Here is the ride report from my friend Mike. He is a crazy person. A very crazy stud of a person. The ups and downs that occur in 1,134.4 miles may surprise you. Enjoy!
2017 Baja 1000 Ironman #778 Mike Crawford Race report
All writing by Mike Crawford and photos by Michelle Forster and
unless otherwise marked.
Planning and Pre-race:
So much planning & pre-parring for this race. This was a goal that I had as a life goal since late 2007 when the Baja 1000 beat us then. I choose to switch from Honda 450x to the KTM500EXC. I pre-ran the 2016 Baja1000 & the day I returned from this race the training & planning was a full-time effort. Every day, every weekend, every decision was focused dedication to this goal. I raced all the Best in the Desert Series’ races in the Ironman Expert class & a few local races, adding in some Mountain bike races & endless cross-fit workouts to stay in riding condition. My Wife Sandra keot my nutrition in check & ate clean most of the year.
My best finish in 2017 before this Baja 1000 was in August at the Vegas to Reno 550 mile race where I earned 2nd fastest overall Ironman, 11hours 56minutes, 27th Overall out of 95 total bike teams. After the Vegas race, I choose to skip the last round of the BITD series & focus on long ride training & avoid any injury. I did a few all nighters, working 12 hour days, getting home prepping the bike & riding all night & pushing through the sleep deprivation feelings. I read a lot on sleep deprivation & got advice from other Pro riders who solo’d long races. It helped a lot & got better at staying focused for dozens of hours without sleep. The all night sessions were good mind/body test & proper bike test also. I was able to learn a lot about the bikes lighting output & purposely killed batteries to prove the limit the stator would be able to keep up & maintain 14volts for 40 straight hours. The goal from the early discussions on this race were to finish. As a competitor, In the back of my mind a solid finish was always the objective.
Days leading up to race day: We departed Phoenix early Saturday morning arriving just outside of Ensenada. The plan was to rest on the beach for a few days before all the chaos would start. We choose to only pre-run the first section & learn how to get out of town safely. Sunday we went into Ensenada to tech, register, check into BajaPits, get tracker installed. We had a few minor issues with the Stella tracker main wire but after a new wire installed the tracker checked out fine & we were clear to start. Sunday evening, I rode from the start line to race mile 40 to make sure the lights were adjusted and fine tune anything. These 40 miles went great & no adjustments were needed. Monday & Tuesdaywere a nice relaxing day. Tuesday night was the Riders meeting at Papas & Beer & it was incredible. Score had a huge crowd and a full-on street party with Monster energy representing everywhere.
Wednesday was race day, we had the Dodge truck with Sandra, Kids, Buddy, Markus, Michelle head south to El Crucerio. (This was race mile 360). This would be the first time I see them during the race & I was estimating to see them about 8-9am. We packed the Dodge up in the morning & the they left about noon for the 7 hours’ drive south. The plan was to either get a hotel room for the night or camp out at the track.
Before the truck left I had all the team members gather in the garage to sign the rear fender of the race bike & Jeremy & Dakotas wrote encouraging words on the handguards for me to see during the race. This was a very emotional hour for me, this whole event was thought about for several years, all the preparations, planning, training, money spent, emotion, months of primary focus & it was just hours away. This was also the first race ever that Sandra would not see me actually start the race. She would not see me until 8 hours into the race. Some team members said a few nice words & Buddy said a nice prayer that gave us strength. I promised to see everyone the next day, to be safe and they were off. The rest of Wednesday was just quiet time, resting, stretching meditating & visualizing what’s to come.
11pm Race night, Chase truck 2 (Steve, Brandy, Tori, Hunter) headed to the start line for staging. The start line was mobbed with thousands of people. The people of Baja treat all races as celebrities, asking for autographs, taking pictures, talking & wishing luck. I worked my way into the Ironman group & staged in 3rd position next to Viking mike #729. We talked strategy & about what’s to come in the next few days. I did my research on every rider in the ironman class & there were 8 riders who have done it before or have at least won it solo before.
So, a top 10 would be a huge win in my book. My nerves were real, the excitement & fear was intense. It felt as if I was going to battle. I didn’t throw up as I have done before other long challenges. I think I felt so prepared mentally, the bike was absolutely perfect in every way, I was just lacking in physical conditioning. I did train as much as I could, ride, ate really clean etc. But really, how do you train for 35 straight hours of abuse? I knew I would hit the wall a few times & had a great team & strategy to keep me going.
I was the 41st bike to leave the start line. Each bike was 1minute apart (the open pro class was 2min apart) I was 3rd off & were 19 total Ironman in class. As I inched to the green flag I remember telling myself in the helmet to breath, be smart, be strong, & I can do IT! The 5 second countdown started & I could feel my heart pounding about 3 beats per second. Green flags dropped, and I sped off. The first few miles were speed zone restricted at 37mph, the course dropped into the wash and was wide open until the next road section. from mile 6-14 was 37mph speed zone. The dust was thick and couldn’t do much for this section. I charged past Ojos Negros (RM40) & quickly saw the Noffz Family with the 778x sign.
First night section & Start to Rm340
The plan for the first 8 pit stops was to charge hard and use my fuel range as a time saver. I was to skip pits 1,4,6,8. We would have the Noffz chase truck chasing & doing visuals on every pit from 1 to 5. They also had plenty of batteries in case we had electrical issues. I choose to carry both helmet light batteries a jumper box & several tools needed to strip the bike if needed. At some points I would be alone with no support & wanted to be sufficient to do any repairs & even change the fuel injector or pump if it failed. I maintained the 3rd position until Rm120 ish & passed the 2 lead bikes in the pits. I wasn’t aware of this until pit 3 & the BajaPit guy said “Your hauling ass, you’re the first ironman” I smiled & tore out of there with new energy. I stood up & kept a great pace to almost pit 4 Rm189. I was standing up charging hard in the silt beds & whoops. I was just a was getting out of the big whoops, the front wheel caught a silt rut about 80pmh & slammed the ground. I slid several feet before coming to a stop slamming my head & right face into the silty earth. I stumbled to my feet gasping for air & scared my race could be over.
I started removing my helmet, chest plate & stuff to check my condition. I had a mouth & eye full or dirt, still dizzy, my right wrist was in piercing pain & my mid back had sharp shooting pain making it hard to breath. I gathered my broken off handguard, my go pro went flying & helmet visor was tweaked. As I sat on the bike facing the wrong direction, 1 bike flew by on a different line not even noticing I was there. #729 came up on me & he yelled “Mike are you ok?” He may have asked a few times, I was still super buzzed & I yelled out “Wednesday!” He said What? A few seconds went by & he asked again & I said “Alright, Go Ahead”. I spent a few more minutes getting myself together and thinking keep going, nothing is broken, keep pushing to Rm340 & do a longer pit. My right eye was so scratched from the crash it was hard to see. My back & right wrist was the worst pain at this point. I could feel my head was warm and scratched or swelling on the right side. I got moving again & really struggled to find a groove to Rm230 where Joe Ramos & crew were at. It was daylight now & they had a Gatorade ready & Taped my wrist up just before BajaPit 5. I pushed through the pain just counting down the miles to my longer stop. I arrived at Rm340 at 10:23am Thursday about 1.5 hours behind schedule. The team knew I was in really bad shape & my back hurt so bad & wrist was barely able to hold on. Sandra & Brandi continued to flush my eye & others iced my back & wrist. Sandra got some vitamins & minerals in me and after a 32minute pit stop, I was moving again.
Race mile 350-610
After a long pit stop at 340, I pushed through the pain & did my best to forget about it & focused on racing from pit to pit. My biggest issue was my right eye was so scratched It was blurry & was really sketchy in the silt colored sections. My right eye is dominant and this proved to be the hardest obstacle of the race for me. I had zero depth perception, rocks on my right side at times were not even visible. I skipped pit 8 (Bay of LA, Rm390) The next sections were stupid rough & endless whoops. Pain level was at 10, and I’d hit the first big wall of absolute exhaustion. The whoops were worse than any San Felipe course & the sand was so deep mixed with silt. It was first gear in 2-3 feet of silt whoops for 80 miles. It was like riding through water & was so soft & dusty, I was riding in my own dust. The front tire would create a dust cloud forward from the soft dirt. It seemed impossible & remember yelling out in pain as my chest would continue to bottom out on the handlebars. The whooped/silt lasted another 100miles. The rock section leading up to Rm610 were some of the hardest miles of my life. It was several miles of bowling ball rocks uphill after water crossings at the bottom of each section. Cliffs on both sides didn’t allow any smooth or sit-down time. This was the start of the hallucinations. I continued to see a flash of a round black/white rope like a lasso on my left side. It would be clear as day, I could see the hairs the rope was made from. It would flash in front of me for 3-4 seconds & disappear. Then a few minutes later it appeared again. As I came through smooth dirt sections, rocks would move from the side of the road to the center. Sometimes they would move off the course. I just told myself they were mice. About Rm605 the trees & cactus on the sides of the course would fall down as I went by. I slowed way down once & saw one tip over to a 20 degree angle, kind of felt like they were falling on me & really gave me the creeps. I saw soo many grim reaper looking people, I lost count. Animal shadows jumping in front of me making me flinch were just normal after a while. There were about 6 terrible rough-rock sections of hell leading up to Rm610 & my body & mind were so shook up & junk, I’m sure that’s why this section caused some mind games..
Half Way! San Ignacio RM610 7:09pm
This was a scheduled longer rider service, bike service with oil change, air filter, both wheel change.. I was in the worst shape of my life at this point. I rolled into the pit still in about 5-6th place in class, I pulled in tired, hurt, dizzy & a complete mess. I couldn’t lift my leg over the bike & actually slid off the rear to dismount. I couldn’t stand or walk on my own & with 1 eye & all the other body damage the torture was at an unimaginable level. The team had a cot set up & they stripped the gear off & I limped to the cot. Brandi started an IV and Sandra rubbed my back, iced my neck, re-taped all the other damaged parts & asked me questions to keep me coherent. Buddy & Steve tended to the bike, did oil change, switched the wheels, air filter & full look over.
As the IV was going I remember feeling really cold & asked to wake me in 20 minutes. It seemed like 3 seconds went by & Sandra was asking me questions again. I asked for another 10 minutes of sleep & Brandi did another IV bag of fluids during this time. When Sandra woke me up from the 10 minute extension it took a few minutes to just sit up. I drank some caffeine, took some more supplements. The team continued to talk to me, ask questions & get me alert again. Once standing & gearing up again, we checked on the trophy truck status & realized the lead trucks were just 10-15 minutes away. We made the call to sit down until the lead trucks went by. This made for a 2 hour & 13minute pit stop total, but I needed it. As we watched the 4th truck fly by, I mounted the bike and rode on. The good part here was it was a 20-mile highway section, so I could get acclimated to the bike again. No-one on the team liked I was entering the race in the epicenter of trophy truck madness, but really had no choice & needed to get moving.
Race mile 610-784
Once off the highway sections, the fog was setting in. The beginning of this section was on & off some faster roads mixed in with some rocky whoop choppy roads. Closer towards 710 was some heavy silt whoops. These sections again tested rider’s strength and endurance. The IV hours before helped my energy level for about 100 miles then faded fast. There were miles in this section that 1 mile took almost 20 minutes. When I came in the team was ready for a long rider service & knew this was another hard section based on my times. They saw & spoke to other teams who were ahead of me & they were surprised how brutal it was, some calling it quits right there. At this point the top ironman riders were all close in time & were doing their scheduled break/rest pit stops. After hours of really rocky uphill roads & twisty silt sections with a few miles of fast roads, I came in pit 15 Rm784 pretty beat up again. The crew took my pack off & checked my water & noticed I didn’t drink as much as I should have. We decided to do another IV bag & rest as another rough section was coming next. I arrived at Rm784 at 3:48am and was about a 30minute stop.
Race mile 785-1071
After the 3rd IV bag, I was optimistic my energy level would serge as it did hours before. Surprisingly, I could not get in the groove for about 2 hours, seemed to make a lot of small mistakes & my eye was really bothering me. This section was relentless with twisty deep whoops & also very dusty. At this point I was in the mix of several truck & the top few class 1 buggies were passing. Each time one would pass it seemed like forever before I had clear vision of the course. At night the cars that would come up on me were easily noticeable. As it turned daylight I found myself constantly turning around to check for a 4-wheeled monster. Sometimes I would hear them right behind me, jump off the course in a panic, turn around & ..nothing, complete silence. I would get going again for some time, “feel” them again or see lights, get safely off course & nothing.. I kind of started to ignore this feeling after a while & focused on just seeing the course. Just before Loreto (one of my favorite towns) Rm800-ish the fog was rolling in. The only fog I have experience with is racing in Baja. The fog this night was a complete black out. I mean it was 3miles per hour on a cliff side road looking straight down to stay on course. I switched my flood light to beam, tried just my helmet light, turned all lights off, everything. Flat couldn’t see $hit.
This was just before sunrise, so my body was feeling better, so I was extremely impatient and frustrated with how slow I had to go to be safe. After about 45 minutes of this slow fog section, it cleared up. I rode hard- feeling great for about 30 minutes then another elevation change & bam! crazy thick fog again. This time seemed worse & the rode was winding down hill to a town. I remember making a hard-left moving in first gear & fog was so thick I couldn’t see the seat when I looked down just inches away. I could see scattered lights in the distance waiving & hear people cheering. I stopped & put my feet down to notice I was in water. I turned my helmet light on & I was on top of a rock waterfall shelf & could hear water rushing off a ledge. I turned the bike off to listed for a direction to go & try to see were people were at. I yelled out “Direccion, dirreccion? “ I could hear “Aque” & laughing. Also, could see flashlights running towards me from my right & waiving the flashing in a circular motion. I started the bike & inched forward praying to not fall off a cliff. I had no clue what straight, up or down was. Just knew I was on rock material with about 4 inches of flowing water under me. Seemed about 100yards but could have been 20 feet, I cleared this section. I was shaking in fear from this, really the only time I was scared. (well, the most scared,ha) 20 minutes later after twisting & roaring through this village & crossing about 8 small water crossing, I came up to the big one.
When I came down the hill, I saw a sea of cars, campfires & thousands of people cheering & flashlights everywhere. The people were lined on both sides of the streets with all eyes on this river that I was to cross. I rolled up slow & shut off the engine. Please were all around my cheering, high fiving & excited. I asked the closest man to me, “Is there a way around? How deep? How many people got stuck before me? He said, No way around, it’s this deep raising his arm level with my handlebars. I said 4 feet??? No way!!! He said a lot people fall, so don’t fall man. He said go slow, then fast, go in center. I was silent for a few seconds. Started the bike, revved it up & people cheered as if I was the first bike they have seen all night. I got as balanced as possible, entered in 2nd gear and went for it, I got about 3/4 through hit a rock, the bike jerked left, I put my left foot down & sunk my leg to the bottom filling my boot with icy water, the bike lurched forward, whiskey throttling a bit & my right leg came off the peg & that boot touched the bottom also. I made it across, was yelling for joy in my helmet & could hear the fans cheering me on for the show. Now I was cold & boots were full of water. I was just relieved it wasn’t my motor full of water. Being really cold helped me unfocus on pain so I was happy.
The next sections were faster & had a few road crossings & quick on highway then off. I was grateful for at least some smooth course as I watched the sun come up & my body felt as If was fresh again. I reached Rm830 about6:30am (Friday morning) The next section was all brutal whoops to about Rm910. (arrived 9:22am) This was pure hell. Rm920-Rm958 was faster roads & twisty to pit19. Fuel only at this BajaPit, the Chase trucks were flagging me down expecting me to stop for a long stop. I flew by with thumbs up & they signaled back with smiles, knowing I felt good again. (After the race, Buddy said this got everyone pumped up, they were stoked to see my pace & body language on the bike changed for the better) I charged as hard as I could 1013. Here I was spent again & stopped for a longer pit stop. This was the last time I would see the team until the finish line. The energy was great & everyone was happy to know we were so close. The text message updates were rolling in on every Satellite phone & everyone was in great spirits & some tears were rolling already. I took in some electrolytes for the last time, re-mounted & took off. I was to stop at the next pit, (pit21) for fuel only & skip the last pit stop & race to the finish. I had a great pace going & was really thinking of the finish feeling I was going to get. Before I got too settled in the silt began to build in sections and I tried to stay on the left side, so my now good eye could see the deep sections.
Before I knew it, the front wheel washed out & I slammed the ground. Full face plant & chest pile drive into the earth about 50. Took a few minutes to sort everything out and got going. This slam I knew I had several ribs damaged & possible shoulder tear. I didn’t care, I was to finish at all costs. I got back up to pace & focused on keeping my heart rate down & relax. I was pounding whoops again & seemed endless. I started to drift in & out of reality. My right eye was almost swollen shut, my left eye actually turned into my dominant eye & I learned to ride fast with just the one eye. About Rm 1080 I started seeing the mountain shadows plan tricks with me. The course was weaving through a road half routed through some small mountains. I remember when the road straighten up I saw a huge 5 story which on a broom with flowing hair, It was rocking from front to back & then it was tipping to her head. I was approaching her about 80, then downshifted as I got closer, then downshifted to 3rd. I remember looking for people who must have put p this display thinking, it’s not Halloween? WTF? As I got about 100feet from this, my brain switched this image to what it was. It was a huge shadow from a cliff that was moving as I got closer. My brain was seeing flat objects as 3D images.. Haha, I yelled WOW, Holy...WTF! I grabbed a handful and pinned it as long as I could.
Coming into LaPaz was an amazing feeling. What I didn’t expect was when we get into LaPaz, there was 30 more miles if winding & twisting through the ‘town still. These last 30 miles seemed like I was going in circles. There was of course more whoops & soggy silt to deal with, then finally it opened up to the streets of LaPAz. It was so emotional seeing thousands of people lining dozens of streets cheering & yelling for racers. The people of LaPaz really made us feel like rockstars! They allowed us to rip through their town and seemed like everyone was outside cheering, ringing bells & giving thumbs up. Once through the dirt roads of LaPaz, we got on the highway again for 5 miles, then made a left into the finish line arena. I made the last turn then saw the checkered flags! I was so relieved, so proud & so emotional this was the end. I gave every ounce of energy and was so mentally drained It was an out of body experience. I made it to the stage & my Wife was the first to hug me. She was all tears of joy & so were my kids, then the team one by one hugged me. It was an indescribable feeling of joy. I was so grateful they were all there to share the energy at the finish line. I will continue to tell all of them, I couldn’t have done it without them, this is a fact. Without all the nutrition & support from them over the hours of the race, I would probably still be sleeping at Rm610. I made it to the top of the stage to give the finish interview & was on cloud 9. I kept it together for the most part was really emotional to be there standing. As we made it to the truck I was greeted with tons of high fives, picture requests & signed autographs. Managed to finish 5th out of 19 in Ironman class & it felt great! Knowing only 6 solo riders finished & I was the fastest “Ironman Rookie” made it a bit sweeter. It was everything a dream race could live up to.
We spent a few days in a beautiful home on the hill in Lapaz. I didn’t move much & took another IV the following day. We went to dinner & saw some other racers throughout the next few days & shared stories. We had some issues getting on the Ferry, well they didn’t let us on actually. Apparently everyone who departs Mexico by boat must have their passport stamped at the border. Years ago we got these in LaPaz at the airport. If your flying out of Mexico it’s no problem to stamp them. Leave by boat or car is a problem. So we had to make the journey back north up the peninsula. This proved to be another experience and added a few more days to our trip. We only almost died 3 times, so it was easy..Haha
I am never one to complain, But thought it I would share why my body hates my mind. My neck & back are so sore I still can’t lean up or twist, jammed wrist, cuts on left leg inside & out from compression sock, Right eye scratched & still not 100%, compressed spine with several bruised ribs, left collar bone & shoulder damage, bruised chest, 4 of my fingertips were numb for 5 days after the race, both elbows hurt for 2 days after & still fall asleep if bent for a few seconds, still only 70% feeling in my right hand & it’s been 10 days. I’m sure I lost about 15lbs after the race.
The Race bike was absolutely perfect. We never put a wrench to it the whole race for a mechanical issue. Other than 1 full tire change, 8 air filters & 1 oil change, it was perfect. The GPS & dash we build held up fine. It was great to prove we did our homework on the KTM & every detail & over planning payed off. There were a lot of people saying it wouldn’t finish or would have electrical issues or this or that. I can say we did address every inch of the bike & made certain we had everything to repair it twice. I brought down 7 extra EarthX batteries just in case we had lighting issues. Proud to say the EarthX battery was at 14.1volts for the whole 39hours. The NiteRider lights are so tough. They were smashed & soaked several times during the race & never quit. After inspecting the bike in depth only 1 bolt was missing from the last crash which broke the mount off the tank & shroud. The power of this bike is amazing, Dave Simon really has these figured out & have them tuned perfectly. The tall seat from Seat Concepts actually did save my ass, ~Side not to Injury, my inner thighs & butt peeled 2 layers of skin off from the constant riding. I think I went way past the “monkey butt” stage, HAHA. The Baja Designs lights are the best, they never stopped or flickered. They are worth every penny and I felt confident racing wide open, even with 1 eye.
For now, I’m still dizzy from the experience & are gathering all the photos & video’s. We were able to capture more than 1TB of video data & 1000’s of photos. We plan to gather all that up to make a short video of the experience. Now that I don’t have a war project to prepare for, I really have an extra 50 hours per week of time. So back to full focus on Baseball, Being Dad, husband, Business Owner duties. I have been asked so many times “would you do it again”? I say YES!, but on a team. Haha Maybe after I heal up some more forget about the pain, I’ll enter some Rally races..
Thank you so much for making this dream possible!
Mike Crawford ~ Phoenix, Arizona
Extra Thanks to:
Sandra, Jeremy, Dakota, Michelle, Markus, Rosina, Dave Simon, Buddy, Steve, Brandi, Tori, Hunter, Ray & Paula Fay, Charlie & Claudia, Noffz Family, XX Army & Ramos crew. Best Dual Sport Bikes.com, Maxima Racing Oils, EarthX Batteries, Seat Concepts, Baja Designs, Nucleus Construction, NiteRider, Motoz, Zacspeed, EKS goggles, Oneal, MotionPro, Sidi Boots,PivotWorks, Scott@ IMS Products, Flexxbars, CorMoto Graphics, Galfer Bakes, KTMandHUSKY.com, Dave Kelly, Tim Huber, Ben Hutch, Mark Crawford & all who tracked & sent updates to the team!
Just reading this report made me tired, happy, some adrenaline flowed and I teared up more than once. Nice work - Tim Hüber