Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Journey of a One Hundred Miles Begins with One Pedal Stroke...

One hundred miles.  The distance is enough that it is no longer a short jaunt in a car; it takes a bit of planning to drive 100 miles.  Do I have enough gas?  Should I get some road snacks?  So on and so forth.  Now take that 100 miles in a car and drive it on a gravel road.  Takes quite a bit longer, huh?  Maybe even a few hours.  Now, let's take it one step further and drive on unimproved Forest Service roads for 100 miles. It will take the better part of a day, and you just might be tired of driving by the end of the journey.

NOW, let's talk about 100 miles by bike.  100 miles, or the century ride, is a goal of a lot of cyclists.  Big event rides, charity rides, tours, etc. usually have 100 mile options for people to challenge themselves, usually attracting the riders that are more than the casual rider: they are enthusiasts or dedicated cyclists.  But far and away, the majority of those rides are on pavement.  Take the above example of driving 100 miles and let's ride the 100 miles on gravel.  Takes a fair amount longer and is a lot harder, huh?  Now, take it another couple steps and go onto rocky, steep, rough, tight singletrack (at least for part of it) and you have a 100-mile mountain bike race.

I used the driving analogy to make a point (obviously).  When I tell people that ride bikes very casually (think riding the bike path to get ice cream) I did a 100-mile mountain bike race (although what I did wasn't necessarily racing but more riding) I get a lot of "Oh, that sounds hard" with a condescending overtone or even the "I probably couldn't do it." Do ya think?  Now, I'm not saying that eventually with some training they couldn't do it, because if I can, they surely could, but the attitude seems like they could go do it today if they so chose.  Not that I want them to fawn over me, but just a "Are you fucking nuts?" would suffice.  Maybe I'm being too sensitive about it and maybe they just can't wrap their brains around riding a bike 100 miles anywhere, much less off road, but hopefully the analogy of driving a car 100 miles on pavement, then gravel roads then on FS roads will help them understand the difference between riding a road bike 100 miles on pavement and riding a mountain bike 100 miles on trails.

All that being said, the second running of the Tatanka 100 went down this past weekend:  102+ miles

The "Grand" Loop!
and 10,900+ feet of climbing over some of the most challenging terrain the Black Hills have to offer.  Taking the Centennial Trail (Trail 89) from just outside of Sturgis to Trail 40 near Pactola Reservoir, taking Trail 40 to through Silver City to the Peddlers Trail.  From there, taking the Mickelson to just outside of Lead, SD, then on FS and gravel roads through Galena and eventually back into Sturgis was the name of the game.  The weather turned out to be about as perfect as one could ever ask for at any bike race.  Warm but not too hot, a slight breeze, but not too windy, a few clouds to offer some breaks from the sun, but not too cloudy. Seeing a trend here?

The race went off on time and Jim Meyer of Quarq fame led the race wire to wire, coming in a few minutes before a singlespeeder (100 miles on a singlespeed is a whole other level of fucked up, crazy ass racing) and just over the 8 hour mark, 8:08 to be precise.  A touch over 8 minutes faster would have netted Mr. Meyer a super blingy Tatanka ring, which I suppose is a goal for him for next year.

As far as my race went, I was happy with the way my day turned out.  I met some personal goals and had a good time doing it and was in a good frame of mind all day long.

Up and down and up and down and up and down...
It felt like the race went out HARD.  Much faster than last year and I didn't get sucked into the pace, as I knew if I pushed too hard early, there'd be nothing in the tank for the end of the race.  This was a good plan for me as the race wore on, since I started passing people that were running out of juice.  I know I've said it before, but no matter where you're at in a race, the front of the pack or the back of the pack, there is racing to be had.  As I rolled into the various aid stations, there was another guy just rolling out, but as the race wore on, I was rolling into the aid stations closer and closer to him until we got to the Englewood aid station, where I rolled in just behind him.  I fueled up quickly and as he left, I told my Lovely that I had to chase him down, so I took off.  About a mile up the road, I caught up with him as he was pulled over taking a wiz.  I rode on, then I pulled over to do the same and he passed me back.  I was able to jump on my bike and catch back up with him.  We chatted for a bit, but as the grade of the road went up, I started to pull away from him.  Holy shit, I'm out-climbing someone?  That hasn't happened for over a decade.

Anyhow, he wasn't far behind me for quite a while, until the trail pointed down, where I put some distance between us.  I rolled into the final aid station at Galena, chatted with the volunteers and as I was prepping to leave, he rolled in.  Now I was being chased.  As I left, he was hustling to take off as well, so I knew he'd be breathing down my neck for the remainder of the race.  At the top of the last gravel climb of the race, I could see he was about 3 minutes behind, so I couldn't let up.  I BOMBED the rocky, gravel descent back into Sturgis, trying to increase my advantage.  Once I hit the bike path, I didn't see him anywhere, so I felt like I was safe, but I still pushed into the finish area.

The final stretch of the race took us through a concrete drainage "ditch" through the city that emptied right into the finish area.  The only low point of the race for me was in this ditch.  As I was hammering along I saw a tiny squirrel.  Hey squirrel, what are you doing in this ditch?  As I approached, it started freaking out running around, zig-zagging back and forth.  As I tried to avoid it, it shot back under my bike.  THUMP, THUMP.  I hit it squarely with not one but both tires.  That poor squirrel was toast.  I'm hoping that it isn't a black mark for my karma, since I did do my best to avoid it.

I crossed the finish line with a lot of daylight in the sky, taking about an hour and a half off of my time from last year, which was a nice change.  I suppose not having four flats and utilizing electrolytes to prevent cramps made a big difference in that outcome.

Once again, I had a great time at Tatanka.  As usual, it was a challenging, well-run affair.  I'm already looking forward to the 3rd running of the event!

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