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!