9/3/14

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...

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

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...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)...

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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.... ;-]

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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.

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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...

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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. 

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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!  

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