In just a couple short weeks it will be time for the Desert 100 in Odessa Washington. It is one of my favorite events of the year. I believe anyone that likes dirtbikes should go at least once. I won't lie, it is organized chaos. But you will see just about every kind of dirt bike you can imagine, people of all shapes and sizes, vendors, noise and dust. I know that description does not sound all that relaxing, but if you go with the flow it is lots of fun. If you are thinking of going, there are some things to keep in mind both for yourself and your ride. This will be my fifth year racing. Now keep in mind, I use the term "racing" very loosely when applying it to myself. Really what I do is ride the same direction as everyone else, try to go fast when I can, not get hurt and finish so I can get my t-shirt and sticker. Now having said that, I can say proudly that I have finished every year (which many cannot say the same). Some years I have been pretty beat by the end and so has my bike. But I have learned a few things and each year it gets a little better.
The first thing you have to keep in mind is yourself. Your bike can be brand new, have all the latest and greatest upgrades, yada, yada yada, but if you are not prepared it's gonna be bad. The best thing you can do to get yourself in shape is to get out and ride. If the only riding you have been doing is on the X-Box, put that thing away and get on your dirtbike. Working out is great, but it is no substitute for the real thing. Hydration is your friend. I don't mean drinking a bottle of water before the race and then taking off. You should be drinking as much water as you can a few days prior, and yes I said water, not sports drinks, beer (even though that's much more fun), or whatever chemical slew that you enjoy. Water, water, water. I have found drinking coconut water the night before and the morning of (along with just plain old water) helps tremendously. I don't particular like coconut products, but it is loaded with potassium (you know the stuff that help keep you from getting cramps). During the race, carry a bladder of some sort. I know allot of guys that don't want the extra weight, but unless you have been training your body for some time to deal with serious exertion with little water you are going to be hating life during the race. If you don't already have serious callouses on your hands you may want to consider taping them up for the race. Blisters are a huge problem and can really ruin your day. Once you get a blister started it's just going to get worse and very very painful. Get a roll of athletic tape and go to town. I always carry duct tape in my pack which also works great for blisters but can be painful to get off at the end of the day. This might sound funny but good socks can really make the difference. In fact all your base layer clothing is important. Avoid anything cotton. You really want base layer clothes that breathe and wick the sweat away. A hundred miles is a long way, no matter what the weather is doing you are going to sweat and lots of it. At the risk of sounding like a weirdo you should probably consider taping your nipples, if you want to get pasty's with tassels I won't judge.
As for the race itself, the best advice I have ever been given is this: "it's an endurance race, the real challenge is the second lap". Over the years I have seen allot of people get wadded up at the beginning, some seriously hurt. Before I did the actual race I always assumed it was because the course cuts across some pretty good ruts and they are hard to see. But now that I have done it a few times I think it has more to do with riders that are trying to ride too fast for the terrain and their own skill level. Take your time getting through the bottleneck. Pick your lines and stay safe, don't be that guy that ends his day the first 30 seconds because you plowed into a sage brush. You will have plenty of time to pass people on the other side. In fact throughout the race, try to keep a steady pace. Pass when you can, and ride smart. I have found that picking a good line is much more effective than trying to blow past someone. You would be surprised how many people get hung up in silt beads or mud pits, don't play "follow the leader". Ride your own speed, use your strengths to your advantage. For example, I love hill climbs and think of myself as doing pretty good on rocky terrain, I have found that this is where I tend to pass people, whereas bombing through windy sections with lots of whoops is not my strong suit.
At the pits I try to make sure to refill my bladder and drink a sports drink. Eating a granola bar of some sort is also a good idea even if you are not hungry. But, having said that you need to know yourself. My son won't eat anything at the pits because it tends to upset his stomach so you really need to decide what is best for you.
The main thing to remember is finishing on your bike is the goal. Even though you will have cool stories to tell, leaving on a helicopter is not a good idea.