13th Annual Glen Helen Six-Hour - Track Time - Mc Garage

Six Hours Of Hell And Yet We Eagerly Return Each Spring For The Glen Helen 6-Hour Grand Prix

Why am I doing this? Why am I bounding off boulders, pounding through endless sand whoops, breathing dust that's guaranteed to make me cough for a week? And for what? A lousy finisher's pin?!

When my buddy (and former Cycle News cohort) Nate Rauba asked if I wanted to team up with him for this year's Glen Helen 6-Hour, I could have said no. And considering that this year's event was the 13th annual, I probably should have. After all, I hadn't been dirt riding much recently, so I was out of practice and out of shape. Fortunately, so were most of the other guys we'd be competing against in the +40 Sportsman class.

Completing our three-rider team was Nate's Kawasaki co-worker Brett Bonham. Our steed: a KX450F motocross bike just like the one on which James "Bubba" Stewart won this year's AMA Supercross Championship, except the only modification to ours was a set of handguards. Yes, one of the new KLX450R enduros would have been a better bet, but they weren't ready in time.

Where past years' courses have left Glen Helen Raceway, running over the hills to the west and through the sandwash to the east, ever more restrictive environmental regulations coupled with a new housing development limited the land available this year. Even so, clever routing and cutting new singletrack let track designers Ron Lawson and Gary Jones (yes, that Gary Jones) lay out a course that measured 7.5 miles in length. So even with 140 teams, a dearth of recent rains and silt so deep it was like skiing in powder, the dust wasn't too, too bad.

The race for us was unremarkable-which is not to say uneventful. Our troubles began with the dead-engine start, as Brett suffered the ignominy of being left kicking on the line as our competitors roared away.

Not long thereafter he cartwheeled down a hill, bending the bars and levers and breaking the right-side numberplate, but fortunately no bones.

Nate also fell a few times, one of which must have been a doozy because the front brake lever was reduced to a nub. Somehow I only tipped over once when the front end knifed into a soft berm, but I also stalled the bike on a technical uphill, which meant bulldoging the bike back down before I could ride back up again.

All the while, I was starting to feel that old familiar pain: the blistered palms and throttle-thumb, pumped-up forearms, stiff lower back and "monkey-butt" that are part and parcel of off-road racing. At one point I started singing John Cougar's "Hurts So Good," which is a crap song but suited the occasion. In the end, the bike carried the hollow shell of my former self across the finish line, seventh out of 12 in class, two laps behind the leaders.

So why, if it's so miserable, do we do it? Because we can. As is the case with most extreme sports, the doing isn't half as rewarding as the having done.