It finally happened. 25 miles into the Lead Belt national enduro my mind started drifting, circling back about every five minutes to a couple jobs that had to get finished this week and fall cleanup that had to get done at home. The temp was in the low 90s, the humidity was about the same and given that it hadn’t rained in southeastern Missouri for at least a few weeks, visibility on the dry, rocky and dusty course pushed the pucker factor to about 9.5 on those rare moments when I would catch another rider. So, yeah, I started thinking about getting hurt.
Right then and there I knew it was all over. I’ve raced a little bit of everything at every level for the better part of 35 years and can count on one hand the times I’ve quit a race. Two or three of those have come in the last couple years, though, and that really wears on me.
Off-road racing isn’t always a pleasure cruise. In fact, at some point you learn to embrace the suck and live for the moment at the finish when you can pat yourself on the back and say you really accomplished something and just maybe did it a little quicker than your competitors. This time, however, I finished the third test at the main pit area, changed out of my gear and walked into the woods to shoot the finish of the race. At 51 years of age I may be an old and increasingly cautious amateur racer but I make no bones about still calling myself a professional photographer.
At the end of the weekend the results on film, or SD card as it were, turned out a lot better that what they would have been on the scorecard. I hung my hat on that decided that it was time to move on. I’ll never say I’m never going to race again. Hell, I might even do it next weekend. It’s just too damn fun and the people are just too damn great not to be around. And that’s the beauty of never having been a professional racer. You can’t retire from something that’s never been a “career”.
On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to all of the new opportunities that have opened up with the growth of the RideX365 website and magazine. We are ironing out details to promote a couple of high-profile cross-country races at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota next summer and I’m still very ambitious about putting together a team of some sort to help up and coming Minnesota off-road racers like Nick Swenson and Austin Pogreba make their mark on the national scene.
Aside from the bikes, there is plenty of work to be done in snocross as well. The sport is at a bit of crossroads right now, but I’m convinced it’s more of a transition period and over the course of the next couple years will work itself out. There is a ton of young talent coming up and if we can just get everyone to start communicating better and pulling in the same direction, the sport is going to come out all the better for it.
To that end, we are going to do our part to focus on the bright side and hopefully be part of the solution. That doesn’t mean we’re going to turn our heads to the issues and gloss over the missteps but, hey, we all live in glass houses.