dualsport

Iron Woman | Elizabeth Karcz and the Baja 1000

We caught up with Iron Woman Liz Karcz who is fresh of racing the Baja 1000 in the Ironman class. Yes, that it 800+ miles through the desert in 2 days solo. There is so much that goes in to getting mentally, physically and mechanically ready for a monumental feat such as this. Liz is the second woman in history to complete the Ironman class and finish! Read on to hear about her journey to the finish line.

babes in the dirt
babes in the dirt

Lets start by having you tell us a little about yourself:

Name: Liz Karcz

Where do you live? Albuquerque, NM

Day Job? more like “night job” (I work nightshift) but Trauma/Surgical/Burn/Open Heart ICU Nurse

How long have you been riding? 5 years

What bike do you ride? a 2009 Honda 450X and a 2013 KTM 300 XC  

How did you first get in to riding dirtbikes? My ex’s family was big into dirtbikes. While living in the Tahoe area I really got into mountain biking, and it seemed like the perfect next hobby!

What type of riding do you normally love to do? Desert, but I love some good mountain riding as well 

Tell us about the Baja 1000 and what inspired you to want to do it?

Well, once I got the OK from Mark (Winkleman) to attempt to be the first woman to solo the entire SCORE International series, I started with the San Felipe 250 and progressively moved onto the next event. After finishing the first 3, the Baja 1000 would be the grand finale, so there was no turning back at that point.

The Iron(Wo)Man class is pretty intense, break down what that is all about and how it challenges you as a rider.  

To Ironman a race means you race the entirety of the event on your own. Events as long as these are often done as a team, with each rider focusing on a specific section and giving it their all for a certain distance. There are a definitely a few challenges when committing to the entire distance. For one, you need to know how to pace yourself so that you don’t fatigue out. You need to take calculated risks (more so than a team racer) because if something happens to you, that’s it…you don’t have a backup rider.  You also need to be very mindful of your nutrition and hydration, refueling your body well enough to be able to handle hundreds of miles and hours of exertion at a time. And of course, you need to be both physically and mentally strong. Baja is a beautiful, but brutal place… easily one of the most challenging places on earth to race, and you need to be prepared for whatever she might throw your way.

What bike prep did you need in order to get ready? Any specific modifications? 

Having a Honda 450X to work with was a great foundation for a race bike in itself; they’re proven to withstand a variety of elements and be very reliable down in Baja.  To get Juanita more race ready (yes, my bike’s name is Juanita) my mechanic Greg jazzed her up with the following:  threw in an R camshaft when rebuilding the motor, gold valves from Race Tech for the suspension, Scotts Performance Products stabilizer, Baja Designs lighting (Baja Designs also did a rewind on my stator at the beginning of the season), and converted the gas tank to an IMS dry-break set up. My wheels were built with Warp 9 Racing rims/spokes, Moose steel sprockets, KENDA tires (Washougal for the front, Parker for the rear), and SRT bib mousses. And of course, the best graphics out there to make her pretty were designed & produced by my friend Matt at REV Designs.

babes in the dirt

What kind of training did you go through to get in shape for the Baja 1000?

I’m a pretty active person at baseline, so my training regimen was not far off from my routine. I continued to cross train with mountain biking and road cycling, plus quite a bit of time at the gym doing strength training and cardio  (weights, tire flips, rowing, swimming). To improve conditioning I would try to head up to the crest [Sandia Crest, elevation 10,679ft] every so often and run, and even road cycling up to the crest from the base was a good push (elevation gain of ~3600+ ft in 20ish miles). I usually eat pretty healthy, so didn’t follow any specific nutrition plan, but did incorporate additional supplements like amino acids to help with endurance….and minimizing my ‘adult beverage’ intake helped stay on track.  

babes in the dirt

Tell us about the ride, any mishaps? How was the terrain? Any particularly challenging sections? 

The longest one I’ve been on, that’s for sure! I had no rear brake for the last 50 miles or so (after a tip over onto a rock), but overall no major mishaps! Greg built me an incredible bike. She may have a few battle wounds, but my chase crew did an excellent job servicing the bike throughout the race to keep it running great (I think we did a total of 6 air filter changes, frequent oil checks and topped off as needed throughout the day, and fresh wheels at mile 480). The terrain, variable.  Some fast & flowy sections, lots of whoops, lots of rocks, and lots (and lots) of silt.  The most challenging was everything through Catavina, mostly because of how bad the silt got. The race unfortunately ended for a lot of people between 380-535; stuck vehicles, blown motors, it was a nightmare.

How was your mental state during the race? Were you super exhausted? While you were riding did you ever ask yourself what you were doing or have any doubts that you could finish etc

I was doing pretty well until about 24 hours in. After battling the gnarly terrain between 380-535 for 10 hours straight, sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion was catching up to me and I started to get delirious. I would start zoning out and dozing off riding my bike, and my mind would play tricks with me: was I still on course? Is this the wash I’m supposed to be in? Did I miss a marker? I was tired and sore, and everything looks so different at night. I knew the sun would be up soon and the homestretch was near, so I would force myself to stand as much as I could, and just start singing to myself…anything  to keep my mind active.

I never doubted myself that I could finish, but I did start to get worried that I was going to time out. In the last 50 miles I tipped over the bike on a hill climb (it was just getting so hard to hold on & my form was getting sloppy) and got pinned between my bike and a rock. My bike felt like it weighed over 500lbs at this point, I tried to wiggle myself out but it was hard. I started crying ,cussing, staring at my STELLA watching the time go by. I felt so helpless and trapped. Then I heard a car coming and realized I had no choice but to get myself up, that I didn’t come this far to time out.  I dug down and found whatever ounces of energy I had left to give that bike one last push. I got it up, and kept moving.

Did you feel prepared or un prepared once you started the race?  

I could have used a better night’s sleep, but otherwise, I was as ready as I was going to be. Greg (Sceiford, my mechanic) worked hard with me all year to prepare me from a bike-troubleshooting standpoint, and I had the best chase crew with the right logistics, so I knew I was in good hands and could just focus on riding the bike.

How was the navigation? Did ya get lost at all?

The navigation is pretty easy to follow if you have a GPS. There were still a fair amount of markers left by race day in most sections, but once you got to the coast, they were slim. Unfortunately, after weeks of pre-running it’s just bound to happen so you need to be ready for that. I don’t know how anyone could race without a GPS, truthfully. There is just too much potential for error and to get lost out there.

Was there any other ladies riding that you came across?

When I was riding I was so focused on my own race I honestly didn’t know who may or may not be around me, unless it was at a pit or check point. However (don’t quote me on this) I don’t believe there was any other females racing on a dirtbike or quad…I could be wrong, hard to tell with helmets on; and I don’t believe I was ever caught by any of my  gal pals that race in the other classes (UTV, Truck, Car, etc)…I could also be wrong with this, in the dark it’s sometimes hard to tell, and most of the last 10 hours was a blur as far as my surroundings.

babes in the dirt

Tell us about some of the people you met.

Throughout the season I have been so fortunate to make so many awesome friends! Of course it’s been a blast getting to know some of the other ladies like Sara Price, Ericka Sacs, Kristen Matlock, Julie Boyer, Diane Giannelli, Baja Nikki (to name a few). So many other amazing racers too: Cameron Steele, Steve Hengeveld, Ricky Johnson. But one of the coolest things was having Jimmy Sones come down to help chase me during the 1000. He’s a legend, and so knowledgeable, to have him be a part of my race was really cool.  

Favorite part?

Running into all my friends I’ve made throughout the year, whether it’s locals or people from back in the States. There is nothing like moto family, and even more so, there is nothing like Baja family…it’s just such an incredible place to be experiencing together, no one ever goes home without stories.

Least favorite part?

 I would say it’s a tie between the silt, and having to share a race course with the trucks/cars/UTVs.

Describe your feeling when you crossed the finish line? What was that like?

Relief.  I was so happy to have made it back, me ok, the bike’s ok…. to see my family and friends again, and knowing I was going to get to go back home to my dogs!! The actual reality of what I accomplished would take a few days to sink in, which of course makes me ecstatic…sometimes I still can’t believe it’s over and I did it.  

Would you do it again?

Hard to say. It’s not something that is realistic for me to try to go back to for 2019, but if the right opportunity presented itself in the future, maybe? There are also other events that would challenge me in similar ways which would be fun to try, so I guess we’ll see where the wind blows.  

If you did, would you change anything about how you did it?

I would have definitely started peeing on myself sooner! For the longest time, I was super skeptical about resorting to that as a time-saving strategy…but had I not done it at the 1000, I would have timed out. It makes me wonder how much faster my times would have been at the others if I didn’t overthink it and just did it.

babes in the dirt

Any suggestions for ladies who might be interested in going for it next year?

I would say definitely do your homework. Before doing any kind of racing in Baja, I think it would be very beneficial to get down there for a fun ride beforehand, or link up with another team and go pre-run with them… to get a feel for the terrain around the peninsula, see what roads go where, what towns are where, etc. What a lot of people don’t realize (I know I didn’t until I came down to prerun during the 2017 Baja 500) is just how much the layout of the land plays a factor in planning logistics, whether you are racing on a team or solo.  Not everywhere on the course is accessible by vehicles, not every town has a gas station, not everywhere is ideal for a rider change (if racing as a team), cell phones don’t work everywhere and medical help can be hours away…the list goes on. Does that mean that someone who has never been to Baja can’t successfully race there? No, I’m sure it’s been pulled off before. However, the more you plan and the better you prepare, the better of an experience it will be. Racing down in Baja is not to be taken lightly. It is an amazing thing, but it is also a dangerous thing. You need to know what you are up against, have back-up plans, and then have back-up plans for your back-up plans. That being said, with the right amount of organization and the right people in your corner, it can be a beautiful, once-in-a lifetime experience; commit to it, put in the time and work, and anything is possible.

babes in the dirt

Meet Kate McKerroll and her Husqvarna FX 350

It’s not hard to get inspired to ride when you look at Kate McKerroll. We’ve seen her rippin’ her Husqvarna FX 350 up sand dunes, through tire pits and over logs. She met her match when she hopped on this bike and we thought we would reach out to get to know a bit more about her and her life on two wheels. Read on!

babes in the dirt

What is your name?

Kate McKerroll

What do you do for a living? Tell us about your job.

My day job - Marketing Coordinator at VICE Media

My night job – Aspiring writer. Stay tuned for the next issue of Fast Times Mag!

My weekend job – Volunteering at women’s off-road events and competing in as many Off-Road Ontario races as my schedule will allow :)

Where are you from?

Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Where do you live?

 Toronto, Ontario, Canada

When were you first introduced to riding dirt? Who introduced you? 

I first rode a dirt bike the day after I learned how to ride a bicycle, when I was 5 years old. From what I have been told about the story, my Dad was certain he would have a son. His plan was to raise his son to be a bad-ass biker dude just like he was! Spoiler alert: He didn’t end up having a son, he had a daughter, but that didn’t stop him from carrying out his plan to raise a bad-ass biker to follow in his footsteps. Thanks, Dad!

babes in the dirt

How long have you been riding?

19 years! Wow, that makes me sound old.

Why do you like riding dirt?

 This is so hard to express in words. Riding dirt has been a part of my life for so long I don’t remember a time without it. It has become a part of who I am. When I was heavily into racing, I devoted my whole life to it. I won’t lie, after nine years of racing and finally winning a Canadian championship, I was really burnt out. I had lost the love I once had for riding. It started to feel more like work than fun and I felt like a lot of people had high expectations of me.

After I won Walton National in 2012 and scored a few top 10 moto finishes at Loretta Lynn’s Amature national, I decided I would take a break, go to University, and take a stab at a normal ~ non-moto ~ life. This is a long winded answer to your question but, it’s important to mention. After taking a few years off, I realized how much I missed it. I missed the freedom, the independence, the challenge! I missed having something that was only mine, something that no one else really understood. It was what made me, me!

I eventually stopped trying to run away from riding and decided I would change my relationship with it. When I got back into riding dirt I decided to take it down a notch and try off-road riding and racing rather than motocross. Since I have made the shift and started riding for enjoyment and FUN rather than constand competition, my love for dirt is stronger than ever. It is the only thing that keeps me 100% present. In today's world, we have a lot of distractions, riding dirt requires an immense amount of focus and concentration. It is the only place where I feel present and focused, I guess you could say it is my way of meditating.

babes in the dirt

Run us through the list of bikes you have had?

Wow! I have had too many to count. To summarize, when I was 5ish, my Dad put me on my first bike which was a JR50 from 1980-something. It was so rad! After that, when we realized we really wanted to make a go of this whole dirt biking thing, he bought me my first KTM. A KTM 50, for my 7th birthday. From there I moved up the ranks as I grew, moving from a 50 to a 65 sx to an 85 sx to a 105 sx and by the time I was twelve I had my first full size KTM 125 sx.

A few years after that KTM started making the 144 sx and  the 150 sx. I always loved 2 strokes and prefered racing them, so we moved up to the 150 sx and that is what I raced for most of my career. I had a short summer fling with a Honda 250F but, it wasn’t long before I wanted my 2 stroke back. I finally sold my last 150 sx a few years ago. Now that I am living in the city and don’t have a truck, it’s really hard to get myself to an MX track to ride. I sold the 150 sx and got a 500 exc which is my commuter, grocery getter, fun-haver and sometimes race bike! It was only this spring that I got a chance to try out the Husqvarna fleet and have been trading between the FE 350 and the FX 350 this summer. Of all the bikes I have had, the FX 350 is such an impressive machine. It is so fast and handles so well! 

What do you ride now? 

I am currently riding a 2018 Husqvarna FX 350 and a 2015 KTM 500 exc. I also rode a 2018 Husqvarna FE 350 earlier this spring, it is such a killer bike!

If you could have 2 bikes what would your other bike be?

I am so blessed to already have two bikes right now! But, if I would have ANOTHER, I would really like to add a Vespa to my fleet. It sounds cheesy but living in Toronto I would love to trade my dirt bike for a red or dare I say… pink scoot on Monday morning to zip to work for the week. You can literally park them anywhere and they are so cute.

babes in the dirt

Tell us what you love about the bike you ride now?

The Husqvarna FX 350 is an incredible machine. It has so much power. What I love is, it is basically the bike version of me! A cross between motocross and off-road! Haha! It packs the punch of a true motocross bike, something I am used to riding due to my history in MX, with the gearing and handling of an off-road bike. It is the best of both worlds. Do I even need to mention how epic the electric start is? It almost feels like a cheat! I am also so impressed by the handling, although the FX 350 is one of the most powerful bikes I have ridden, and to be fair, a lot of bike for someone my size/weight to handle, I always feel like I am in control. I really respect the amount of time and R&D that Husqvarna puts into engineering these motorcycles. Building a best in class motor is one thing, but building a chassis that can house that power and perfecting the ergonomics to make the rider feel one with the machine is magic!

What kind of terrain do you like riding the best?

I love flowy single track. There is absolutely nothing better than ripping through some smooth, windy, loamy trail after a bit of rain. Growing up in MX, I do really miss the perfectly watered, groomed tracks, but I have come to love the feeling of freedom you get when you are ripping through single track. As I say this I am thinking back to a loop of single track I rode two weeks ago at the Algonquin Two-Day Trail Ride and it was basically an MX course that weaved between trees. It had sandy, bermed corners, some kickers, some open straightaways, it felt like it was right out of a movie!

I feel like this is a bad answer though, considering that is every riders dream terrain. I also love motocross tracks, obviously, oh, and sand! I rode dunes for the first time ever in April and it was SO EPIC!

babes in the dirt

What kind of terrain is a challenge for you but you want to master? 

Wet roots and wet rocks. I honestly do not like anything wet/muddy. As I mentioned before, I am a totally spoiled MX rider who is used to close to perfect conditions on a consistent basis. When I get into the slippery/mucky crap that is in Northern Ontario I have a bit of a tantrum before forcing myself to carry on and try my best to grin and bear it! LOL! I want to learn to love that stuff and see it as an exciting challenge rather than a chore.

What is the most challenging riding experience you have had? 

This Spring I went on a twelve day riding trip to the Southwest. We rode through Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Before the trip, I had close to no off-road riding experience. I had really only ever ridden Motocross. I had no idea how challenging it would be and I 100% underestimated what off-road riders go through. That shit is gnarly! Not only did we tackle some of the toughest trails in Utah, the infamous 5-files-of-hell being one of them, endurance also played a part in how challenging it was for me. Twelve days of riding is a lot. Half the battle was getting up each morning, popping some pain killers and pushing forward. I was so proud of myself at the end of the trip, I left a totally different rider. Check out the latest Fast Times Mag for a full recap of my trip! 

Where are some of your favorite places to ride?

 My all time favorite place to ride is at Monster Mountain MX Park in Alabama. It is the MOST epic MX track I have ever been to. It is literally motocross Mecca.

Aside from my dream location, the place I love riding that are closer to home are: RJ Motorsports Park, Simcoe County Forest and the Ganaraska Forest. 

What is on you moto bucket list to ride?

Babes in the Dirt  is on my bucket list!!! It looked so fun last year!

It is also my dream to ride down the coast in Oregon, where the trails meet the beach.

* heart eyes *

babes in the dirt

Do you ride with a lot of other female riders?

This season I have been! I was lucky enough to help out at two ladies training days this spring where I met a bunch of female riders from Ontario. This season I met Stephanie Yankovich, a female off-road racer who has started Dirt Riding Dames, a riding community that encourages girls to get out in the dirt! I am hoping to help Steph with a few of her organized rides in the Ganaraska Forest this summer. If you are a female rider in Ontario, check out her Facebook page: Dirt Riding Dames.

Do you have anyone in the moto world that you look up to? (does not have to be a pro rider)

You!! And all the ladies who are thinking entrepreneurially and using their passion for two wheels to create a platform for others. You are all killing it!

There are more ‘for ladies by ladies’ events/brands now than there has ever been. It is people like you who are creating a stage for ladies to come out and show their stuff in a fun, encouraging environment. Because of the work you and other female event organizers are doing, sponsors are noticing the demand and finally stepping up to support us! On behalf of female riders everywhere – we appreciate you! 

What was our experience at Babes in the Dirt/Babes Ride Out events? (if applicable) 

I haven't been to any BRO events yet L, but I am dying to come to Babes in the Dirt!!

babes in the dirt

What advice do you have for someone thinking about getting in to riding dirt? 

DO IT! It is scary, yes, at first, but it is so empowering! If I can do it, you can do it. If you ride street, dirt riding will help you take your riding to the next level. If you don’t ride at all, start! As I mentioned before, there are more events/opportunities for ladies now than ever, for anyone thinking of taking the leap, we are all here cheering you on. 

Anything else you would like to add? 

Just a big thank you to Husqvarna Motorcycles Canada, Fast Times Magazine, Tiger Distribution and Everstoked Adventures for your support as I make my way back into the off-road world. I couldn’t do it without the amazing people behind me.

And - If any Ontario/Quebec ladies are reading this, join me for the Ladies Ride and Social in the Limerick Forest on August 25th!

babes in the dirt

 

 

Off-Roaders Guide to Babes Ride Out 6

Hey Off-Roaders!!!! As you know, Babes Ride Out 6 is an event focused on street legal motorcycles. But... that does not mean that you dirt lovers can't come out and have some fun! The desert has a couple of great OHV areas for you to play in if you don't have your M1 and is a dual sport paradise if you are plated!

Photo by YVE Assad

Photo by YVE Assad

Some of the many dualsport trails you can enjoy in the high desert!

Photos cutesy of WLF Enduro

JOHNSON VALLEY:

Home of the famous King of the Hammers Johnson Valley is a dirt riders dream. Full of fun trails, hill climbs, dry lake bed and open dirt roads.  There is something for every level of rider here!

Here is some info about the OHV area HERE

Directions to Johnson Valley OHV from the event HERE but there is a closer staging area option HERE

babes in the dirt

GIANT ROCK:

Giant rock has a history all its own! From UFO conventions to mysterious phenomenon, this place has drawn in people from all walks of life. It just so happens to be excellent terrain for off-roading. There is plenty of wide open spaces for Braaaping and tons of interesting trails and terrain. 

Here is some info about the OHV area HERE

Directions to Giant Rock from the event HERE

Please remember, there is no dirt-bikes allowed off the truck or trailer in the campsite. No braaaping in or around the campsite whatsoever. This is the property owner's wishes so please respect it. Both of the above riding areas are not far and you can totally have some fun! Enjoy! AND see you at Babes in the Dirt 4 in April 2018!

 

Photo by Drew Martin for Atwyld

Photo by Drew Martin for Atwyld

Pioneertown to Big Bear OFF-ROAD:

Watch the Joshua Trees turn in to pine trees as you leave the desert for the mountain. Pioneertown to Big Bear is a 19 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Rimrock, California that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. Make sure you down load GPS so that you stay on trail. There are many websites that share info about this commonly used route! Plated bikes only! Click HERE for more info