hand the official my time card expecting to have it stamped with a time so I know my exit time. He just took it and waved me on. I tried to communicate with him, wondering how would I know my exit time. If he understood me he wasn´t letting on and just rattled something in French. I knew it was a fifteen minute neutralization so I immediately took a look at my watch noting the time then pushed my bike up in the gas line.
Getting off the bike I noticed my right ankle and boot covered in oil, concerned I looked the bike over. I could tell it was coming from the airbox. I checked the oil level and it was right where it should be. If the oil is over filled and the bike is run hard for a long period it will spit it out into the airbox. This explains the loosing of rpm and clearing up earlier. I remember hearing the bike start twice during the night and didn´t think it ran long enough to get a proper read on oil level. I can´t fault anyone though as it is not an easy system to check the first time. It found the level it needed and was running clean again.
With the bike in line I grabbed a few waters trying to make the most of the time. Bike was now getting fuel and there still didn´t seem to be anyone letting us know when it was time to go. With the bike done and out of the way I sat in the shade for a moment drinking a bottle of water and noticed guys I passed are now lining up to go. It hadn’t even been ten minutes yet. But I didn´t want to get stuck in the same peoples dust and if they were letting them go I should try too. Geared up and moving forward a piece of barbed wire I didn´t see gets tangled up in my front wheel. I jump off the bike quickly and with the help of an official I get it untangled. As I´m getting back on my bike I notice gas is leaking. I check the center cap as it is lower than the other tanks and will leak with full tanks if not tight. No leak there. Looking closer I notice the rear tank is leaking at a corner seam in a bend. Not good but not terrible at the moment as long as the bike doesn´t flame up. Even if I lose the entire gallon above the crack I still have enough to get to the finish.
I roll up to the starter and he gives me the nod, off I go. It still had not been fifteen minutes since pulling into the CP. Time for another note to self: gas and go as quickly as possible at future CP´s. If it is an opportunity to make up or loose time I didn´t want it to work against me. I´m now assuming they must just add fifteen minutes to everyone’s times. I guess at the front they must hold the riders for fifteen minutes but where I was there was no rhyme or reason as to how and when we were released. I wanted this clarified. If there was a true fifteen minute break I wanted it to personally refuel with water and a snack.
I´m rolling again and it´s more of the same for another 15 kilometers, fast with some winding sections and a few sharp turns. I am quickly catching riders again and making my way cleanly buy this time fighting significantly less dust. Still sticking to my game plan, I´m riding at a pace I am comfortable with and can sustain all day.
I climb a gentle rise with good speed and begin to slow down as the terrain gets rockier and there appears to be a bend in the road ahead. Plenty of locals around cheering and waving to slow down, I double check the road book, see nothing noteworthy but decide to heed there warning anyway. Good thing, around the bend was a serious drop off. Really surprised there wasn´t a noted caution considering how fast the approach speed was and the terrain just dropped off. There were no visual clues, to the left there was a small mound and to the right is was level with the road. I adjusted my speed made the turn and reminded myself not to take chances, ride the terrain and enjoy the ride.
This road descended from here and was considerably rockier, though nothing tricky. The road made its way along the back side of the mound mentioned earlier. I was making my way through a right hand turn, nothing to sharp or fast, bike leaning in with me standing over it. Three quarters of the way through the turn as I´m picking up the throttle the front tire glances off a small rock. With the bike leaned the forks really didn´t compress and absorb the jounce but instead deflected the front to the left making the bike want to lean over even more to the right. Instinct to pick up the throttle a little more to stand up the bike kicked in. It wouldn´t take much and I´m pretty good with throttle control but unfortunately the rocky surface didn´t provide any grip, the rear slid and the bike low sided perpendicular to the trail. Not the clean ride I wanted but not a big deal as this was at a relatively slow speed. Pick the bike up and off I go. So I thought…
I picked the bike up and the skid plate is lying on the ground underneath it. Didn´t think much of it till I looked closer and noticed the top of the tank where the mounts where welded was ripped open. The welds were intacted but the top plate was ripped open like a beer can and was covered with water and oil. I´m now wondering why oil¿ A quick glance at the engine revealed a shattered water pump and a hole in the side cover the size of a quarter. I´m thinking I´m done. A few riders pass by, I wave them to continue on. James Embro comes by shortly, he stops, I ask him to pass on a message when he gets to the bivouac that I have a hole in the case, no water pump but I´m going to try to make it in. He continues on. Knowing I´ll be here a while I push the green button on the Irritrac signalling a mechanical problem. While I´m working on it someone from the organization calls to check on the problem, says ok and reminds me to push the green button when I´m moving again.
A quick note about the Irritrac system and the buttons. This is a GPS based tracking system with a sat phone built in. There is a green, red and blue button, each has a purpose and generates a different response from the ASO. The blue button is just a general phone line, push it and they will call you back, no priority. Green button signals a mechanical. We were told to push it if we knew we would be stopped for any period of time and told to push it again once we were moving again. I was surprised when someone called back after I pushed the green button. The red is for medical assistance for you or another rider. This will get an immediate response. We were told repeatedly in the system class at no time will pushing any button on the system put you out of the race.
I´m evaluating the situation and deciding what my options are. A smashed water pump housing with no way to plug it up so getting water in the system was out of the question. Not looking very optimistic. The case has a gaping hole. How am I going to cover that up and seal it¿ Again things not looking to good. Most of the oil is still in the engine so I decide if I can plug the hole, keep the oil in it and baby the engine maybe I can make it to the end. I have a nice size oil cooler on it so maybe this will work. Knowing I have a serious dune section to cross I kind of know this is a long shot but I have to go for it or I´m done here. Keep in mind I had a good pace going earlier and if I could get through the dunes I expected I could still get in before dark, plenty of time for an engine swap.
The repair consisted of a using an epoxy compound I had around the edges. Then using the foil lid and the mixing cup the epoxy came in to plug the hole with a rock jammed in the back side to keep everything in place. I used duck taped stretched over the rock from the clutch line to the frame in a few different directions then placed a small piece of cardboard over the rock and then created a web of zip ties to snug everything up. This might not plug the hole but it sure was going to slow the leak.
While working on the bike I heard something that sounded different than a bike rounding the bend. Here comes the first of the cars, a Mini, a small truck and then Robby Gordon. After about thirty minute repairing the bike I was on my way again. This took place at kilometer 174 of the special.
I made my way easily along the trail, passing cheering people encouraging me to go, go, go. I felt like a schlep just putzing along and hoped they notice the spider web of zip ties and the smashed water pump legitimizing my slow pace. The track ran us into a wash that would have been fun to rip through but I kept the pace and rpms down. I didn´t want to put any unnecessary heat in the engine. Making my way out of the river wash at marker 2oo k the route seperates here from the cars and bikes, we go straight and the go left. A little relieved I don´t have to keep an eye over my shoulder for cars flying by I keep moving on. I round a bend go down a dip and the motor starts dragging heavily bringing the bike do a halt. It won´t turn over, nothing, I´m done, motor seized. At least I tried I thought. I was in a bad spot on the outside of the exit of a turn in a dip so I pushed the bike about fifty yards up the road high enough it would be seen from approaching side of the blind dip. It´s now after two o´clock and getting in before dark let alone getting in at all isn´t looking so good.