Colorado Springs, CO 2/10/15 – We have prepared for months, traveled for thousands of miles, and begged or borrowed our way to the start line of King of the Hammers – the ultimate extreme desert race. This is it, THE RACE that defines the sport. The struggle and focus is the same for every one of 130 KOH teams. As we inch forward and wait our turn for the green flag there is something however, that sets us apart. We have already raced. We have already faced the agony of mechanical failure in the previous days Legends class. We lead, we broke, and we thrashed to make overnight repairs. Where adrenaline is boiling over in trucks all around us, we groggily wait our turn. Our adrenaline spent the day before, we are happily immune to the last minute panic.
As we near, I focus and wait for the change in tempo. There is no sense in counting down miles. There are to many, they are to difficult, and any one of them can ends your day. The world is now connected to us through the truck and only extends as far as the next turn. Concentrate on survival. We become one with the truck and judge the harshness of every rock hit, every burm, and every bump. This is our existence, it is a measure of pain, focus and risk.
In this world there are monsters. They will chew you up and spit you right back out into the mundane world we live in between races. The best way to avoid these monsters is to never get out of the truck and always keep moving. They sometimes hide in bumps, ditches, and turn but always lurk in the rocks. Any misstep and one of these guys is going to pounce. Now you have the fight of your life and if you aren’t calculatingly violent yourself, they got you.
The other fear is bottlenecks. Much like the Hillary Step on Everest, they will make you wish you never got off your couch. We mentally prepare ourselves for it but never expect what we find. 28 race vehicles dot the rocks in front of us. We look on in awe as the most important seconds of our rock racing career tick by. Hell has erupted. Vehicles chaotically flog the rocks and literally drive on each other. Winch cables tangle. Steel snaps. A fog of insanity and panic fills the rocky crevasse. We loose well over 1.5 hours, which on both Everest and KOH, is deadly.
Darkness descends and our fears are realized. Smoke billows out of our front axle and the crunch of broken bearings reverberates through the chassis. The Monster of the Hammers got us. Is this it? Is this how our race ends? We have no choice but to run away. Even if it is ultimately hopeless we can never give up a chance at survival. We feel the truck as it moves, we discuss, we learn. We find a way to limp and avoid the crunching. Is there a chance we can climb the rock laden mountains and reach the safety of the pit on the other side? Dare we hope?
Hours later our crew has thrown a tremendous amount of energy and ingenuity at the problem and we are running faster than ever. The race has been won but we don’t care. We are racing for a finish. Gone is any consideration for pain inflicted on us or the truck. If the monsters get us now, we are done for. It is all or nothing. My lips are cracked, my tongue is dry, and my mouth hangs open in brain dead gape as Roger barks instructions at me. I struggle to maintain focus and dig deep for stamina. This is it, this is the challenge we came for.
In the end I guess our battle was called a draw. We sped across the finish line scattering race officials only to find we are 11 minutes after the cutoff time. 14 hours of racing on 215 miles of the most ungodly terrain imaginable and we are 11 minutes late? 17 of 130 would officially finish, and we are number 19 – one of six in no mans land with an “unofficial” finish. While our name sits next to a bold DNF on the official score sheet, I say semantics be dammed – WE CONQUERED KOH.
A heartfelt thank you to family, friends, sponsors, volunteers, and everyone who graciously chipped in to help. Not often have races surpassed my ability to be central to all aspects of our effort, but this one did. Everyone did their duty exceedingly well. I am both proud and thankful.
About Lovell Racing:
Lovell Racing is dedicated to winning off-road races at the highest levels of competition. The team is owned by brothers Brad & Roger Lovell. Together they compete in nearly every 4-wheel off-road discipline including TORC short course races, desert races, rock races, and hill climbs. In 10 years the brothers have earned 9 championships and two Baja 1000 class wins. In 2014, the team will race for the TORC Pro-Light Championship and compete in a variety of other races including King of the Hammers. Follow the team at Facebook/44BradLovell .