Redemption at Ironman | Vital MX Editorial 1

After not finishing the Ironman GNCC a year ago, Jamie Guida returns for redemption.

“Tennnnnnnn Seconds!” If you've never raced a GNCC event, those words may not register with you. For those that have, you know what comes next is dead silence as the hundreds of participants and onlookers prepare for a dead engine start and a mad dash to the first turn. Following that comes two hours of man and machine battling the elements, other riders, and physical exhaustion. It’s fantastic fun.

In 2022, I entered my first GNCC race at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana. At that point, I had not done any off-road racing and had only ridden a little off-road for fun. I was not sure what to expect and did very little preparation. My results would prove this to be true. While doing the first lap, I had a crash that hurt my shoulder, making it even more difficult. I did one more loop, riding in some pain and feeling exhausted. As I crossed the finish line on lap two, I was given the white flag, which we all know is the universal sign of surrender. So, that’s what I did. I gave up, thus giving me the nickname Quitside on the following Monday’s PulpMX Show. I’ve regretted that decision since I rode back to the pits. 

I had made my mind up leaving that day that I had to come back and redeem myself. Five months later, I was allowed to race the Wild Boar GNCC round in Palatka, FL, with the AmPro Yamaha team. I had been in the gym and getting in better shape by this time, so I expected things to go quite differently. I previously wrote about this experience, so I won’t give all the details of that race. You can read about it here if you’d like. I will say I did finish, but I felt like I would die. I still had work to do.

At the end of the day at Wild Boar, AmPro Yamaha team owner/manager Randy Hawkins told me they would have me a bike if I ever wanted to do another one. I would take them up on that offer for Ironman. I had just over seven months to prepare. Thanks to my job at Vital MX, I had a lot of opportunities to ride each week, and Troll Training was in my corner with off-the-bike training. Former WORCS and Hare & Hound champion Gary Sutherlin also gave me some tips on preparation for such a race. His advice was greatly appreciated. There was no way I was going to let Ironman defeat me again.

Post Race at Wild Boar
Post Race at Wild Boar AmPro Yamaha

Fast-forward to October, and it was time to do this thing. I was going into this confident and excited. I also chose to have the full GNCC experience by staying at the track for the entire weekend. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. One thing I was most impressed with at GNCC is how family-oriented they are. There are hundreds of families with multiple members racing, and everyone treats everyone else like family. Even the teams treated me like family. So, it was par for the course when my friends Cody and McKenzi let me stay in their camper with them and their daughter Naomi. 

I arrived Friday evening, and we headed down to the concert Ironman puts on each year with McKenzi’s dad, mom, sister, and sister’s boyfriend. It was a party for sure. Hundreds of people enjoyed music, drinks, stories, and laughs while the band played. Stew Baylor even sang “Friends in Low Places” with the band. The fans went nuts. We hung out for a few hours while Mckenzi’s dad, Pete, talked smack about how great he was. Pete wanted to formulate a bet with Cody and me on our Sunday races. It was simply a lot of fun, and I loved the experience.


When I woke Saturday morning, I walked out of the camper and saw Pete, who immediately told me, “I don’t think I’m racing tomorrow. My back is hurting too much.” I laughed hard and said, “What happened to all the shit-talking? Sounds like you’re being a pussy.” He responded by saying that it was all the beer talking. I berated Pete some more and then headed to the pro pits to talk to the AmPro Yamaha guys and finish my sign-up process. 

Saturday is ATV day at a GNCC, so there were four-wheelers everywhere with riders of all types and ages ready to tackle the course. It’s just unbelievable how many people are there to race. Davey Coombs told me there were 2,300 unique entries this year at Ironman. I believe this has much to do with how much seat time you get at these events and the family aspect mentioned before. No matter the reason, it’s impressive to see.

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Most of my Saturday was spent at the team trucks talking to the pro-two-wheeled riders racing Sunday. I interviewed riders, including Rachael Archer, who had wrapped up the WXC championship for her second year in a row, and Liam Draper, who was en route to win the XC2 championship the following day. Both rode for the AmPro Yamaha team owned by the legend Randy Hawkins. ‘My team’ was having a fantastic year. I also interviewed Randy and other riders such as Josh Strang, Ricky Russell, Zach Osborne, and Jason Lawrence. Those interviews can be found on the Vital MX YouTube channel. Mid-day AmPro mechanic Josh Siegel took me to the starting area to practice dead engine starts. He walked me through some techniques, and I felt I had it down fairly well. Only time will tell.

Saturday night was capped off with a roast Pete’s wife Tara made and another concert. BTW, it was the best roast I’d ever had. I was really liking this GNCC thing, and I hadn’t even been on the bike yet. At this concert, Pete also told me he was back in for the race. I made sure he knew he couldn’t puss out again, and he assured me he would not. We all watched the band and then sat around a fire, enjoying the camaraderie that motorcycle racing brings. Soon enough, it was time to sleep before our racing began at 10 a.m.

I headed down to the rig around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning to see what needed to be done before race time. Josh made sure the bike was ready while I stretched, got all my gear on, filled my hydration pack, and discussed the upcoming race with some PulpMX fans who were hanging out. I must thank Tiller, Brent, and Josh from the PulpMX Discord for their support and encouragement. 

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Around 9:30, I headed to the starting grid to find my row and get set to battle Ironman. As I found my spot, I looked one row in front of me and saw Pete waiting there as well. I walked over and talked a bit of trash as we waited. I was glad he decided to ride. I returned to my bike and waited for the first “10 Secccconnnnddss…” warning that lets each row know it’s time to race. I was in row seven, so I did six practice dead engine starts before my turn. My Yamaha YZ250FX started instantly each time, building my confidence that when my turn came, I would be in the hunt for a holeshot. Well, when my turn came, it did not start instantly. It took a moment to fire, and I was behind. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t upset. My only goal was to finish. How I started didn’t much matter. Most of the guys in my class were much more experienced than me at off-road racing anyway. 

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The Ironman GNCC starts racing through some open corn fields before heading into the woods section. I felt I was riding well and trying to stay patient. The first big obstacle we came to was Ironman Hill. I crossed the creek, found a line I liked, and followed another rider up. About ¾ of the way up, the rider in front of me lost momentum trying to avoid a rider in front of him who had crashed. He stopped, which made me need to stop, turn around, and go back down. There were roadblocks of riders at the base of each line going up the hill. This would be the case every lap, it seemed. Once I passed the hill, I just rode my race, trying not to let my heart rate get too high so I wouldn’t tire myself out. 

The Ironman course is flowy for the most part and a ton of fun. There is one slow switchback section with logs that I absolutely hated every lap, but other than that; it was incredible fun. I did have two crashes when trying to turn on tree roots. Those things are slippery, man. I need to commend my Yamaha YZ250FX. It was a stock bike and worked amazingly for me. The low-end power made it easy to rip up the hills throughout the course and pull me through all the trees. The stock suspension is clearly softer than what I’m used to riding moto, but handled nicely in the Ironman conditions. I could wheelie over downed trees and logs, hit the muddy ruts near the creek areas, and go as fast as I wanted in the wide-open sections. I have zero complaints about the bike. 

Kara Zavaglio Photography

I felt good as I started the third lap, although I had a little hand cramping to deal with. I didn’t get the white flag, so I assumed I’d have two to go. About halfway through that lap, Rachael Archer lapped me, and I knew she might have been on her last lap. When I got to the finish line, sure enough, I got the checkered flag. The Discord guys were cheering me on, and I yelled, “No more Quitside.” It was incredibly gratifying to get redemption from the previous year. 

I rode back to the AmPro Yamaha pits, where Michelin’s Randy Richardson was waiting to congratulate me, and I was aware of how much better I felt than at the end of the other GNCCs I’d done. I’ve come a long way in a year thanks to Troll Training and simply having more opportunities to ride. 

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As I reflect on the race, I’m thankful and pleased with the opportunity and the results of racing Ironman. It meant a lot to have a chance to go back and finish. Many people were involved in making it happen, so I want to thank Vital MX, Randy Hawkins and AmPro Yamaha, Mike Ulrich, Gary Sutherlin, and the fans and listeners who supported me. I realize that finishing a GNCC race isn’t that big of a deal to some. Many people do it, but seeing the improvement meant a lot to me. 

For those wondering, I finished with a total time of 1:51:56. Pete finished in 2:17:17. By my math, I finished quicker than he did. No hate comms. I know how it works, but it's all I have. I finished 15th out of 22, which isn’t spectacular, but again, my goal was to finish. I have become a huge fan of GNCCs and off-road riding, and I plan on doing a couple new ones in 2024. It was a gratifying and enjoyable weekend and I would recommend you and your family experiencing one if you can. I guarantee you will be welcomed with open arms and make new friends. REDEMPTION FEELS GOOD!


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