I never intended to do the Iron Butt Rally a 1st time, never mind a 2nd. Things fell into place for me on the 1st one and I had to take the opportunity of a lifetime that had been presented. I didn’t think I was ready but after finishing the IB5K in 2010, therefore getting the no-draw entry into the 2011 IBR, I figured I would never have the opportunity again. It was now or never. Matt Watkins details the traditional process of getting into the IBR by drawing on his blog. I’ve copied the relevant section below.
From the 2009 application statement:
Iron Butt Rally veterans, IBA Premier Members, rally workers from previous rallies and other new riders. The first part of the drawing will randomly take thirty five envelopes from the veterans’ box and allocate positions for those riders. Should more than 35 veterans apply, the remaining envelopes will be placed in the new rider box and it will be shuffled (that means in effect, that veterans have two chances to be drawn). The second part of the drawing will randomly take thirty five envelopes from the Premier box and allocate positions for those riders. Should more than 35 Premier members apply, the remaining envelopes will be placed in the new rider box and it will be shuffled (that means in effect, that Premier members have two chances to be drawn).
Ten positions will be drawn for those people who worked on previous Iron Butt Rallies. Should more than ten workers apply, the remaining volunteer envelopes will be placed in the new rider box and it will be shuffled (that means in effect, past-volunteers also have two chances to be drawn). Each applicant will have no more than two opportunities to be drawn.
it’s then possible to do an estimated analysis based on guesses of how many are placed in each box:
1st drawing = 35 rally vet slots & 100 (est) rally vets apply
Vets have a 35% chance of getting picked. That’s about one in three.
The remaining 65 vets go into the new rider box.
2nd drawing = 35 Premier Member slots & 250 (est) Premier Members apply
Premier members have an 8% chance of getting picked.
The remaining 230 Premiers go into the new rider box.
3rd drawing = 10 Volunteer slots & 50 volunteers (est) apply
This group has a fair chance at 20% or 1 in 5.
The remaining 40 volunteers go into the new rider bin.
Final Drawing = 20 (est) New Rider Slots & 300 new riders apply + the remaining from the first 3 drawings.
The new rider bin has now swollen to 635 riders, competing for a mere 20 slots. That’s a 3.1% chance, or one in 30 chance. Pretty slim odds, but newbies with little rally experience do get drawn occasionally and often have colorful stories.
Hopeless Class = Few and Discretionary. These folks ride a special bike that is usually hold or ill-suited to this type of endeavor….and have a special spot in everybody’s heart. You wanna ride a 1956 Indian in the IBR…there’s a good chance you’ll get in.
I’m sure things have changed slightly since Matt originally posted this. You are seeing more people win their way into the IBR by finishing in the top 10 of something like Butt Lite or winning a 24 hour rally. Still you will see a rider that signs up and gets drawn for the IBR with no prior rally experience! My hats off to those people. They have no idea what they are in for and there is no way I’d come into something like this without building up to it so I can give it my best possible performance. When I got the acceptance email stating I had been accepted into the 2010 IB5K, my 1st major multi-day rally, I was ecstatic. In a matter of seconds, that was interrupted by terror as I realized I had a lot to figure out.
I’ve learned many lessons over the years in smaller rallies that have helped me. I’ve learned how to be more efficient at fuel and bonus stops. I’ve learned how and why stopping efficiently is so important. I’ve learned the importance of routine. I’m still learning. I sometimes choose to ignore those lessons and I usually get burned. The IBR is a significant amount of time and money. If you are after a spot in the IBR and want to do well with your opportunity, it is my advice to do as many smaller rallies as possible to hone your skills and make them automatic. You’ll be thankful on days 7-9, believed by many to be the most difficult, that the basics are automatic because if they are not, this is where you will likely make mistakes that will cost you positions in the final standings.
Long distance (LD) riders are a rare breed. Even more rare are LD ralliers. They also tend to be great people. I’m fortunate to be from an undeniably formidable LD training grounds based on recent history. Minnesota is home to Team Strange and the Glacial Lakes Motorcycle Club (GLMC). OK, so MN isn’t exactly the home of the GLMC but I think most of the members live here ;-). Through these organizations I’ve met some of my best friends. Both organizations put on several LD rallies each year. While attending these rallies, I quickly discovered that they want to breed competition. The other riders were extremely helpful at making me a better rider by answering my questions and giving me tips. I’ve heard other organizations around the world are similar. So sign up for a rally near you and watch your support group and skills grow.
As I write the balance of this report, I will do my best to point out lessons I’ve learned and provide some tips. Reading what others have done as I was getting into this sport was indispensable. I’m going to assume you have a basic understanding of LD Rallies, if not, read the main page at www.ironbuttrally.com.
Here is one lesson… There are more comfortable bikes out there than a super sport liter bike if you’re 6’4″. It was after my 1st 24 hour rally I solidified my decision to get a proper LD mount! This doesn’t mean you need to buy an FJR, GSA or Wing and spend several thousand farkling it for LD rallies before you’ve run your 1st 12 hour. Give it a whirl on what you have now. You’ll have fun! If you don’t, you’ll probably get a great story to tell anyway! I did several 12 hour rallies on the R1 and had a blast.
Another lesson I learned is the reason I had to do the IBR a 2nd time…
It was day 9 of the 2011 IBR and I was on the west side of Oklahoma City. I had returned to a gas station to get a receipt that showed the time to stop my rest bonus. I returned to the same pump I had started the rest bonus from to ensure there was no question of how long I was actually stopped. I plucked the receipt from the pump and opened my storage clipboard to place my receipt inside the Ziploc bag located inside along with the receipt I had got to start the bonus. In addition to my rest bonus start receipt were the ones proving I had made it to Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. There was a problem though. The Ziploc bag was not there! Oh fudge!
The premise of the 2011 rally was a 48 state ride. I had to bring back proof that I had been in all lower 48 states or I would not be a finisher. I tore apart my bike looking anywhere I could think of that I may have decided to put that bag all the while knowing what probably happened. When I was getting my start receipt, a storm was literally blowing in. It was quite windy. I believe that while I was packing up, I must have set down the Ziploc while I was filling out my paperwork and it blew away. I didn’t notice the bag was not there and I headed out to check into a hotel for the 8 hour rest bonus.
The storm came and went while I was sleeping and now here I was. My heart was racing and my mind was in fast forward. I was experiencing my conservative route turn into a DNF. I tore my bike apart looking for anywhere I might have put it. I went to the trash cans hoping that perhaps a good citizen had picked up my litter but no luck. I looked through the bushes, no luck. I tore apart my bike again hoping it had maybe fell into, and stayed, in a crevice somewhere on it, no luck. I looked in the storm sewers and noticed a clear plastic bag deep under one of the grates. I picked up the grate and jumped in… not my bag! I tore apart the bike one more time, checked all my pockets, no luck. I had spent an hour and a half looking for this all too important Ziploc bag. I had made a huge mistake.
I considered going back and getting new receipts for the states I was now missing but quickly decided that if I were to turn back now, there was no way I could get them and still get all the remaining states on the way to the finish in California. I had a route that allowed me ample time to sleep including getting a very large bonus in Denver, CO. Had I not spent an hour and a half looking for my Ziploc I would have had a 3 hour cushion to get to the finish before penalty points started. I was down to an hour and a half. This was too close for me. I crossed out Denver and prodded on not knowing if there was anything I could do at this time to be a finisher anyway.
A little after 8 I decide to call Lisa Landry, the rally master, and tell her what happened, but she was on a plane. I would not hear from her until much later in the afternoon. I was at grips with my predicament when she called me back. I was actually impressed with myself for not throwing in the towel completely. She asked me if I had paid with a credit card to get those receipts I was missing. I was nearly certain I had. I was told that if I can produce a statement from my credit card company that showed I had made a purchase in the states I was claiming I could use that to claim the states. I would still be a finisher, but was told they would penalize me heavily on points. I could live with that, I was still going to finish!
My goal for 2011 was to be a finisher and finish in the top 1/3rd. I was playing it safe to ensure above all else, I finished. I was not going to take any risks of coming in late and getting a DNF – Did Not Finish. I wanted that 3 digit number! As I was checking my credit card statement I realized that one of the purchases was at a truck stop in Alabama for a 99 cent bottle of water. Lesson learned, it doesn’t matter how much the purchase is, when you are in a rally, use the card! I ended up in 25th place with a silver medal. I backed out my penalty points and added in points I would have got in Denver. That would have put me in 11th by running what I considered a conservative route.
That is why I had to run again. I ran a conservative route and if not for 1 mistake, I was on the edge of a top 10 finish. I needed to know if I could push myself into a, time-wise, riskier route and eliminate penalty points, or at least minimized them and get into the top 10. I modified my system to not use a Ziploc bag. I now have a water-resistant zippered pouch with a clip that can attach to the inside of my clipboard… bring it wind! 2015 would be the year to see if I could crack the top 10.