As stated in the title, this weekend’s race ended in a lot of ice packs, Neosporin, and warm baths with muscle relaxant in them. But we will start from the beginning, after a few days at Voyager national park with the family, I made the long drive to Medora ND for the beautiful MDH mountain race. This race has amazing trails and offers a 13, 25, 50, 75, and 100 mile length races. Because I am not an avid mountain biker (and by that I mean I’ve ridden my bike once on mountain trails… which was last year’s MDH) I chose to do the 25 again. I arrived in Medora a little ahead of schedule so I woke up the legs by doing a few laps around the town on the Trek X-caliber 8 that I would race at the next day. After buying lunch at the C-store I met a very interesting cyclist. He had been biking for 6 moths straight from san Francisco, to Florida, up to the northeast, and now was headed home. He asked about the race and what it was, after telling him he said “hell ill take off my bags and do the 100, sounds easy” and went to go find a way to sign up. This mindset was incredible to me and I thought to myself if this 60+ year old man can do what he is doing then the 25 should be a breeze. After saying goodbye i headed back to set up the tent.
The tent was going super well until I realized I needed 6 poles but only had 5… so I settled for one corner caving in and had dinner. I set up all the nutrition, camelback, and clothes for the following day after a quick meal and made sure everything was in working order. After getting a pick up time from my ride James Botnen I settled in for the night, 3:30am comes quickly.
Alarm goes off at 3:30 and I roll out of bed. exhausted from the bloodhound at the campsite across from me going off ALL NIGHT. And when I say all night I mean at least every half hour letting out a few howls. I gathered everything I needed (except my sunglasses… oops) and headed to meet the crew to head to the start. The forecast showed rain and we were watching a lightning storm all the way to the start line. Shortly after arriving at 4:50 am the rain started. This was great for the area because they were in a severe drought, however it spelled disaster for the race. For those that haven’t seen the trails of Medora, they are very steep and a combination of sand and clay. Any moisture on these makes it super slick and unrideable. We got the news that the start was pushed back until at least 7:00am. With nothing else to do we sat in the truck for 40 minutes and talked about what lie ahead. The rain had stopped by 6:10 and everyone was anxious to leave, unfortunately after checking the trail there was no way we would make it. Race was pushed back to 8:00 am and everyone retreated to the cars. FINALLY we received the best news yet, confirmation of a guaranteed start at 8:00 am. We all emerged and began to warm up. Before we knew it the gun had gone off and the race was on!
I learned from last year that I shouldn’t start in back. So I started around 30 people back and settled in. Within 3 minutes I realized why they were so concerned with so little rain. We were slipping and sliding all around and I took a couple tumbles right away from still trying to get my balance and the slippery trails. Of course these tumbles clogged my cleats and pedals which made it near impossible to clip in. Trying to clip in cause a few more tumbles as I hit rocky uphills without one foot clipped in. I was in for a long day. The wet downhills repeatedly threw me off the trails and slick uphills made even the leaders get off and walk the bikes up. The flats I thought would be better, but there was mud flying off tires in all directions (this is where I really missed the sunglasses) and unfortunately we were in cattle fields riding by cows… which meant only one thing. Cow pie. Wet cow pies were everywhere and poop was flying through the air showing no mercy, taking out everyone and covering us all. I just kept thinking to myself “that was just mud that hit you, definitely mud, oof in my mouth I really hope that was mud”
Around 6 miles in is where I really committed to not needing to go fast and all out. I had told myself to not go after this race but everyone knows when you get race gear on and a gun goes off, you want to race. The first few miles i did alright thanks to the falling, but at 6 miles i really committed to not trying to go all out. There are cacti all along the route and someone had just run over some and punctured their tire. I briefly heard "damn i need a tube" and made the decision to pull over. I talked with him a minute and figured out what all he needed, after looking at his tires I knew I had a correct size tube for him. I dug around in my pack until i found one and threw it to him. At first he was reluctant to take it because he didnt want to take my only one, but after assuring him i had many just for this reason. He thanked me and began the repair.
I loaded back up and caught up to a few groups that had just passed me and rode with them for a few miles. After another 10 miles of fall..after fall…. After fall. Things began to dry. When the trails are wet the technical bikers have a huge advantage so I was a ways behind the front few packs. Once things started drying out I was finally able to gain confidence and start picking people off as I got more comfortable. I was passing everyone on the uphills which really showed how well my cycling training has done this last year, however the descents were still getting the best of me as I consistently fell off sharp turns and was far slower than most. I rode with a group of guys my age for 7 miles as we held the cattle gates open for each other and had short conversations about the first 10 miles. At mile 18 I left this group as I was ascending much faster than them and was feeling confident and great. I kept my nutrition and hydration going in and I fought off all cramps except one on top of my left knee where my bike had smashed into me during a crash. I rode by myself the rest of the way talking and singing to myself about how im never riding off pavement ever again. Eventually I hit pavement and I was saved! I came across the line 20 minutes faster than last year and in 14th overall! Way better than I planned on doing and was pleased with a time of 2:42:XX in all the muddy conditions! It was great meeting everyone in James' group and hope I get to ride with all of them again! Just not in the trails
Next up is a few days of work, easy training, then off to Omaha for Nationals!
Woke up this morning quite sore from wake boarding. Between that and the upcoming races i decided to go into this with the intention of having fun and really going after it on the bike (going to be ironic just you wait). Arrived at hoot lake early which was good because i knew more people there than i ever expected! said hi to lots of friends as i was getting set up in transition and caught up with Clay Danielson as we set up our transition. Luckily for him i had brought 3 helmets (one was mine and Jason Edwards needed the other. kids these days). i decided i could share for the day. Blake Steinbringarrived looking like he had been dragged behind a bus but was as ready to go as ever! That heart is the reason i love this sport. He showed a passion you don't see. Corey Nygaard arrived looking fast as heck as usual and we all talked briefly before heading to the water.
The water was NOT cold here and i debated taking the wetsuit off but decided it would hurt to have on. Everyone lined up and i looked around. The first heat was almost half of the competitors. As the gun went off pure chaos ensued. 50 people usually isn't a lot, but in an all out sprint on a tiny course it was horrible. After getting beat by clay and a few others many times i fell back as did Corey. We swam between groups in order to save our bodies a beating while staying in good position. Corey and i walked out of the swim together and off to transition.
then it went down hill....
Transition was slow. helmet was tangled, shoe straps popped out and i needed to re-loop them, tri suit was rolled up and felt horrible. nothing really went well. made it out of transition and made my way up the steep hill out to the course. made it to the top and prepared to fly! all the sudden i hear the worst sound ever. as i try and switch to the big gear up front there is the chain rubbing sound that hurts all cyclist's ears and then the WHACK of a chain dropping. i tried to fix it coasting on the bike but to no avail. I get off and get to work only to realize my chain guard did nothing and now the chain is locked inside my rings... i fought with this for another few minutes until finally i got it locked on the big ring. i mounted and took off. Riding pissed can do wonders for your MPH average and it was time to make up some ground. i passed a few people that had passed me during my 1 on 1 time with the bike. as we neared the turn around i saw the leaders go by and unfortunately they had gained a ton of ground on me. said hi to a few friends as we biked by each other and kept my head down pushing hard, Unfortunately as i neared the end of the bike i looked at my watch and knew the bike problems had cost me too much ground.
I changed quick, took off on the run and just let the legs do their thing. i caught Corey and hung out with him for a bit. him being the great friend he is told me i could catch at least one guy which lit a tiny little fire in me. With that i lengthened my stride and tried to reel the next guy in. going up the last hill i passed the next guy in line and had my sights on moving up further but did not have the time to do so. i came through in 4th overall with a lot of experiences to learn from today.
i have always worried about how i would react to a race like this. But I learned a lot from today and going forward i know what i can do differently and how i can improve. That's always the goal in anything i do is find ways to improve and today it took a bit of a hit for that to happen. Corey also was willing to switch bikes for a quick bike ride to give me an idea of what electronic shifting is like. Very few others would do this and i cant thank you enough! You have a gorgeous bike there man. There will always be another race! next is the Maah Daah Hey in Medora next weekend!
Congrats to all the first time racers out on course today! Taylor JanssenTiffany Christine Mueller Jessica Molzahn Seth Herman Just to name a few, you guys did awesome.