Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dakota Five-O(ww)!

The eagerly anticipated account of the Dakota 5-0!! Uncensored and uncut! Check out all the photos here if you're too lazy to read my blog post.
Nothing could have prepared me for the epic I chose to undertake by signing on for the Dakota 5-0. People have asked me, "How was the race?" I stumble in reply. How can I possibly answer this question with a one or two sentence reply? It was so much more than a bike race. If you want the full story (which you probably don't), you're going to have to bait me with a 6-pack and a comfy chair. Until then, settle for this medi-okra blahg post. Our group of 14 trickled into One on One bikes the morning of Friday, August 31. Geno had rented two vans and we were still waiting for him to return from the rental place. April and Sylvia drove me down with bike and two gear bags, so I got to enjoy breakie and a bevvy with my ladies before departure. Our group settled rather easily into two vans. One had 5 folks and all the bikes; the other had 9 folks and all the gear. Both vans had coolers. (And, not to worry, we designated drivers.)

I knew a lot of the folks in our group well, was acquainted with several, and a few I did not know at all. By the end of the weekend I knew everyone better, and a couple people maybe a little too well! The drive was uneventful except for the ramifications of a group lunch at Taco John's. Eager to emerge from the vans, we rolled into Spearfish around 10pm and headed straight for a restaurant for some grub. Then it was on to Perry Jewett's house to set up camp. The Jewetts were good sports and incredibly generous. Apparently the Mpls Mafia has been camping on their lawn every year for some time now. I was grateful to be allowed to hang with the group, as I was a 5-0 virgin (and should have been banished to the dark loneliness of the city campground). Instead, I was able to document the madness of the front yard.

After dinner the first night, we headed to one of the local watering holes, Horses to Harleys. (I guess bikes fall somewhere in between.) The locals were all pretty friendly and the ladies all seemed to dig a new guy in town who wears a kilt. Sorry, ladies, I only came to town for two reasons: to drink beer and ride. At the bar I ran into Sean-O and rekindled my long lost Hub team connections. Turns out Joel and Clayton were also in town for the race. While at the bar Brauer and I did a little bonding as well. Last call in Spearfish is 1:00am. That seemed too early, so I fell in with two local guys, Ben and Gus for another beer up the hill at their place. I crawled into the tent sometime after 3 wondering what kind of craziness the day before the race would bring. Fortunately for me, no one in our group was too eager to get an early start. Eventually a decision was made to shuttle a group up to Hobo Camp to pedal the last 5 miles or so of the course. Bikes and riders were piled into the van and we followed Nate and Mike up the mountain. After a few wrong turns we parked and unloaded to begin the ride down. It started with a fire road descent and abruptly turned right onto a gruesome climb. Off the bike and walking, I began to recount all the beers of the night before. Once on top we began the next descent, a ripping, sandy downhill. I walked part of it -- no shame here. Beyond the steepest part still lay a couple miles of excellent downhill double track. A mile of fire road climbing took us back into the singletrack. I was having a blast even though I am far from a seasoned mtn biker and couldn't believe how technical a lot of the course was. All went well until I had a momentary lapse in attention on some off camber narrow track and lost my front wheel. Oww. Mental note to self: remember this section for the race. At least I got my crash out of the way early. I caught up with the others and limped it back into town. The downhill into Spearfish was a blast -- coasting at 30+ mph with the entire town of Spearfish and mountains beyond spread before my handlebars. Back at camp the mood was light. I scrubbed the gravel and dirt out of my already crusted wounds and changed clothes. A painkiller from Wheels and a beer helped me out quite a bit. The fashion show began after Kelly returned from the thrift store. We got a surprise visit from Keith K and later Katy K and Katie C. It was nice to see some more friendly faces. Meanwhile, Geno was still building out his race ride. Later I cruised the city campground alone and took it all in. The river running through Spearfish is colder than the Budweiser at Sturgis. That would come in handy following the race.
Soon we were off to race registration and then to get some dinner.
Hollywood is calm and collected. So is Gene ...
We had dinner at Roma's. It was a swanky place. I don't think we ate any bad food in Spearfish and Roma's upheld the standard. Everywhere we went, bike art seemed to follow. A 7:20 staging time seemed brutally early. It was chilly, but the day promised to be quite warm. My whole body ached from my crash and sleeping on a semi-flat Thermarest. I knew I just needed to warm up. That would happen soon enough with the long climb out of Spearfish. The starting area was festive. Some riders got more dressed up than others.
Yep, he found it at the thrift store.
Mr Burns rode the entire race -- 95 degree temps and all -- in this outfit, on a single speed, and still kicked my arse.
How and what was the race? Well, I was struck by Hollywood's take the day before -- he said it would be a vision quest. I liked that analogy and stuck with it. A vision quest it was, for me anyway. The course is not for the light-hearted. It beats and whips and submits you until you want to cry daddy, uncle and a few distant relatives combined. I won't elaborate too much, but for a mtn greenhorn like myself, it was a very beautifully humbling experience. The trail was pleasantly technical, but fast and exhilirating. Some of the views were nothing short of amazing. I am not ashamed to admit I stopped to take some photos. I'm glad I did. This was a trail I felt sad to be "racing" through. It made me want to park my bike and hike off along the cliffs, explore the little valleys -- in other words, stay a little while.About mile 30 I started to get a full-0n endorphin buzz. This lasted the entire rest of the race and for about two hours afterward. I rode the last ten miles virtually alone. Luckily, aid stop #4 girl was there to make sure none of us sailed too far on our Rocky Mountain High. I kept looking for the spot where I had wiped the day before. I thought I found it three or four times, but before I knew it I popped out on the descent and was flying back into the city. On the last hill I punched it and took a couple riders. All day I had been thinking about what a fool I was to sit behind geared riders who would spin their legs off rather than carry momentum and power through a climb. That caused me to lose valuable momentum and I learned a valuable lesson in return.

During the race, I hiked up a couple of hills with a girl from Colorado riding a rigid 1x1. (She was dusting my ass on the downhills BTW.) She told me a friend of hers had done the race the year before and he'd cried when he finished. The last couple miles of the race brought tears to my eyes. I don't know why exactly, but the sight of the town and the effort of it all really broke me down. I sobbed on my bike while coasting the gravel road into Spearfish. It's not that I was worn out and ready to stop, in some bizarre way I think I didn't want it to end. But it did. Six hours of pure focus, wonderful alone time were gone. Before I knew it I was re-entering the city park and Katy and Katie were there with cameras in hand catching me at the finish. I just remember thinking, "I want nothing more than to hug one of them and cry like a baby for a few minutes. Then, I'll be okay." I didn't get the chance. That's probably for the best.
More shenanigans ensued while we watched the kids races and the awards ceremony. Things were a blur for a couple of hours. We eventually regrouped and headed to dinner at the Chop House. Quite the scene. At least they had valet parking. I haven't had a woman look up my kilt since the Pittsburgh Irish Festival a couple years ago. These race volunteers were none too shy. I talked them out of demanding I do a table dance.
Group photo!
We made it home sans lights. And not long afterward my lights were out. It had been a long day. Zeigle had certainly worked hard to earn his steak dinner. (Note to self: never make a bet with Zeigle.)
The next morning (Labor Day) it was time to pack up. We had a little more room in our van thanks to some creative seat arrangement. The drive back meant a stop in Luverne where Geno's in-laws and Jennifer had assembled a feast for us. A big thanks all around for an awesome end to the trip. The rest of the pull into Mpls was my job. The bugs at dusk in southern MN were so thick that they covered our windshield in gut-filled raindrops. We rolled in around midnight, unloaded at Hollywood's, and slithered away to our private cracks and crevices none to eager to begin a week of responsible living after a kick-ass long weekend of stellar mtn biking.
My goal was sub-6 hours. I would have hit it had I not stopped to take photos. I rolled in at 6:17. Next time I'll leave the camera in my pack and choose more wisely when I lay down a steak dinner bet.

No comments: