2006 Baja 1000 Race Day: Part 6 "THE FINISH!"
With just over 100 miles to go, I knew I had this thing beat. I knew down in my soul that I could finish it. What I didn’t know was that Baja had one more nasty surprise for me. In my last post, I had just finished the hardest terrain on the course and I was beaten. I checked in for the last time with my chase crew and I was off to finish the gnarliest thing I had ever done. As I headed South I was stoked. Not far now! Then the real silt beds started.
Up until now, there had been silt and it had been terrible but this was next level. These silt beds went on for miles and miles! At this point, I was so far back in the pack that just about every vehicle in the race had been through them already and had chewed them up into the nastiest mess I had ever been in. I was sinking past the skid plate into the silt and hitting land mines that I never saw. It was miserable. My body was so tired and worn out that I couldn’t muscle the big girl around anymore. I was just along for the ride and it wasn’t a fun one. The silt was so nasty and deep that it was packing in around my front sprocket and causing it to skip in the chain! I really don’t remember individual moments in those silt beds, just struggle, and pain. My legs were cramping and my soul was being tested to the limit. But I emerged ok and still in one piece.
I was so happy to be out of the misery that at first I didn’t really notice how low the sun was getting. I just headed on towards the goat trail that Anna and I had navigated during pre-running with only one light. Little did I know that I was going to do a repeat performance in just a little while. I finally looked around and saw that the sun was close to the horizon and I hadn’t put my race light back on. My guys and I didn’t even discuss it when I saw them last. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to get dark AGAIN! But here I was, still miles from the pavement and the sun was almost down. I twisted the throttle open a little more and tried to hurry but it was of no use. I wasn’t going to make it down the hard section before dark.
Just before full darkness I pulled off to the side of the track and opened up my tools for the second time all race. I dug my screwdriver out and started to adjust my pitiful stock headlight. It was pointing straight up in the air and even though it wasn’t much help, it was something. As I sat there fiddling with the 1 candlepower light, another bike pulled up with a real light on it. The rider stopped, looked at me and then motioned for me to go ahead of him. “What, no, I got it. Go ahead” I said. He just sat there and motioned me to go again and again. He wanted me to ride in front of him so I could use his light like I had Anna’s. After I realized he wasn’t taking no for an answer I headed out and he fell in behind me. It was completely dark going down the goat trail AGAIN! I couldn’t believe it. Just like the first time, it was SKETCHY! I managed to miss the giant hole this time but had plenty of other close calls but we made it. We finally got to the highway that leads to La Paz. It was OVER! I couldn’t believe it! My chase crew was there at the intersection cheering! I jumped off my bike to tell the good samaritan thank you. When he pulled up I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a giant hug. He had literally saved me from a nightmare. When I looked into his eyes I realized he was Asian. When I said “thank you so much” he just nodded. Holy crap, this guy didn’t speak English! It turns out he was an employee of Honda in Japan who comes every year and solo’s the race too. He had sacrificed the end of his race to help me and I couldn’t believe it. He motioned me to go ahead again but this time I refused. We were on the pavement now, I could see well enough and I wasn’t about to finish the race ahead of him. We still had a mile or so to the finish line and he was going to beat me, no matter what!
I will never forget the feeling of rolling into La Paz and across that finish line. It was unreal! Even though I was hours and hours behind the winners there was a huge crowd and they were cheering like I had won the thing. I felt like a champion! Kids wanted my autograph, parents took pics of their babies with me! It was one of the coolest feelings I have ever felt. The people were wonderful and I was elated. I really couldn’t process what had just happened. I had done a ton of really hard things in my past but this was different. This thing changed me. It changed me in ways that I am still figuring out.
I am still processing the impact that the Baja 1000 had on me and my life and that will be where we go from here!
Thank you so much for joining me in that race! It was really fun to recount that epic journey. Now comes the even bigger journey into entrepreneurship, marriage and fatherhood. The journey I am still on and still struggling through! I hope you stay with me because the highs and lows coming up are even bigger than that race.
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