Newbie enduro riders timekeeping guide
If you are just starting to race enduros, the timekeeping is probably as baffling as anything you've ever encountered. What I hope to do here is to make it a little less mysterious.
The first thing you need to know is what "key time" is and how to use it. Key time is simply the master clock used to set all the other clocks in an enduro. You should set your watch, or whatever timekeeping device you use, to (key time - your minute number). In other words, if you're on row 30, you should set your watch 30 minutes *earlier* than the key time. The reason for doing this is so your watch will read 8:00:00 when they drop the green flag for your row (assuming 8 o-clock is the start time). Then your minutes will match the minutes on the Jart chart (see below).
Early, late, and on time: If you are early to a check, you obtain two points for the first minute early, 5(!) points for each minute after that. In other words, if you're one minute early, you get two points. Two minutes early = 7 points, three minutes early, 12 points. Being early, a.k.a. "burning a check," is bad juju! If you are late, you obtain one point per minute late. If you are on time, or "on your minute," 0 points are awarded.
Now, to know where the checks are, you need to know where they can't be. Checks can't be in the 3 miles after a check, or the 2 miles before a known check, like a gas stop, or known control or finish. When you go through a check, make a mental note of the mileage, which is posted in the check, and rage for the next three miles. This is known as "three for free." There are some "gotchas," but I'll cover those later.
Now that you know where they can't be, how do you know where they can be? That's easy as well, if you break it down. The rules say that a check must be on an even tenth AND an even minute. What does this mean exactly? An even tenth is defined as .20, or .50, or .30, not .32 or .48. An even minute means the check must occur at the top of the minute; it can't be at 1:37 seconds down the trail. That being said, let's continue: If you are in a car, and are traveling 60 mph, you're traveling at 1 mile per minute. That would be an even tenth (.0) and an even minute, right? Now, if you're traveling 30 mph, you're going .5 miles per minute so, that's an even tenth (.5) AND an even minute. Now, what other speed averages will you likely see at an event? If you cover all the tenths, you see:
OK, now you know where the checks can and can't be. What are those other things like resets, free time, etc.? A reset is simply a device used by the promoter to stop time and allow you to get back on schedule. If you have a reset from 5.0 to 7.4 and the speed average is 24 mph, then you move your odometer ahead 2.4 miles at the 5.0-mile marker. What this amounts to is a 6-minute rest period. (7.4-5.0/.4 = 6 minutes) The clock keeps running, but you've just been teleported 2.4 miles ahead. Take this time to drink water, eat and catch your breath. Free time is a little different in that the mileage remains the same, but you just sit for however many minutes.
Ok, now you know where the checks can and can't be, right? Now you need to know the difference between the check types. Red and white flags at a check are "secret" checks. As long as you're on your minute, no problem. Green and white flags are an "emergency" or tiebreaker check. You will be timed down to the second in these checks. If you are on time, try to enter the check at 30 seconds into your minute for a perfect score. If you're late, just get there as soon as possible. Any other color flags are not timed checks! Don't be fooled. You could encounter an OB (observed) check, but they aren't timed. You just have to have your card marked.
Since you know where the checks are, what speed to average, how do you ever get caught? Sneaky promoters, that's how! Here are some of the things that you'll likely see in an enduro: A "special test" is a section where the promoter knows most riders can't average 17 mph, but the average will be set to 30. You most likely will be "checked in" at the beginning to ensure that you don't go in early, and "checked out" at the finish. This would mean that the special test is at *least* three miles in length, right? So look for places in the route sheet where there is a reset, a speed change, then another reset more than 3 miles from the previous reset. There will likely be a special test in that area; be prepared. Some will do things like give you a reset at the end of a special test, of length more than 3 miles. Beware, that 3 miles was your "three for free" and the next possible could be just over that next hill.
The last thing to cover, is the difference between "gas stop" and "gas available." A "gas stop" is a known check (or control), and therefore, there cannot be a check for two miles before a gas stop. As "gas available" is NOT a known control and there CAN be a check in the two miles before the gas. Same function, different wording. Beware.
There are many more ways that a clever promoter or race organizer can fool the rider. I don't want to try to cover them here, that's half the fun of racing an enduro, in my humble opinion. The cat and mouse game between the organizer and rider is the mental part of this sport. Learning it by experience is the most fun way. Besides, if I gave away all the secrets, I couldn't catch you at the next enduro I work!
One last note, and it's something I heard when I first started racing: You'll learn more about racing enduro by WORKING ONE event, than you will by RACING TEN. If possible, get involved in the course layout and check placement. Most promoters need help anyway, so please support your local club by helping out.
Ken Murphy is (Hopefully) our newest columnist. Assuming I can still talk him into it, he will be writing a monthly column geared (in some way) towards enduro racing.