Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Race Report: Tatanka 100

The Tatanka 100 quickly become a race I wanted to 'complete' to a race I wanted to 'compete' in when I learned it had been shortened from it's original 100 mile length.  After successfully completing the Bailey Hundo, which had similar mileage and climbing (10,000) with a top fifteen finish, I knew I could do well at the Tatanka if I felt as good I did at Bailey.  To ensure I went into the Tatanka in prime form, I lost a couple of pounds and decided to drop out of the Firecracker 50 midway to save myself for the big point-to-point in South Dakota.  I figured if I could complete the Bailey Hundo in under seven hours, I should be able to break eight hours at Tatanka which had a lot more singletrack.  What I didn't realize was just how brutal the riding was going to be.

The start of the race was at Mount Rushmore.  This was by far the coolest start of a race I've ever done.  Admittedly though, I was too much in race mode to truly take in the historical monument.  After a long road lead out, I was able to be the fourth to the singletrack.  Typically, races start out with a climb to spread out the field.  This race started with a fast descent. It made things interesting to say the least.  Let's just say I was very happy to be at the front of the pack.

In front on the lead out
Photo by Les Heiserman
I was in the lead group along with a friend, local Golden fast guy Kelly Magelky.  Knowing just how fast Kelly is, I knew I wasn't going to keep his pace all day.  Sure enough, on the first big climb he pulled away with two other fast guys.  That put me in fourth, and I had no intentions of chasing.  I should mention that at the time I only counted two ahead of me and thought I was sitting third for most of the day.  Come to find I was sort of right.  Kelly had been sick for the last two days.  He made it a long way before stopping at an aid station, fell ill, and decided to throw in the towel.  The fact that he even started and then held it together for so long is a testament of how great of a racer he is.  Sometimes unforeseen circumstances happen in a race, and you have to make the safest call.

Me with Jamie Lamb who took the win for the day
Photo by Jennifer Bush
As I climbed higher and higher on the first big climb it kept getting steeper, and more technical.  Near the end of it there was a lot of hike-a-bike.  I really, really hate hiking my bike in a race.  Even at a slow pace, it seems as soon as my foot hits the ground my heart rate spikes.  I know I lost a lot of time in that section, but after it was done there still wasn't anyone in sight behind me.  Luckily, that was the only spot in the race that required hiking my bike.  I appreciated that it was at the beginning of the race, and not the end.

Ugh! Stairs after a long hike-a-bike section!
Photo by Les Heiserman
When I pre-rode some of the trail on Friday in Sturgis, I noticed that a lot of it was overgrown.  I figured that not a lot of people rode trail in Sturgis and thought that trail closer to Rapid City was more ridden.  Come to find out, not many people ride ANY trail in South Dakota, or at least not on the Continental Trail #89 which the course follows.  There was a lot of riding through knee high weeds, or what you may call deer trail. The whole time I was hoping I didn't get a weed stuck in my derailleur.  There was also a fair bit of riding through fields with a path mowed through it in what I like to call cyclocross style.  Miles of ATV/Jeep roads with endless mud holes filled with month old standing water left my drivetrain and entire bike covered with mud.  Between the weeds and the mud, keeping my drivetrain clean and making well calculated shifts to not brake a chain was my top priority.  I'd say the whole race had about 30% of "true" singletrack, but the little singletrack that there was was pretty darn good.

Me and my dirty bike coming into an aid station
Photo by Jennifer Bush
Since I spent a lot of time on terrain that I considered "nontraditional" in at mountain bike race, it was tough to know if I was on the right path or not.  There was a couple of times that I blew right through a path I was supposed to turn, and I somehow spotted it at the corner of my eye before going too far.  After speaking with several other racers, it seems the mass majority weren't as lucky and ended up tacking on a lot more mileage because they got lost.

Photo by Jennifer Bush
Most of the day I rode alone, except for a short time when 92Fifty rider Richie Trent passed me.  Team 92Fifty is another local team with a lot of fast guys.  Richie was on a singlespeed and tearing it up.  I hung on for a little bit knowing if I could hold his wheel on the climbs it would help put a big gap on anyone behind me.  Let me tell you, it was a tough wheel to hang on to!  Eventually Richie pulled away.

After what seemed like forever, I reached the last big climb which was followed by a long ten plus mile descent with one last short steep climb in the middle.  I pushed hard on that last big climb.  I knew if nobody else passed me on the climb, I was fast enough on the downhill to hold my spot.  There were some blurry moments on that climb with insanely steep grades over really rocky terrain.  There was no way I was putting my foot down though, so I dug deep into my pain cave to clear each one.

There I was, on the top of the last climb with a long descent a head of me.  I thought about the countless team rides I'd been on with all my enduro racers where I'd scare the hell out of myself holding their wheel.  All I could think about was that I needed to rip this downhill as fast as I could.  It was time to go into ENDURO MODE!!!  I ripped down the singletrack going mach speed, and flew up one last short climb before going back into fast descending.  When I finally made it to the bottom, I only had a couple of miles of rolling terrain to go.  My enduro mode paid off as I passed Richie within the last few miles.

The last mile of the race was a flat bike path.  I hit the bike path with six minutes before my eight hours mark.  My mind was way too foggy to calculate how fast I needed to go to finish under eight.  All I knew was that I had to push hard and I dug deeper than I ever have.  It was a mile long time trial to the finish.  Hopefully there was nobody within listening distance from me because I was letting out some bellows that must of sounded like a dying animal.  All the hurting paid off though as I crossed the line at 7:57:55.8.

Giving it all I had to the finish
Photo by Taylar Applegate

Extreme happiness after breaking the eight hour mark
Photo Taylar Applegate
The announcer confirmed that I was third overall!  It was a long tough day on a bike, but by staying focused and just racing my own race I came out on top.  Third overall in such a hard race is a new career best for me, and one that I'll cherish for a long time. I still have a long way to the top, but it feels good to see a big progression in the right direction.

Photo by Taylar Applegate


After such a hard effort at Tatanka, I decided to drop the Breck 68 this year.  Also, I've decided to swap the Steamboat Stinger for the Laramie Enduro.  Not only do the dates work better for my family, it also has a better distance and amount of climbing for my racing abilities.  After Laramie, it'll be time to train for cyclocross!

Victory tastes good!