A continuation of Part 1
I probably should have gotten back to this race report sooner. It has now been over a month since the race and I’m going to try and recall the last 10 hours of the race…
Heading out of CP1 with the dawning realization that I was going to be pressed on time for the cut-offs I was still optimistic that I was going to find easier trails and start moving faster.
The heat of the day was really starting to show itself though and while there were some rain clouds in the area, it was definitely mostly sunny.
The departure from the aid station was a nice solid climb up past some power lines. Then a rough overgrown descent down into some grazing land. The descents were starting to be a challenge for me. During my little crash I had smashed my left hand on the ground and it was getting pretty painful to hold onto the handlebars. So while the climbs were painful in their own leg burning way the descents weren’t any better death gripping the brakes to check my speed so I didn’t shock my hand too hard.
Just a few miles out of the CP we rolled into the Bald Hills. With temps pushing 90 and not a cloud to be found between me and the sun it got HOT. And we had some nice baking climbs to do. It was early in this section where I stopped in the shade of a little tree to chug some Tailwind and pop a couple of vitamin I for my hand.
|Open climbs in the Bald Hills.|
After some climbing there was a super nice fairly smooth descent. I had a chance to let it rip and gain some speed. Right up until I looked to my right and saw another rider on some single track a ways in the distance above me. Crap! I missed a turn. Stop, turn around, ride back up the hill a little ways and get back onto the single track to do some more climbing.
|See the trail on the right? Yeah, I didn’t at 20 mph. Just around the corner ahead I noticed a rider on the hill to the right.|
After more climbing in the Bald Hills we descended out of the hills and eventually hit a short stretch of Brush Creek Road. That was fun to roll on a gravel road downhill for a couple of minutes. Of course the exit to the road was a hike a bike climb…
Eventually we ended up riding along a small creek criss-crossing and slowly working our way back up the valley it was running down. The air was still and it was hot. The crowd had been thin for a while but suddenly for a short while I found myself in the company of 3 or 4 other riders. We were all pushing along and occassionally someone would pop and fall off the back or we would come upon someone stopped on the side of the trail.
Eventually I was one of the people who stopped on the side of the trail. My HR had been climbing slowly into the low 160’s through the valley and eventually I just had to stop, catch my breath, and get things back in control. This was where some doubts really started to creep into my head. Will I make the cut off? What about the whole rest of the ride?
After just 2 minutes or so I was back on the bike finishing the climb out of that little valley. What followed was another hand jarring descent down to Rapid Creek. What I found in Rapid Creek was a little crease in the head high or higher grass. All I could do was ride and hope I wasn’t going to ride into a rock or through a patch of stinging nettles.
|There is a trail there… I think.|
After clearing the overgrown creek area there was a hose someone ran out to the trail from the ranch that I found a small group of people stopped at. I definitely thought it was a good idea as it had been almost 2 hours since CP1 and only 11 of the 18 miles to the next CP.
After filling up I started the climb up the huge valley up to the Pactola Reservoir. I actually felt pretty good here and managed to pass the majority of the riders who had been at the water stop ahead of me. There was a nice really flowy stretch of trail along the reservoir that I tried to rip as fast as I could. But then we were back into one of those little valley climbs.
You could see them coming on the map when the trail went very straight. That was a sign that you were about to just climb for a few miles at 4-5% grade. It was energy sapping. Not to mention slow! A couple of miles averaging 5mph doesn’t get you to the next CP very fast.
My attitude was going in the dumps through this stretch. I’m pretty sure this was partially calorie related as I was still only on my second bottle of Tailwind with maybe a gel or two after almost 5 hours of time. My mental state was oscillating between “maybe it would be best if I don’t make the cut-off time” and “just push, it would really suck to have come all this way and paid that much just to get stopped at mile 35”. I like to pride myself on being a little stubborn when it comes to this type of thing so I was kinda disappointed with my attitude.
With the attitude and press for time I didn’t take any picture or video for a fair stretch. Eventually I did manage to push my way to CP2. I was 15 minutes after the originally stated cut-off time. But you’ll remember we started a solid 25 minutes late so I was hoping they were going to be lenient on the cut-off times. Sort of hoping anyhow.
CP2 was strewn with carnage. There were definitely plenty of people that were dropping. I saw a couple of cars take off with bikes on the back and a solid half dozen other folks lounging around like they were clearly waiting for a ride. The truck with the aid station supplies was also just taking off just leaving what was on the table behind.
While filling my water and taking a single Nutter Butter and a couple of Endurolytes I overheard one of the workers on the phone with race officials clarifying cut-off times. Once they were done I asked what the deal was. The word was, get to CP3 by 3:30 and CP4 by 5:30 and you are good. It was currently about 12:50 and I had 16 miles to cover. So 2:40… mental math… uh… whatever, I’m not going to make it if I don’t get riding.
With that I took off out of the aid station without too much more fuss. My total time there was under 8 minutes. I did have to stop just a few minutes later for something. I can’t for the life of me remember what now.
Thus started the worst stretch of the race. Seriously bad. I was NOT in the game mentally and the trail got challenging. After just a mile of easy trail we hit the shared ATV use stretch of the trail and it got climbing and rough again.
The first part was rough because the elevation gain, then after a hand jarring descent it got climby again but this time chunky as all get out. I passed a few ATVs going the other way and was passed by a few. They were very courteous and I didn’t have any issues with them at all. My problems were all in my head. Again, probably because I was seriously under fed.
|Letting an ATV pass me on the climb while I took a break from either pushing my bike or riding at 3 mph.|
In my memories the stretch from CP2 to Nemo was ages. In reality it was only an hour. During that time I saw one other rider and they passed and dropped me like I was standing still. Not exactly a mental boost.
Rolling up to Nemo the marked trail started to deviate from the GPX on my watch. I got pretty dismayed as I turned away from Nemo and started climbing. And climbing. Every peddle stroke taking me further off of my precious GPX course. I did see signs often enough I wasn’t too worried I was off course. But in a compromised attitude state this wasn’t helping.
Eventually the marked course and the GPX lined up again. And the trailed kicked up hill out of Nemo. And got chunky. And deviated from the GPX again. It looks like fresh cut trail that we were following and it was rugged. Maybe in a side-by-side with a couple hundred horse power and some huge tires at 5 psi it would be cool. But I wasn’t digging it.
|Actually, this little canyon thing was cool.|
|Super chunky nasty ATV trail that made me want to cry.|
For the next 50 minutes out of Nemo I averaged under 4 mph. Eventually I hit a stretch where I was able to move along at a decent speed. You know, like almost 10 mph for 15 minutes!
I rolled into CP 3 at 3:24pm. The previously stated cutoff was 3:30 so I had plenty of time. This CP was “manned” by a local boy scout troop and they seemed pretty relaxed about the whole deal. I took the opportunity to sit down and rest.
After almost 15 minutes of sitting and eating a few things and drinking I decided I better get a move on. There were a couple of people that took off in a car as I arrived and one or two that took of riding. No one showed up after me while I was there.
Leaving CP3 is a nice 600 foot climb. Actually, I was feeling better after finally putting some calories in. Tired, but my attitude wasn’t terrible. It was also finally clouding up and before I reached the top I finally got rained on. I had been hearing occasional thunder for hours but never by me. Oh man did the rain and wind feel good.
|Blissful clouds and rain.|
|There was a good stretch on the top of the ridge that was very rideable. This picture also shows one of the many many cattle gates the course goes through. I rode through plenty of cow crap, but I never saw any livestock.|
Somewhere in this stretch I came across a husband and wife riding. Yes! Not alone out in the woods. Initially I passed them, but then after taking my glasses off because I couldn’t see I got a blob of mud in my eye and had to stop and they passed me again.
|Riding the ridgeline north of the Dalton CP. The trail was kinda rocky, but I had a little mojo back and found it very rideable.|
Before too long we descended back off the ridge. I had a few issues on some of the switch backs nearly taking another digger but I kept it upright.
We then snaked along Elk Creek. Last year this is where they had people up past their waist in rushing water. This year, dry. Kinda boring. It was through here that I caught up to the couple again and we ended up riding into CP 4 together.
|Hiking a rugged portion of the Elk Creek crossing behind the husband and wife duo.|
|A shot of Elk Creek and one of the ropes to help you cross the “running” water.|
11.5 miles in a mere 2:15 this time. It was just about 6pm but the aid station was still there and it was an OASIS! Seriously, the BEST aid station I have ever been to. I immediately had an ice cold towel wrapped around my neck, food and drink pressed in my hands. A chair to sit in. A fresh towel. Ice dumped down my jersey (and my bib shorts in the process). I’m not kidding, it was heaven.
|CP4 – Heaven on Earth|
I think it was actually the race directors that were there as myself, the couple, and one other gentlemen were getting ready to leave. As we packed up and rolled out I could tell the place was closing down. But I made it.
The biggest issue at this point was the ice in my bib shorts. Let me tell you sitting on ice on a bike seat… not good. I had to stop and dance and shimmy to get it to come out before I could continue riding.
I knew leaving this aid station it was another moderately substantial climb and then it was “all down hill to the finish”. That was total BS from the seat of a bike, but if you zoom out and look at the elevation profile nearly true.
|All downhill there… except where it wasn’t.|
I had 16 miles to go and I knew for certain finally, that so long as I didn’t wreck myself I was going to finish this dang thing.
That initial climb wasn’t too bad at all. I caught back up to the couple again and eventually passed them. Somewhere further on I caught the other guy and passed him as well.
|Some really smooth sailing on my way out of CP4 towards the finish.|
Then there was some more hike-a-bike. Man was I tired of walking with my bike. I was also getting a little punchy after 12.5 hours of riding time. Almost all of the pictures in this report are taken from video I took with my GoPro. Towards the end of the race I was actually narrating my videos. I’ll spare you most of them, but I thought this snippet was gold. You can hear me huffing pretty good with the slightly thinner air at 4,500 feet.
The guys at the last CP said that there would be an overlook of Sturgis and then it was basically downhill and into town and you were done. My (apparently inadequate) study of the map before the race had me believing that I would ride down the hill, cross under the freeway and turn left, right into Sturgis and finish.
I was wrong. that last bit was incorrect. It was turn left, then ride towards Sturgis, then around and over this big huge hill next to Sturgis and to the finish. After I got out of the big hills I was at 9,800 ft of elevation gain on the day and I thought I might end up short of 10k and I was going to be OK with that. Problem solved. It was over 10k when I finally finished.
|With just 4 miles to go you can see Sturgis on the left and the big hill I had to ride around to the right of ahead of me. The sun was setting, but I was SO CLOSE to finishing.|
I was tired, so very tired. But I was so very very close. I plugged my way around the hill and finally hit the paved bike path with just a mile to go. I hammered that bike path as hard as I could (actually trying to finish before the GoPro battery died).
Finally after 13 hours 38 minutes and 11 seconds covering 78.29 miles and 10,419′ of climbing I crossed the finish line of the Tatanka Epic.
I rolled my bike about 20 more feet, stepped off, dropped it to the ground, dropped my hydration vest, and lay flat on my back for the next 10 minutes.
That was the hardest endurance event I personally have ever done. After just a few minutes it started to sink in that I was done and I’ll be honest, it hit me kind of hard. It really surprised me that I got a little emotional over it.
Three more people finished a few minutes after I did. That was it. This race took its toll. I have no idea how many started, but the finish rate was not even close to 100%. So even though I was almost the last finisher I’m not ashamed of that at all. This race was much more technical than I anticipated and that really took its toll on me.
I was pretty adamant that I had no interest in doing the race again for a solid week afterwards. Now? Maybe. It was a great race, incredible scenery, good support, so there isn’t anything to complain about there. So maybe.
Traditional to my race reports is my look forward. In this case, being this report is so tardy it is a little look back and forward.
We spent another week in the Blackhills after the race seeing the sights and doing some more slightly less epic running and biking adventures. Those included another ride on the Centennial Trail in Custer State Park that got detoured by two herd of bison, a run to Black Elk Peak (that is the new official name since we were there), and a few other little runs and rides.
After that a few Sprint Rides, a Sasquatch Dash, and then a busted clavicle. I was chasing Jason around at Lebanon Hills two weeks ago and had a little mishap that is going to keep me off the bike for a few more weeks. Damn.
Gravel Conspiracy is coming up and I might have to crew for the head conspirator instead of riding. Then Twin Cities Marathon lacking any long runs for the last few weeks and another week or two at least.
I’ll be good as new by ski season though.
Rubber side down folks.