When I think of words to try and describe the 2023 Cajun Classic 100 Mile Enduro, the first word that comes to mind is attrition; the act of wearing down by friction. 100 miles of single track in the Piney Woods of Louisiana is a rough and grueling day on a dirt bike. As riders, we were needing to push back against the deterioration of the body and bike that accumulated as the miles rolled over. As racers, we were needing to grit our teeth, forget the previous miles, and control the chaos of a deflecting motorcycle.
Attrition: the act of wearing down by friction
The roots you encounter deep in the Kisatchie National Forest are a special breed. They’ve been crafted over years of controlled burns and two wheeled adventures to withstand all manner of assault. The aging roots proudly display their structure and lineage, mocking every rider, demanding their attention. This act puts the rider in a false sense of control, as it’s less about the roots you can see, and more about the ones you can’t. The sniper roots are smaller, and stay hidden away, awaiting a rider’s inflated confidence for their chance to pounce. Just as the pronounced roots jack hammer a rider’s wheels, sending shock waves through the body, the sniper roots are Louisiana black ice, silently awaiting their chance to send a rider flailing off into the brush.
The week leading up to the race brought just enough moisture to bring thoughtful consideration to whether we were going to have perfect dirt, slot car ruts, or that middle ground that dances the edge of a certain kind of crazy.
The long transfer sections throughout the day reminded us that this enduro wasn’t only going to be about the time accumulated during each test section. As soon as we checked out of each test, we had to find a trail pace that would allow us to recover, but also keep us moving forward to check-in to the next test section on time. This created a transfer speed typically unseen in more traditional Enduros of the day.
The first third of the race was technical, with just enough of what the day would bring thrown in to keep us racers on our toes; There was perfect dirt, slick roots, and ruts. The trail was that certain kind of crazy that made you realize you made the correct decision by taking on this daunting competition.
Rolling into the first gas stop, having accrued 33.1 miles, was almost a false sense of security. The body and mind we’re still in a feeling of wonderment, excited for what we’d accomplished so far, fueling the flame of over-confidence for the 68 miles that were laid out in front of us.
I was on row 23 with some extremely fast racers. It was a pleasure to watch them ride away from me at a pace that I haven’t tried to touch in over ten years. I do have to give a special shout out to Jerry Gibson! This young man is in the 45+ A class and he hauled the mail!!! I had the best time trying to stay on his rear wheel. Test Three and Six were the two tests where I stayed on his rear wheel till the end, and those moments were some of the most fun from the day. Thanks to Jerry, I found myself riding a fine line between scared shitless and focused attack.
If there is one moment from the event that I’ll think about for a while, it was the way I rode the 13.1 miles of transfer between the short course cut off and the second gas stop. The friction of the day had set in, and I was feeling it from pushing myself to keep Jerry’s rear wheel splattering me in black soil. The pace I kept was one tick above a Sunday stroll, and mentally I wasn’t attentive enough to remember that the gas stop was the place to rest. As I pulled into gas two at mile 67.7, I saw I had three minutes to go before my row went off, which meant I had a decision to make. I could rush the gas stop by splashing gas in the bike and skip refueling my body to start Test Four on time. Or I could slow down for a moment, top off the bike and refuel the body, so I could keep pushing at a relatively high pace for the next 33.3 miles. I chose the latter, leveraging the time to take a few deep breaths, refill my bike, reload my hydration bladder with my prepared mix, and high five some friends. As I rolled to the line, Jackson Davis was awaiting his row of 28 to roll over, which meant I was starting Test Four just under five minutes late. Game On.
Test Four was 5.1 miles long, which I rode decently, but I needed to catch up on time. Once I crossed the green and white flags to check out of the test, there was no time to gather my thoughts. The next 11.4 mile transfer section was a blur of piney wood single track. I knew that if I couldn’t catch up to my row before they set off into Test Five, the rest of my race was going to be playing catch up. With about four minutes to spare, I rolled up to the start of Test Five at mile 84.3, stopped the bike, closed my eyes, and took in a few excited deep breaths; I made it. As I opened my eyes, Jerry rolled up to the line. I gave him an enthusiastic head nod, letting him know I was ready to follow him into battle.
Test Five was the longest test of the day at 6.3 miles long, and it ended in a dramatic fashion. Since the woods we were racing in are an old WWII military base, there’s loads of abandoned concrete structures and roads. At some point in time, a sadistic trail boss thought sending the trail through a broken concrete jungle would be a fun way to end a test section. When I came up on this obstacle, there were a few racers waiting for the perfect line. Knowing that I wanted to finish strong, I just drove straight into the piled up concrete pieces. As my initial momentum began to wane, the fight to keep moving forward brought out the dreaded dog paddle. I was far beyond thinking about looking good for the camera, but luckily WinPic was there to capture the moment.
The last test of the day was 4.8 miles, and if we had been better at doing math, we would have realized this race wasn’t going to end right at 100 miles. The test started at 96.3 miles in, and Jerry and the boys had a pace that was the most fun of the day. I was excited to be close to the finish, elated to still be collecting roost from Jerry’s rear wheel, and ready to begin bench racing. When the 100 mile marker came and went, I was first excited, then confused, and then depressed; there was more ahead. Now I knew, I didn’t know where we finished. What I did know is that I needed to keep racing. I stuck to Jerry unlike I had done throughout the entire day, remembering the words Cole had given me about aggression and using every piece of trail to move myself forward. When the 101 mile marker passed, I twisted the throttle that much deeper into its rotation on the handlebar; I was going to finish strong.
Crossing through the last check-out of the day at mile 101.1 was amazing. I revved the bike, I high-fived anyone who had their hand up, and I made all kinds of awkward sounds from my dry and depleted throat. I knew what I had just accomplished can’t be done by very many people. While the sport of Enduro has evolved away from long technical miles, the world at large has gravitated toward comfort and safety. It’s days like today that make me feel truly alive. Finding ways to put every ounce of physical and mental energy into something leaves me depleted of energy, but also fulfilled in my soul.
The Brian of years passed would relive that 13.1 mile transfer section for days, maybe even weeks. Beating himself up for making such a simple mental mistake, which led to him giving up almost five minutes of his day. The Brian of today knows that that’s racing, and it’s all part of the journey of learning and growth. There is no such thing as perfect, even though we tear ourselves down constantly by trying to achieve it.
All in all, I ended my day 31st Overall and 8th in the 40+ A Class. As I’ve seen in every race I’ve competed in this year, I have a level of endurance others don’t. This was true today as well, as I had my best test of the day in Test Six, finishing 22nd Overall and 4th in my class. The summer is coming up quickly, and family time will take priority over racing, but that’s ok. The memories are made, and the precedence is set. Dirt bikes are awesome and I’m excited for the next chance I get to grow and push myself.
Thank you to everyone who put this event together. We need more Enduros like this to come back to the forefront of the sport. The National Enduro Series is fun, but it’s just different. We need to get uncomfortable, we need to challenge ourselves, and we need to find growth in more battles of attrition.