What Bernie is talking about in the book is ......back in the day when men were men ;)... a proper Trial was 20 sections, 2 loops and 20+ miles/loop the time limits were tight and the loop was tough. I am talking about World Championship Trials primarily and to some extent Nationals, depending on the country.
To be successful you had to be able to make time wherever possible. Being fast on the loop and able to pass another rider was key. Also, passing riders at the section was important.
It went like this: arrive at a section, park your bike right at the entrance, run up the section and back down only stopping briefly to check a difficult part or to watch a good rider go through, then jump on your bike, elbow your way to the front of the line, ride the section and haul ass to the next one.
and be glad if you finished with less than 100 points.
Things are a bit different now.