Labor day weekend found me in Spearfish for the Dakota 50. A 50 mile mountain bike race which I have wanted to partake in for a few years now. Traveling by SPRINTER, 6 of us made the jaunt from Omaha, meeting the Monkey Wrench/ War Axe crew at the camp site. We came in a day early to enjoy ourselves and do a smidgen of pre-riding. Our crew consisted of Mark, Anne, Roxy, Ryan, and Larry.
The course itself features just about every type of riding style you'd wish to shade a stick at. Pristine single-track, fast double track, technical downhills, fire roads, gravel roads, and what have you. All will be very interesting on a single speed hard tail.
More on that - After proper consulting and swindling of friends, I had a whip for the race. The special edition Fisher Superfly single speed geared 34x20, and complete with glow in the dark grips. This is a very special bike and I fell in love with it before I even left Omaha. I had some hesitation beings it is a 29 inch wheeled rig. That issue quickly resolved itself since this bike is as cool as a gang of ninjas riding sharks. I am sold on the 29er format.
Fast forward to race morning.
After a proper send off by Smokey the Bear, 400 riders left town on a 'neutral' roll out. We exit town and the race officially starts as soon as our wheels hit the gravel. The geared warriors take of and I begin cranking up to speed and begin passing the hoards. I planned on getting ahead of everyone I could before entering the single track so I pushed it, finding out later that I had about 12 guys on my wheel motivated by my strong pull.
I was eyeing where I was and the peeps around me. There was one group way up the road, John Mylrie (Fuzzy) from Niner out there alone and the rest of us. Dejay Birtch was beside me. I gave him a fist bump and said "Good Luck." I settled in for some fun.
The pace was pretty chill rolling thru the first section, and I calmly sat in and patiently followed. Upon the first short, steep climb, all the geared riders clicked down to their low gears, and I jumped off to follow. Since I was still fresh, I picked up my bike and ran passed a half dozen people chugging up the hill and jumped back on at the top. I hit it hard 'til I hit the next group of riders.
One group of riders held Dejay from Niner and Colin McKernan (both on single speeds) one more guy on a geared bike. I knew this would be a good group to roll with for awhile. Then Dejay crashed going over a log pile and the 3 of us rode on as he complained about crushing valuable items located in the crotchal region. Eventually I dropped the other guys and rode on to the next bunch.
This was the general way it went. Riding with others until they could yield to me, usually on hill climbs. I was pretty much alone most of the race, which is awesome, and not at the same time. Taking a drink from Perry the director of the Five-O, I pressed on looking forward.
Riding comfortable and alone I eventually caught the jersey of Fuzzy zipping thru the trees. That was my motivation for many miles to come. He was at the top of a climb, when I was at the bottom. I took his keys for when to dismount and when to crank through the climbs. He stayed a steady distance from me until we hit our first rough descending sections. He could kill it with ease as I gingerly picked my lines with greenhorn grins. I would push hard up the climbs to regain position.
Refilling at the 2nd Aid Station, I find I am sitting 2nd single speed and 8th overall. I excitedly take off on the heels of the other riders. -- Things only get worse from here.
I somehow lose tension on my chain and have to stop multiple times to put it back on. To make it worse, I lost my multi-tool so I can't fix it. That mixed with long downhills I start losing time. Getting to the final aid station, I forget to think about getting my tension fixed and push on. Cussing minutes later when I figure out that I forgot. I see Fuzzy for the last time as I dismount for another hike-a-bike hill climb.
I am feeling all the long, high speed descending by this point. Arms are shot from holding myself up and fatigue has set in. The fact that I don't spend much time on a mountain bike becomes pretty vivid. Cramping, numbness, and dirt mix in. It's still not enough to wipe shit eating grin from my face. - WIth the amount of cow manure we ride in, it's not far off the truth.
Remembering the elevation topo and the realizing the amount of walking I am doing, I can tell I am finishing up the toughest climbs of the race. That means only one thing...
Hobo Camp: Home of the PBR and Bacon Station. I was dead tired, but I still managed to get down 3/4 a beer and clutch a piece of bacon in my hand - but I couldn't eat it. Just too thrashed. Colin McKernan passed me as I downed half an oatmeal cream pie and began to pedal on.
Scree. Evil, evil scree. So much of the ride was a blur. This section's blur included two falls within a 100 or so feet. The second one put me in the trees and bashed my ankle good enough for it to still be swollen enough to hide the right side of my ankle.
With one last fire road climb, I entered the final miles of single track, back tracking the beginning of the race. It takes all my effort to keep speed up and push through the constant cramps and heavy fatigue. About 3/4 mile from the single track exit, I lose it and toss myself off my bike.
Upon impact with dirt, rock, and flora; my entire body up seizes up in one big stinking cramp. I don't know how long I was down, but the thought of not being able to get up crossed my mind. Barely being able to bend my legs, I couldn't walk. I managed to throw my leg over my rig. - Low and behold, I can't walk, but I can still pedal. That was probably one of the most awesome feelings ever. Muscle memory at it's finest right there.
I exit the trail, and fly down the gravel back into town. On one final paved hill climb I look down at my legs while turning over the pedals. My muscles are firing and cramping and just going disco crazy. My skin is wavy and striated as the muscles beneath them tighten and loosen with wild abandon.
Spinning my brains out on the small gear ratio, I bend over the handle bars and let my hands hang as I cross the finish line in 4 hours 8 minutes and 47 seconds. That was about 12 minutes behind Sir Fuzzy. Which means he is a descending king! And that's why they pay him the big bucks -- or at least give him bikes.
Talent: It shows in the picture. I can't open my eyes and I am laying in a stream trying to survive. And he is wearing a purple shirt and smiling. I don't even have a shirt.
Mens Single Speed
1. John Mylrie 3:55’26” - This was 3rd place overall. Sick!
2. Dejay Birtch 4:05’20”
3. Colin McKernan 4:06’01”
4. Lucas Marshall 4:08’47”
5. Mark Savery 4:15’10” - This guy is the bomb
I am covered in dirt, blood, and crap. I can barely walk and my ankle is immobile... But I still got that grin. And within hours of finishing, and a few beers, I want to do it all again.
Roxy's Post via Trek's Women Who Ride.
Group photo time!