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Actually, it was only two bears, unless you count his riding companion Mark, who may have been grouchy as a bear because it was still early in the morning…. Joe decided to try out Round 2 of 2010 riding in Missoula last weekend, while bringing along Jill and Josh for a weekend of fun in Missoula, including the River City Roots music festival and various other activities. Round 1 three weeks ago was a fun adventure but we ended up exploring (unplanned) as much as riding. This time, Joe vowed to listen to the advice of his older, wiser riding partner (me—Mark). We set out at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning from my house next to the Rattlesnake hills. We rapidly climbed up the old road to Mount Jumbo saddle as the thermometer nudged toward 50 degrees, then caught some excellent sweeping single-track on Sidewinder and Three Larch. We were both feeling great and letting ‘er rip on the buff downhill. As we descended Woods Gulch toward the main Rattlesnake trailhead, I rounded a corner at high speed, and saw a cloud of dust with Joe off his bike. It didn’t look like he wrecked, I thought…what happened? “Bear!” was all I heard, with a momma black bear suddenly in my sights about 50 yards down the trail. Joe had almost nailed the cub (Bear #2) in the trail, which quickly scrambled up a tree between its mother and us. We slowly backed up and luckily, momma didn’t appear all that interested in us. After only a minute or two, the cub quickly climbed/slid back down the tree and both bears romped off into the brush. I had my camera in my jersey pocket but of course, didn’t think to take a photo until it was too late. You’ll have to take our word for it…. We continued the quick descent to the main trailhead, which was half-full already before 9 a.m. A quick climb up Spring Gulch and Curry Gulch, then up the “Jimmy Legs” and Overlook trails, brought us to the Ravine trail, shortly before the Snowbowl overlook. Joe had been on the Ravine trail before, which descends to the Grant Creek road near the Snowbowl turn-off, but I was a Ravine virgin. Swoops, switchbacks, long straightaways…one of the best rides I’ve been on. The three miles of incredible downhill was over much too quickly. We rode back up the Ravine trail (30 minutes of climbing that was actually fairly fun), where I assured Joe that we had at least two more big downhills ahead of us before we had to be home before noon. We cruised down the Overlook trail, past where we had come up, and bombed down Dropout. Then we climbed back up Sawmill Gulch (don’t know the trail name) and the Wren trail, back to Overlook. We took our last long sustained downhill down the Fenceline trail (where Chad and I had actually seen bears in June), which is another great rip. Then we took the “Mandatory” single-track (so-called by the Missoula riders because they “have to” ride it on every trip up the Rattlesnake) paralleling the Sawmill Gulch road back to the trailhead. Two miles of single-track along the creek, followed by a cruise through Lincolnwood subdivision, brought us back to my house. After 35 miles and 5600 vertical feet, we actually both felt great and couldn’t stop smiling…. We wanted to do another variation on Sunday but awoke to a steady drizzle. Round 3 of Missoula riding for Joe will have to wait….


My youngest brother, Jason, and his family live in New Hampshire and, for years now, he’s been telling me about this big hill climb bike race they do over there every summer.  Well, not every summer come to find out.  Three times in its 38 year history it’s been cancelled due to inclement weather.  The Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb (MWARBH) is a 7.6 mile all-uphill road race to the summit of the highest peak (6,288 ft) in the northeastern United States.  This event proudly makes the claim of being the “toughest hill climb in the world.”  Why so?  In terms of steepness, by comparing it to the famous ascents of the Tour de France, MWARBH organizers make their argument for Mt. Washington’s chain-breakin’ reputation.   The average climbing grade up Mt. Washington is 12% (the Col du Tourmalet’s is 7.5%), with extended sections of 18% (Mont Ventoux has a 10.5% section) and the last 50 yards reach 22% (the Col du Galibier tops out at 12%).  Adding to its “beyond category” status, racers taking on Mt. Washington typically face winds of 30-40 mph and a temperature drop of around 25 degrees at the top when compared to the bottom.  Though considered a road race, there’s a dirt (often mud) section to contend with as well.

Back in February, I was one of 600 “lucky” enough to get registered on-line for the MWARBH.  Slots fill up almost immediately.  With my ticket to ride secured, plans were made for my family to join Jason’s family in the White Mountains of New Hampshire this summer for a relaxing vacation…with a “short” bike race mixed in there for good measure. 

On Saturday this past weekend, I arrived at the bottom of the Mt. Washington Auto Road and found myself looking straight up a road that went up, up, up & then disappeared into the trees.  I’d presumed I’d never seen a 12.5% gradient on a road before today.  After taking a look at the start of this beast, I was positive I’d never seen anything like this before!  To take on this climb, with the help of the BSC shop, I had earlier shipped my reliable Rocky Mountain Solo AC30 road bike out east.  To compliment my training efforts, I’d also spent the off season equipping my bike with a new wheelset (Mavic Ksyriums) and a gearing ratio that I figured would be the envy of any granny grinder (50/34 – 12×27) out there.  I was wrong about the gears, however…most racers had mutated their road bikes in ways I’d never seen before.  We’re talking mountain bike triple gearing, with ONLY the small ring there on the front as the general norm.  Bikes with the brakes entirely removed.  Anything to shed weight up this monster climb. 

I was anticipating I’d finish this race under a goal of one hour and 30 minutes, and perhaps even under the magic 1:20 “top-notch” time if things broke right for me.  Mainly, however, I didn’t want to get knocked off my bike by the hill or its elements…stay on the bike all the way up was the primary goal.   At the top on the mountain, waiting some 4,725 feet above me was Jason and my wife, Chris.  At the blast of a canon there at the Toll House (1,563’) my trip up the “Rockpile” began.

Um, about that presumed granny gearing I had at the ready, just in case I pooped out and needed to “spin” up the mountain.  Well, officially, one minute into the climb, already out of gears, it quickly dawned on me that I was in for a “grind” the likes I’d never experienced before.  And here’s how it went…

Mile 1 was mentally jolting for me.  Even with all the training & preparation I’d done ahead of time, and the fact that I was able to actually see what I was in for at the starting line, I was really shocked about the sustained steepness involved here.  It’s relentless.  Doubt was quickly seeping into my psyche.  The 1 mile marker is right after the 2,000’ marker.

Mile 2 is actually worse than the first.  The grade goes up here in several sustained sections to around 17%.  Adding to this misery, the body hasn’t yet adapted to the fact that, from here on out, the 10% to 12% gradient sections are where there’s gonna be recovery opportunities!?!   You’re still below tree line, so you don’t get to see what’s too far ahead.  Regardless, you soon realize that every twist or turn along the way just presents another hill.  The dang thing never crests or even flattens! 

Mile 3 maintains a pretty steady 12% grade and, while the trees start getting shorter, you’re still below the actual tree line.  You come across the first opportunity for water, but are quickly dismayed to read the sign above the faucet that states, “For Radiators Only – Not for Drinking”.  At this part of the climb, I started to find myself getting into a rhythm and passing some folks…radiators notwithstanding, racers were starting to overheat. 

Mile 4 starts another “between the ears” challenge as you’re introduced to the first straightaway that looks like it never ends.  This stretch isn’t any steeper, it’s just visually daunting.  Locals that I’d talked to earlier in the week at some of the area’s bike shops advised that the first four miles of the climb are the worst.  “Things won’t get easier”…”but getting to mile marker 4 is big”…”if you get there”…”but don’t think it gets any easier.”  After completing the straightaway climb, riders take a left on “The Horn” (4,000’) and then (finally) find themselves well above the tree line now.  At this turn, I came across a rider who hadn’t made swing successfully and, as a result, had fallen over.  A couple of spectators had gotten him back on the bike & were trying to push start him…to no avail.  “Stay on the bike, Dexter”, I reminded myself.

Mile 5 begins a stretch of steep gravel road that zig-zags back & forth.  Fortunately, on this day at least, the road was dry so there wasn’t any mud to contend with.  Regardless, there was no standing on this section or your tire would slip.  Stayin’ in the saddle all the way, at the end of this section, riders take “The Cragway Turn” (5,000’).  Tossing an empty water bottle to a volunteer at the mile 5 marker, that doubt that had entered my mind during the first mile was starting to get overcome with some actual confidence that I could pull this thing off.

Mile 6 continues on gravel as you ride up a road overlooking the Great Gulf Wilderness.  You also get a peek at the actual top of the hill.  Strangely, at the time at least, I noticed a huge black plume of smoke emanating from at the top from this point on the course.  “What the heck is that about,” I thought to myself.  Are racers, literally, blowing up there on top!?!?  Come to find out, it was only the Mount Washington Cog Railway…a coal burning train ride that takes folks up to the top from the other side of the mountain.

Mile 7 is still on gravel and presents the “Sheep’s Back Hairpin” and the Cow Pasture Hairpin”.  A couple of turns that, once completed (6,000’), will bring you to the end…well, almost.

 While it’s nice to see that mile marker 7 go by, there’s that last 0.6 mile stretch to contend with.  I was getting pretty excited about this upcoming challenge.  You can see the summit & the spectators are starting to become a factor.  The 600 of us that bike up this hill aren’t allowed to ride down it (thank goodness!) and, as such, are tasked with securing a drive down.  This means that there’s, at least, 600+ spectators up on top that have been waiting for us.  The excitement builds to the finish, and the last 50 yards of the climb are both brutal and unforgettable.  You take a blind right hand turn and, suddenly, you’re staring at “The Wall”.  A 22% pitch that veers left before you cross the finish line.  It’s a “wall” of colors as various chalk messages of encouragement have been drawn on the pavement.  Climbing this stretch is unbelievably difficult.  It’s almost as if you have to first leap onto it.  From there, you then try to hang on and scramble your way up the rest of it.  DEFINITELY the biggest rush I’ve ever had on a bicycle.  As I type this report, I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it.  Loved it…just an awesome feeling crossing that finish line, everyone screaming around you and then it dawns on you, “yup, I cleared it!”

My official finish time was 1:20:14.  The 143rd racer to the top overall and the 32nd in my category (male: age 40-44).  I’m very pleased with these results and, most importantly, feel like I threw everything I had in me at the hill.  The heart-rate monitor showed an average of 174 bpm, with a maximum of 187 bpm hit (definitely there at the end).  Nico Toutenhoofd (Boulder, CO) got up on top first in 0:57:26.  Said he relied on his power meter…trying to maintain a steady output of 350 watts.  I don’t follow wattage, but I’m thinking that’s pretty high! 

Tinker Juarez wasn’t far behind Nico and ended up taking 2nd place.  Tinker was in Butte three weeks ago for the Butte 100, but I didn’t get to meet him there.  When I did see him in Butte the night before the race, he was busy doing a lot of formal meet & greet with photo ops and autographs.  With so many folks clamoring for a chance to meet the mountain bike legend, this just wasn’t something I wanted to wait around in a long line for.  However, as I was warming up on the road outside of Gorham, NH before the hill climb Saturday morning, an unassuming rider come up next to me sportin’ some very familiar looking dreadlocks.  I took a chance & introduced myself.  Tinker was great…we rode together for a bit, compared notes on our respective Butte 100 experiences, shook hands, wished each other luck and went on with our separate pre-race preparations.  Now, that’s the kinda “meet & greet” I like!

So, that’s my story from New Hampshire and “the world’s toughest hill climb.”  It’s perhaps not the best story, and it’s certainly not the only story out there.  Crawling up the summit, I passed a woman rider fully decked out in a Batgirl outfit (cape & mask included).  There was an 11 year old competitor.  There was a 75 year old competitor.  There were 5 teams on tandem bikes.  One guy climbed it on a unicycle (1:40:42).  This would be good stories to know more about for sure. 

Hours after most of us finished, as we drove in a steady convoy of rigs descending to the bottom of Mount Washington, we all encouraged a rider, decked out in a Livestrong race kit, who was just about to reach the homestretch of things.  As he slowly trudged up the last part of his climbing story for the day, I think we were all reminded of how fortunate we were to have an opportunity to suffer so wonderfully today.

I attended the 3rd Annual Helena Trail Fest this weekend here in town.  This is an event that organizers bill as a celebration of the sport & culture of mountain biking on the local network of some 70 miles of trails.  I hadn’t participated in the previous two events.  As a local resident, who already spends quite a bit of time in “the Southies”, the idea of spending $35 on this hadn’t made much sense before.  However, spurred on by three motivators, I decided I’d give it a go this year.  First, after weeks & weeks of training, practically every weekend, the grind, well, gets to be a grind.  The idea of just going out there and riding for the sake of riding appealed to me this weekend.  Second, hey, if Team BSC will pay half my registration fee & I’m getting fed both evenings, I’m suddenly a bit more intrigued here from a cost-benefit analysis.  Third, Big Russ’ team email on this event that he’d sent a few weeks ago.  Have you seen the arms on this fella?  Muscle beach, baby!  When Russ “suggests” I do something…it gets done!
Friday night was registration & then the Mellow Mountain Bike Ride.  About 10 riders showed up for this & we had ourselves a great tour of the following trails: Eagle Scout, Archery Range, Rodney Ridge, Fuchs, T.R. & the Waterline.  The benefit of a “mellow” ride is that you get to see things in a whole different perspective and, perhaps, even learn something along the way.  What’s actually the name of that wildflower you’ve been riding by all season up there on the T.R. trail?  I could be wrong, but I’d recommend trusting Angie over Eric on this botany lesson.  Nobody racin’ & plenty of stops along the way…perfect!  This was my one opportunity to keep up with Eric Grove! We finished our ride at Taco Del Sol, where we had dinner & were entertained by local band called Indecent Exposure, followed by DJ Twixx.  After this, there was a quick stop to The Big Dipper for the Trail Fest special offering of Rocky Trail ice cream (excellent).
My plan for Saturday was to take every opportunity to, as advertised, “ride my ass off”.  Things sorta started off slow, however, as the rains that came while we riders slept the evening before managed to “scuttle the shuttle” for those of us hoping to catch the 7:30 trolley up to the Ridge Line & make it back before the 9:30 group rides started.  Things cleared up & dried out enough by 9:30, so I opted to join up with an amalgamation of The People’s Ride and The Big Guy’s Ride.  About 12 riders were in this group and we hit the following trails: Wakina Sky, Barking Dog, Spring Hill, Flume, Dry Gulch, Skills Course & Don’t Fence Me In.  Our pace was steady and was kept determined as the Betty’s Riders kept nipping at our heels for much of the early part.  As we worked our way up Spring Hill, the rains returned & drenched us pretty good.  However, by the time we’d finished the Flume corridor, the sun was out & we were already starting to dry out.
We returned to the “mothership” of Great Divide Cyclery, cleaned our bikes off & had about an hour before the 1:30 ride started.  I decided to swing by the Big Sky Cyclery to see how things were going there, and to bum a bit of lube for my fast rustin’ chain.  With Jim & Melinda on vacation in Minnesota, I am pleased to report that Mike, Andy and the rest of the crew had things well under control…which means I didn’t see any blood on the floor & customers weren’t fleeing in terror…ha, ha!  After visiting with the great BSC crew, I swung by the Bagel Company for some lunch…opted to eat outside in an opportunity to dry out a bit more from the morning.  If you drove by & saw a barefoot’d fella, with most of his gear hanging off the various deck chairs, that was me.
For the 1:30 ride, I decided to join up with the Ripper’s Ride and take in some of the downhill action.  This crew was made up primarily from the Gravity Guild, a rough & tumble assemblage of the area’s best downhillers.  Without having platform pedals, a full-faced helmet & a 30 lb bike to slow me down, I can proudly lay claim to the fact that I dropped most of these guys on the way up Dump Gulch.  Of course, they guys also brought larger cojones along for the ride as well.  So, at the top of Show Me the Horse, these fellas were unleashed & there was a downhill display the likes I’d never seen before.  Awesome!
Saturday evening, there was a party at Pioneer Park.  Along with dinner, there was a giveaway raffle, dinner & Blackfoot Beer.  Bike jousting, I predict, will soon become the next MTB rage!
Along with getting to visit with several Helena riders out there this weekend, I made new friends from Anaconda, Bozeman, Red Lodge & even Vancouver, WA.  Congrats to Steve Coen, Eric Grove & everyone else that chipped in from the Great Divide Cyclery & the Gravity Guild for making the 3rd annual Helena Trail Fest a success.
With plans to be in New Hampshire next weekend for the Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb, I decided not to do this Sunday’s Helenduro.  Too much invested in getting up a mountain next weekend to risk breaking something coming down a mountain this weekend.  Maybe next year.  For those BSC members out there doing the Helenduro, rip it up!

 I thought I would make a family vacation out of this race. So Josh, Jill and I spent three days in Big Sky. We rafted, fished, swam, hiked and tried the zipline. It was a blast. This morning I was pretty concerned today about the trail conditions. I hate riding in mud and after the Save A Life Race Chad, Ed and I did a couple of years ago, I swear I would never do that again.

Big Sky was pretty wet the day before. Jill and I hiked a section of it last night and even then it was drizzling. Woke up to about 40 degrees this morning. It was cold. Got up to Big Sky at 9:00 am just enough time to warm my blood. It was still wet from the night before but I decided to do it anyways and I am glad I did.

It was two laps total for sport three for expert. The climbs were big, the trail was sopping wet in some sections, and the single track down was really squirley. It was an interesting course because it felt like you were really out there. Basically you rode across ski runs in some sections and along down hill sections on others. The views were hands down hard to beat. It was probably the most technical course I have raced  in the last three years now I have raced. I found myself almost losing it a couple of times on the roots. It was sopping wet in some sections. The course was pretty rock and quite a few in the field were riding full suspension. I would have to say a full suspension would have been good on this course.

I pulled away from the group after the first big climb. By the second, lap I found myself way in the lead and then catching up and eventually passing with the back end of the expert riders. I felt considerably good and the cool air was nice. I thought I had the lead and would finally find my way to a first place finish. As I bombed down Congo, I could see the finish line in site. I was excited. But then I heard the race director call out second and looked over to find some dude sitting on the grass. Jill said he had a minute lead on me. I had no idea where he came from because I did not see him at the start line or even in front of me.  I was happy to place second though, considering the trail conditions and the fact I broke nothing on my bike or body.

After the race, we were treated to Tai food, beer from the local brewery, and great prizes. Jill won a cool shirt, I won a cool Northface camelback. Overall the venue was great and Big Sky was awesome. I would highly recommend the ride. Here is a link to a pic for a limited time- and Here is another sweet Pic-

Written By Byron Deford –

So there I was! Clown to the left joker to the right & I was stuck smack in the middle! Yes another ride on the Hiway to Hell! A hale group of five fellows started the ride at a pace designed to let weary weekend legs ease into the pain that the night promised. As we crossed the tracks Robert moved his way to the front and built the pace, not enough for an attack but enough to make the rest of us respond and soften our legs a bit. The group stayed together until the hill, at which time I launched an attack for no apparent reason. Of course everyone covered it and I fell off the back. But oh what a wicked game the fates have in store for us! Up ahead there was a disturbance, I’m not sure who was the fool on the hill, but Joltin Joe Hamilton and Rockin Randall Green touched wheels and Randall was off on the side of the road. Robert & Joe stopped to check him out and all was well. Except for the fact that I had caught up! Joe took off up the road and I rode with Robert. My dilemma, do I sprint for fun or just sit on his wheel. Robert answered this question for me when he started shifting and picking the pace up. Heck, what would you be if you didn’t even try? I took a look at Roberts gearing and he was in his small chain ring. Heck I’ll take those odds. I went for it and held him off as he yelled encouragement at me the whole time. Yeah it was the best finish I’ve had on the hill, probably the cheapest I’ve ever taken and yeah I’ll take it! Results Joe, Byron, Robert, (interchange these if you see fit) Randall & Mark. Second verse, same as the first, well not really. The usual jockeying, eyeballing, and setting up for the finish was enjoyed as we rode to Silver Creek where lo and behold, Randall (I’ll hide back here) Green took off! He rode well but Joe wasn’t about to let him take the prize without an effort. Some strong work and Randall was back in the fold. Joe kept it rolling picking the pace up and riding me off of his back wheel, so it was left to Mark and Robert to do the dirty work. And gosh what a surprise they are good at dirty deeds! Mark first, Robert 2d, Jolting Joe 3rd. Third leg and the wind was at our back! Just a word of warning when the wind is with him and he can go fast, Mark will go fast! He loves the speed and he took off like a train that kept a rolling all night long! The rest of us jumped on with Joe and Robert keeping the pace high. I felt kind of bad sitting in but the rest of this motley crue were running 53x12s while I was running a 52×13. good night to work on my spin I guess. Nothing stuck until we reached the base of the hill. Hey wasn’t Randall with us? Hey isn’t that Randall attacking up the hill! Joe went first and I responded, we passed Randall and then I heard someone else coming. Damn that’s Robert! I guess those kicks just keep getting harder to find for him! Robert and I went to the top with Robert gradually pulling away and taking the win! Damn best night of my life for the hell ride, and just so close to a win. I look forward to more people showing up next week and giving me more wheels to suck on my attempts at temporary glory! See you next week Byron Byron DeFord 406-431-6295

Butte 100 Race Report: Doubled Down In a Big Mining Town

“Never (huff)…. do (gasp)… the (wheez)…100 (ugh)…ever !” That’s what I kept telling myself as I worked through last year’s Butte 50 MTB race. Relentless +7,000 vertical feet of climbing. Never ending singletrack. Countless switchbacks. Carefully, gingerly, painfully working through leg cramps. Trying to maintain some semblance of sharpness on a fast, loose and scratchy descent toward the end. I had come to do the 50 mile version of this annual Mining City enduro in anticipation of possibly taking a shot at the 100 miler sometime in the future. I left thinking there’s no way I’d be able to pull off a hundred miler here. Returning home that evening, lucky to have survived the 50 miler, I reminded myself…“stay away from the Butte 100.”

Well, I’d have to say that the troubles began early for me in the off-season of this subject. Particularly when I got to looking at that nice race jersey the organizers gave to all the participants at last summer’s race. It sez, right across the chest in black lettering, blocked boldly against a crisp background of red & white…BUTTE 100. I couldn’t get myself to don a jersey inferring completion of, in the mountain biking vernacular, a full “dirty century”. I tried adding it in with my regular rotation of jerseys in the hopes that, eventually, I would come around and just start wearing it. Couldn’t do it. Preparing for a ride, I’d see it hangin’ there in my closet and, each time, opt for another. The sense that there was unfinished business in Butte only grew stronger. So there it hung, all off-season, in the closet…and in my mind. Unused. Untouched. Unrelenting. Mockingly, it dared me to pull it on & take it for a ride. My “Maillot Rouge, Blanc & Noir.” To earn it, I’d have to double down last year’s bet & complete the Butte 100. Preparations were made, a plan was assembled & training began shortly thereafter for the effort in 2010…

A 6:00 am start near the top of Homestake Pass (elev. 6,329’) is a cold one, even on the last day of July. That’s where I joined up with 55+ other racers this Saturday at the start line of the 2010 Butte 100. This year’s route would take us down to Butte, up to Elk Park, over to the Pipestone recreation area, back up to Homestake Pass, back down to Butte, over to & through Thompson Park, to Basin Creek Reservoir, up to Highlands Campground, on to Limekiln, over Pipestone Pass and, with a little luck, back to Homestake Pass. A 100 mile figure-eight, with 14,792 feet of elevation gained & lost along the way.

With such a long introduction here, I’ll cut to the chase & report that I did finish Saturday’s Butte 100 (~14 hours & 20 minutes). If you’re interested in further details, here’s how it went…

Homestake Lake to the Nez Perce Trailhead: Racers start out with a nasty, sandy descent down Blacktail Canyon that takes you back into Butte. This section was so washed & sandy organizers talked about having a neutral start for safety purposes. While they opted not to do this, I opted to…stayin’ way in the back of the pack on this one. My thought was that for those racers stronger than me I wasn’t gonna catch them anyways. See ya’, Tinker! For those that weren’t stronger than me, well, I had all day to reel them back in. From Butte, the climb up to Elk Park & the start of Nez Perce went smoothly. Got in a nice paceline of 10 racers along the frontage road portion to conserve energy. Arrived at the Nez Perce TH @ 7:45.

Nez Perce to Pipestone Four Corners: The climb up Nez Perce is where I brought back many of the racers that had jumped ahead early. A steady climbing pace seemed to do the trick. I can report that the downhill off the Nez Perce is the only stretch of the 1st 50 miles that’s any fun. The rest is just up, up, up with intermittent downhill that’s very sandy & sketchy. The Pipestone area is very exposed, so this was the stretch of the race where you can really feel the heat…even in the morning. By the time I reached Four Corners (10:30 am) it was starting to get warm. Countless bottles of water & Powerbar Endurance (fruit blend), coupled with Hammer Endurolytes, kept me from experiencing any cramping the whole day.

Pipestone to Homestake Pass: This is a tough stretch of climbin’. Basically, you climb up to Homestake Pass twice. After working your way up to the Whiskey Gulch TH initially (about 2 miles away from Homestake Lodge), you plunge back down to a turn off on Rader Creek Road. From there, you work your way back up under some power lines. Sandy, exposed & pretty relentless. When you do finally reach Homestake Pass, you’re half way done with the race. However, some may actually decide that they’re ALL the way done at this point and call it a day. I arrived into Homestake @ 12:30 “for lunch” and then quickly pressed on. Knowing that my truck, and escape, was only a few yards away, I figured I’d better not spend too much time considering this option here.

Homestake Pass to Basin Creek: Once again, I safely rolled down Blacktail Canyon. Only this time, swinging a left at the bottom to begin a climb that took me to the Silver Bow Archery Range, Thompson Park, Herman Gulch & into the Basin Creek area. The stretch of Archery & up to Thompson Park was the strongest for me…best I felt all race. This quickly ended at the top of the climb after Thompson Park as, after all that work climbing up, I was greeted by a huge thunderstorm which “dampened” hopes of a quick descent into Basin Creek. The wind & horizontal rain made the normally quick trip down Herman Gulch a real struggle. By the time I reached Basin Creek (2:30 pm), the rain had stopped.

Basin Creek to Limekiln: This is the stretch that race organizers tell both 50 & 100 milers is the biggest challenge. If there’s any downhill portion in this section, I certainly don’t recall it. Plenty of hike-a-bike “opportunities” along the way here until you reach the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). From there, getting to the Highlands Campground seems to take forever. When I did finally reach Highlands, I was greeted by another thunderstorm. This one was unbelievable! Lightening strikes & torrential (I mean TORRENTIAL) rain. There was a canopy set up at this aid station, but with the lightening present I opted to seek shelter in the campground outhouse. Race Registration – $140. Preparation Training – 38 Weeks. 20 minutes at the Highlands Campground , holed up in an outhouse & scared out of your wits – that’s right, Pricless! The rain eventually tapered off, so I began what is affectionately referred to as “The Eight Miles of Hell” portion of the race. A brutal climb of switchbacks on extremely uneven terrain that will, eventually, get you to Limekiln Road. Adding to this difficult stretch for me was the wet rocks & roots from the rain. And, yes, there was mud. Mud that the tread on my Small Block 8’s simply couldn’t handle. While these tires served me well for most of the day, they’d met their match here. Struggling through this, I was beginning to consider more & more the prospect of not making that mandatory 7:00 o’clock cutoff at Limekiln. Come into this aid station after this time and go home with nothing to show for the effort but a DNF. Up to this point, I hadn’t wanted to think about this prospect. I hadn’t looked at my watch all day (Chris wrote down the times for me at various spots along the way).

Figured that “watch watching” would only add to the stess of the race. To my relief, when I did arrive at the cutoff and finally check the time it read 6:15. Good news – I made it. Bad news – I gotta couple more hours of riding ahead of me!?!

Limekiln to Finish: The descent down Fish Creek was a good one, and the switchy climb back up via the Toll Canyon wasn’t too bad either. The four mile stretch after that to Pipestone Pass is the best part of the entire race. This must be the trail that mountain bikers get to take all the time if they’re good and go to heaven. After crossing Highway 2, you continue up/down the CDT until you reach the finish back at Homestake Lake. I rolled in at 8:30…done & done!

The highlight of the finish, the whole day for that matter, was that I had a team of friends & family there to greet me. I knew Chris would be there. When I attempt one of these big races I always do the following two things: 1) put together a detailed plan of attack and 2) take hostages. If you think riding a bike for 13 ½ hours is tough, try spending a whole day sittin’ around waiting for your mangy husband to battle through another mid-life crisis in the hills of Montana. I couldn’t have done it without Chris’ assistance & support. She’s unbelievably tolerant & supportive and I’m the lucky beneficiary. Joining Chris at the finish line were Team BSC members Melinda, Debra, Willie & Jim. Melinda & Debra had completed the Butte 50 earlier in the day (…and I’m looking forward to reading their race report as well), so to wait around another couple of hours for me to finish was really great & is truly appreciated. Congrats to Melinda on enduring through her first enduro…you could have picked an easier one to start with, Melinda! Also at the finish line was a co-worker of mine, Jean, and her daughter. Jean lives in Butte & drove up to Homestake to watch me come in. Jean & I have worked together for almost 20 years & to see her at the finish line was a wonderful surprise. Thanks to everyone for their great support!

Afterwards, I loaded up the bike & (finally) pulled on that Butte 100 jersey. A perfect fit. After a post-race celebratory dinner in Butte with friends and family, it was a late night trip back to Helena (midnight). On the drive back, I was reminded about that warning I made to myself a year ago, “stay away from the Butte 100.” I couldn’t have been more wrong…

July 24th was the 2nd running of the Lake Como off-road triathlon.  Because the race director is utilizing the area in the Lake Como Recreation Area near Hamilton, the distances are odd.  1,500 swim, 12.6 mtn bike and 7.7 trail run around the lake.  It is a beautiful venue.  If you are looking for a low-key, low-pressure race, this is a good one.  As one that had never tried off-road, it was an excellent choice. 
Mike and I took the dog and headed out on Friday afternoon toward Hamilton.  Before we left town, we thought we would grab a couple of sandwiches from the Staggering Ox.  While Mike waited for our order, I went out to re-arrange Eby (dog) in the truck.   I left the keys in the truck while I walked to the other side, and, of course, Eby pushed her way into the front seat, locking the door in the process.  It was at that moment that I remembered the Ironman creed of “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”.  After Mike contorted his arm and managed to get the door unlocked, we started on our way.  When we got to the Recreation Area there were no camping sites left.  However, being surrounded by National Forest, we choose a spot off an old road that was part of the bike course.  This worked to our advantage as Eby was free to run to her hearts content.
The water was a nice temperature.  With 70 solo and 30 team people, there was not much crowding in the water.  When someone did come near me, I did not give an inch.  The mountains around the lake are beautiful.  I had a great swim.  (My swim time and T1 are wrong on the website, but it is combined to 35 minutes, which is right.)  Out of the water and into my sandals (recommended) for a long run across the beach to my bike. 
Onto the bike and the first section of single track.  I feel a little bad for the 4 people that were stuck behind me as I had about 30 minutes of mountain biking experience at that point.  It didn’t last long, though, as I moved over so they could pass me on the road.  The first 5 or 6 miles was climbing up old forest service roads that were very sandy.  (Haven’t figured that out yet.)  Again, a perfect first timer course.  Tough, but not technical.  The second section of single track was steep and loose, then flattened out.  Back to the forest service sand road.  I was able to practice my Dirt Diva skills on the road and was ready on the third section of single track to be more aggressive.  I popped out back onto the road right above where we were camped, started sliding in the sand, didn’t panic, got out of it, and down to the transition.  As I am a road triathlete, I was out of my bike shoes before I got off my bike.  I didn’t realize I was going to be running back over the rocks to T2.  Quick transition and off to the run course. 
Here is where I pulled a total rookie move.  I followed someone else on the run course, even though I didn’t see any markings.  We ran along the lake until the trail ran out and had to climb straight up to the real trail above us.  The other guy apologized, but he need not.  It is every racers responsibility to know the course.  I passed him and one other before coming to the finish.  The run was fairly flat, but technical.  Lots of rocks and creek crossings – just like running in Helena! 
It was a beautiful day.  There were 3 soloists and one team from Helena.  I was (surprisingly) the only one in the BSC jersey.  I will wait for the other race reports to see where everyone was this weekend!  No pictures, I busted my camera two days before. 
Mike, Eby and I stayed that night as well.  It is great country and a great race.  I would highly recommend it.

Bohart Bash Race Report –

Okay here it is – short and brief (I think)

Jill Josh and I arrived at 9 am with a 10:10 start time. I had time to warm up. It was good to see all the Helena crew there including BSC Melinda, Debra, Mark and Montana Velo, Frank, Geoff, Scott, Randy and Landon.

The race started out as a lemonds start. The field is perfect for this. A review of the field, looked to be around 30 people (all age groups combined) in the sport class. I have to admit, I was nervous. Who isn’t before the race? My last time in this race was 1:23 and I placed 8th. I set my watch at the start line- with the goal to beat my old time no matter what I placed.

I sat in the middle in the pack at the beginning of the first lap. Two GAS dudes took off. One was way off in the distance. In the first climb, I was able to catch up with the top 10. The second climb, I worked my way up to the the top 5 and then on the third climb I worked my way as the fourth guy was. I did not catch his name but he was incredibly and scary fast on the downies.

My goal was to keep pace with the third place guy, hoping to regain time on the second lap. If you have not done this course before, the first half is hilly and the second half is a pretty gnarly downhill (with some root sections).

At the end of the first lap, I felt my rear-end swing along with my tires hitting my chain stays. I looked back to see my wheel off the chainstays. Luckilly it did not completely come off. I got of the bike, flipped it over, let my turretts syndrome lose, and clasped the skewer back on. I was just waiting for the rest of the field to pass me by. I lost at least a minute to that. I was pissed. I just kept on going hoping to keep the little lead I had.  

In the second lap, I passed the third dude and came behind the second place dude – Guy MacKenzie, GAS. I paced him on the climbs on all the second lap. I still did not ever obtain even a glimpse of the first guy. He was way off, I heard one of the course officials yelled out he was about 1.5 minutes ahead. 

On the third lap, I started to suffer but was able to keep my composure. I put it into granny gear and spun the big climbs and passed Guy. I kept pace to the down hill and flied as fast as I could (almost wrecking into a bunch of trees). I actually totally went of the single track, into the trees, and managed to wind my way through them back on to the single track. It is really funny what you can do when you are completely exhausted. Somehow I was able to stay up on the bike and continue to the finish for a second place finish. I was happy at 1:16. I also found out that Melinda took third in her class and Debra took first. They were total animals out there waiting to come out of their cages.  They did great. BSC’s presence if alive and well this year.

Jill, Josh and I watched the experts compete. The gaps were huge in that race and it looked to be a real suffer fest. First two laps John Curry and Frank were battling it out. John came out in a vengeance to beat the course record. It was amazing to watch the guy. He kept the lead through all laps. His gap with the field was huge. He placed first defeating the Bohart record. He was completing 21 minute laps while my laps were 25 minutes. I was hauling as fast as I could to.

Josh placed second in the kids race. It was good to see him up there with a big smile, medal and a cookie. The best part was seeing his confidence grow. He was not sure he wanted to do this. I am hoping his interest continues to grow in the sport.

Afterwards ceremony included, prizes, beer, a raffle, live music and a delicious snack attire. I  also got to watch both Melinda and Debra at the snack bar gnaring on orange peels.  It was a great race and well put together. If you have not done Bohart go do it. It is a great environment for the whole family and lots of fun. They do it up there. They even had a prize for the guy that puked on the trail. 

What a great time.

One Helena Hundred: “The Summer Wind, Came Blowin’ In…” This weekend was the Helena Bicycle Club’s annual One Helena Hundred, a popular annual event that benefits local bike projects with its proceeds. The 2010 route started in Cascade, up to Ulm & then a ride along the Smith River. After a return to Cascade, completion of 100 miles takes riders south through the Missouri River Canyon to Stickney Creek. The route is relatively gentle with some rolling hills mixed in along the way. As I grew up in Great Falls, I know that one of Cascade’s claims to fame is that Charlie Russell, the famous artist of the Old American West, met his future wife (Nancy) in this rail town of the Great Northern. She was visiting relatives in town there, and the smitten Charlie quickly began his courtship. They were married in Cascade in 1896 and soon thereafter moved to the bustling county seat of Great Falls. I, on the other hand, was smitten by, and subsequently married to, Chris Warneke in Great Falls…and then found myself with her Saturday morning as we rolled out together from the Cascade City Park on our One Helena Hundred journey. Riding up to Ulm was a nice little warmup for Chris & I as, getting out early, we were able to get ahead of the wind and heat that was anticipated later in the day. After a quick break in Ulm, we settled into a nice pace & enjoyed the beautiful scenery offered by the Smith River area. With no automobile traffic to speak of, Chris & I were able to visit a bit & discuss some of the pressing issues of the day. Can Levi make it onto the Tour’s podium? Can Floyd Landis be taken seriously? Will there ever be peace between the American TDF teams of HTC-Columbia & Garmin-Transitions!?!? These squads could take a cue from the various clubs & teams of Helena that we saw out on the roads today. Working together in united pacelines, regardless of team colors, squads from the Helena Bicycle Club, Team Great Divide, Helena Dynamos, & the Big Sky Cyclery Race Team were represented well. At the turn around point that took riders back into Cascade, Chris & I had a snack and prepared ourselves for the return. First, as they say in the Tour, I needed to take a “natural break”. As I waited in a long line to use the outhouse, I observed Chris jumping on her bike and taking off with a group consisting of Jim Barnes and the tandem of Buck & Silas Rea. Cheeky move! After getting on the bike, I had to turn myself inside/out to catch this breakaway just before Ulm. From there, it was back to Cascade for a lunch break. After lunch, with her metric century completed , Chris opted to end her day of riding and leave me in the capable riding group of Jim, Dave Hamer, Joe Hamilton, & Buck MacLaurin. This proved to be a wise decision on Chris’ part because, as Frank Sinatra used to sing, “the summer winds, came blowin’ in” and made things very tough for riders trying to work along the Missouri River to Stickney Creek and back. Observing all the floaters out on the river enjoyin’ a beautiful day in the Dearborn, I had to question today’s mode of transportation on several occasions. On a raft, drinking beer versus on a bike, drinking Heed. Hmm? Well, regardless, with the help of a strong group of riders, I was able to get back to Cascade and complete the day’s full century ride. Great day of riding. Another outstanding Helena Bicycling Club production. Thanks to everyone that were out there making the 2010 One Helena Hundred a huge success.

The Hamer Family spent the night in our camper just yards from the East Gallatin Recreation Park (a pond about ½ the size of Spring Meadow Lake) at the north edge of Bozeman.  I awoke at 5:50am to a beautiful, calm, sunny morning.  Dog taken care of, banana down, pumped tires and set off for a preview of the first three miles of the ride course described as “flat and fast course paralleling the beautiful Bridger Mountains.”   Six mile warm-up, racked my bike, set-up transition, body marked, back to the trailer to change and prep, Wet suit and small talk in the transition area, in the water to swim a warm-up at 7:40.

Promptly at 8 the horn sounds for the first leg, two swim loops totaling 1.5K.  52 men and 29 women charge the lake and dive in.  Felt well, in control, good form except reverted back to breathing on one side only—not bilateral which is much easier in a pool at a leisurely pace.  Ninth man out of T1 I guess the T-Th master swim at the Y is paying off. . . . not bad given I probably spent over a minute trying to get my wet suit off.  Lesson learned: UNZIP THE ANKEL ZIPPER BEFORE PEELING OFF THE WETSUT OTHERWISE YOU MAY HAVE TROUBLE REMOVING THE SUIT AND STAIN YOU CALF AND PETELAR TENDON YOU HAD SURGERY ON LAST YEAR!

The 40K bike lived up to its expectation.  The pace was high and the effort felt easy although my HR was only 4-6 beats below lactate heart rate. . . Why?  I stayed very relaxed as I knew my weakest leg, the 10K run, was yet to come.  I passed a few and others past me, but all and all a conservative well respected 12th place male rank — 24.8 miles in 1:08:40 (21.7 MPH).

I rolled in to T2, bare feet on top of my cleated shoes, 50 meter run with bike to transition.  Helmet off, hat on , running shoes, grab race number belt out to a 10k of mixed trail single track in the shade, to golf course neighborhood in the sun.  Felt good for first three miles, but then lack of running fitness kicks in.  Russ Gates catches me at about 3.5 miles just after the nasty uphill.  We run down the road chatting, about how we both need to do more running, and other pleasantries, etc.  But even though we are not in the best running shape, we both agreed . . . what a great way to spend a Sunday Morning!  Heading back into the trail running Russ picks up the pace and I slow a bit.  When will I see the lake!  Finally, the lap around the lake takes forever, and I keep looking back for fellow triathletes, especially the ones from Helena! or with a 40 or older age on there calf.  Finally, I reach the finish line in 2:26.40, elated but exhausted.  My first good effort at triathlon in years 2

1st age group 45-49

12th /52 males

14th overall out of 81

I wore the BSC Team jersey proudly as I accepted the beer mug award and was happy to be a triathlete once again.