Sunday, August 10, 2014

Maah Daah Hey 100

For the last couple of years I have wanted to take up the challenge of doing the Maah Daah Hey 100 in a day. Ripping through the North Dakota badlands in the August sun definitely sounds like a challenge. This year I got it on the calendar right after they opened registration. Since the race is in August, I would be rocking the single speed. The gears were taken off the day after the Royal 162 but the carbon niner fork remained. The decision was to ride it rigid but the gearing was still unknown. I got to asking around, did some research on the interwebs, and came up with a plan. Since i rock the 38 in the front, i did some math and decided a 22 in the back should work out well for the climbs and distance. 38x22 was a go and the last thing was tires. To aid in some suspension, i went with a 2.4 in the front. A little extra cushion to absorb some of the pushin' is a great help before too long.

So the bike is in order and we got up to the CCC campground on Thursday evening in time to set up the tent and crack a beer before gazing at the moon. On Friday, we got a taste of the trail. We met up with Chris Skogen and the Rochester posse. The singletrack started right from the campground and we were in it. The first couple miles are flowy and then the climbing begins. A series of switchbacks made for a good climb. Only one of them was a bit of trouble because of erosion but the gear was fine to make the climb. At the top, the trail provided an amazing view of the the badlands. Amazing was all i can say. The trail made for some great recovery and dodging the fresh cow pies made for even more excitement. We got about 5 miles in or so and turned around. A taste was had and the rest of the day was for prepping and relaxing.

Just before 7:00 am I was lined up in the campground with about 100 others who were either in for doing the 100 solo or part of a team. I got to talking with a few other single speeders and there was a 32x18 and a 32x20 represented. Having another with virtually the same gearing, 32x20, gave me some confidence that is was the right choice. When the gun went off, i got off to a leisurely pace. There were many miles to go and i always feel better when starting slow and get into the rhythm. During the first couple miles, i past a few people who were going at a bit slower pace than i wanted and when we got to the switchbacks, i was able to keep up or jump off and briefly jog since the pace was too slow for me to continue momentum in the climb. The guy behind me said i was doing fine so i didn't pull over and stayed with it. The top came quickly and i was feeling good and riding with Ben Oney and Alex Oenes. That was a pleasure. The trail was nice, the air was cool, the legs felt great and a good time was had. I kept in my comfort zone and was having a good ride. I held a few of the cow gates for some people and in turn, they held them for me as we continued to roll. The gates were along the trail at times to make it through the fencing. I was often hopping of my bike to open them to make sure they did not come crashing down on my back wheel. There were a number of climbs and arroyo crossings. Some of those crossings were forced dismounts since the entrance was really unrideable, for many reasons like steep or erosion. The sights were awesome though and the field was thinned out considerably.

I rolled into the first checkpoint at 25 miles and was happy to hear that i was second single speeder through. I was around the 20th person and the first single speed was 3rd...that blew me away and i was wondering how that would hold up as the sun got higher. It was already starting to bring some heat but it really wasn't too bad. I refilled my water, got the mix together for the bottles and changed out some snacks. For hydration i had on a Camelbak for water and two large bottles with drink mix. For food, i was eating on some Honey Stinger waffles and checkpoint banana provisions. I left the checkpoint with Ben and i was feeling good. We rode together for a while but at some point, i rode away. I didn't feel like i was hammering or anything but my pace was matching my enthusiasm. The legs felt good and i did too. More ups and downs and the Little Missouri was crossed. I was warned about little rocks and sand that will get in the shoe so after the river, I made the climb to the second checkpoint at the 50 mile mark where a pair of dry socks awaited.

The sun was getting to be unforgiving like Clint Eastwood so hydration was essential. I found my drop bag and realized that it was the bag i wanted at the 3rd checkpoint. There goes a bit of my food/caffeine/light carrying strategy. I got to mixing up the water bottles, ate some chips, changed socks and took off. After 300 yards, i realized i didn't refill my Camelbak so i turned around and got that water on. I know the second 50 was a bit more manageable than the first but I was already 5.5 hours in the race and this next stretch was full of more sun...there was on little bits of shade from a tree here or there along this trail. The sun is really the hardest element on this trail and the full afternoon was upon me. For the next couple hours, I could feel my core temp rising. Around the 65 mile mark, i started taking it real easy on the climbs and walking some to try to cool down. I would take a couple breaths in the bits of shade that would sparingly come by. My pace was grinding to nearly a halt but I really wanted to stave off heat exhaustion. Around mile 70 or so, a fellow single speeder caught me and we rode a bit together. On a climb, i scampered away which allowed me to arrive in checkpoint 3 first. We were there together and i drank a coke and was looking forward to the final push. I tried to eat a bag of chips but was not able to finish it...that should have been a sign, but i was beginning to feel a bit recovered so i took off.

This final section was predominantly a drop in elevation but there were plenty of little climbs to put some hurt on this guy with a heated core. I made it well for 6 or 7 miles but the going got tough. On what was unknown to me, I pulled up on the last of the longer climbs of the section. I found some shade to sit a spell and get rid of my dizziness and take in some electrolytes.

As i sat there, the fellow singlespeeder from checkpoint 3 passed. In time, a woman on a single passed me too. Then a guy muscling up with a fatbike. At this point, i was probly sitting there for 20-30 minutes. I got on the bike and made my way to a road crossing at mile 90 where i know folks would be. At the crossing, i doused myself with some water and sat a spell again in the shade. My 13 hour finishing goal was fading fast but i was confident i would finish...that was the true goal. After i took off from there, i saw no one until mile 101. It was another single speeded. Apparently the guy who was killing it in the beginning race faded and was trickling in. That invigorated me and the final downhill descent to the pavement and the ride to the finish line was all good. I rolled in with a time just under 13.5 hours and the 3rd single. The top male and female single speeds past me as i sat in the shade. Much respect to them for handling the heat better than sho! When looking at the results of the race, i saw that i was slated in the Open category and was 15th...I'll take it despite registering and riding single.

A lot of people thought i was crazy to ride the trail fully rigid. There were times when the cattle hoof prints made for some bumpy terrain, especially on the descents. My wrists were fine after the race and the next day driving back, they were AOK. Come Monday when i started typing on the computer though, that they got to hurting. Typing is rough on the wrists and i think i am gonna strike it rich by inventing some suspension for keyboard usage. I'll include the quickstarter campaign when i get the prototype up and running. All in all though, the gearing was right on. No hills were too steep to climb, i could set a good pace and stick to it, but the failure was salt intake. Next time i do something like this, i am bringing chicken stock and not messing around anymore. The end was at a campground where the needed shower was so good. The only issue though was the lack of eating choices. They were all a few blocks away in town and missing the shuttle back to the campground did not sound like a pleasant way to spend the evening. I do recommend putting this race on the to do list. It is amazing terrain and very well organized. The volunteers were so friendly and helpful. Kudos to Nick for the event and would consider doing it again...but i hope to have a little better heat management skills by then. Below is the fine stats provided by Garmin

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