2023 Iron Butt Rally: Day -450
26 March ’22
The title is a spoiler, but stick with me here.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook - “The emails have gone out! Who made it in?” and the next 15 minutes were spent distractedly pinging my various email accounts. Was it slow? Did it get caught in a spam filter? Was not getting one a bad sign, or were the acceptance emails just being sent to the 1st draw applicants, and I still had a shot at making it?
If you’re just tuning in, this is what Wikipedia says about the Iron Butt Rally:
The Iron Butt Rally is a competitive motorcycle road rally held in the United States. It was first held in 1984, and beginning in 1991, now takes place in odd numbered years, usually in August. The rally lasts 11 days, and riders often travel over 11,000 miles (18,000 km) in that time. During the rally, entrants earn points by riding their motorcycles to various “bonus” locations in the U.S. and Canada. A bonus is a task or destination with a point value. To earn the points for a bonus, a rider must provide evidence by photographing an object or scene, purchasing a particular item, or by various other means specified by the organizers.
The rally consists of one or more checkpoints, which may be located anywhere the United States, and one or more lists of bonuses with locations, times of availability (if limited), and varying point values. Each leg of the rally has its own bonus list, and only the bonuses for the leg currently being ridden are known to riders and can be earned. A bonus list typically contains far more bonuses than can be earned in the time allotted during a leg. This introduces a significant strategic element to the rally, since each rider must determine for him/herself which bonuses to attempt, and what route to use to reach them, while still reaching the next checkpoint before it closes.
To be considered a finisher of the event, a rider must be present at each of the checkpoints within a specific time window, and must earn a minimum number of bonus points during the rally. Additional achievement levels (gold, silver, bronze) can be reached by earning more than the minimum required points.
Themes are often employed, with 2011 being about visiting U.S. states and their capitals; 2009 were crime scenes; 2007 was about gateway and arches (i.e. Perce Rock on the Atlantic, St. Louis Arch, and Golden Gate Bridge on the Pacific); and 2005 was about lighthouses.
In 2019, I set myself a goal of qualifying for the 2023 Iron Butt Rally. I worked hard on my gear, my process, my riding skills, and my physical, mental, & emotional fitness to be a competitor in this weird little niche sport. I love the little community of people who share a bond not only over motorcycles, but around the ineffable experience of these rides. We all know.. and that connection is somehow enough. We all feel it, that pull to do the rides, to go to strange places, to have new experiences, to try to catch that horizon, always just out of reach.
Around 30 minutes go by, and I figured that it couldn’t be slow email – I didn’t get in.
I’d mentally played out how this was going to go, if I didn’t get drawn. I mean, sure, everyone was quietly reassuring me. “Don’t worry.. you’ll get in,” they’d say, with a smile and a pat on my shoulder.
”..but I’m new here! I don’t have enough experience!” I’d argue.
The look I’d get would’ve been enough, but the snort of disbelief just served to underline how little faith I have in myself and what I’ve accomplished.
So it was surprising, and it stung a little. I wondered what else I could’ve done to qualify, or if random chance had prevented my name from being drawn as a rookie, but instead of dwelling on “boo-hoo poor me” I instead pulled up Basecamp and Google Maps, working on my proposal for a Ride Around Washington route. I might not have gotten in, and as much as it was something I wanted, it wasn’t the reason why I’m doing these rides. The reason was the ride itself, that’s all it ever was, and not getting to go do stupid things on a motorcycle in the IBR doesn’t change that.
Right on cue, my computer dinged.
I got the email.
Now begins 15-months of prep. More work on the bike, more work on me. 6 multi-day competitions this year, including LDX, an 8-day scavenger hunt rally in June. More long-distance riding feats, including multiple multi-day 1000+ mile rides. More tire and oil changes than I care to imagine right now. Continuing to learn about myself and my resilience, physical and mental.
New goal - be a competitor. Surprise myself. Get it done.