Dakota Five-0 Race Report...
Yesterday was the 12th running of the Dakota Five-0 in Spearfish, South Dakota. I drove to Sioux Falls after work on Friday afternoon and spent the night. I finished the drive out to Spearfish on Saturday morning to check-in at the registration table and get my packet before doing an hour pre-ride of the opening singletrack section. It was pretty warm on Saturday with temperatures hitting the mid-90's, so I was careful not to go too hard or leave too much out on the trail. After I was done, I decided to change out the front brake pads to new pads and did so in the parking lot at the City Park. Lo and behold, Jim Logan (formerly of Des Moines and now a new resident of Tennessee) stopped by and said hello. He and his wife Sally came up from Tennessee to do the Five-0. It was nice to see him.
I had dinner with Dad on Saturday night before hitting the sack to get some good sleep for the race. I got up about 5:40 am on Sunday, had breakfast, showered and mixed my 3 hour bottle of Perpetuem for the race. I headed to the start/finish area and found a nice parking spot in the shade a couple of blocks from the Spearfish City Park. I got suited up, packed the bike and saddle bag with what I would need before heading out for 10-15 minutes of very light warm up.
I had registered to start in the 2nd wave of racers (there were 3 waves with a grand total of 721 racers registered). The 2nd wave had expectations of finishing in the 5-6 hour time frame. I was trained for a 5:30 - 5:45 at best finish and felt this was the wave that mostly closely suited my expectations. The final training ride at Ahquabi pretty much confirmed my expectations were realistic around the 5:45 area. There were some others in my wave I recognized from the Midwest XC mountain bike racing scene. Seeing some of them and chatting with them, I knew I could mark myself against them time wise. So I felt I was in the correct start wave. I said hello to a group from Iowa, saw some friends from Nebraska and lined up next to Jerry Hoff at the start.
The first wave took off at 7:10 am with plenty of whoops and hollers from all of us that had been anticipating this race since the day we registered back in April. My wave took off 10 minutes later at 7:20 and I was more or less in the middle of the pack on the easy roll out. The roll out and opening climb was a good time to warm up and get the body awakened for the day's 50 miles and effort. I was spinning a pretty high cadence around 90-100 rpm's as we climbed our way up what seemed like a 2 mile gravel road climb to the singletrack. I was tucked in behind a group that were visiting as they rode the gravel climb. From their conversation, it was clear they were from the Black Hills area. One of the young gentlemen was boasting about how drunk he got the night before and was still buzzed from all the beers he had tossed back. I thought to myself, "why even pay the $70 entry fee and do the event if you're going to get wasted the night before?". I don't know, it just seemed odd to me.
Spinning up the long climb on the gravel road I was careful not to overcook myself. I stuck to my plan of it being a long 50 miles with plenty of time to open up and let it go on later sections. Finally we entered the singletrack and about 100 yards in - guess who was pulled over on the side of the trail throwing up? Yup, the guy who was boasting about drinking too much the night before!!! The climb got to him and he had to hurl. Dehydrated, hungover and feeling like crap must have been a perfect use of his $70 entry fee and a great way to start the race. Oh well...
Traffic was heavy in wave 2 once we entered the singletrack. I had ridden this section on Saturday, so knew there would be some jam ups causing people to dismount and hike some of the steeper sections. Sure enough - everyone was dismounting on those sections and the hurry up and wait game began. I stayed patient and waited for opportunities to advance. They didn't come right away and there was really no place to go if you were stuck behind it all. I remained patient. The opening 10 miles was filled with classic Black Hills singletrack and it was beautiful, fun and refreshing. Traffic was actually pretty heavy for the entire first 22 miles, but not as bad as it could have been without 3 starting waves. I was about 3 bikes back from Des Moines resident and racer Cheryl Dralle who races XC in Iowa. She and I have finished XC races more or less close to each other a few times, so I knew I was on pace being close to her in this race. We made it to Aid Station #1 at the 10 mile point and I rode on through as I had plenty of water and protein drink. I did, however, realize it was time to ingest some Endurolytes (plan was to take 3-6 every hour) and my first hour was up. I pulled over to do that as quickly as possible before getting back on the trail. I had enough water and Perpetuem to get to Aid Station #2 at the 22 mile point.
Pulling into Aid Station #2 at mile 22, Steve Fuller from Des Moines caught up to me from the 3rd Wave which means he was 10 minutes ahead of me. He was having a good ride and we both stopped to get what we needed at the aid station. I knew I needed to make a new bottle of Perpetuem, fill my 50 ounce Camelbak pack and I saw a Kybo which looked like a good time to take a quick pee. Problem was, I fumbled making the drink mix and it took longer than it should have. There was a line to get water, so I was about 5th in line for that. There was a line for the Kybo. All in all, I spent a few more minutes at Aid Station #2 than I really wanted to, but c'est la vie. I could have saved time had I used an empty bottle with the powder in it and just added water. I could have foregone the Kybo and used the woods at some point (no waiting in the woods, right?). It wouldn't really have altered my finish time much, but I'm just mentioning it here so when I come back to review this I can plan a bit better for next time.
I got a bit stuck behind a group of 5 or 6 on a long and fast descent. It was really dusty and my vision was not good to see the trail, but the lead rider was holding all of us up and by the time we were let by to pass - the long descent was nearly over and it was a bit of a waste riding the brakes down such a long descent.
What I had not planned on for this race was the hike a bike sections. I really don't remember that from the Five-0 I did back in 2005, but maybe I did and just have forgotten that part of the race. There were quite a few very steep ascents that were not to be ridden and had all of us off of our bikes pushing up the super steep climbs. That's a different muscle group - training wise - than our cycling muscles. So my body was fighting it. I was also fighting the steep descents. The neck, which has healed nicely from the crash in April was good for the first 2 hours, but then it hit me pretty hard with discomfort due to the pounding my body was taking on this course. I - along with others - felt like we were operating a jack hammer on the descents. This is where the RIP 9 would have been the bike of choice had I stuck to my guns. Oh well... I was one gear too tall on the JET 9 compared to the RIP, but I slowed the cadence down and kept enough momentum to climb most everything I could have. I would have been able to climb a bit more with the RIP's gearing and keep the heart rate down on some nose of saddle steep stuff, but I made do just fine with the JET. I was following Steve Fuller most of the way from Aid Station 2 to 3. After a particularly bumpy pasture section, I found Steve pulled over on the side of the trail sucking on his water bottle. I passed him and motored on.
Aid Station #3 came up rather quickly at mile point 28 and I grabbed 1/2 a banana - not because I needed it, but more for variety from the protein drink I was downing. Steve Fuller pulled up on his Dos Niner and hit the snack and water table with the rest of us. Off I went to keep the grind going and not hang out too long at the Aid Stations. Not too long after this aid station, I passed Sally Logan on a climb, but I think I was too out of breath to say much. It wasn't much longer and we were suddenly arriving at Aid Station #4 (mile 35). I stopped to top off my Camelbak with water and I asked one of the volunteers what pace we were on for finishing. One of the volunteers figured at that point, those of us at the Aid Station refueling could finish in the 5:30 - 6:00 time slot depending on how we rode from there on out. Perfect, I thought. Jerry Hoff from Norfolk pulled up along with his niece. We visited a bit as I was stretching and taking a little break before getting back on the bike. Jerry and I battled each other all year in the Psycowpath races finishing 1st and 2nd more often than not. So I knew I was on my pace if Jerry was there. He had finished 5:49 last year in the Dakota Five-0 which was in my goal range of 5:30 - 6:00. There was a good long climb out of Aid Station #4 and I put my low spin gear to work as I made my way up what seemed like forever. At the very top, it got too steep and I had to dismount and walk certain sections as we made our way up and up to around mile 40 where the infamous "Bacon Station" was located. I wasn't about to stop for beer and bacon, so I kept on going.
The trail got classically fun and rocky after that which the JET did fine and dandy on as I wound my way through typical Black Hills singletrack. Cheryl Dralle was not far away and we both started the final, long fire road grinding climb together. I felt some twinges in my legs and thought "uh-oh, please don't let this be cramps". I downed as much water and Perpetuem as I could, took 6 Endurolytes and some more water hoping to hold the cramps at bay. I think, from where the cramps were behind my knees, it was more from hiking than biking. I backed off a gear and spun up the long climb not as fast as the 6 or 7 in front of me, but I knew I could catch them all again if my legs would behave and recover. By the top of the climb, the legs were better and I didn't feel any cramping issues. I keep mentioning certain names because once you settle into a pace, you end up riding with a group of maybe 10-30 riders that you see time and time again. Sometimes you pass them, and sometimes they pass you back. It reminds me of driving on a busy interstate. You are around the same group of cars for many, many miles as long as you are all driving about the same speed. Even the pit stops work themselves out as everyone stops at different places and times, but in the end - the same group is more or less together for a large portion of the race. That's how it was for me on Sunday. I saw the same racers over and over again because of this "similar pace" phenomenon.
Now came the fun 10 mile descent back into Spearfish and the bumps at high speed were grueling with a tired body. If anything, the descents tired me more than the rest of the ride. The best description I already used - it felt like a jackhammer flying over stuff. I caught up to Cheryl again and told her not to worry, I wasn't going to bother her riding behind her. I was now pushing the pedals with a harder effort than at the beginning of the race. Everything I had saved earlier in the race, I was hammering into the pedals now during these last up and down power climb sections. Cheryl was doing well, but I outweigh her and with my full suspension bike against her hardtail, I could go faster down the hills than she could simply due to gravity. I had no reason to pass her, but eventually she was in too tall of a gear for one of the short hills we were climbing and pulled over so I went around her. I caught up to 6 of the 7 that were ahead of me earlier on that long fireroad climb (at least the 7 I could see) and passed all but 3 of them on this singletrack descent. At one point, on that long descent, there was a lady sitting in a camp chair drinking a beer next to the trail who told me I was just a few minutes from the finish. Talk about false hope - I still had another 20-25 minutes to go which is more than a "few minutes" in my book!!!
I caught up to the final two guys in that group of seven I mentioned I had followed up the final fire road climb. One asked how much longer to the gravel road descent and I said it was coming right up. And sure enough, we exited onto the gravel road and the 3 of us had at it sprint style. I eventually tucked into 2nd position and was spinning out in the big ring with the 11T in the rear at times searching for the hardest gravel to avoid a washout. I kept a couple of bike lengths between myself and the guy in front of me while the guy behind me drifted back 100 yards or so. Coming into town and on the pavement, there was one final pavement hill climb. I was in my classic sprint mode using up whatever my body had left in store. I got out of saddle and felt the legs want to twinge, but it was a non-cycling group of muscles that were twinging. They were the hiking muscles that were torn down from all the steep push a bike climbs. So I hammered up the climb in a big ring mashing gear and passed the guy that had been in front of me on the gravel road descent. He saw me and pushed down on his pedals hard to keep up, but I heard him cuss out loud in agony. His legs had just cramped up and he couldn't even pedal up the crest of the hill.
I held my spot to the line finishing in 5:48 and change which was within my target zone for what I had realistically trained. I have no regrets. Whether I finished 5:30 or 5:48 or 6:00 - it doesn't really matter. Finishing the dang thing in one piece is reward enough!!! I finished without cramping, without falling and feeling pretty good about the day's effort. The weather was beautiful, the trail was fun, it was scenic and everyone had a blast. My time was 54 minutes better than the last time I did this race, so that's progress. Kudos to the Dakota Five-0 crew and staff for hosting such a great event.
It was good to see a gang from Iowa out doing the Five-0. Even better to see some top podium spots from the Iowa racers (Cam, Lisa, Evie, etc...). I headed back to Rapid City for a shower and to put on some clean clothes. After I got cleaned up, I had a nice dinner at Red Lobster with my Dad before passing out on the bed for 8 hours of much deserved sleep. Drove back to Iowa in 9 hours on Monday and ate again!!!
Dakota Five-0 2012 is in the books.