After a 24 hour driving experience with a nice stopover and short ride in LaCrosse Wisconsin, I arrived in Sturgis Thursday night in preparation for the T100 on Saturday. Being a bit tired from the long drive it was nice to relax on Friday and take in some good nutrition and just wrap my head around what was to go down on the next morning. I got in a nice hour preride on the opening climb so I would have a decent idea of what lie ahead when the singletrack came. So I pulled into the parking lot Saturday morning and my teammate Jeff and I were pretty much the first ones there. I had that eerie feeling of am I in the right place? But after a few minutes and more cars rolled in I knew I was good. It was a 5 am start which was REALLY early, if you were on mountain time. Being from the east coast that was 7 am so I felt pretty good with that start.
The horn went off and so were we. It was supposed to be a neutral controlled roll out but when the cop rolled out doing 25, most seemed to want to do the same speed to keep up. It was a bit harder than I'd liked but it put the lead group in a good spot going into the first climb. The climb was uneventful and just some amazing singletrack. The first 65 miles were supposed to be all nice trails and it didn't disappoint. I got caught in some traffic and after some smart moves I picked my way through and was moving up nicely. I was probably sitting in the top 10 overall for the first 30 miles or so until I slashed my tire in a creek crossing. Great. I stopped to spin the tire and let the stans work but no luck. It was going very soft. I took out my C02 and it would not work. WTF? I screwed on the valve and nothing. Tried the other C02 I had and nothing. So now I was stranded with a low leaking tire. I probably rode the next two miles or so with a decent amount of vert on this tire just hoping it would either last long enough to get to the next aid station, or that someone would be nice enough to loan me a C02. Finally it just got too low to ride. I had to stop. I was in such a good place I knew I wouldn't see anybody for a while - great.
So with my MacGuyver hat on for the moment I took out my multi-tool, found the smallest allen key, put it in the depression on the C02 where the valve should have punctured it, and smacked it against a tree to puncture the canister. It worked! I put the valve on quickly and hit my tire with some air. Yes! But to my misfortune the tire wouldn't seal and I only made it a few feet before I realized I would have to throw a tube in. So with a tube in and many people passing by this point I used the remainder of my C02 and had none left. A nice racer stopped by and loaned me his pump and I graciously filled my tire and took off. Finally I was back on track with an over inflated but working tire and was ready to pick off as many people that passed me as I could. I settled into the next climb and just started counting one racer at a time as I passed. It's a great feeling as that happens but I knew to limit my effort and just take it as they come.
So after that point I rolled into the 50 mile aid station feeling good but tired. There is a LOT of climbing in the first half and I knew there was a decent amount to come as well. I was dreading the hike a bike and the rail trail. At this point I really had no idea what was to come. Through the mid aid I was on some really beautiful trail with some ridges on either side of me. As I went further and further they started closing in on me. Then the right hand turn sign appeared and the hike a bike was upon me. It was steep. I mean really steep. I pushed my bike up it and had to place each step so I didn't slide backwards. I even used a tree part way up to rest as I heckled those beneath me. Once up the steep part it didn't get much easier as well. It was probably a 1/2 mile hike a bike or so until it was worth pedaling. But over the next descent and another nice section of trail it led to the Mickelson rail trail.
The Mick was painful. It was 16 miles or so of 1-2% rail trail and it just never ended. I was working at this point with Dwayne and Peat from Team Noah and we just kept each other company as the pain dragged on. We agreed not to lose each other and just keep it going. It was 13 miles an hour forever it seemed. Finally at mile 72 it rolled down as we crested the top but the damage was done. The trail didn't kill me but the one aid station with only Heed did. My stomach can not handle that stuff and this was direct proof. I knew there was only 25 miles or so left in the race but I had no power. The legs didn't give up but my stomach did. I was in such distress that as soon as I tried to put ANY power down, I thought I was going to crap myself...literally. I planned so many times where I would jump off the trail and drop my bibs to help relieve the issue but I just couldn't give up on the race like that. Looking back I probably should have.
So through the last few hills that were short but plentiful I had to kick back and do my own thing as I was in so much pain. I let Dwayne and Peat go and just hoped I could hold off whoever was behind me. From the earlier issue with the tire I still wasn't sure what place I was in but hoped for a good finish. This was slowly diminishing. I kept on with whatever pace I could do and I actually caught up to Dwayne and Peat a little later. I knew we were getting closer to the finish but I felt like it would never come. To make things worse a few racers had said that it's really more of 105 miles than 100. So that was really painful as I just wanted to get to the finish. Through the last couple of downhills and a sweet ride through the town of Sturgis drainage, Dwayne, Peat and myself cranked back into town to complete the Tatanka 100. They were both gracious enough to hold back and let me cross for some reason and it was great to have spent a good deal of time with both of these amazing riders.
In the end I finished 14th overall with 9th in open men in a time of 9:25. It was my best or worst race but sure was memorable with all the great trail and all of the issues that were dealt with. It's one that if you have a chance to get to I'd put it on my list. Great organization, trail marking, food, and just an overall great race. I'd love to get there again if I had the chance.