Last week I went to South Dakota for a fat-bike race. The race didn’t go so well, and I ended up dropping out at 29 miles instead of the 69, but all-in-all it was probably a good thing. I picked up my upgraded Pugsley from the bike shop Tuesday afternoon
and headed out early Wednesday morning. I got to Sioux Falls around 4, and stopped by Two-Wheeler Dealer, the bike shop that was putting on the race, to make introductions. I met Joe Stiller, one of the organizers and also a Tuscobia Winter Ultra 150 racer. I also met Kamp Kirsch, the shop owner and another race organizer. I talked with those guys for a few, got a copy of the course map, and then headed out for a 4 more hour drive to Rapid City. I got there around 11pm (it was actually only 10 because of the time change, but I didn’t realize that I changed time zones until the next night, haha. I’m slow like that). On Wednesday, I headed out to do the South Dakota tourism thing. I swear, winter is the best time to visit National Parks! There was exactly one other car on the way to Mt. Rushmore.
After Rushmore, I headed north to Deadwood, which was fairly quiet as well.
I unloaded the Pugs and headed out on the Mickelson Trail, a 105 mile rail-trail that connects Deadwood and Edgemont. In the winter, snow-mobiles are allowed on it. The day I was riding, it was around 45 degrees, and the top layer was slush. I aired the tires down to around 4-5 PSI, and was able to get decent traction, but the going was slow, and uphill to boot. I rode about 10-12 miles, and turned around and headed back to town. Of course, I got about 20 minutes into the ride and realized I left my phone in the car, so I have no pictures other than the one I took at the trailhead when I got back. The trail would make an awesome overnight ride with better riding conditions and freezing temperatures, though!
Back in Deadwood, I stopped and had lunch at The Gem, which is a casino, bar, and grill on the site of the original notorious Gem “Theater” owned by Al Swearengen, that was depicted in the HBO series “Deadwood.” After doing some reading up on the place, the Swearengen depicted in the TV show is much milder than the real-life Al Swearengen.
After lunch in Deadwood, I headed back to Rapid City via Sturgis. No motorcycles were in sight, and the town looked pretty dead, so I didn’t even stop. I checked in a hotel in Rapid City, crashed, and hit the road Friday morning for the drive back to Sioux Falls. I grabbed a room there, and met some of the other racers for dinner Friday night. I got up around 7 Saturday morning, as being the race didn’t start until 10. I got dressed, and headed over to McNally’s, an Irish bar and grill, where the race started and ended. The organizers had a breakfast laid on for us, which was awesome, by the way, so I grabbed a plate and a couple cups of coffee from the bar.
Here’s some of the racers at McNally’s before the start. I just want to say that this was an extremely well-organized event, especially for the first year! The bike shop had mechanics on hand prior to the race, breakfast and dinner were both included, the swag-bags and prizes were awesome (like a pair of 120TPI Surly Nates awesome), and the checkpoint was well-organized (and at a winery). Basically, if you’re a fat-biker, this race is one to put on the calendar for next year!
About 10 minutes before the race, we went outside for a pre-race meeting
then lined up for a picture for the local newspaper who was covering the event.
We lined up, they said go, and… CHUNK. My chain came off. No shit. I hadn’t even gotten out of the goddamn parking lot, and I was a quarter of a mile behind. I got the chain back on the derailleur, and it kept slipping to the small ring. I finally got it to go back on the big ring, but thought I would never catch the group. About 3 miles in, I passed one racer, and a mile later, 4 racers, including Tina Stiller, stopped for a bit, and I was able to catch up with them. I rode with them for most of the way to the first checkpoint, although they pulled ahead on the horrendous hike-a-bike.
These two pictures were both taken by the photographer from the newspaper. Actual riding was fairly easy, as being we head a tailwind, and the roads were packed, and we were easily able to go 14-15mph, which is FLYING on a fat bike.
A picture of one of the people I was riding with. I’m horrible with names. Sorry dude, haha.
The hike-a-bike, however, was what really killed me. By the time we hit it, my hydration hose had frozen solid, and instead of the 1/2 mile or so that I was envisioning, it was easily two miles of uphill slogging through knee+ deep slow. By the time I got to the top, my thighs were on fire! After building up a pretty heavy sweat, I crested the Energizer Bunny Hill (it just kept going and going and going), I almost immediately coasted into a big downhill… and freaking froze. My thighs locked up tight with cramps, and it was all I could do to get to the checkpoint. I was there about 30 minutes before the cramps let loose, and just decided to call it. I could have taken off again, but if I would have cramped up again in the middle of BFSD, I could have been really screwed. The final decision-maker was that it started snowing again, and although it stopped shortly after it started, I had made up my mind I was done, so I was done.
I waited at the checkpoint, and snapped a few pictures as people came in.
When the 27 mile racers came in, I congratulated them. The first place winner was a girl on a SS Pugsley, so I started chatting with her. She said her name was Jill Hueckman, and I knew it sounded familiar, but couldn’t place it. She was in Rapid City for a business trip, and made the trip over to Sioux Falls for the race, but lived in Denver. We got to talking, and she said she was in fourth or fifth until the hike-a-bike, and managed to pull ahead because that’s what she was used to in Colorado. I told her I had bike-packed the Vapor Trail, and was intimately familiar with Colorado hike-a-bike. She laughed and said she has done the Colorado Trail and the AZT. To win the “mine’s longer than yours” debate, I told her I had done 1,200 miles on this year’s Tour Divide, and she said she was not only doing the Divide this year, but going for a triple-crown, which also includes the Arizona Trail Race and the Colorado Trail Race – definitely a serious challenge! It’s always great to meet a fellow bike-packer and ultra racer, even though she’s much, much faster than I am, haha! You should check out her blog – All Things Epic.
Jill on the left, and the second-place woman on the right.
After everyone had came through or was accounted for, we headed back to McNally’s for the after-race awards and food. I stayed there for a while chatting with Jill, her roommate, and other racers, then headed back to the hotel, got warmed up in the hot tub, and headed back to KS early Sunday morning. When I left Sioux Falls, it was a whopping 4 degrees, but I had a really nice surprise waiting for me, because by the time I was on the KS turnpike headed back to Emporia, it looked something like this:
Nothing like a 55 degree temperature swing in 6 hours.
See you down the road (just not in Scotland because my 520 mile mountain bike race through the Scottish Highlands followed by four days of sight-seeing in Wales and England ending with a trip to France to attend the 70th anniversary ceremony of the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach has been cancelled because the Kansas Army National Guard is
fucking forcing soldiers with a second 2-week training event that somehow just became mandatory. If it seems like I’ve been in a really bad mood, that would be the reason. I’m so fucking done.),