What a way to spend the Labor Day weekend! I don't think we could have crammed one more thing into the past 4 days and I am for sure that we could not have ridden nicer single track!!
Friday we headed out for the long drive to Spearfish, South Dakota. When I say we, I mean all of us. Due to Carolynn's injury, Christopher decided that he would give the Dakota Five-O a try. He hasn't ridden much this year other than a few local MTB rides and riding during our Colorado vacation. I setup my old Giant Anthem for him and I was left riding the Bandersnatch. By the looks of it he will be switching rigs with me soon if he keeps growing...
Saturday Carolynn and I headed out to pre-ride some of the course and check out the the rest areas. Carolynn is not the best with directions due to the fact that I do not think they taught map reading in the Pennsylvania school systems. This meant that I had to take her to the trail/aid stations out in the Black Hills National Forest. We rode the first section of trail that leads to aid station #1. The Tinton Trail was a delight. Going out was mostly uphill. I went ahead of Carolynn and enjoyed a couple of hours of riding. I did not want to stop, but Carolynn's hip was starting to hurt and it was time to get back for packet pickup.
The little town of Spearfish was bustling with riders of all sorts. We spent the afternoon eating, visiting the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatcher and waiting in line for a couple of hours. The entire event was first class except for the packet pickup. They had 3 people trying to run packet pickup for over 500 riders. We didn't getback to our hotel until after 8:30 pm. Maybe next year we can have pre-assigned numbers and divide them into groups based on last name - A-G, H-L, etc... Just a suggestion :-)
Race morning came early. A pre-race meal at Perkins was the order of the day. Soon we were getting ready for our little challenge. I was somewhat worried about Christopher. 50 miles and over 7,000 feet of climbing may not seem like a lot to most of you, but for someone that has not trained much, it can become an all day experience. Adding to it was some reports of the new section along the Dakota Ridge. It was technical and several thousand feet up. One mistake while riding tired could be costly. Christopher seems a little nervous with all the riders so I decided to start in the back of the field with him. Normally the Pros/Experts start in the front rows, followed by Sport, Beginners, Tour riders and then anyone else who is just in for the ride. A little past 7:30 am Smokey the Bear started us all off. The start was supposed to be a neutral start through town until we hit the gravel road (Hill Road) and climbed up to the single track. I guess a neutral start in SD is Full On Gas. Before you knew it, we were nearly spun out in the big chain ring. That was the last I saw of Christopher for the ride.
One quick look up the road and I came to the realization that it was going to be a long day of passing riders. The lead riders were nearly a mile up the road as I hit the first gravel climb. I settled into a fast pace near my AT and was soon passing riders in bunches. Even with passing several dozens of riders I made little progress toward the front. It was going to be a long day in the saddle with plenty of practice passing. I would soon find out that I would end up passing most riders twice on the day....
First trail section up was the twisty Tinton Trail. I knew this section well from yesterday, but did not get to really enjoy the ride up today due to heavy traffic. We must have come to a complete stop 3 times waiting for the congestion to clear. By this time I had resided that my race had turned into a tour ride and was out for a joy ride with 500 others. Aid station #1 soon came and after a quick F1 type hand off from Carolynn I was soon off and gaining some motivation. The field was getting tired and thinning out. Passing became very easy and soon I hooked up with two other riders from Iowa and Nebraska. We hit the Big Hills Trails section with some serious speed and made up all kinds of time. Of course all good things must come to an end. At the end of one fast downhill gravel road section I made the pass on another rider taking a line that I would not have normally taken. Well, you can guess what happened. A nice side wall tear due to a large unseen rock. My thin walled 29er tires were no match (why did I switch from a 26er UST equipped bike again???). A nice finger wide hole spewed Stans like the Gulf Oil disaster.....
Only one thing to do. Fix it or quit. I do not do well with quitting so I started searching for a patch that would allow me to finish. I had some duct tape and small card board pieces, but it was not enough. After looking around for what seemed like hours I found a small piece of plastic. I combined this with the cardboard and duct tape to make a suitable patch for the side wall. After over 30 minutes I was back rolling. I had hoped Christopher would have caught up by now, but he was not one of the hundred or so riders who had ridden past when I was fixing my tire. I rolled on climbing Cardiac Climb with a little motivation, but quickly set myself right while on Recovery Ridge and the RimRocks Trails. I rolled into aid #2 and asked Carolynn to go get my spare tubes. She brings back every tool and part that I had brought. The funny part is that once I left she takes the $20.00 Stans rim strip that I set by the tools/parts bin and deposits it the trash. Ugh! God Bless her.
After a quick update on Christopher I was off to tackle Old Baldly West, Crangle Connection and Taco Alley. Some very sweet single track on all these sections and they were mostly downhill for the most part. Only problem was the darn dust. It was like an early 1900's dust bowl out there. I got behind two guys on this one section and was afraid to pass (did not want another side wall tear) so I just sucked up about 1 pound of dust until I finally found my way around at the base.
From aid #3 to #4 it was again mostly down hill, but then plenty of climbing awaited us on 2-track-attack. That was some pain. I was over 4 hours into the ride and all I wanted was some bacon and beer at the Bacon Station. Yes I said Bacon Station. 37 pounds of bacon and ice cold PBR beer awaited. I downed a beer and said good bye to all the cheering folk at BS and headed toward the Dakota Ridge. After about only 5 min the beer kicked in and I was having all kinds of trouble up on the ridge. Half of me was laughing and the other half was fearful of falling off the side of the mountain. Then some serious cramps set in and there was still one long section of climbing to be done before the end trip down Tinton Trail. I fought off the cramps and enjoyed one of the nicest last 7 miles of a ride/race that I have ever experienced. I flew down Tinton Trail catching 8 other riders on the final stretch. I was having so much fun I did not even care if I crashed or cut another tire.
In the end I finished in over 5 1/2 hours. My goal was 4:59 or less. Still waiting on my age-group placing. When you take into account my mechanical, my starting position and all the riders I had to wait to pass I would call it a success. I had a very fun time and the trails were awesome - some of the best I have ever ridden. We will be back next year with a front row start and a Full Suspension 26er with UST tires :-)