Straight Arrows Bring a National Enduro back to Minnesota

It was less than a year earlier that the idea of a national wasn’t yet on the radar for the Straight Arrow Enduro Riders. After their 2007 event at Duquette, there was a vague idea of doing something special for the 40th running the next year, but nothing concrete. Then things started happening quickly.

At the August club meeting, long-time national contender, Matt Stavish, asked if the club had any interest in the 2008 MN Moose Run enduro being a national event. He thought that the AMA, or more specifically NEPG, was looking for some new locations on the schedule, and with the club’s long history of putting on the event, they would feel comfortable having a national there. The club voted to explore the option, giving trail kingpin, and club president, Ken Fastner, the authority to speak for the club, but most members were not expecting to get on the 2008 schedule that late in the year.

Apparently, Matt was right on the money with his assessment, because less than a month later came the announcement that the next year’s event would be a national. Now all there was to do was replace some of the worn-out, used-to-be-single-track with some fresh stuff, line up sponsors, figure out how to support the electronic scoring, set up pre-entries, and make sure the facilities can handle the extra traffic. “As long as we have another mild winter, we’ll be fine.” was the optimistic and prevailing sentiment.


Matt found it faster to float a foot or so above the trail

The club last held a national in 1979, the Foothills/Backus National Enduro, so the national aspect of it was something new to all of the currently active club members. Although the national status was unexpected, the announcement seemed to energize the club, with long-time members and some “fresh blood” both stepping up to take on some of the responsibilities.

Stavish, Dave Anderson, and some others relatively new to the club handled much of the phone calls etc to line up sponsors and print promotional materials, leaving Fastner and the seasoned section leaders to do what they do best; get trail ready.

The “office” side of things were going well, but the trails were another story. After a late start, thanks to a particularity long and cold winter, the woods got more than their share of storms. While much of the state was experiencing average or below rainfall, the area of the enduro, primarily the Nemadji State Forest, was getting every rain cloud that went by. Two months before the event came this assessment from Fastner:

"The Nemadji is as soaking wet as I have ever seen it, wetter than it was for the infamous 1999 Enduro. The creeks and rivers are all surging and the swamps are all overflowing. I stopped at the Holyoke Park on June 7th and the water was FLYING down the waterfall above the swimming hole. … What I am getting to is that we will need to be prepared to mitigate a bunch of rutting. Last week the wind howled through there as well so, there is a bunch of new windfall."


Artisit Rendering of the "Congo" section, June 2008

A few weeks before the event though came good news:

"I am very pleased with how the trails are shaping up for the event. Due to some very hard work by the Section Leaders and their crews, we have over 7.6 miles of fresh single track trail for the event " (15.2 since it’s run both ways).

The section leaders get help, but they generally put in the most time working on the trails. Besides Fastner, Roy Fleming, Ron Palm, Al Roscoe, and stepping up this year, Dan Federer, were this year’s leaders and they came through under difficult conditions.

The rain pendulum swung the other way since June. July and August saw barely any rain fall and by the time the course was getting it’s pre-ride, it could hardly be labeled anything but dry, if not dusty. Dick Burleson was unable to come to the event, so Enduro Engineering’s, Alan Randt, did the “job” of pre-riding the course. Because of the conditions, a few two-track areas were removed, still leaving plenty of miles, but with a higher portion being single-track.


Alan Randt and Brian Jahelka (right) took care of everything related to the transponders

We had been told that the NEPG would handle the scoring and it would be done electronically. Even though an unusually large portion of the club consists of engineering types (maybe because of it?), we were a bit skeptical. After seeing it in use, I can say that those fears were unfounded. It is a solid system that works very well for this type of event.

Each rider buys or rents a transponder from NEPG and attaches it to their chest protector. Each check has a reader, synced up with key time, that reads the numbers as they go by. The info gets dumped into a PDA. Check workers still need to write down the back-up sheets, in case the transponder falls off or has a problem, but writing on the cards is gone.


Al Roscoe (far right) runs a check way back when the manual way was used.

The club was responsible for getting the equipment to and from the checks. Randt and the creator of the system, Brian Jahelka, came by (on their bikes! Good work if you can get it!) to make sure the receiver/recorder and display units were set up properly. Earlier, they had found spots for the equipment and taped them off.

The check that I worked at was easy to do and it took fewer of us to work it than the “manual” way. I was with Al Roscoe at a check in his section. Many riders were thanking all of us as they came through, as they’ve done every time I’ve worked a check. That’s always a classy thing to do and to anyone who has done it, we do hear you and do appreciate it.


National champions make diffult log crossings look like they're not there
Photo by Mike Pohl

Al likes to chat with the riders. He was the one at Check 5 telling you to keep your feet up. Not sure if this is where they did it or not, but I did hear about two top riders hurting their feet during the event. Maybe they didn’t heed that pearl of advice that Al offered.

When the check is closed, the PDA is brought back to the mother-ship computer. It’s at this point where the real pay-off starts. John Otto, who headed up pre-registration and sign-up this year, used to have to read all the cards as they came in, entering them in a complex spreadsheet. The process was efficient as it could be, but if you multiply the number of riders by the number of checks, that’s a lot of data to enter. With the MotoTally scoring system, all that info was downloaded from the PDAs, ran through the route information, and scores started appearing almost immediately on an LCD display that NEPG brought in.

Despite a fairly brief “where in the world is the Check 10 PDA?” moment, the Enduro was scored in what would have to be considered record time (not surprisingly, the records in that area are rather sketchy). The club still conducted the trophy presentation, providing the regular trophies as well as the comically large checks that were given to the podium finishers. NEPG provided the podium and its background cloth.

After the trophies were handed out and people were starting the long treks home, the event, judging by most of the rider comments, was a success. Stavish, Fastner, and the people who put so much time into the event seemed pretty exhausted, but I’m sure when they have time to look back, they’ll appreciate what they accomplished. From my psuedo-outsider perspective (This is MXBob.com after all, not Woods Bob), it seems that to put on a good Enduro takes a lot of work that would need to be done whether it was a national or not.

Now what about next year? Will yours be the club that gives it a go in 2009?

 

I knew I wouldn’t feel right mentioning some people’s efforts and not others, but luckily Ken Fastner supplied me with “Ken’s Post-Enduro Wrap-Up”, which does a fine job of thanking everyone involved.

The event itself was covered in Moose Celebrates 40th with a National