Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dakota 50 Race Report

By Jon Maule (@jonmaule)
Last summer we took a long weekend to experience the Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse/Deadwood “stuff” up in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The weather was perfect, Rapid City was a blast and as we drove home, I told my wife about a race called the Dakota Five-0 that happened around Spearfish (we drove near it on the way to Deadwood); she said she’d be up for the trip if I got in.

Well, I happen to have lucked into a slot for the 2014 race (after my massage therapist decided to stop racing).  Everything I’ve heard about it had been second hand and all of that had positive spin so once we arranged to transfer registration I was excited to have a good time there.

A pretty decent drive (6hrs if you stay around the speed limit), Spearfish is a pretty small town (~11k residents according to the sign on the highway) but there’s a pretty big cycling culture with two stores on main street and signed bike parking at most establishments.   Similar to the events in Leadville, the whole town is engaged for the race with events occurring nightly up to and through the day of the race. 

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From what I understand, the race always happens on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend - great for travel reasons – and with the “event” type vibe the majority of the people don’t seem in a hurry to leave immediately afterwards as Monday is a holiday for most.  The bulk of the people stay at the city campground ($20 per night per tent for one adult, $1 for each addtl peep with free showers) so it was easy to find people you know and meet new friends.

We rolled in Saturday afternoon so unfortunately we missed the Strider races on Friday night but Laina did catch the boat race that happened in the creek that runs through the campground while I was out previewing the start of the course.

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A typical lollipop – they alternate the direction each year – the race starts out with three or so miles of climbing on pavement/dirt roads before transitioning to singletrack/doubletrack….  Since Alison had given me basically four weeks of pretty low intensity as a break before cx season, I wasn’t sure how I’d react to a 20min LT effort followed by 4+ hrs of racing but to cut to the chase it went alright.  I was hoping for a sub-5 hr finish but that was undone by my lack of course knowledge.  Somewhere around 4hrs I looked at my garmin and saw that I was only ~30 miles in.  Kind of an “oh, !@$# this is going to be a long/cold/wet day” moment.  What I didn’t realize/remember was that save for one reasonable ~500ft fire road climb the rest was downhill.  So rather than going all out for the next hour, I was saving for “something” that never happened finishing 208th of ~550 finishers at 5:14 – 56th out of 145 Age group finishers so right around the bottom of the top 1/3 I’ve been shooting for.

Data type things

Highlight – a tie between bombing the 3mile road descent and having enough juice left to blow by quite a few people on the way to the finish – and – high fiving the same little guy at each aid station (except the Bacon station at mile 33).
Lowlight – after trying to fix what I thought was headset play on Saturday (actually sloppy fork bushings or something that probably needs replacement/rebuild) I only tightened one pinch bolt on the stem.  Thankfully I found this out on a slow uphill tech move.

Technical Deets
Weather was cold (my campsite neighbor said when I passed one of the aid stations it was 46) and drizzly leaving much of the exposed rock very greasy.  I feel I race better in the cooler environments than hot (see my recent Laramie Enduro for anecdotal evidence) and would probably consider the temps to be about perfect.  The weather called for some warmer embro than I brought but it worked fine (quoleum warm/1) and I just rolled with a Craft cool mesh base layer (which I LOVE) and Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier Arm warmers never really feeling the need to wear a vest/jacket.

I wouldn’t call the course “technical” per se but it was loose and tight & twisty, enough so that it was tough to eat and I’m darn glad I wore my pack.  Could have used a more aggressive rear tire but by and large the AKA handled most of the course well.

I ran typical Ardent 2.25 up front at 26#, Geax AKA @ 29# on the wide carbon rims.  38/24 front and 11-36 rear.  Went through 3 packs of Pro-Bar Bolt chews, 3 gels, some pretzels, 2 pieces of bacon and a small cup of some New Belguim stuff that tasted like PBR (not in a good way but the gesture was definitely appreciated) - was offered vodka but I prefer whiskey when "racing"

What did I learn
                I’d definitely do this race again… I think it’s a wash between a hardtail and a full-squish here.  A relatively fast course, I think the opposite direction might favor a hardtail due to wheelbase / maneuverability type situations.  I might run a bigger front tire for a little more grip in the corners and cushion over the bumps (!@#$ing cows J) but probably wouldn’t mess with the gearing.  Maybe I’d go with a 39/26 up front but I’d want to drop some lbs first.  Would be a great race to do as a team type function...???

A fun and low key event in a pretty neat little town surrounded by beautiful country in the middle of nowhere with AWESOME volunteers.  I raced as hard as I could, didn’t break nuthin and had a good time.  Will go back at some point.

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