Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tatanka 100

50-100 miles races are becoming all the rage.  For whatever reason, they have supplanted the 24 hour racing format as the endurance racing format.  And if you would have asked me a year ago if I'd ever do a 100 miler I would have laughed riotously in your face.  Not only did I not have any desire to do a race of this length, I knew I physically couldn't do it.  Boy, how time can change your attitude.

I suppose it all started last year in August of last year, watching Cleaver and Al line up for the Leadville 100 and having a bit of twinge of jealousy, even though those dreams were bitch-slapped around a bit after the whole torn quad debacle back in December. I had a plan to ride in a 100 mile mountain bike race this year.

No, it isn't one of those bullshit-check-it-off-my-bucket list stupid things. I say if you're truly living your life then you don't need one of those lame fucking things. Sure you can have some things that you're going to do in the future, but to say, "I've gotta do this before I die" is stupid. Don't plan out jumping out of an airplane, just get a wild hair up your ass and sign up before the reasoning center in your brain takes hold. But, I digress...

I did sign up for Leadville and (obviously) did not get in, so when news started burbbling out that there might be a 100 miler here in SD, I thought I might give it a whirl. When I found out it was in June, I was less enthused about it, knowing that getting enough miles (for me anyhow) in by that date was going to be difficult, so I postponed my decision until the last possible minute to see if I could get enough riding in to not only survive, but actually enjoy torturing myself for a LONG day in the saddle.

The ride that tricked me into the Tatanka.
My Lovely and the Boy decided to take a trip to Miami to see family, which left me home to my own devices, which meant either going to bed by 9 so I could ride in the morning before work OR riding until dark every day they were gone. And, I went out and peeled off a 70 mile mountain bike ride and turned around the next morning for a nice, windy 35 mile road jaunt, so I thought I might be able to pull off the Tatanka, so I signed up.

And the second I hit send on the PreRace sign up page, I wondered what the hell I got myself into, but it was too late now. Well, I suppose I could have just not gone, but I don't think I've ever signed up for anything and not seen it through, so a few more "training" rides and it would be race day.

The morning of the race came WAY to early, getting up at 3 so I can eat, get dressed and be to Sturgis by 4:30'ish (yes, 4:30 AM) to get signed in and be ready to roll by 5, all of which seemed to ggo off without a hitch.  After a quick talk by the race director, Kevin Forrester, we were off and riding.  We had a police escort to Ft. Meade and then it was 5 miles of gravel road to the Alkali Creek trailhead where we hit singletrack and the Centennial trail.  Everyone had settled into their "positions" at this point and I was floating somewhere around mid-pack climbing Bulldog.  But that wouldn't last for long.  Half way up the first climb, something decidedly did NOT feel right and I pulled over to find my rear tire was extremely low.  7 or so miles into a 100 mile day and a flat?  Not cool man, but no panic, there were a lot of hours and miles to go so no need to freak, even if almost EVERYONE passed me at this point.  I pulled the tube to find a hole in the tread of the tire as well.  A boot made from a Clif Shot Blok wrapper, a new tube and I was on my way.  If this were my only issue of the day, I'd be set.

Between flats somewhere before
Dalton Lake (courtesy of Les Heiserman)
If it were my only issue of the day, I would have been set, but for some reason the Flat-Gods were frowning upon me on this day and it would be my first of four flats.  Yes, I said FOUR flats.  After I got through the Elk Creek area of this first leg of the race and was climbing once again, I felt that tel tale sign that something was amiss only to pull over and find my tire losing pressure once again.  At this point I thought it was leaking slowly enough that I could just add some air and make it into the aid station at Dalton Lake and I'd fix it good and proper there, so I did.  I pulled over and pumped it up as all those people that I passed back, passed me once again.  And off I went only to have it pinch flat about 3 miles later.  This time, obviously, I had to fix it all the way, so off came the tire, I patched it, reinstalled it only to discover there was another hole somewhere in the tube, so off it came yet again for another patch, reinstallation and fill-up, which did the trick (mostly).  At this point I was SUPER frustrated with the way things were going and contemplated bailing once I got to Dalton.

As I rolled to the aid station, I saw my Lovely and my mom anxiously waiting and I am sure wondering what had happened to me.  As I explained they got me some food, a tube and a tire that I had stowed in the truck, which was good foresight on my part I guess.  I replaced everything and after eating I knew I couldn't bail just yet, so away I went and I would fend off the wrath of the Flat-Gods the rest of the day.  Actually, it was the end of any major mechanical issues the remainder of the ride, save for a few dropped chains and the like, so any issues I had were all my doing and not able to be blamed on an inanimate object.

Finishing the race!
(courtesy of BH
I won't bore you with details of the rest of the race like I made it here in this much time or to this spot in this much time, but I will say this about the Tatanka 100; if the first half was physically tough as it was a lot of rocky singletrack with steeper, albeit shorter, climbing, then the second half was a LOT more mentally tough with long, gradual but sustained climbs.  Once the ride got to the Mickelson Trail, it was a mind game with yourself on how you could keep going to finish this ride.  There wasn't much to take your mind off the monotony of just endless pedaling.  Oh sure, there is amazing scenery, cool old mountain towns like Rochford and the occasional day tripper that would roll by and give you a word of encouragement, but mostly you were alone with your thoughts and a playlist on your iPod that was getting on your nerves.

Profile of the day.
102.5 miles and 15+ hours later I rolled across the line at Woodle Field in Sturgis with a smile on my face knowing I just did one of the toughest mountain bike rides that anyone could do.  I was super happy that I finished despite the issues earlier in the day, but if you asked me in those minutes after the race if I would do it again, the answer would have been a resounding no.  Hell, at that point I wasn't gonna do another race until the Dakota Five-O on Labor Day weekend.  But, now I am signed up for the BAM (which is basically the same section of course, but backwards, on which I flatted all those times) which is this weekend, and the Black Hills Back 40 in a few weeks and I am already starting to look forward to the 2nd Annual Tatanka 100.  You can be sure I'll be there, with a new rear tire and a LOT of spare tubes.


  1. just dropping by to say hola.
    saw our mutual comments on stevils post. ok added to my bike blog feed.

    cheers +ride on

  2. I need to make sure I get into this race next year. These are my type of races.