One of the best races of the season. I say this even though I was in the "also competed" category. At least when I compare to an XTERRA event where I usually make the podium when everything works out.
A 50 mile mountain bike race, however, is another game.
There were over 600 participants of all ages and levels lining up one of the three waves. I was in the first one right behind those fast looking guys.
There was a lot of moving around after the start. Like big mass of water flowing down in a narrow canyon. Except when we started to climb it all stretched out. I wanted to be up, just behind the leaders so when we start the singletrack I would not get stuck behind anyone. After taking a quick head count I counted about 24-25 just before the trails.
I wanna say I felt confident about my strength but I really wasn't I had no idea how much the accident in July and the following week off took out of me. Sure thing I had been training rather hard keeping XTERRA USA's in mind. That course is pretty much like XTERRA Mountain was in Beaver Creek. A lot of climbing, and more climbing. Snowbasin probably has even more climbing than the one in Beaver Creek.
But back to the Dakota 5-0. Really the main goal for this event for me was to have a great workout while I preferably come in under 4 hours and around the 20th position. Last year I barely managed to cross the finish line in 39th position and in 4h16m. I only took in about 400 calories. I figured I would be smarter and bring a camelback with me with plenty of water and gels, blocks stuck in my pocket. I even added another water bottle 3/4 full on my bike. The problem was that I never tested the camelback during rides. I was simply unable to get anything out of it. While riding at an effort level I was there was absolutely no way I could have ever drink the water. That was mistake #1. Mistake #2 was even worse though. I carried that about 2.5 lbs water tank for a good 30 miles, slushing on my back, before I called it and emptied it. Immediately after I felt lighter and it was also easier to climb those hills. I just wish I was smarter and made this decision earlier. It would have very likely saved me enough energy to meet one of my goals for this race.
The course and weather were perfect. The little rain that fell a day before was just what the trail needed so it wasn't all dried up and dusty. Although I have ridden the course before I really didn't know the course any better than last year when I raced it for the first time. One year of mountain biking, even if not all that much, made a big difference. The rocks were not as terrifying anymore. Although I still walked the bike down during a technical section, just like last year, I want to believe I did it to reduce the risk of injuries.
I certainly felt faster on the climbs and in the end it manifested itself in a 11 minute improvement over last year's time. I raced the downhill trying to catch another racer but he was too far in the distance. I came in 18th overall with a time of 4h5m01s.
Huge congrats to Christopher Knoll who passed me just about 3 miles before the end of the singletrack and left me in the dust. He ended up finishing with a PR of 4h03m23s and in 16th position. Also big kudos to all riders from Bismarck/Mandan and the rest of NoDak.
2014's Dakota 5-0 was a blast and I can't wait to race it again.
This time the goal will be a sub-4 finish, and a top 10.