Good times at the Dakota Five-O

Long time, no post, eh?  Well, most know that the last 8 weeks or so have been building up to a long weekend of good times in Spearfish, SD.  And the Dakota Five-O delivered!

Anyone that knows me, knows that I love to analyze stuff.  Heck, I over analyze stuff.  What might be stressful, tedious analysis for one person might actually be thrilling for me.  I think I’m pretty good about not letting analysis clutter the fact that I’m having a damn good time on the bike.  Fortunately, being surrounded by the right people makes the pain of racing even more enjoyable, and that was the highlight of my Labor Day weekend racing experience.

So aside from this little tidbit, I’m saving the “analysis” for a later post: In 2010, I had a great day and finished a best ever 4:25, 28th place overall.  In 2011, I had a day that didn’t “feel” as great and finished in 4:29, 32nd place in a bigger overall field.  A good day.  Four minutes difference, negligible, perhaps.  Fought cramps a bit more this year.  Interestingly, I hit Aid #2 in exactly 2:12, both years.  In 2010, I urinated once; in 2011, twice.  Maybe there’s my extra time?  Who knows.  As in every year, I’m all smiles at the finish.

Rox & I love taking people to new trails, new races, new experiences, and Dakota Five-O was the perfect place for it.  Omaha, and Nebraska in general had a host of folks targeting this event as their longest mtb race ever, or even their first mtb experience outside of the Psycowpath Series.  I do enjoy trying to be a source of honest (admittedly biased) advice and encouragement for people who are getting stoked on cross country mountain biking!  Watching others weekends, and races, unfold was just as rewarding as any result I was going to capture, so indulge me as I share my contemplative perspective on their efforts.

First, the kids.  What can I say?  Youthful exuberance sometimes rips into some gnar with little regard for consequences.  Sometimes contagious enthusiasm trumps skill.  Alas, that’s how we learn and get better.  Cole Skiba and Buddy Houts both crashed out, the latter with a seriously taco’ed front wheel.  Good news, I think they’re both hooked on technical singletrack.  Hot damn!  Cole’s anticipation, questions, and energy had me pretty stoked for him to do well, and he probably would have without the crash.  While some would crash and decide to hate mountain biking, I think Cole is already looking for more challenging/rocky singletrack action. And Buddy is on the lookout for a sweet new wheel, or maybe a whole new bike, with disc brakes!  Sweetness.

Rob Skiba seemed to be balancing all week on the knife edge of cautious optimism and utter terror.  I don’t think either he nor Cole had ever experienced rocky singletrack before.  I think Rob’s accomplished more than most by just lining up at an event like that.  Rob’s not exactly built like an endurance racer (though he’s becoming more so every week), and he knew that this was a stretch.  It takes some courage and confidence to put yourself out there for this, to make the lifestyle/habit changes he’s made and jump in with both feet.  I mean, you don’t see me lining up next week to play linebacker, do you?  He made it to aid 2, and after a ribs-bruising crash, road gravel back to the start finish.  Even cutting the course to get home safely, Rob admitted this was the best & hardest effort of his mtb career– nice.  It only gets better, my friend.

Larry Kintner has done this race many times, and aside from a few flats, put in another stellar performance.  I think what makes his consistent performance year in, year out, is that he makes sacrifices to train that would turn the rest of us into mere weekend riders.  He gets up at 4am and trains nearly every weekday.  Before work, before father and husband duties kick in.  His son Scott was great to hang out with around our campsite, and I hope Scott isn’t too scarred by my sense of humor.

At the backwards Swanson race Aug 13, Carly Thomsen showed up and did her first bike race, ever.  Why?  Because she had signed up for the Dakota Five O!  Why did she ever sign up for that?  She was inspired watching Race Across the Sky at Filmstreams last fall, and decided to try a mountain bike race, and thought that 50mi seemed a better option than Leadville’s 100.  Um, yeah.  Then she raced Maskenthine, 2nd bike race ever, 2 laps, about 10mi.  Nice.  If she was ever nervous about Dakota, you couldn’t tell amongst her constant running of the mouth.  She finally stopped talking at the race start, and managed to finish within her time goal.  “I can’t believe I just did that!” You just did.  Believe it. Rock!

Similar story: Todd Eyberg’s been doing endurance mtb rides for a couple years now, and his wife April is often resigned to handing up water bottles or holding down the folding chairs while Todd’s out enjoying himself.  No more!  She signed up months ago, and went on some awfully long rides in early August to prepare.  She’ll probably admit she’s more of a runner, but dang, she pulled it off.  Now, Todd destroyed his previous time and finished the course in 4:39 (damn near Cat 1 time?).  Yet his accomplishment was a fraction of the anticipation and hope he displayed waiting for April to come in.  Would she finish, or hitch a ride in the back of truck? Would she be ok?  Would she come back to hate mountain biking, and rocky singletrack, and her husband?  Was she going to hate Rox & I for selling her Rox’s old sweet race bike?  No way! She rolled in, tired but smiling, huge sense of accomplishment.  I think she might do it again!

In 2010, I was stoked to help Brandon Mullins and Glen Houts keep the Ponca race alive.  In 2010, I met Glen houts, a cycling enthusiast but perhaps reluctant participant.  But this pudgy little dude was certainly excited to do whatever it takes to keep XC racing alive and well at Ponca.  And when I next saw Glen, in the spring of this year, I didn’t recognize him at first.  He wasn’t just bringing his son to race.  He was signed up to race.  For a long time– marathon, in fact.  He was a shell of his former self.  Slender, focused, always positive.  This is a guy that made a lifestyle turnaround and was clearly loving every minute.  And what was his big goal?  None other than our beloved Five-O.  Ladies and gentleman, in the summer of 2010 I wouldn’t have trusted Glen to make it to Aid 1 without a coronary.  In 2011, though, this guy knocked out 50mi of techy singletrack and climbing in just five hours and 10 minutes, 40th out of 134 riders in his age group.  I have no doubt he’ll be back next year, and I better be on my A-game if I want to stay ahead of him.

Mike Farrell and Martin Bixby… now these guys have been around for awhile.  They know mountain biking, they know volunteering, they know the scene.  But they don’t exactly train all the time (well, by my dumb standards), and they don’t exactly ride mountain bikes for hours on end all the time.  But they do have some appetite for adventure and big hairy audacious goals.  They knew this would be different than their usual 5-15mi XC race.  For Martin, this would be his longest ride of the year, and I think the same probably applies for Mike.  Both  came in with flying colors, Martin met his expectations of a sub 6 hour finish, and continues to rave about the course, the finish line party, the camping accomodations, and the overall vibe.  He’ll be back.

Todd and I were waiting for April at the last paved corner for a bit, when we saw Mike approaching.  About 70 yards ahead of him, some dude looked like he was hurting on the bike.  As the lead guy (hurting) rode by, I quietly said “just chill dude, you’re almost there, good job.”  He looked relieved, and gently rode around the last corner to face the 400m (?) false flat to the finish.  A few seconds later, when Mike rode by, I screamed “go! go!  that dude is slowing down!”  I was totally entertaining myself.  Sure enough, I saw Mike’s chain go to the big ring and he jumped out of the saddle!  Mike pegged it all the way to the line and right past that other guy (who was probably in a different age group, but hey?).
John Downey took HOURS off his time from his last attempt in 2008.  Progress feels great, you’ve earned it.  Brandon Mullins, another top notch Ponca steward, had a good time too.

Many people ride bikes.  Some people race.  A select few don’t just race, they’re ambassadors.  They bring friends to races.  They motivate others.  They lead group rides, and genuinely build excitement around them about great rides and great events.  I think we’re fortunate to have quite of few of these folks in our regional scene, but few are so new and energetic as Liz.  For Elizabeth Reinkordt, the Dakota Five-O was to be her longest singletrack race ever (pretty sure, anyway).  And with something new: rocks!  She tells her story quite well here.  Needless to say, it’s pleasure to see her perform so well and find so much joy throughout such a “painfully beautiful” race.

Some mtb veterans had good days too…
Matt Gersib… had a great start just like last year.  It’s good to be with friends on a tough climb, and we were right together.  Right behind me on the steeps, it sounded like he was breathing too hard– I almost worried for him.  In 2010, he had a good start then crumbled a bit.  This year, as I settled in to a pace I felt was sustainable, Gersib kept it moving.  He went around and I watched him ride away… I was nervous I’d see him later in the race, trailside losing his lunch or something. Nope, he stuck it, 4:22 and 22nd place.  I told him later “now THAT’s the Matt Gersib I’ve come to know!”  Way to race, buddy.

Jay Chesterman, who I’d bested at the last local XC race, bridged to the leaders on the gravel road climb, probably into a top 10 spot.  I thought “he’ll blow up and I’ll see him after aid 2.”  Nope.  Jay crushed it.  Every mile of it, 4:02.  Hope to be with you next year buddy, and I think I can.  :-)

Rafal, Eyberg, Will Wolf, Jeremy Cook, Todd Wixon… all had good races and improved over last years times, even with JC taking a detour.  You guys are on my heels, I feel pushed.  Motivated.  Stoked.

I know there’s even more friends and stories that I’m missing here.  So many good experiences!  I’m already making plans for a better race next year, and I hope that once again I’ll be able to share the race with some great people!

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