The Mullet Fall Classic week is here...!!!

This is the week, and....


A trail work day on Saturday morning yielded 22 of us to take on the grooming, raking, trimming, tree cutting, erosion spot filling, etc... of the 6.5 mile loop we will use this year for Sunday's race.  Three more erosion spots will get attention this week, and then everything is good to go.

A few shots from Saturday...






I mowed the grassy areas on Friday, worked with the crew and made breakfast for them with Tara on Saturday, did more work on Saturady afternoon, and tested out the trail Saturday late afternoon before setting up the camping site.  Tara and I camped out on Saturday night, then I did more trail work on Sunday before doing another lap to really figure out what still needed attention.  I hated missing the Night Cap up in Des Moines with BikeIowa.com, but this was the only weekend I could set aside to get the race course in shape.  Usually, the Oakley Night Cap has been held after The Mullet Fall Classic.  This year, however, they scheduled it a week before my event which meant being in two places at one time is simply not possible.  

In terms of the course at Ahquabi, a few spots could use a bit more trimming if I am being picky, but they are fine as is and won't hamper the race.  My time is limited this week with work, Yom Kippur rehearsals (singing lots of great music this year), and last minute details of picking up a trailer, the P.A. System, going over final to do lists and checklists, loading everything up so it is ready to go for the weekend.  In short, there are not enough hours in the day this week that I would like to have at my disposal.

Somehow, I managed to mow our own lawn this weekend, go to Yom Kippur rehearsal, have a meal with Tara at Centro, and get some sleep.

Although the forecast is a week out and I don't trust a forecast more than 24 hours, Ma Nature does look like she is going cooperate this weekend with sunshine and a high of 71 for The Mullet Fall Classic on Sunday.  Rain on Wednesday/Thursday in the forecasted amount of .6 - 1.3" which should dry out well on Friday with cool temperatures and wind before sunshine and warmth on Saturday and Sunday finish the course off into perfect conditions.  I may have to trim some of the grass again as the rain this past Friday, and what is coming mid-week will ignite the growth a bit quicker than I prefer.  Time being the issue to get everything done...

Enjoy National Coffee Day and drink up!!!


Fall Begins....Oktoberfest....Birthdays....and IMBCS Summerset Shootout Race Report!!!

I just had one of the best weekends of my 53 years to close out the Summer of 2014.  Saturday was my 53rd Birthday, and the family had plans for a unique celebration (which was all kept as a surprise to me).  Alexa arrived home on Thursday night for a 4 day weekend.

Friday night, Tara and I went to La Casa and joined up with Ron and Barb Albrecht for a nice visit and meal sitting outside on the patio enjoying the late summer weather.  A pair of Margaritas began my weekend festivities, and Saturday was a scheduled IMBCS mountain bike race at Summerset State Park.  Unfortunately, a storm brewed up in the early morning hours and dumped enough rain (1/2") to force a postponement to Sunday for the race.

That actually turned out well for us, as Alexa took me to a wonderful Birthday breakfast at La Mie.  Zack had work call for the opera, and Tara was getting her hair cut.  I ran into Fred Lorber at La Mie and we visited for a few minutes before Alexa informed me we needed to "be out of the house for a few more hours".  So we headed over to Rassy's to get my rear wheel spoke fixed and get the wheel trued.  Adam dug around and actually found a derailleur hanger for the JET 9.  Greg ordered a replacement derailleur that would replace the one I was about to steal from my wife's Air 9.  Then we headed over to Jordan Creek to see the new iPhone 6 and 6+ (very nice, by the way).  There was a line outside the store for those waiting to buy the new iPhone that had well over 150 people standing in it.  Alexa and I moved on to other stores and she bought me a nice new pair of cold weather riding gloves as a birthday present.

My cousin Marilyn reminded everyone on Facebook it was my Birthday with a photograph she had of me as an infant...


Since the race was postponed a day, I flip-flopped what I had planned for Sunday morning and did it Saturday afternoon instead.  That was to do several hours of trail work out at Lake Ahquabi.  I was told I needed to be home, showered, and dressed in a nice clothes for a 5:30 pm departure.  I didn't want to wear myself out too much doing trail work, so I chose to trim the canopy which means I would be moving slowly and conserving energy.  I got the Mickey Mouse ears section of the trail trimmed and cleaned up, as well as two connector sections, and removed two fallen trees.  The mosquitoes didn't seem to care that I was lathered up in bug spray as I guess they knew summer was about to end.

I got home, showered, dressed in my suit and was ushered into the dining room area where I was presented with a surprise gift of a two temperature wine storage cellar unit (top for red wine, bottom for white wine) that was full of 12 premium bottles of select stuff from around the world.  Wow!  That was not expected at all and is quite a gift.  Bottles from Austria, France, Napa Valley, and beyond filled the storage unit.  Then I read the birthday cards and was told we needed to leave for our next step in the process.  I was informed that Zack and Alexa would not be dining with us.  Yet, they were all smiles about it.  Hmmm....

Off I was whisked in Tara's car and we headed south out of Indianola which I thought was odd.  I wasn't sure where we were going, or if there was some restaurant south of town or in another town that she had discovered via a recommendation.

Low and behold, we pulled into Lake Ahquabi State Park and there stood Lisa Seidenkranz and her son, the chef, Tyler who had prepared our first course of the evening's meal and set up a romantic, candlelit table in the shelter overlooking the lake.  Once we were greeted, they left us to enjoy our first course.  I left the suit jacket in the car as temperatures were in the 80's as we arrived.

The view...


The setting...


The date...



Enjoying the Cakebread (one of my favorite wines)...


This was a unique evening to say the least.  There were three young girls that had been swimming in the lake that kept walking by us where we were sitting.  We heard one whisper to the other "I think it's a date!" which tickled us.  After we ate the wonderful appetizer, and had a glass of wine, Tara took it an emotional step or two deeper than I was expecting.  Suffice it to say, she really touched me on a level that left me in tears (all in a good way).  We made a commitment to each other, and that will be symbolically carried out in December.

As beautiful as the setting was at Lake Ahquabi, and the time we were enjoying with each other - she had me on the move again at 7 pm to make the next stop in our evening's journey.  So we packed up and headed to Des Moines where we landed at the 801 Chophouse for the main dinner.  Much discussion and fun was had between us - along with some wonderful food.

It had been a long day for me since I awoke in the very early am thinking I would be racing, then the day out and about with Alexa, the trail work, the emotional release, and needless to say a few glasses of wine and good food led me to a bit of a nap on the way home in the car.  Thanks to my loving, wonderful wife - this was one of the most memorable birthdays for me that I will cherish for years to come.

Who needs Oktoberfest when you have a unique evening like that?  However, Oktoberfest was ushered in on Saturday with the opening celebrations in Munich.   The Summerset Shootout race was scheduled to usher it in, and The Mullet Fall Classic is scheduled to usher it out with the 9/20 - 10/5 dates bookmarking the festival.  Sunday morning had a nice breeze, full sunshine, and temperatures that were 10-15 degrees cooler than Saturday.  So the race was on for Sunday with an additional hour of drying time to make sure that the trails were in good hero dirt condition after Saturday's thunderstorm.  I had a nice relaxing morning at home with Tara as there was no need to drive two hours or more to this race as it was 10 minutes north of town.

I went out in the garage to tinker with the JET 9 and get the hanger and derailleur installed.  That went smoothly, but I soon realized that the SRAM X.9 derailleur required a longer cable than my destroyed X.0 - and I didn't have a spare derailleur cable in my parts bin!!!  OK - so the Dos Niner would be my bike of choice for the race instead.  No biggie as I had thrown the ST Thudbuster on there for a bit of extra cushion and have done more races on a Dos Niner over the years than any other bike.
I arrived at Summerset around noon, got registered, and went out for a 30 minute warm-up on the Summerset Trail.  My legs did feel stiff from all the bending over I had done on Saturday picking up the limbs I cut from the canopy.  Luckily, the warm-up helped flush all of that stiffness away.  I headed to the line to visit with everyone and get ready for the day's effort.

My wave lined up, and I got in the front row with Anthony Branch, Andre Rethman, and a younger rider who was wearing a full face mask helmet.  When Steve Fuller told us to go, I sprinted off the line pretty hard with Anthony content to sit in behind Anthony for the first part of the race.  I was surprised that the kid with the full helmet, shot around us before the singletrack.  Anthony went in behind him, and I was in the third spot.  Andy Peterson had moved up to the Comp race since he leads the Sport Class in points for the year and has that wrapped up.  And we were missing a few other usuals as well, so I was only up that far in the pack due to who was there (or rather not there).

It wasn't long before the kid with the full face helmet slowed as his match was burned out.  So 4 of us went around him.  This group of 4 of us traded places off and on throughout the first lap.  Finally, coming out of the Extra Credit section at the end of the first lap, I passed Anthony Branch to take the lead and never looked back. Everyone latched onto me for the start of lap two, but I slowly started to build a gap, and just kept adding to it refusing to back off.  This was the highest my heart rate had averaged for any race this year, and I was really breathing heavily as I hammered through what I have to consider one of my "home courses".  The Dos Niner was doing great and it felt good to race on it again.  It's quite a bit more flexy than my Niners, but no adjustment was needed with all the miles and races I have under my belt with the bike.

Eric Roccasecca captured me flying down the last section of Corner Pocket...


I kept pushing myself all the way to the end, passed a few riders in the Comp Class, and crossed the line in 1st Place for my Age Class and in 1st Place overall for the Sport Category.  Again - that had more to do with who showed up to race and who didn't show up to race than anything different from me.  However, I did feel really strong in this race as I did in the prior two races.  Almost like I had hit a second peak in the season with the way I structured my training for mid-August until now.  So I ended the season (not sure if I'll race again this fall) with three 1st Place wins at George Wyth, Sugar Bottom, and Summerset which is a nice way to close out what has been an improved year of racing for me.

One of my favorite sections of Banner on top of the piles of whatever remnants are left from the coal mining days...


Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

Plenty of beers, chit-chatting, and fun was had in the Oktoberfest climate after the race as we all hung out post-race.  Kudos to Rick Blackford and the Rassy crew for hosting one of our signature events in the IMBS.  Having to deal with the weather and pulling off a postponement adds plenty of stress to the race director and crew - but it worked out well for everyone with the better weather and trail conditions on Sunday.

That's how my summer ended.  A great birthday, a wonderful wife, a caring family, good friends, and mountain bike racing.  If I could have a do over for the weekend - I wouldn't want it to be any different than it was.  Thanks to all!!!

Fall arrives this evening around 9:29 pm making the transition into cooler weather, fall colors, riding for fun, eating, and what not begin in earnest tomorrow.


Race Bike damage...

"When you least expect it, expect it"....I guess.

My schedule this year at work is overloaded which means I don't have time to hop on my bike until 6 pm or later this fall semester, so I try to get what I can when I can.  Yesterday, I wanted to head out early before school to see what conditions the trails were in at Lake Ahquabi due to the upcoming race I host out there on October 5th.

So I grabbed the JET 9, loaded up the Element and headed out for a lap.  About 7 minutes into the race course loop on a benign corner my ride ended thanks to a twig that hopped up and in a brief second ripped my rear derailleur into the spokes.  "Ya gotta be kiddin' me!!!!" was my immediate response considering I really only have about 1 more race to do this season on that bike.  Why now?!!!  I guess running over thousands of twigs all season long for several seasons, I was due.  No way to get it fixed in time for tomorrow's race as I can't get all the parts in time.

I suppose this is about the 3rd time in a dozen years I've had that happen to me - and it always surprises me how quickly it happens and how fragile things are down there on the drivetrain.  The snap and break takes place quicker than you can "HEY!", so there is no stopping it from happening once the process begins.  The last time it happened to me (a SRAM X.0 rear derailleur on my Karate Monkey), it led me to choose lower end, lower cost rear derailleurs for the sheer sake of dealing with replacing a $75 part being less painful than a $200+ part.

Well, low and behold - I have been running a SRAM X.0 Black Box medium cage carbon derailleur on my JET 9 for quite a while now - and there is some serious $$$ pain involved in this loss.  The hanger was bent sufficiently...


...and that is the low cost portion of the fix.  The hanger is $12, but the pain involved is that I have to order it which takes time - so there is no chance to get the race bike ready for Saturday's race unless by some fluke, somebody in the Des Moines area has a spare one sitting around.  I could cannibalize a rear derailleur from another bike if I had a hanger, but the good news is I have the RIP 9 and the Dos Niner I can race on Saturday.

The expensive part of the loss was the weight weenie rear mechanical SRAM X.0 Black Box Carbon bit...


Ouch!!  I know that photo is way out of focus, but that's how everything looks to me these days without my reading glasses.  ;-)

Looks like I'll be on eBay scouting around for something comprable - or give in and purchase a lower end, lower cost SRAM 9 speed rear mechanical like I have on all my other bikes due to my previous history of having this happen that I mentioned above.  The cable housing also got damaged, so a little fix back there with the final segment of housing run is in order as well.

My ride cut short, I hiked back to the car and drove home to get ready for work.  I snuck in a ride after 6 pm at Banner Pits to make up for it on my RIP 9 to get a race speed lap in on the RIP to adjust.  It doesn't handle the same as the JET, but I am used to riding it out there so all will be well in spite of my JET being in the sick bay until all the new parts arrive.  I managed to continue breaking things at the dinner table.  I was trying to give the dogs a bowl to lick after I had finished my dinner and managed to drop it on the floor where it broke into a dozen pieces.  One of those days, I guess.

Alexa is home for the weekend and will help celebrate my 53rd Birthday.  We sat at the kitchen table last night until the late hours (she had a paper due by midnight) and I was catching up on emails, recommendation letters, school business, and what not while fighting to stay awake.  I'm not sure what is planned or on tap with the family this weekend outside of the Summerset Shootout Race, and a 1 - 5 pm rehearsal I have on Sunday.

Bon Weekend to all!  Try not to break things.  ;-)


IMBCS #5 Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

The Mulligan version of the Sugar Bottom Scramble went off without a hitch on Sunday at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area.  Originally scheduled for August 24th, it was rained out and slotted in for September 14th.  Rain threatened to cancel it again as more than 4.5" fell on the course the week of the race.  Luckily, things dried out enough to reward all racers with tacky conditions, cool weather, and sunshine for a perfect day of racing.

Yes, for Midwest racers it was a very busy weekend with the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Wisconsin taking place, cyclocross racing in Pella, and who knows what else going on in addition to the rescheduled Sugar Bottom Scramble?  Numbers were down from last year's 200 or so racers, but I want to thank Mike Frasier and his entire crew for pulling this one off to keep our series intact.  Kudos to everyone who got the bridges reset, the course marked, and all of the volunteers who were able to find a weekend to make this happen.  I know all the racers join me in thanking everyone for this.

I rolled out of the driveway at about 9 am for the 2 hour ride over to Sugar Bottom.  I probably should have given myself an extra ten minutes now that I am required to drive the speed limit at all times, but I got there in time to get my number plate, do about a 25 minute warm-up, and hit the starting line.  Alexa drove over from campus to watch me and hang out for the afternoon.

Last year, we had about 60 racers start in the CAT II Sport wave which was quite a dusty mess up the opening gravel road climb.  This year we were around 34 or so in my starting wave, so the dust was less of an impact.  My heart rate monitor/iPhone combination was giving me funny readings during my warm up with things like my heart rate being 678 beats per minute and what not, so I handed my phone to Alexa before the start and would go on perceived feel only which I am used to doing.  On the start, I was in the back of the pack.  I pedaled my way into the middle of the pack rather quickly, and then was surprised on the climb that those in front of me were not going harder.  So I passed quite a few and went into the singletrack at the top of the climb in pretty good shape.  Looked like I was in the top third at least.

The opening section is my favorite at Sugar Bottom on the south side of the gravel road.  Like last year, we were only scheduled to go through it one time and I miss doing it twice.  There were moments where I was able to jockey for position and pass a few riders, and be passed by another rider or two as we tooled through the beautiful woods and singletrack of the south side.  I was tailing Tony Branch as he had a good pace going and we had finished neck and neck at George Wyth where I raced really well, so I felt confident I was in a good spot right behind him.  We caught up to Katherine Roccasseca from the COMP wave and I said hello as we passed her.  The first time through the north side loop (that we were doing twice) I was chatting with Jody Gorsh who was behind me about when Cyclocross Hill was coming.  I figured I would fly down the hill leading into it to get up as much of the hill as possible to keep it in the big ring and muscle out the top of the hill.  The hill has been my nemesis the past few years with me blowing a hub, having to change lines in the middle of the hill due to a rider in front of me, and poor gear selection.

Round one went fine this time and I made the climb without issue...


Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

Jody congratulated me at the top of the hill and went around me.  I gave chase not wanting to fall behind.  I tailed Tony Branch through the finish area as we started our second lap of the north side.  We passed a few riders that we had caught up to who had run out of gas and I noticed Tony starting to slow a little bit.  Not long after that, he pulled over to let me by (said his hands/arms were cramping).  I was right behind a group of 3 riders that included Jody Gorsh as we approached Cyclocross Hill for the second time.  I had the same plan this time and came flying down the hill.  I was wearing my old worn out Specialized shoes that have a rip in the mesh, and the cleats are - needless to say - pretty well worn causing my right foot to come unclipped on the slightest pedal strike or any abnormal jolt.  Sure enough, just as I bounced through the middle rut on the hill climb, I started muscling my pedal stroke to make the climb and my right foot bounced out of the pedal and came unclipped.  Angy Snoop caught me right at the moment with a big grimace on my face as I realized I was going to have to put a foot down and hike the hill...


Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

 I didn't run up the hill, but in frustration climbed up the slope, remounted and took off as I saw the three riders in front of me ride away.  Nobody passed me due to the unclip, so nothing was lost there.  But I guess it is time to start wearing my new shoes that I am slowly breaking in to take advantage of the new clips which will prevent my foot from bouncing out so easily.

I managed to work my way back up to one of the riders from the group of 3 in front of me and got on his rear wheel.  I stuck with him through the final section and decided to sprint to the line to try and pass him.  When we hit the open field sprint section coming around the final corner, I called out that I was on his right and out sprinted him to the line to move into 8th Place Overall for CAT II Sport, and got 1st Place for the 50+ age class.

Goals met.  1st Place in my age class, and I made the top 10 overall for our category in Sport.  I feel like I have finally recovered a bit from the Dakota Five-0 and was pleased with my racing effort throughout the race on Sunday.  Age information was not included, so I had to get all of that organized to upload the results into our IMBCS spreadsheet.  Here is the overall Sport wave...


I visited with Alexa while we waited for the awards ceremony and won a free oil change plus tire rotation for her in the raffle.  I talked with Mike Frasier about the event and we discussed some possibilities for next year.  After I thanked everyone, I headed out to lunch with Alexa.  It was nice to see her and visit for a few hours.  And she'll be home this weekend for my Birthday!!!

Bottom line:  Kudos to ICORR and everyone at the Sugar Bottom Scramble.  Great race and fun was had by all in near perfect conditions.


Biblical rains...

Noah loaded the ark this week to prepare for a massive rain that caused flooding in our area.  Even one of the dorms at Simpson flooded in the basement and made the news as a result.

Summerset State Park got hit pretty hard after the Middle River went over the banks and matched the flood level of 2008 (that closed the park for a long time).  Part of the park is closed again and the wait for the water to evaporate will take quite some time.  My guess is weeks to months based on how long it took in 2008.  2011 as well was a flood, but not quite as severe as this week was. 

IMBCS had a race scheduled for September 20th at Summerset, but that's not going to happen due to this...



Bob's new bridge submerged

Photos courtesy of Bob Matthews

We are shooting for a reschedule later in October, but who knows.  There was to be a race in Iowa City at Sugar Bottom this Sunday as well.  And that was already a reschedule from prior rain in August.  They got 4 1/2" this week, and seemed to fare pretty well from that, but it is raining about 1/4" today.  The race director informed me the determination will be made on whether or not tomorrow's sunshine and wind can dry it enough in time for Sunday's race based on how much actually falls today. 

I never did hear the full amount of rain for the week here in our area, but I know it was in the 4.75" - 6" range.  Our basement has flooded in the past with any 4" rain during a wet year, but not this year which was the first test of it as last year was a drought.  Both sump pumps have been serious champs and we are as dry as a bone!  Hip, hip, hooray for a wise investment in our new basement system that has kept us dry now for several years.

It's Friday.  If and when the sun peeks out this afternoon, I'm pulling the road bike out and searching for some dry pavement to start the weekend.  What we could use is a few weeks of dry weather and some wind to help dry things out and get fall going.


Dakota Five-0 Race Report...

How to "Put the Labor back into your Labor Day weekend."

There is nothing like getting a chance to go home to the Black Hills and breathe the fresh Dakota air, see the bright blue skies, enjoy the mountains, visit family, and of course - throw it down in the annual Dakota Five-0 mountain bike race that begins and ends in Spearfish!

This was my third time to drive out and do this race since moving to Iowa.  My previous participation in the Dakota Five-0 was in the 2005 (the 5th Annual), and 2012 (the 12th Annual) versions.  2014 was the 14th Annual version of the event.  I was looking forward to getting back out to the Black Hills, and combining this with a visit with Dad.  It all seemed to be a nice way to round out the summer.  I spent a portion of my childhood growing up in Rapid City.  We moved away from Rapid following my freshman year in high school, and headed to Williston, ND.  My Dad lives in Rapid City - as does my sister Becky and my nephew Cody.  It's always great to get out there for a visit and marvel at the beauty of the Hills.

I drove across the Wide Missouri and the West River where I fought strong crosswinds through the entire prairie to arrive in Spearfish on Friday night in time to set up my tent at the campsite in the Spearfish City Park.  Low and behold, I ran into fellow South Dakotan Evie and her husband Tim Racette who had driven out from Wisconsin for the race.  Evie told me to set up the tent in their "neighborhood".  So I did...


I thought about setting up right next to the creek...


...but the ground wasn't flat enough for my liking.  And for anyone who has memories back to what happened in 1972 in the Black Hills - setting up a tent right next to any kind of running water is a difficult thing to do.  Anyway, by the time I got set up and unpacked, it was dark.  I headed out to get some food, and some grocery supplies for the cooler.  Temperatures dropped to the low 50's, and I managed to sleep more than 8 hours which I sorely needed after the long 11 hour drive.

Saturday was a beautiful day with blue sky, and temperatures in the mid-80's that afforded all of us spectacular views of the Black Hills.  I took a warm-up spin that included the first 20 mintues of the singletrack, and the opening gravel section which served as a nice reminder of reality for Sunday's opening few miles.  I checked in and picked up my race packet at 12 noon before heading down to Rapid City to visit with Dad.  We had dinner together at Ruby Tuesdays and watched a thunderstorm move through and dump a nice bit of rain on Rapid City.

After that had passed, I returned to the campsite where I set about getting the bike all ready, and packing my nutrition (GU gels, Perpetuem drink mix, and Endurolytes) in the gas tank bag on my RIP 9.

The bike as I ran it on Sunday with the gas tank bag (GU, Perpetuem packs, Endurolytes, external battery for the iPhone), and the saddle bag (spare tire, C02, tire lever, multi-tool)...


The forecast for race day was for a high of 62, cloudy with rain - so I had picked up some knee warmers at a bike shop in Rapid to keep my legs warm.  No surprise that even the size small leg warmers barely stayed up on my skinny legs.  Such is life as a tall, lanky ectomorph.  Two years ago, temperatures were around 90 which is more to my liking (blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful Black Hills singletrack).

But it was what it was...and I would need the knee warmers (and my arm warmers) to keep warm for the race.

I woke up early on Sunday morning, ate my cereal, rode my bike downtown for a coffee, then came back to get suited up.  I got everything ready on the bike for a day of fun.  I headed over to the starting line which featured four starting waves that were labeled thusly...

Wave One - The Pros (expected finishing time of under 4 1/2 hours)
Wave Two - The Joes (expected finishing time of 4-5 hours)
Wave Three - The Bros (expected finishing time of 5-6 hours)
Wave Four - The ______ (expected finishing time of over 6 hours)

I had signed up for Wave Three as my time in 2012 was 5:48:48.  Back in 2005, I lumbered through the event with a time of 6:44:41 which included my legs cramping, a torn sidewall that I had trouble booting and nursing through the final 20 miles, and took sheer determination just to finish.  This year,  I had a goal of trimming time off of my 2012 finish.  I had the goal of trimming off nearly 30 minutes - which I arbitrarily chose for the sake of choosing some random number I guess.  Realistically, I just wanted to best my 2012 time as the only goal - whatever that would be.

The Pros took off at 7 AM.  The Joes headed out at 7:10 AM.  And it appeared nobody wanted to line up in the front row of the The Bros, so Andre Rethman and I took a spot on the front row where we managed to get a fist bump with Smokey the Bear.  We rolled out for the neutral start behind the ATV at 7:20 AM.  I wasn't too keen on sucking in all of the exhaust fumes from the ATV, so after a few blocks of riding directly behind the ATV, I moved over to the side and drifted back for some fresh air.  I was watching the HR and figured I didn't need to be pushing an average XC race pace on the opening gravel climb, so I kept it at tempo.  Ron Cooney passed me as did quite a few others on the gravel climb.  Nearing the singletrack with about a half mile of gravel to go, I moved it up to Zone 5 for the final gravel section to get in front of as many as possible before heading into the singletrack. 

The first hour was a pretty quick tempo.  It was, for me, more akin to the XC race variety I am used to than what I considered a 50 miler endurance race pace would allow me to maintain.  I knew I couldn't push Zone 4 and 5 for 5+ hours, so after Aid Station #1 at the 10 mile point, I settled into a pace I knew I could manage for the duration. 

Heather Wince was doing bottle hand ups for a couple of riders (Lee Bueller and I think Evie Racette), and providing moral support for the Iowa contingent.  She snapped a photo of me as I rode through one of the Aid Stations in one of my many moments of pain.... ;-]


Photo Courtesy of Heather Wince

I pulled over and downed a GU gel, and ate a handful of Endurolytes right after the aid station.  I motored on to the 2nd Aid Station and spent a nice chunk of time riding with Jerry Hoff who caught up to me and passed me.  He was riding really well.  I wished I could have hung on to that pace for the remainder of the race, but something just wasn't clicking with me.  So I had to let Jerry ride away as I settled into what I could manage at the time.  I passed Ron Cooney who had pulled over on the side of the trail with bad cramps.  I arrived at mile 22 for the 2nd Aid Station, got off the bike to make a 2nd bottle of Perpetuem for the next 3 hours, and fill the Camelbak with water.  I knew I could do that in under 3 minutes, but it was starting to rain and I was having trouble getting the Perpetuem packages opened, so one of the volunteers helped me out with his knife.  Drink mix made, Camelbak full - I was off to tackle the next section.

This next section was probably the only time I questioned my tire choice as the rain on the rocks was making them a bit dicey as we headed through the most technical section of the ride.  Somebody went down really hard in front of me on the rocks which gave me pause to slow up and take my time skidding over the rocks.  I followed a guy who claimed if we pushed it, we were still capable of turning in a 5 hour finish time.  Maybe for him, I thought - but not for me as I wasn't able to turn myself inside out at that point after being on the bike for nearly 3 hours.  The long stem flipped -15 on my RIP had been actually really great during the first 20 miles of climbing, but now I was descended so much that I was wishing for a dropper post as the reach was a bit of a pain in the neck as I hammered down these long descents that went on forever.   In spite of a bit of neck discomfort hammering down the descents, I managed just fine letting the RIP eat up the bumps.  It was much more forgiving than my JET would have been on these trails. 

My BB7 brakes with the 160mm rotor up front and 140mm rotor in the rear was more than enough for me - even in the rain - out here in the Hills.  One of the myths that surrounds these brakes on message forums include comments along the lines that they are something that one has to dismount and adjust the brakes every so often in mid-ride.  Not so for me.  Here I was screaming the descents, in the rain - and my brakes were just as strong and good at the end of the day as they were the month leading up to the event.  No tinkering.  No adjusting.  They just worked as usual like they have since I got them in 2002.  And here I was riding in the mountains.


Photo Courtesy of Johnathan Karol

 Aid Station #3 came rather quickly thanks to the long descent.  I pulled in and immediately one of the volunteers topped off the water in my bottle with the Perpetuem mix.  I headed out to tackle the grinding granny gear steep climbs from there.  It's just about uphill all the way to the Bacon Station.  I was amazed by a guy we all kept calling the mountain goat who was scaling climbs the rest of us were walking.  He tended to not be too fast going down the hill where the group I was riding with would catch him, and then he would climb away from us the next set of climbs.  Once we finally finished the hike-a-bike sections and rolled into the Bacon Station - I said "What the heck, why not?"  I had never pulled over at the Bacon Station in my previous two Dakota Five-0's, so I decided to try it out this time.  I was handed up a beer, and 2 nice slices of bacon.  Yum!  According to my iPhone with the Wahoo Fitness App running, I spent a little over 4 minutes there chatting, drinking the beer and gnawing on the tasty bacon before motoring on to do the final section.  It was all in fun, and I'm glad I stopped this year to give it a try.

A bit of technical stuff after the Bacon Station which I let the RIP plow through as I held on with hopes my tires wouldn't pop on the rocks.  Eventually, we hit the long fire road climb that I had cramped on in 2005.  2012 it was a grinding climb on this fire road in the heat.  This time, it was rather easy when compared to the previous two times.  The gravel was baked from the recent rains, and rather smooth and fast making the climb easier.  The "mountain goat" passed me again about midway up, and took off up the climb with a gal who had been hanging with us for about 10 miles.  I crested the climb and began the final descent of Tinton Trail to the finish.  The sun actually came out for the first time and it felt good.  This was actually my best riding and pace for the entire day.  I never really got it going earlier in the race - or at least it never really felt good as I was just grinding out what I could.  Now I had it going!  Where was this earlier in the day?  I caught back up to the gal who had pulled away with the mountain goat on the fire road climb.  She crashed on one of the corners in front of me.  She was okay when I asked, so I passed her and took off going full bore with the RIP's front fork eating up the chunk.

Post race RIP with mud, cow pies, dust, etc...that I will clean up this week...


Coming out of the Singletrack and going full bore, I was maxed out in terms of gears with the chain on the 40T ring up front and the 11T in the rear.  I sprinted ahead and passed two riders on the gravel, but I felt the beginnings of cramps and twinges in my legs.  I managed to fend off the cramps - as well as the two I had just passed.  I sprinted all the way to the line and crossed with a finish time of 5:35:05.  Only 13:43 quicker than my 2012 time (should have bypassed the Bacon Station and banked those 4+ minutes!!!!), but at least I was quicker than my 2012 time.  No surprise here with my Midpackitis as I rolled across in spot #270 out of the 650 or so that registered. 


Goal met in terms of shaving time.  Plenty of opportunity for me to drop more time with some tweaks in training, and managing my effort out on the course. 

Overall, it was worth the griding effort to enjoy the great ride and the beauty of the Black Hills.  Lots of riders were there from Iowa as a nice little tradition with this race has developed with many heading out to do it from Iowa.  I grabbed some post race grub, and joined them to share stories of our days out on the bikes.  I didn't get to stay for the Awards Ceremony as I had a dinner date with Dad down in Rapid City which involved a 40 minute drive.

We went to the new Dakota Steakhouse which he had never been to since it is not close to where he lives.  They had a section on the menu of local fare (buffalo, elk, lamb, etc...).  So I had some nice South Dakota raised lamb chops with apricot sauce, and a helping of bleu cheese mashers as my recovery meal.  We had a nice visit, and after dinner I drove back to Spearfish to my campsite.  I headed directly into my tent to sleep for a nice 9 hours in the cold temperatures.  I packed up my stuff early on Monday morning, said goodbye to Evie (4th overall woman in the race) and Tim (12th overall) who were driving to Watertown to see Evie's parents before I headed out for the long drive to Iowa.

My kudos to the entire Dakota Five-O team for hosting one of the best mountain bike events out there.  All of the volunteers were super helpful, encouraging, and cheerful.  The vibe at this event is nothing short of contagious.  If you have never done it, put it on your list to do and make a nice Labor Day Weekend out of it.  If you have done it, you know how much fun - and exhausting - the trip can be.  Yes.  It is worth it!