Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2011 Dakota Five-Oh

So we took a trip out to the Black Hills to ride the Dakota Five-Oh, a 50-miler with 7500-feet of ± elevation on singletrack starting and finishing in Spearfish.  Map of the course here.

Keeping this short, as I'm typing with one hand:
I started in the second wave of riders at 0730, those expecting to take longer than six-hours. I've never ridden this course, and not that experienced in off road riding, so I hung off the back at the start. The first few miles are all up and on gravel roads, winding through a neighborhood and past some houses outside of town. I found a cadence that felt right on my 34x21 singlespeed and pressed on, passing about two-thirds of the riders in the second wave before the turn onto singletrack.

My ride, which performed flawlessly all day:

The leg up until the first aid station was a lot of fun, crossing several times over muddy creeks with no visibility of your line, over a few cattle guards at fences, and a lot of climbing - to the point where the biggest frustration was the congestion - I kept my cool and told myself that riding slow was going to pay off later, just pace myself. There were too many riders that I simply could not ride behind though, and got my singletrack passing skills on quite a few times.

The first aid station came up pretty quick at the 10-mile point and I was looking forward to getting rid of my long sleeve layer, which was welcome during the cold start, but the day was warming. Melissa and Casey were there to grab my layer and provide encouragement. I topped off my water bladder, got a pack of gel shots, and moved on, stopping for maybe 90-seconds, the longest of my aid stops for the day.

The run between the first and second aid stops was much more spread out, so I got a lot more alone time, usually catching up to others on the climbs. Not far up I ran into Kelly Mac, who had flatted and was having trouble holding air in her rear tire. She was also regretting her 36x21 gear. We walked up a hill together, catching up on the day, but I was feeling too chipper, so threw my leg over the frame and kept pushing on.

The second stop at mile-22 was a sight to see, what with the spectators cheering and cowbells clanging - a sure motivational boost. Again I topped off the CamelBak, grabbed a few Fig Newtons for my jersey pocket, and moved along, stopping less than a minute.

The third stop came up at mile-28, which felt like no distance at all from the second, so I rolled through it.

Here is a shot Showen got during a pre-ride, though I have no idea on the trail where it was taken:

I believe it was this next stretch that had some amazing downhill sections - just bombing down a wide valley path, winding left to right in the rocks and grass for the best line, nobody in front or behind me. This is the sort of riding where that front suspension fork came in very useful - there's no way I could have kept these speeds riding fully rigid. My whole body was one huge smile and I couldn't believe how much fun I was having.

The fourth stop at mile-35 was situated at the base of a big climb to the left. This is the first time I didn't recognize any of the spectators, but I at least had to encourage the choice of Michael Jackson to the DJ while I took a final top off of water and grabbed half of a peanut butter sandwich - I asked for Billy Jean but got Thriller, which I could hear as I begun walking up the hill and eating my sandwich to save a bit of time.

There were some more amazing downhills in this next section, a lot of climbs I couldn't believe I was clearing, and a couple that I had no choice but to walk.

The bacon station came up with about 10-12 miles to go; you could hear voices and music in the distance for quite a while before a sign announcing the donator of the bacon at the top of a small climb before a descent into the stop. Melissa and Casey were there, so I stopped, slug down a bit of PBR, asked how much further to go, and moved along again. I'll have time to celebrate at the end.

Just feet from the bacon stop introduced probably the most technical section of the day: a lot of ridge riding, slaloming through rocks and trees, mixed with lots of ups and downs.  At the top of one climb was a simple note stating "look behind you."  The view was really incredible, spanning over several hills and down to the plains - I moved on with just a quick glance.

I didn't see too many riders past this point, passing a handful one or two at a time, but riding fast and alone otherwise.  I recognized the point where the trail end overlapped the start, and knew the final road couldn't be too far away, though it took longer than I had anticipated.  Upon getting to the final S-turn with a left off the single track down onto a road filled with large gravel then a turn to the right on the gravel road I knew I was home-free.  There was a man and a woman standing on the road, shouting encouragement while keeping an eye out for cars.

I was coming down pretty fast, though not uncomfortably so.  I looked up a bit and saw a large and somewhat hidden flat rock ahead, angled a bit too steeply towards the left with gravel sprinkled on it.  I didn't want to hit that rock but I was already committed to my line and went for it - this was nothing compared to what I just finished!  My front wheel hit the flat rock, somehow flinging straight out to the right as if the rock was polished ice - I must have been leaning left through the turn.  I hit the rocks going about 20mph, landing on my left shoulder and thigh, my helmet hitting last.  I immediately got into a sitting position with my knees up and feet down in front of me.  The man came running up, got my bike out of the way of oncoming riders and started asking about how I was doing.  "Just give me a second, my head seems okay."  I felt the slap of the ground on my femur and thought the worst, though I quickly ruled that out - something wasn't right though.  Feeling up to my left shoulder with my right hand quickly confirmed the fractured clavicle, bone sticking out but not penetrating the skin.  Shit.  

The man said he could drive me to town, but I wanted to stand up first.  It took me a few tries, but I got up unassisted, right when Lance flies by screaming out my name and asking if I'm okay.  "Collarbone," I replied.  He's riding for time and rightfully doesn't slow, and I was in plenty good hands.

The woman at the corner stated to me that there have been lots of riders crashing at this spot, to which I did everything inside me to keep my mouth shut.  Going down was entirely my fault, but if it were me standing there I would have at least cautioned riders to slow down a bit if there had been repeated crashes.

The kind man got my bike up for me and I slowly walked it across the cattle guard on the road.  He had told me that he would watch me go down the hill and would come for me if there was any sign of trouble.  I thanked him and slowly put my leg across the top tube, formed a sling with my left arm, and rode on, hugging the right brake hard, squealing the last few miles into town.  Hitting the washboard sections of gravel was the worst, as the bike is shaking up and down, out of sync with the wheels.  The climb up through the neighborhood was no fun, but I kept upright and kept cranking away.  

I rode through the several blocks of cheering spectators, which was a boost in spirits.  Crossing the finish line I turned towards the left where a rider saw me and asked if I needed help to the medical tent - damn that sounded like a good idea.  Soon Squirrel came up and the two of them helped me off the bike and across the street to the tent.  

Long story short:

6:05 with #38 in men's singlespeed, lost about 20-minutes to the crash and snail's ride to the finish.

Sitting here on a Tuesday with the bone still overlapping, spreading my shoulders back as far as I can.  The ER confirmed with a pretty picture that my bone was snapped, but really didn't do much more than that.  Getting into a specialist takes 2-weeks - what's the point?

This is one of those rides I've wanted to do for years, but kept pushing it off each time; I'm already looking forward to 2012!

Looks like I'm out of the upcoming Gentlemen's ride as well as the Heck of the North; I was looking forward to both of these gravel grinders.

Thanks to Perry, all the volunteers, spectators, and riders.  Made a lot of new friends and have nothing but love for Spearfish!

Hey, not bad for one hand.

update - more photos:

Replaced the rear tube two days prior to the race while camping in Custer State Park - check out that red squirrel:

Wave 1 racers just prior to their 0715 start, 15-minutes before I went out.  The majority of the riders were in wave 1.  Passing someone from this group felt good, because I was 15-minutes ahead of someone.

At the ER; I got the best-dressed award for the waiting room - bloody half-dressed bib shorts and a sling:


scott showen said...

Next year Mark, next year...

That pic I took was between the creek crossings and aid station one.

TOMMY GUN said...

reading this over 2 weeks on. Excellent recap Mark. So bummed for you, but nice job on the finish. We'll miss you this weekend at the Gent's Race but will make you proud, as your stand-in is none other than Fleck, creating a Team Hairy Sun powerhouse...

ibikenz said...

Legend! Finishes the race with broken bones. Better luck next year, and, um, practice those bunnyhops for me will ya.