The Baja 1000 Motorsports race hosted its 50th-anniversary event on 14-18 November 2017. Of the nineteen riders who signed up to race in the Ironman class of motorcyclist, only five finished. One of those five finishers is LDS husband and father of four, Wayne Schlosser. The lead picture of this article was taken in 2017 just after he crossed the finish line.
The Baja 1000 is known as the Mount Everest of off-road motor racing. Every year people are killed, especially the motorcyclists, as they participate in the dusty, high-speed race down the Baja Peninsula in México. Before setting out to complete the race, Schlosser, who is not a professional motorsports athlete, left heartfelt notes to his wife and daughters, if he did not come back. He wanted them to understand that he was riding with a purpose.
So, the question begs an answer, why did he decide to enter the Ironman class and ride motorcycle solo 1,134 miles across the desert? As a young boy, Schlosser watched the race on TV with his dad. He and a few college buddies made plans to do the race together but never even made the drive to the starting line. When it was announced that the Baja 1000 would celebrate its 50th anniversary with a longer course, being a family history consultant in his ward, and having his pioneer ancestry at the forefront, he connected the distance of the race with that of the trek of the early Mormon pioneers. He told LDS Living, “It was the same distance, the same terrain. Even though I was pushing a motorcycle and they were pushing a handcart, they had three months, and I had three days.”
No one honestly thought that he would compete, let alone complete the race. His motorsports buddies kept urging him to ride more in preparation for the race, but he ignored their comments. His thoughts were that at 48 years old, he was not in it to win, but rather his goal was just to finish. To improve his overall fitness, he did cross-fit three or four times a week. However, his perspective was that the pioneers did not “train” before beginning their trek across the plains. Perhaps the farmers, he thought, were in good physical shape to make the journey, but not the cobblers, the tailors, or the printers.
He commented, “If you can imagine 200 years ago . . . a wife telling her husband, ‘Bob, you better get out there and start pushing a handcart around, because next month when we leave you’re going to be sore,’ What’s he going to do, push the cart to the mailbox and back? He probably did it a few times, put some bags of flour in the handcart and went to town, but I mean, can you just imagine somebody working out with a handcart?”
When Schlosser left, his wife and daughters cried as none of them wanted him to go. His daughters asked, “Please dad, what if we don’t see you again?” He comforted them by saying that he was more likely to be killed in an automobile accident on the freeway than in the race. He said, “You can’t live your life afraid of what might happen. You just have to live your life with the faith that you’re doing the right thing and you’ll be protected along the way.”
He knew that the race would be dangerous, but it wasn’t until mile 475 that he truly began to experience why that was. Up until that time, he had not fully realized what he had gotten himself into. He believes that it was the same way for the early Saints as they started their journey west. At mile 805, he stopped and took off a few layers of clothing as it was 91 degrees and he was overheated. He took out his SAP phone and tried to call his wife for some encouragement. He finally got through to her after the fifth try. Crying into the phone, he told his wife, “This is so hard. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I just can’t do it.” She replied, “Just one more mile. One more mile. You can do it. You’re almost there.” The connection dropped, and he fell to his knees in the dry creek bed and began calling out to his Heavenly Father. He did not want to quit, but at the same time, he felt that he could not go on. As he prayed, the impression came over him that God had made him “equal to the task.”
He told LDS Living, “This feeling came to me that this is the sacrifice. You had to give all you had, and now, to truly understand what they [the Mormon pioneers] went through, you must be broken down of everything you thought you were. And now, if you decide to keep going . . . I will finish the journey for you.”
Schlosser crossed the finish line at 52 hours and 33 minutes. In all, he had slept for just three 20-minute naps and didn’t change his tires once. He told the interviewer, “I just kept my shoulder to the wheel and kept going. . .. Would I want to do it again? Absolutely not. It was the hardest thing I ever did. . .. It was the coolest experience . . . to have Heavenly Father teach you a lesson, and have a way to increase your faith and your relationship with Him. It was the most amazing experience ever.”