Skip navigation

Here is my report –

Left this cold weather after riding my trainer. Arrived in very warm and sunny weather. Rode three days of slick rock in- 80 degrees and drank beers to the sunset. Got back on the plane. Flew back to  40 mph winds and cold weather and then rode my trainer.

Highline Trail – Sedona, the newest, latest and greatest trail ever – Need I say more, see for yourself

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAQ3QUV_cjA&feature=fvst

Rippin’ the Training Wheels Off: Missoula Training Race #1 Report Missoula Bicycle Works kicked off Montana’s road race season this weekend with its annual training race held in Clinton, MT. Roughly 60 competitors showed up at the town’s only exit (#120) there on Interstate 90 on a perfect Montana spring day. Of course, as we all know, a “perfect Montana spring day” brings temps in the mid-40s, with a dose of constantly changing winds, a few sprinkles of rain, and tops it all off with a bit of snow. Cycling in this weather brings out the one question that has multiple answers in the riding community…”what in the heck to wear!?!?!” Decked out in my BSC race kit, complimented with full leg warmers, full shoe covers, a light pair of gloves, a heavy pair of gloves, a skull cap, a wool cap & a light coat, I arrived at the Missoula Bicycle Works to register. When in doubt on what to wear, bring it all I always say. You can always ditch what you don’t need in someone’s rig. Mark Brooke and Randall & Theresa Green were there from Helena’s Team Great Divide. Randy & Landon Beckner were there sportin’ the Montana Velo colors as well. Don’t let it ever be said that Helena cyclists don’t show up on race day. We’re like the postal service…”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”. Randall, Mark & I opted to cycle the 18 miles out to Clinton for the start, while the rest of the crew drove out there so they could pre-ride the course. The race course is a 6.5 mile hairpin loop that parallels I-90 on both sides of the interstate. The starting line is just before the train tracks located near the Exit 120 overpass. From there, you ride back toward Missoula a little over 3 miles before reaching an underpass that will return you to Clinton. All categories of racers complete 4.25 laps this day. The categories are broken into the following groups: A) Experienced and competitive, B) Newer & competitive and 3) new racers. C’s start first, B’s five minutes later & A’s five minutes after that. This somewhat different format creates a good “chase” factor to the race as each group races for just one, and perhaps most coveted of all, grand prize…Big Dipper Ice Cream! Five minutes after the C’s took off, us B’s anxiously awaited our chance to catch the C’s and steal a charge on the A’s waiting behind us. “Ready, Set…[ding, ding, ding].” Down goes the crossing & here comes the train! So, we waited a bit longer to get things started. A most auspicious start to the race season to say the least. Our first lap was relatively uneventful. The B group, of around 25-30 racers total, road together in a pretty tight pack as we tried to watch for any potholes (not too many) & negotiated the two hairpin turns (pretty sandy & sketchy) for the first time. We were warned previously about the underpass turn being the more treacherous of the two. The train tracks were pretty wide & could easily eat up a tire [go ahead & hit a perilous & foreboding key on the piano at this point, if there’s one around…]. The second lap produced a couple of major changes to the overall tone of the race. First, the B’s caught the C’s. Second, shortly thereafter, the A’s caught the B’s! When the A’s arrived, we B’s suddenly found ourselves in a peloton of riders that were pushing pedals with a bit more anger than what we had previously been accustomed to up to this point. The third lap was the craziest off all. After watching us already cruise by a couple of times, a golden retriever who’d been lounging on his porch had decided that he’d seen enough of this namby-pamby ridin’ & decided to get things charged up a bit by giving chase. To the dog’s credit, it stayed out of the way and, once the resultant speeds picked up, we never saw him again. Regardless, the race was officially “on” now! The third time through the underpass turn produced the big moment of the race. A couple riders in the middle of the group got snared up in the train tracks (no serious injuries) and those in front took off while those in back watched them do so as we worked through the mess. With the gap quickly widening, I grabbed a couple of gears and took off to try and get back in the safety of that lead group. With the HRM red-lining, the dread of another long & lonely ride to the finish line was starting to sink in. Just then, however, three riders pulled in front of me with lots of encouragement as they went by…”great pull”…”hang in there”…work together and we’ll get there.” Tucked in behind their wheel, I hung on & we got back into the fold before the turn at Clinton. Wow! Best part of the race right there!! The start of the fourth lap got a bit dicey for the lead group as, up ahead, we could see we were quickly coming upon a farmer on his tractor rumblin’ down the road. Hmmm…center line strictly enforced today and losing ground on that gap behind us. What to do? Fortunately, just before we had to make a decision, the fella got his tractor off the road and allowed us to squeeze by. Nice bit of driving for sure & we were grateful for his consideration. The last time through the underpass was a total bonehead move on my part. Remembering the crash that occurred previously, I opted to stay way right of things in the event someone else went down this time. Well, working my way back up the underpass, I managed to ride myself right into a deep sandy part of the corner. I stayed upright, but engulfed in the sand scrubbed my momentum…and there went the lead group down the road (again!). I gave hard chase, but I didn’t have any racers to team up with this time. Had to try & dig out myself. All the way back to Clinton, it didn’t seem like I was losing any ground…kept that lead group in my sights & the HRM wasn’t burning up. Thought that I just might get back into the mix at the final turn there Um, come to find out that the reason I was moving so well through this stretch back to Clinton was because the wind had really picked up and was at my back. Well, when I made that final turn, guess what…the wind was now full in my face. Then the rain started. Then some snow. With about a mile to go before the finish line, I accepted that my race day was over & dropped the chain into the small ring for an easy ride in. I met up with Theresa along the way and we worked together through the quickly deteriorating weather until we safely crossed the finish line. I didn’t get too wet at the end there, but greatly appreciated that Bill Schultz let me bum a drive back with him to Missoula. A nice warm shower, a quick bite to eat downtown, and I was home before dark. Finish line results notwithstanding, I feel I had myself a great day of racing. From a training standpoint, I got everything out of it that I wanted. Got almost 50 miles of riding in. Worked on tempo. Worked on a few sprints. Road fast & in a large group. Worked together with some co-racers to close a gap. Lastly, and this may seem a bit innocuous, but (hey) how often do you pull a water bottle out of your cage, take a swig, then put it back…all while doing 20+ mph with riders just a few inches away? Well, it’s sure not an easy thing for me to do without some practice. So, simply to that accomplishment today, do I drink a

Idaho’s Twin Rivers Cyclists had its Devil’s Slide XC mountain bike race last weekend.  This annual event is held at Hell’s Gate State Park near Lewiston, ID.  At just 733 feet above sea level, the low elevation and the long season of warm weather give rise to the area’s “banana belt” reputation.  Just a mere 7 hours worth of drive time, over two mountain passes, & you’ve escaped the Montana winter of 2011.  Fearing the infliction of more emotional trauma from another weekend of indoor riding, the choice was a relatively easy one for me.  After mailing in my AAA travel membership dues for the year, I was on the road early Saturday to warmer climes.  Stopped in Missoula & picked up Bill Schultz, the original founder and patriarchal captain of the Kenda-Tomac-Hayes & Subaru-Trek mega-congolmerate (aka, Schultz Brothers Racing).

Pulling into the Hell’s Gate State Park late Saturday afternoon for a pre-ride, we were pretty certain that, at a minimum, we’d be ridin’ in mud.  Instead, we were warmly greeted with the following circumstances: 1) the race course for Sunday had already been marked, 2) the trails were dry & 3) there was still plenty of daylight.   With temps hoverin’ around 50 degrees, Bill & I quickly got on the bikes & took a couple of spins around the course.

The race course is situated on an open hillside that overlooks the meandering Snake River below, just before it forms a confluence with the Clearwater River.  The exposed terrain allows for quick drainage of a trail system shared by hikers, bikers & horseback riders.  Early spring is the best time to ride around here, before the summer heat dries things up & the nasty puncturevine (aka, goatheads) arrive.  Just off the Jack O’Connor Center there in the park is where the race is headquartered.  Bill remembered O’Connor was the great contributing writer to Outdoor Life Magazine for several decades.  So, with all due respect to the dean of outdoor adventure writing, here’s the best I can offer in terms of a course description & race report.

Each lap of the race course is about 6 miles in length &, as confirmed by GPS, with about 900 ft of elevation change.  The lap description is perhaps best broken into three separate & distinct sections, bookended with a prologue & grand finale.  You begin with just a slight uphill that is enough to get the blood flowin’.  From there, you dip into a short bit of fast & fun downhill that has a few quick turns mixed in to keep you honest.  With this initial part completed, you are ready to take on the first section, which is a challenging, long & steady climb out of the canyon.  There are five wide switchbacks along the way, easily navigated, & provide a good racer view of both those ahead & those behind as you grunt up the hill.  When you reach a huge pile of rocks (perhaps the World’s Largest Cairn?!?), you’ve arrived up top.  From there, ride along the plateau for a bit before reaching the second section.  This next section is the signature one of the race…The Devil’s Slide.

The Devil’s Slide quickly plunges racers several hundred feet down in a free-wheelin & crazy descent that tempts you to “just go for it”, but will punish those that initially choose to do so & hesitate about this decision at any point on the way down.  Folks that “bite into this forbidden fruit” and have been punished for doing so tend to be heard mumblin’, “…the devil made me do it.”  With a steep hillside on the left, and an even steeper drop-off on the right, it’s best to keep your eyes focused straight ahead through this section.  The top of the descent starts out incredibly fun.  So much fun that you might just hear that devil resting on your left shoulder encouraging you to “just go for it”.  The angel that’s supposed to be resting on your right shoulder (perhaps the same shoulder separated once before, hmm?) has more than likely already bailed by this point.  When the trail starts breaking into two lines (almost ruts), you’d better commit early to the entry of just one for the remainder of your journey through this underworld.  There are a couple of embedded rock gardens along the way that can actually help with braking & traction.  Of course, there are those who, having made their respective “deals with the devil” it appears, use these to launch themselves into the final portion of the descent, which is a “skittery” and loose right hand swing that produces the desired “slide” effect when executed correctly.  Lock up those brakes here, however, and you’re gonna be flirtin’ with the “dark side” for sure.  Over the weekend, I rode the Devil’s Slide 5x…managing to keep on my bike each time.  The first time thru, I swore I’d be walking the “damned” thing come the race!  The second time got a bit easier (…er, perhaps, more tempting?).  The third time was the closest I came to a disastrous re-enactment of that descent scene from The Man From Snowy River.  The fourth time, during the race, it was crazy seeing broken sunglasses and other assorted “yard sale” items strewn everywhere in this “sacrificial cauldron” of downhill mountain biking.  The fifth time, temptation overcame me & I “just went for it”.  At least I thought I was…‘til that kid from behind launched like a “bat out of hell” over me…WOW!!! 

Newton’s 2nd law of physics defines momentum as the product of the mass & the velocity of an object.  Well, I don’t know what this means exactly, but I know that “mo” comes in handy during the third section of the race course.  At the end of the Devil’s Slide downhill section, you find yourself at the bottom of the hill that you’d worked so hard to climb earlier in the race.  From here, you stay low on the hillside & ride through a section of twisting gullies & ravines.  This roller-coaster of enjoyment takes you up, down, left & right in a swooping effect along the way.  Click, click, click go the gears as you try to pick up speed on a rolling hill & then maintain your momentum through the bermed corners.  Repeat, repeat & repeat.  This section is great fun &, eventually, takes you back to the O’Connor Center where the grand finale awaits.

The lap is almost completed.  All that’s left is only the steepest climb!  A sharp pitched hill that, if you’re not careful, will produce those full-broiled early season leg cramps you’ve been wary of all race.  The good news is that the step gradient is just a relatively short climber before you swing left & see the original start line.  For race day…Cat 1’s = 3 laps. Cat 2’s = 2 laps.  Cat 3’s = 1 lap.

Sufficiently fueled up on Mexican food the evening before (Paraiso Vallarta, across the bridge in Clarkston, WA), fully rested with an extra hour of sleep (hooray for Pacific Standard Time), & thoroughly caffeinated (Starbucks), Bill & I arrived at the race site on Sunday with plenty of time to register & get another pre-race lap in.  Bill Martin & Ross Brown, both from Missoula, had also made the trip over the day before so we got to visit with them as well.  We then joined 40 other competitors in anticipation of the region’s first mountain bike race of the season. 

“…3…2…1…GO!!!”  I was all smiles as I joined the other Cat 2 racers in an all-out sprint off the start line.  The gradual incline quickly produced a lead group of five that included both Bill Schultz & myself.  Now, I know for a fact that there were five in the initial lead group because it wasn’t too long before I clearly witnessed four of them pulling away from me!  I tried to keep the gap from growing.  However, by the time I had reached the bottom of that big climb, Bill had already whipped this lead group well into the 2nd switchback already.  Adding to my troubles, I had been joined up in a second group of around eight racers that had caught me on the initial downhill.  Getting caught up with this crew turned into an energy suck for me as I had to negotiate around them on the way up this climb.  By the time I had gotten to the top, I had passed them all…including one who had gotten dropped from that leader group ahead.  However, I knew if I didn’t put some distance between myself & this group behind that they’d pass me again going down the Devil’s Slide.  Up on top of the plateau, I knew I needed to haul it with a big ring effort.  Turning myself inside out on this stretch, I was relatively successful as only two passed me on the trip down.  At the bottom, I managed to keep them in my sights throughout the roller section.  As they walked their bikes up that final steep climb, just before the finish of the first lap, I pedaled by them & started my second lap.  Sure enough, these downhillers managed to get back on my tail by the time I reached the big climb again!  This time, however, I kept in front of them, stayed focused on the trail ahead, burying myself trying to climb that thing as quick & efficiently as I could.  I afforded myself just a quick peek down, just once at the top, and I didn’t see anyone behind me.  Still thinking they could come, I hurried across the plateau & dove into the Devil’s Slide with as much bravado as I could muster.  I thought I was doing really well on this descent, until I felt this “whoosh” to my left as one of the chasers blew me, hit that corner at the bottom & was gone into the next section.  I was so impressed, amazed &, well, shocked by this gutsy maneuver that I almost figured I should let him go.  This guy had to barely be into his 20’s… no mortgage, no kid’s college to think about and, clearly, no fear of flying.  Well, as you’ll find out later in the story, this day will be remembered by the adage that, “old age and treachery will always overcome youth.”  This youngster was eventually caught on the bottom section & summarily disposed of before the final climb to the finish line.

I’m proud to say that all four of the Montanans that raced this weekend managed to extract some precious medals from The Gem State.  Bill “Boneshaker” Martin is an amazing Cat 1 racer (http://williammartin.com/) and scored a podium finish in the 3 lap race.  Ross Brown scored a 2nd place in his age category & I managed a 3rd place in mine (4th place O/A).  However, the big star of the show was 57 year old Bill “The Beast” Schultz.  He was the undisputed & unchallenged overall winner (all ages, all comers) of the Cat 2 race.  How fast was Bill going Sunday?  Well, on Saturday, he & I were riding laps in about 40 minutes…which, personally, I thought was moving at a pretty good clip.  Bill’s first lap racin’ on Sunday?  0:29:22!!!  He pulled that lead group through the ringer, dropped them like a bad habit & had things sewn up before the start of his second lap.  He even caught some of the Cat 1 racers along the way, and they’d started a minute ahead of us Cat 2’s.  Awesome!

After awards were awarded, swag grabbed, snacks snarfed and race stories swapped between fellow competitors, Bill & I headed for home.  Our weekend trip through Hell’s Gate was heavenly.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Idaho’s Twin Rivers Cyclists 5 pitchforks for this early season MTB race.  Leaving Lewiston, it was 60 degrees & sunny.  It appears hell has frozen over here in Montana.  By the time I arrived in late Sunday night, it was 12 degrees & snowing

Pics can be found at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug_goodenough/5504823689/in/photostream/

What a great ride today. “Dono” and I left around 9:30 and headed to Highlands which is located about 20 miles outside of Great Falls. From a distance the mountains looked weak. But when we got in there we were plesantly surprised. The trails were a combo of Sun Valley and our own Helena Ridge trail. We decided to do the Windy Ridge. The trail started through a gully. Lots of ups and downs. The small ups were steep and the downs kept your interest with technical and fast spots.  The ridge was much more exposed then our own and the trails kept weaving in and out of aspens and spring fed green patches. I was amazed on what a gem the Highlands are and if you ever get a chance to ride it you will not be dissapointed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

http://www.montanacycling.net/events/766/results

 new photos WERKS Mountain Bike Race, Helena, MT: Sept 12th 2010
Enjoy the pictures!

Great Race today in the home hills of Helena. 20 people in Cat 2. Probably 10-15 in Cat 1. The race course was counter clockwise this year. I was happy about that because clockwise, I think the climbing is way harder. I also like the race start times this year. 1 PM. Perfect. Had time this morning to chill, eat b-fast and finish laundry.

The pace started out quick today. My goal was to get in the front and hang there as fast as possible. Beckner took off and he was out of sight but not out of mind. He looked extremely strong.  I managed to catch him on the first climb. Before I knew it, I looked back and Mark from GDC was on my wheel. He was strong and I knew he was the man to look out for today. If he caught me in my sprint, game would be over. On the first lap, I managed my position in 2nd place. Come the second lap, I began to suffer. Was pretty tired today. Mark fed on me and he passed me up. He was gone. I knew at this point the only thing I could do was hang on his wheel and hope he gets tired. Come third lap, I managed to maintain my lead. Mark was on my wheel most of it. I knew if I did not create a gap he would outsprint me. He has outsprinted me many times before in the Hell Ride. He is a hell of a sprinter. I knew the only way to create any kind of gap was on the hills. I pushed and was able to gap him and maintain it. At the end on the road, I turned around to see if he would be there. He was not and I was happy about that. I pushed the pace to the finish. My best time this year ont this course at 1:08. I was happy it was over and I am just plain out tired out. Now to Bozeman the weekend after next to ride the MSU MTB XC.  3rd place in points this year and BSC is on top for scores. http://www.montanacycling.net/events/766/results 

For Julie McKenna, Debra Morrell and myself, the Dakota Five-O was just a stop on the way to a bigger adventure – the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota.  Since you’ve heard all about the Dakota Five-O, we won’t dwell on that other than to say that Debra did claim 2nd in her age group and Julie did awesome as she had never done anything like that before.  After a beautiful day of racing and sunshine, it started pouring rain by 10pm, which meant that we were packing up our sopping wet tents and getting the bikes on top of the car in the rain the next morning and then onward to Medora, ND.  There was such an intense side-wind all the way north, Julie’s bike tipped over, saved only by the two wheel straps.  As it was impossible to do anything in that wind, we just had to make room for her bike inside the car.  Once we got to Medora, we opted for a motel room in order to dry out before starting out on the trail.

                The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a 100 mile long multi-use trail across the prairies and badlands of western North Dakota, connecting the Northern Unit of the Roosevelt National Park to the Southern Unit.  How the Forest Service ever marked out such a trail is beyond my comprehension.  Bikes are not allowed inside the National Parks, so the 19-mile long Buffalo Gap Trail was constructed to circumvent the southern unit of the Park.  The unique thing (rather, ONE of the unique things) about this trail is that there are sign posts along the entire trail embossed with a turtle.  Theoretically, from any sign post, you should be able to see the next one marking the way.  If you can’t see one, it’s likely you have gotten off on a cow trail instead of the real trail.  Much of the trail crosses free-range cattle prairie so there are lots of cows and lots of trails.

                We contracted with Dakota Cycles in Medora to shuttle our camping gear from campground to campground each night (3 nights), after taking us to the starting point. Since sharing the trailer with five others, this came out to just a mere $140 per person, well worth it!   The people at Dakota Cycle (Jennifer and her husband) know the trail well and know when it’s ridable and when it’s not.  As it had rained so hard there on Monday, it was recommended that we skip the first half of our ride on Tuesday and give the trail a few hours to dry out.  So instead of starting at Bennett Campground and riding 25 miles, we were dropped off on a forest road out in the middle of nowhere and told ‘Okay, there’s your trail – have fun!’   Off we went following the sign posts…           

The first day ended up being about 15 miles, including a side trip to the acclaimed ice caves, where we could find no ice but did find some small caves.  The trail still had not entirely dried out that first day so there were many muddy spots to cross.  The mud there is not anything like Helena mud.  There it is actually ‘muck’.  Water does not soak into the ground like it does here.  It takes sun and wind and time to dry it out.  The ‘muck’ sticks to everything and just becomes thicker.  So, whenever we got to a muddy section, we could choose to try to ride through it and hence get our bikes all mucky and about 5 pounds heavier, or we could try to tippy-toe through or around the spot and get our shoes and cleats caked with mud.  It became a challenge at times to keep our cleats and pedals cleaned out enough to clip in.  And then there were the creek crossings.  They were only a few feet wide and not very deep but had 3 – 5 feet high embankments on either side, which were nothing but muck.  The creeks looked like flowing mud, disguising just how deep they really were.  At each crossing was the choice of what’s the best option to cross and then just how do you get your bike back up that steep gooey embankment?  

                The second day proved to be drier with fewer muddy spots but lots of wind.  First we had to cross Devil’s Pass, a narrow path across the ridge between two badlands, with an incredible side wind threatening to blow us over the edge.  Then there was… “The River”.  Just after successfully getting across what we thought was the river we came to the real river:   a very, very, wide river, with no indication whatsoever as to the best place to cross or where the trail picked up on the other side.  So, after removing our shoes and socks and safely tucking them away, we pick up our bikes and set off, Debra leading the way.  Where we crossed, the water came almost to our waist, and there was still no sign of the trail on the other side – only grass and bushes as tall as or taller than us that we had to bushwack through until we finally discovered the trail once again.  From here the trail wound through a beautiful Aspen forest and up a steep hill where we had an awesome overlook of the mighty Little Missouri River we had just crossed.

                It rained again that night and the following morning so for the third day we opted to ride forest service roads for the morning and pick up the trail further down, only riding about the last 8 miles or so of trail.  The main challenge this day was the fact that horses had been on it that morning when it was wet and left big holes in the trail, making it incredibly rough and completely unridable in places.  But we finally made it to the petrified forest which is truly amazing – entire petrified stumps along the trail and petrified logs laying around.  Then a nice downill to camp, where we were warned of tornado warnings and high winds for the night.  Our tents felt like they were going to blow away – it’s amazing they didn’t.  But luckily, no tornados that we’re aware of.

                The fourth and final day began with sunshine but started to cloud over as we left camp.  The wind never stopped.   After about two miles, we turned onto the Buffalo Gap Trail and rode miles and miles across the prairie and up and down badlands all in the wind.  As the morning continued, the temp continued to drop and slowly became mixed with a light rain, turning eventually to a continual rain.  As we discovered, this is one area you do not want to be in the rain or just after the rain.  The dirt gets wet and turns to gum.  You can’t ride through it as it just clogs up the bike and our wheels would no longer turn.  Eventually, we were all walking and having to carry our bikes across the muddy trail while our shoes just got heavier and heavier with caked mud.  Finally we see a way out – the old highway which we expected to be dirt but thankfully was pavement.  We rode for a mile or so on this road until we got to a junction.  While we were trying to figure out which way to go, our knight in shining armor showed up – Jennifer’s husband in the Dakota Cycle van out to rescue us.  We were so elated, we could have kissed his feet!  We looked like three drowned cats covered with mud.  He quickly loaded up our bikes, took us back to where our car and trailer were parked and pointed us towards the shower.  Then he took our bikes to the bike shop and cleaned them up.  By the time we arrived, they looked like new bikes, which he then proceeded to load back onto our car!  Yes, the $140 was well worth it!

Post notes about the Maah Daah Hey Trail:  This is an incredible trail and truly remarkable how they ever created it to cross the prairies and meander up and down and through the badlands.  However, the trail is now eleven years old and does not appear to get any maintenance.  Therefore, the trail is severely rutted throughout, a rut usually about 12 to 18” wide and up to 3 feet or more deep.  In many places, there has been another trail worn in alongside but even it has become deeply rutted in places.  Also, the earth there seems very susceptible to erosion so some of the passages up and down the badland hills are so eroded that they are completely unridable.  In places, the trail is in desperate need of re-routing.  Bikers have to be wary of riding off the trail because there are cacti everywhere!  Jennifer from Dakota Cycles is hoping to pull together a 50-mile enduro for next Sept, beginning just after the river crossing.  It could be an incredible, yet challenging race.

 

Really good race/ride they got over there in Spearfish.  An event that, I predict, is about to take off & really become a big time event in the region (aka, fill up immediately with registrants from here on out).  With the Laramie & Leadville races filling up in a matter of minutes this year, there were several from Colorado in Spearfish this weekend trying to get their enduro fix… 

The above stated, I did sorta start out racin’ it & pretty much ended things just ridin’ it.  About 90 minutes into really pushing things at the start, my lower back got super tight on me.  In hindsight, after the long drive over the day before, I shoulda stretched out more &, perhaps, even ridden around a bit the night before to loosen things up.  Oh, well…miserable experiences are the best educators in this matters so live and learn I guess.  The back spasms put me in the “Hurt Box” big time for about an hour or so as I feebly plugged along, getting passed by many of the folks that I’d worked hard to drop at the beginning.  I stopped a couple times to try & get it stretched out.  By the 2nd aid station was feeling better & was able to get going again, but was pretty timid for the remainder of the day. 

Great course…the whole way along.  Very scenic & lots of singletrack (maybe only 3-4 miles of road ridin’).  Great crowds at all the aid stations cheerin’ you on.  Has a bit of everything to challenge, encourage, reward & humble any rider.  Much more difficult than the York 38.  Yet, not over the top crazy like the Butte 50 or Laramie Enduro.  Unlike these two endurance beasts that I’ve suffered through in the past, it was nice to actually finish the Dak50 (in ~5 hours 10 minutes) and still have enough left in the tank to enjoy the post-race festivities…which are awesome (free food, beer, live music & tons of giveaways). 

The overall winner banged it out in around 3:45 (I think)…and there were some out there 10+ hours.  There’s no time cut-off, so there are plenty of folks that treat the thing as a tour with friends & just enjoy the long day in the saddle.  I was the 21st finisher of the 93 riders in the male 40-49 category.  It would have been ideal to try and work with Joe Hamilton (~4:35) for as long as possible, but I just couldn’t hang with him this day & got dropped quickly when my back started actin’ up.  He looked very strong when I did ride with him…

The Spearfish City campground (located right next to the start/finish) is the way to go for accommodations.  I slept pretty well, both nights, in the back of the Tacoma.  Quiet, pretty, plenty of showers.  Well maintained.  Maybe a bit pricey…$20 night/per tent.  However, from this location, you can bike anywhere you need to be or want to see of Spearfish.

The drive to & from is long (~8 hours from Helena), but mainly I-90 so the road is a good one.  I woke up yesterday @ 5:00.  Quick shower & on the road by 5:30.  Fast pits stops in Buffalo (WY) & Columbus (MT).  Home @ 2:30.  Unload the truck. Visit with family. Cleanup.  Dinner.  In front of the tube for the BSU v. VaTech game…which was a great game!

I’ve gone back & forth about whether or not Chris would like it.  I’d love to ride it with her.  However, I’m afraid she’d end up hating it if she road it with me (…“you make me nervous on the technical stuff”), but would/could finish & would find it very rewarding when she did.  She’d definitely need a dual-suspension bike.  Yes, I’d do it again.  In a heartbeat.  Love the Labor Day weekend date for the race…travel day on Monday is ideal.  If I lived in Billings, I’d be there every year for sure. 

My only real regret from this year, in hindsight, is that I should’ve man’d up & stopped for some bacon & PBR at that 4th aid station.  Next time for sure!

Dex 

 Loaded up the car, fam, and the bikes and we were off for the annual spearfish 50 in South Dakota. Kyle from Billings, mentioned this race to me last year and it caught my interest. I heard it was easier then the Butte and well established and nicely put together. 8 hours later, and after stopping to check out Custer’s battlefield and Devils Tower (AWESOME), we had arrived at our KOA Saturday night 10 pm.

We pulled up to Spearfish Park, Sunday morning at 7 am. I could not believe all the bikers from all over the nation, including Canada. It was by far the biggest race I have ever been in. At the start line I would estimate about 500 riders or so. I heard it closed out. I would not be surprised to see this one with the other big ones like Breckenridge, Fire Cracker and Leadville.  Chad had heard closer to 700 had gotten through. I would in no way doubt that number. We were off. It was really fun to be riding in such a big group and with so many people cheering us on. The race felt of a higher caliber for sure.

The race started on a road that climbed to the single track. Once on the single track you were in a line with little to no passing possibilities. It was fun to see all the bikes a mile in the distance along with a huge dust cloud created from our rubbers. I was already assuming the climbs were nothing compared to the climbs we have here in Montana.

The stops were spaced 10 miles apart. They were well put together with people handing you heed, bananas, apples and lots of hammer gel. The stops were fun because so many were cheering you on. I did not stop at the first stop but I stopped at the other three. It was nice to have all that you needed at each stop. The views and riding through the aspens were great.

I felt strong on the climbs. The group determined your pace in many situations and there were little passing opportunities. There were a couple of climbs that were insane. I managed to ride most of them. I caught myself off my bike twice. I found myself not moving any faster then those people that were walking.  I would have to say the climbs were just as steep and many cases steeper then the climbs we have here. I was impressed and my assumptions lay to waste. I have a new respect for the Black Hills. Still nothing compared to the brutality of the Butte 50 though. That race feels like surgery.

At mile 40, I was feeling good. I looked down at my clock and I was under at 3:45. I figured I could maybe pull this thing off in 4 hours and 15 minutes or so. I remember Kyle telling me there was a large downhill in the last 10 miles of this race.  So I was expecting this fast smooth descent to the finish line.

The single track took forever and the first half of was really techy. The riding in many of the areas reminded me of riding in the northern half of AZ. You either kept it slow and smart or you break something. I kept if slow and smart. And it took me over an hour to get down and through the single track.  At this point, the course and I had formed a love hate relationship. I was ready for it to end and it was not. I kept telling myself that no matter what, I still have not cramped and this was good.  

In the last 10 miles this dude with gnarl beard and I were jockeying for position. In our discussions, I found out he was from Ft. Collins CO. I paced him and then owned him. In the last three miles and to my dismay, he had caught me. We were racing to the finish. I actually cramped at that last mile. He looked back to ask me what was wrong and I yelled in my little girley voice that I cramped. I came in at 4:45. I was happy to be under 5 hours and later found out that I sat in the 30th place with over 170 people in my 30-39 age category.

After the race, with a cold brew in hand and to the sound of incredible live music, I thought about what I could have done differently. I think with this type of race you have to get in the front at the beginning and stay there. If you do not then you will be caught in the line. I also found myself being much more cautious on the downs. I never knew what to expect and I was constantly changing between my granny and mid ring. Some of these guys in front of me were fearless on the climbs and well versed. Other then that and my excuses, it was a great experience and well worth it. I gave it my best and hope to have the chance to do it again.  This race was hands down, the most organized one I had been to. Do it if you have the chance.