Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life at 10,000ft. Again.

It seems time has been pretty limited lately. That’s what happens I guess when you have a career, spend time and energy as a bike racer, remodel a house, and become a father. These are all things that I feel very lucky about, so the time constriction isn’t really bothersome, but it’s just there. However, since this is about bike racing, I’ll keep it at that.

Rachel and I find ourselves in Breckenridge for a few weeks again this summer as my producing partner and I continue the post-production work on our films.

Admittedly, I'm a little bummed that I don't have hours upon hours to explore trails and train around here, but I have been doing my share and I've been able to race a little bit here and there.

I’ve had some time over the winter to reflect on the previous season and think about what I want to do and change the next time around. I left off last time just shy of the solo 24 hour worlds, which took place in Northern CA in October. And as I’ve mentioned before, there are only a handful of things I want to do in cycling before I call the racing side of it off. One of those is this 24 hour win. It is SO much easier said than done, but I wouldn’t take so much time to train and prepare and sacrifice time with friends and family if I didn’t think it was possible - and I knew I was in good enough condition to show up and give it a proper shot last year. I felt like I was in the best shape I could be in and coming off of a few good wins I was confidant in my preparation.

But, this is bike racing and best laid plans always become best suggestions. I rolled out to CA with one of the staples in my cycling life, Nick Howe. He was there for my first worlds attempt in 2006 and has been steadfast in supporting me, calling me out when I’m not prepared enough, and just an all around motivator when I’m in need most. Meeting me out there were my aunt and uncle Sandy and Pat, cousin Tony, and long time training partner, Josh Bezecny. Also ‘meeting’ me out there were race favorites of all sorts - Tinker Juarez, Josh Tostado, 6 time world champ Jason English, and a handful of other really fast guys from around the world.

The race started as usual and I like to be in the front. In retrospect, I maybe rode too hard in the beginning, but it’s just my style of racing and when you’re riding with one of your olympic heroes, (Tinker) you tend to push just a bit harder! I managed to have a pretty good race, but the wheels came off for me just a little in the middle of the night and I faded to 6th place by the race’s end. And with that, a fun and successful 2015 was in the books!

Each year that passes, I find myself more appreciative of teams and sponsors. There was a time where I didn't necessarily expect to be on a team and have great sponsors, but it became the norm. Now, I’m always aware of the fact I need to be working for it. We are mountain bike racers, therefore we do not get road racer salaries, but what we do get in terms of support/product/money is all gravy because we get to do what we love, in cool places, with cool people. So when I was invited back to the Honey Stinger/Bontrager Team for 2016 I was excited as usual!


I’ve had some pretty big life changes in the last few months, so my season looks a bit different than usual.

My motivation to train and be prepared has never wavered and even though time management has become essential over the last couple years, it has now become essential to everything. I’m finding myself training indoors when it’s beautiful outside so I can be close to the house, yet get quality miles in. I’m also realistic at my level of form and I know I’m behind. For me, that’s a little harder to swallow as I’m a person who wants to be in the best shape possible almost year round. However, a lot of that can be mental as the few races I have done, I feel pretty good about. I ended up 2nd at Winter Park with a really fast field and I won a Breckenridge mid-week race last week - so you take it as it comes, I suppose. There have been a few disappointments - like having to skip the Tatanka 100 and the Firecracker 50, but there’s always next season.

Next up is the MDH 100 - a staple for me as it’s a race that means so much in terms of the location, (near my parents!), the people involved in making it happen, and the fact that the race is so challenging. I’m not sure I’m in the best form, but it will be another adventure that I’m looking forward to.

As far as the next 24 hour race for me, that would be the worlds in Italy 2017. Rachel and I lived in Nice, France - about an hour and a half from where the race will be - so we are very excited to make the trip back over there next June. Lots of prep time between now and then…

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Life at 10,000 Feet

You never really know how great your stuff is until you're not around it for a while. Not that I'm complaining... Living in Breckenridge, CO for the summer has been incredible. The lifestyle, the training, and the creative cocoon have paid dividends - without a doubt. Oh, and the breakfast burritos from Cuppa Joe get my vote for 'best ever'. Plus, they're great recovery after a jaunt up and over Wheeler Pass.

I have a couple more weeks in Breck, then home, and then I make a huge change and head to Austin, TX for a while in October. All this 'should' equate to finishing a film series we've been working on for 3 years. And if I'm fortunate enough, maybe a solo 24 hour world championship, too!

I'd have to say that if my season ended today, I'd be happy and satisfied with how it all went. The results, experiences, and time spent with friends was all part of a great summer. However, the season doesn't end today and I'll have a few more opportunities to squeeze in some last races including the solo 24 hour world champs in CA. (and long rides through aspen groves during the brightly colored fall season)

The run up to the solo 24 hour race has been on track. I've had some great races over the last couple months and one of the coolest wins was the Winter Park king of the rockies. This race, to me, is a pretty legendary one as the course has been the same for the last several years and has hosted the likes of (wait for it...) Lance Armstrong back in his *heyday. (he crashed and didn't have a lot of success for those wondering)

Well, I certainly had to work for the win as Cody Waite has been crushing everyone lately and was battling me the whole way through the race. At the end, the gaps weren't huge and my teammate Josh came in third for a super solid day. This was one that I was really hoping to do well at and it's always a special race. The second time I won it it was on my great grandmother's 100th birthday.

I'm fresh off of the Dakota Five O - another one of the great bike races in America. I've tried to describe this race to people, but in all reality you just have to be there to get it. Some of the coolest people ever put the race on and there's a PBR and bacon aid station in the race. (always a good indicator of a great event) This was another great battle and I fought as hard as I could with Corey Stelljes, but he was just too fast on the day. I knew that he'd be super fast since last year he was WAY out in the lead before taking a wrong turn on the course. I knew I had to be on good form if I wanted to race with him and I felt I had the legs. (mainly due to Rob's Norma Tech recovery boots - again!) You can't be disappointed when you give it your all and end up 2nd. Plus, it couldn't happen to a cooler guy. Chapeau Corey - well done! Oh - and the after party is incredible. Free beer, of which I had two, and it was one too many...

Again, my family showed up in full force to cheer and support us. Handsome Rob Batey and teammate Josh Bezecny made the trip extra fun and they were adopted by the family support crew. I truly have the best family! (I'm biased, of course) They take time off to head to Spearfish, chase us around all day, make sure and cheer for every single rider using an arsenal of cowbells and whistles. I felt like I was in a world cup race on one of the climbs when I heard my wife, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins yelling and cheering and making an awesome amount of racket. That'll make ya fight a bit harder... (especially when the official team vehicles are out there - thanks Ryan, Pat, Sandy, Kelly, Sandy, mom, Gary, Ginger, Alexis, Eric, Hayley, Kayla, grandma, grandpa!)

With CA on the horizon, I'm feeling good. I'll be hitting the Crested Butte 100 in prep for worlds and then I'm taking time to do some fall riding and hopefully finish our films... We did celebrate a milestone in our process by hiking to the top of Peak 8 with Waylon Jenning's platinum record for 'Wanted! The Outlaws'. (for those of you who don't know, that's the first ever platinum record for a country album) Waylon's wife, Jessi, came to visit us and she couldn't be a sweeter woman. We felt honored to take it up to 13,000ft for her and their son, Shooter. Even if my legs were destroyed from the walk down...

And as always, I really do owe a huge thanks to the team. Len, Jon, and the entire crew at Honey Stinger, my friends at Trek and Bontrager, and everyone involved - it's really fun to wear the logos for you guys, but it's even more fun to hang out and ride with you all...

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Bug or the Windshield

It's kind of the same old story. Some days you're the bug, and some days you're the windshield. That doesn't change - even with years of experience.

I have put forth some lofty goals when it comes to cycling and not all of those goals are strictly to win races. Make no mistake, a lot of those are, but I'm also realistic. I've always had the goal to be appreciative of the people around me, my fellow racers, friends, and family. It's a selfish sport and requires a lot of attention on yourself and demands a lot from the people mentioned above. Another goal is to work towards a balance in life. That's a moving target and some wiggle room must be built in. Free weekends and social activities are certainly sparse during the bike racing season and I often ask myself, 'Is it really worth it?'

My answer to that is yes. That doesn't come as quickly as some would think, but what this lifestyle has given me has no accurate measurement for the quality of life it has provided. A good friend of mine, Nick Ybarra, once said, "If you have to ask, 'Why do something like this?', then you wouldn't understand my answer." I think that rings true. (even though he was referring to a 150 mile jaunt across the Badlands...) I'll plug it in to being a pro mountain bike field.

This season has been, like most others, a great and challenging one. From food poisoning a day before the Tatanka 100 in South Dakota, to winning the Maah Daah Hey 100 in scorching heat - and everything in between - it's been an adventure. Through all of it, my friends, family, and wife have been there the whole time in full support mode, caring less whether I win or not. And more than anything - worrying that I stay safe. Nothing can come close to that feeling of appreciation.

It was Rachel and my good friend Rob Batey who had to deal with me being stubborn about racing in South Dakota after throwing up all day before the Tatanka 100. (as well as at the racer's meeting)

A mutual agreement with Rach after my promise to 'make good decisions' saw me toeing the line in front of Mount Rushmore on race morning. My cousin Ryan, Sara and their girls came to SD to support as well and it was extra motivation to get on the horse and do the best I could. All was spectacular until about halfway into the race when someone hit the light switch and it was game over for me. I had absolutely nothing left to give after that. I pulled the plug, citing my promise earlier that morning and all was good. I guess you can't race 90 miles on 6 saltines and two bottles of ensure during the 24 hours leading up to it.

I bounced back and had a great race in Winter Park at the Colorado Freeride Festival. Crazy good talent and big 'Happy Gilmore' style checks made that race one to remember. It was also a great confidence booster going into one of the hardest races of the year, (in my opinion) the Maah Daah Hey 100.

The MDH 100 is a puzzle. It took me 2 years of trying to figure it out before I finally cracked it on my 3rd try. And even then, I can't exactly say how to solve it. Everything needs to be in it's right place for the day to go well. Physically, mentally, mechanically... it all needs to be in place. (especially the 'mentally' part)

The course was perfect this year and I had the legs and mind to try and pull off an 8:30 race time. There was also a helicopter filming the race and I felt like I was in the Tour de France. This gave me such great motivation to keep hammering. However, the sizzling temps in the Badlands zapped my vigor and altered my plan. I was eating PB&Js, drinking some ensure and having some sweet treats like Honey Stinger chews during the race, while drinking a ton of water. This was a great plan, but the heat took over around mile 70. It's like I was a miniature in a doll house where a child decided to grab a hair dryer, put it on 'super hot' mode, and blast me in the face for a few hours. It got hot. Real hot. I could barely make it to aid 3 and when I finally did, I knew my race was over - uness I could bring my body temp down. I had my cousin, my aunts and uncles, and my mom all dousing me with ice cold water and piling ice cubes down my jersey for about 5 minutes. I felt like a new man. That was THE key moment of my day.

I sped out of aid 3 in pursuit of the finish. I knew at this point that going under 9 hours wasn't likely due to the time I bled in the last 6 or 7 miles. It surely wasn't going to happen after my body temp rose again and I had to scrap my way to the finish. I did make it, but no new record was set. However, I'm very happy with how it all turned out and my family certainly saved the day. Everyone out there on that trail that day had to deal with the same thing and I'm proud of everyone who finished - AND everyone who made a smart decision to pull the plug and save themselves some bodily harm. I always try to remind people that it's not only you who has to deal with your broken self - it's your family and friends, too!

Back here in CO, (I'm writing this from a temporary studio in Breckenridge where we are editing our film, 'They Called Us Outlaws') I'm recovering from a great weekend of racing in Steamboat Springs where my team, Honey Stinger, puts on the Steamboat Stinger. This is absolutely one of the premiere events in the US, hands down. The level of competition here is very high and the organization of the event is unparalleled. There's even a rowdy aid station at the top of one of the final climbs where you are offered whiskey, bacon, PBR, shots, no water, and a few slaps on the ass. (I still have a hand print on mine...) I mustered up enough strength to do a wheelie through the PBR can 'beerymid' they set up.

To top it off, Larry Grossman, (the voice of CO cycling) was there calling the action. He makes us all feel like we're stars. Can't thank you enough, sir. Although I had great climbing legs, a crash early on totally got in my head and I fell apart on the descents. I bled minutes on the downhills. I wasn't pumped about that, but I was happy to be out there and seeing Rachel halfway through the race and hearing her yell for me was certainly a highlight. I'm lucky she's been patient and graceful with me as I ride circles in the dirt while wearing these tight clothes.

Time to get back to work here and plan some high country adventures for the week.

Only a few more races to go this season. Can't thank my family and friends enough for the encouraging words and support. The Team Kelly vehicles at the Maah Daah Hey were super pro!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Summer is coming

For as many years as I've been racing bikes, I've learned that I just have to face the fact that I struggle in the first few races of the season. It just hurts out there. And even though I work very hard in the off season and feel strong as I start racing, the intensity of a race is just a huge wake-up call. This year was no exception and I actually struggled to even finish the 50mi Ridgeline race. It was brutal.

There was some redemption a couple weeks later as I lined up at the Desert RATS Classic out in Fruita, CO. The weather has been so crazy here in CO and pretty much every race has been postponed due to rain, but after neurotically checking about 5 different weather sites for 2 days straight, this was the only event with a possibility to even happen. And after being postponed for one day, it was on. (Even though we rode for 4 hours the day before, we were still excited to clean the bikes and race for 100k the next day!)

Although there wasn't a big field of pros out there it was a great event on some great technical terrain. I really prefer the more rugged trails out in Fruita so this was an ideal race for me as the organizers added in the Zion Curtain trail, which has some tough climbing and descending - as well as some great views!

I ended up taking the win out there, but the best part of the weekend was just being able to spend some time with a good friend, get some additional training in, and completely steal the 'boots' from Rob so my legs were nice and recovered.

As the heart of the season comes into view, I couldn't be more motivated. I have a new focus added to this season in the form of the NUE Series, which will only help in my quest to have a good day at the solo 24 hour worlds in CA in Oct. I'm also happy to say that - for the first time in several years - I can actually plan out the summer since I won't be traveling for 3 months outside of racing. I love what I do as a filmmaker as much as I love being an athlete, but the work travel has really effected me and I'm just looking forward to having a relatively normal life for a few months! I'm pretty disciplined when I travel, but the stress of trying to figure out a workout that will actually help in my training gets extremely challenging. There's just a lot that comes into play there and I'm happy to be able to be in the mountains for an extended time.

Well, it's time to go clean the muddy clothes and bike. However, before we know it Colorado will be hot and dry and we'll all be reminiscing about the time when we had three weeks of rain and the vegetation was a rich green...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Winning and losing and onion rings

Let me cut to the chase. I went to Scotland to win the solo 24 hour world championships. I won't shy away from the fact that it was a goal of mine that was set last year. I've not only finished several solo 24s, but I've even won silver at the worlds in 2007. I wasn't really going in with any other goal than that top step.

The end result was very, very far away from what I wanted. However, if I've learned anything over the last 8 years as a mountain bike racer, it's that you have to roll with the punches.

First and foremost, I've had - and continue to have - so much support from everyone and the most undying and solid support from my close friends and family. Being an endurance athlete and working to get to the top can be a bit selfish as you leave a wake of people wondering why you look so tired, won't eat certain things, won't drink, won't stay out late, why you haven't called, and why you've disappeared off the grid for a while. The people in my life have always shown a lot of grace with me and I'll never be able to express how much I appreciate them. This life as a relative monk is fleeting and won't last forever, which is probably why I want to get the most out of it while I can - and ultimately, why I enjoy it so much. My wife, friends and family not only support me, but they motivate me and that's why I work my ass off. So when it comes to motivation to win a world championship, you don't have to look far to see who it's really for.

I landed in Glasgow in some of the best shape of my life and mentally I was in a great place. In the past, I would have had an internal battle with guilt having asked people to help me so much and having put work off during the lead up to the trip. I've learned to take it in and appreciate that I'm given the help - and not feel guilty about it! Some of the closest people to me had decided they would take a little trip to Scotland and help me out. My brother Tracey, close friend Nick, my cousins Ryan and Sara, and my aunt and uncle Pat and Sandy. That in itself was so surreal and totally amazing. The other amazing thing was learning how to drive on the left side of the road - in the right side of the car.

Ask anyone who puts a lot into one event and they'll tell you that there are always hiccups along the way. I've had a lot of great athletes teach me that you can't let anything get in your head that will foster doubt, no matter what. I had two little hiccups in the days leading up to the world champs in Fort William that I actually used as fuel: I kept getting sinus headaches in the days leading up to the race and then I had a major crash the day before the race while I was scouting the course. The more blood I saw, the more motivated I was to disregard it and focus even more - once I knew nothing was broken! Both of those, to me, were gentle reminders that nothing comes easy and you must continue to earn the victory.

The race started on Saturday at noon with a group of bagpipers leading us all out of the base of the mountain and onto the course - which was one of the best race courses I've ever ridden. It had a ton of hard climbing and crazy fun and technical descents - all in an 8.5mi lap. I started out feeling good and normal and fast. I get criticized sometimes for going out so fast in a solo 24, but generally it works out to my advantage and in some races here in the US - especially the US nationals I've done, the pace stays so hi for the entire race. (Thanks to a certain Josh Tostado) Well, a few hours in while I was still in the lead, my internal 'check engine' light came on and I just started losing power. This was real concerning to me since climbing is where I should have been just bouncing away, but instead I started to lose time and was eventually caught by Jason English - who would eventually take his 5th straight world title. The man is simply a great and consistent rider.

I never recovered and slowly slid back to 5th place. By the morning I knew I wouldn't be able to make a charge and come back, and reality set in. WARNING: Excuse to follow... Upon finishing the race, I learned I was dealing with a sinus infection. There's nothing you can really do about that. It was a bummer, but it was reality.

My biggest disappointment was that I knew of the performance I was capable of delivering. I absolutely know the lap times I should have been able to ride through the whole race. My crew knew it, too. I know they don't feel this way, but I feel like I let them down and let my friends and family down. I'm not moping here, but just being honest! However, I feel like I won a battle in the sense that I was able to deliver myself to Scotland in the best shape, ready to win. All winter/spring/summer I was riding and training for the people who support me, and I'm extremely proud of that.

I may not have been able to fly back home as the victor and have my wife pick up her 'world champ' husband, but I'll keep trying and keep working hard - and next year I will arrive at the start line in great form again. For now, though, I'll be taking some down time and having more cheeseburgers and onion rings like the ones I had after the race in Scotland. It's all about catching up now, whether that's on social life or calories.

I know that 'thank yous' can become fodder when athletes start into them, but I really have to be honest and say that I wouldn't have been able to go to Scotland without the help of:

My parents - thank you mom and Gary! Wow, I can't even wrap my head around where to begin.

My brother, Nick, Ryan, Sara, Pat and Sandy - thank you for believing in me and getting me fired up!

My wife - who is a rock for me. Wouldn't even know where to start on the list of what I'm thankful for with her.

Josh - you're a great training partner who fosters fastness and pure positivity! I'm looking forward to some Fall and Winter adventures.

George - Thanks for keeping me pretty centered, on and off the bike.

Eric G - About time we get back to the cutting room, eh?

My friends and family who I won't be able to mention individually due to space here... I'm out there for you guys.

Honey Stinger - let's keep this thing going.

Bontrager and Trek - It's been 7 years since you've decided to give me shot!

Ay-Up - Obviously your lights are amazing, but after meeting part of the crew from Oz I just want to hang out more.

The Human body - you're ability to heal is an absolute miracle.

And you - for reading this far down.

Happy trails everyone!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

They're Called the Badlands for a Reason

‘If it’s going to happen, it has to be today.’

I was telling myself this as I was racing through the Badlands of North Dakota in the Maah Daah Hey 100 just over a week ago. This was in reference to finishing the race in under 9 hours - something that doesn't seem that difficult to most pro endurance racers when compared to other 100 mile races. This, however, is no ordinary 100 mile race. The roughness of the course, the cattle gates, the nearly 100% single track, and the brutal exposure make this race a very special one. For those who aren’t familiar with the Badlands, I’ll let the words of early Americans describe them: ‘Hell with the fires put out.’

To me, the Badlands are one of the most beautiful areas in the US. I loved visiting them when I was younger and I love visiting them now, usually with friends in tow to go ride bikes. ND is home to the Maah Daah Hey trail - a (roughly) 100 mile single track trail that runs North/South through the Badlands and includes a river crossing through the Little Missouri around the halfway point. The trail has received rave reviews from around the world - and rightfully so! There’s truly nothing else like it. And, this trail wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for a true steward of the land, a fellow by the name of Nick Ybarra.

For the past few years Nick and his wife, Lindsey, have taken it upon themselves to host, acquire permits, promote, and procure the trail so that a group of us racers/riders can come race/ride the entire Maah Daah Hey in a day. I rode with Nick a few days ago when he came to CO for a wedding and after asking him all about the process of getting the trail ready he told me that he pushed a brush mower a total of 132 miles to make the trail rideable on race day. 132 miles!

And this doesn’t include the other volunteers that were out there mowing and weed whacking either. We’re talking a month of back-breaking prep work to get this course race-able. (In fact, Nick threw his back out on the very last mile of mowing and was unable to ride the trail after all of that work…) There are no words to describe how grateful all of us are to Nick and the crew for preparing the trail and creating such a fun event.

A few years ago, Nick and Lindsey came through Denver and stopped by for a visit. I told them that I believed that the trail could be ridden in under nine hours with good weather, good luck, and a strong group to help one another with pace-setting. (Lindsey reminded me of this visit just after the race last week) As race day neared, the weather and trail conditions were looking to be perfect and there were some texts back and forth between Nick and I regarding someone riding a sub-nine hour day out there.

I’ll admit that showing up to this race in the best condition was very important for me. I trained specifically for this race and I wanted to have a good day out there knowing that my wife, family, and friends would be cheering me along. I also wanted to honor all of the work that went into this event. My lead up to this race included a lot of long, high-country rides in the CO mountains. I knew I needed that endurance base and doing 4-6 hour rides at high elevation was a good way to do that! I found myself very tired at times and unable to do much more than ride/work/eat/sleep. Social activities gave way to crawling in the door and plopping down on the couch after a long day of work and riding. When I would travel for film shoots, I would get up very early and sit on trainer bikes at the YMCA for a couple hours. Sorry friends… Even emailing and texting becomes laborious during these times. I know, that’s kind of ridiculous!

When I got to ND, I was lucky enough to be able to be a part of an upcoming (still secret) project  where we got to go do some filming. I also just got my brand spankin’ new custom bike built up that ultimately became the best bike for the job of racing the MDH 100. It was sweet to have the Trek Superfly 100 built up for the shoot. (with a SRAM 1x11 drivetrain and Bontrager XR2 2.35 tires added after this photo - the ultimate setup for the race)

Some details regarding the race…

The Night Before the Race

I eat an ungodly amount of food the night before big endurance events. Especially when they start very early since a big breakfast really isn’t an option. So, what did I eat? I ate a huge cheeseburger, big plate of fries, a bunch of bread that had been fried, half of the pasta that my wife, Rachel, ordered, and then some sort of desert back home. DISCLAIMER: I think the one talent I have as an athlete is a relatively cast iron stomach. I know for a few of my friends, that amount of food wouldn’t sit well.

Rachel and my mom made a bunch of rice bars from a recipe that our friends gave us. This would be the first time I tried anything like that in a race. My goal was to eat 250/300 calories per hour during the race. Rachel had just written a story about what cyclists in the Tour de France eat and what they can digest each hour - so I was shooting for that. This is something I have always tried to shoot for, but I’ve historically been terrible at eating enough during races. I promised myself I would force it to avoid the catastrophes I’ve endured in the past.

I’ve also realized that I try and sleep as much as possible the night before a race, but in reality - no one sleeps very much with such an early start! I actually feel the benefit of the sleep two nights before the race. I slept for about 5 hours the night before the MDH 100.

Race Day

This is the only race where I can stay at my parent’s house the night before! I woke up at 3:00AM and my cousin, Ryan, came and picked me up. I ate a bagel with peanut butter and drank a ton of water on the 1hr15min drive to the start. We went over the plan for the aid stations during the drive and I tried to calm some of those pre-race jitters. I would start with two bottles of straight water since you always (or should!) start very hydrated. Starting in cool weather also means you don’t quite need to overload on the water. I was planning on getting to the first aid station in around 2hrs15min. The plan looked something like this:

Start: 2 bottles of water / rice bar / energy bar / treats + gels just in case

Aid 1 + Aid 2 + Aid 3 all looked like this: I’d get one bottle of mountain dew on the bike / hydration pack with 2 liters of water / same food as above

I try and always carry: one spare tube / CO2 / hand pump / multi tool with chain breaker / little bottle of chain lube

I had actually done all of my prep the night before so I could literally just roll out of the jeep and jump on the bike to go loosen up the legs. It was great to see everyone and have brief chats before the start.

As we lined up, no one wanted to take the front line! One thing about people from the Mid-West/Canada is that there is a general ‘politeness’ among everyone. I think the fact that this race is so tough, most decided (intelligently) that they would stay within themselves and not go too hard off the front right away. It was myself, John Paul Peters and Jason Wiebe that went off the front initially. JP was setting a great pace and a little ways into the race I thought I’d go to the front and do some work for these guys. I ended up feeling really good and decided to lift the pace and see how I responded. I realized that JP and Jason were playing it smart and gauging their effort and backed off a bit. I was about to be in no man’s land for the next 8.5 hours…

I knew I was going to have to keep extremely focused. I would constantly tell myself to keep pressure on, but not too much. I forced myself to eat a rice bar one hour, an energy bar the next, and then I’d just rotate very hour. Rice bar/energy bar/rice bar/energy bar - and so on. I also made it a habit to drink constantly.

It was at the first aid station when I heard that my future sister-in-law was in labor, about to bring my second niece into the world. This was a huge energy booster. I thought, ‘I might be suffering, but I bet Mariana will have a much more difficult day!’ I would find out shortly after the race that my niece was born at 5:30PM. Mariana definitely had a much longer day than me!

No one brought up the fact that I was on pace to ride under 9 hours. I’ve learned my lesson over the last couple years. I wouldn’t speculate. And honestly, I wanted to enjoy being out in the Badlands and not stress too much about the time. In 2010, I attempted to ride the trail in a day with a good friend and we didn’t finish. I tried again last year and was in great shape, but completely cracked at mile 65 and barely finished. This trail commands respect. I learned to give it just that.

I think crossing the Little Missouri River in the middle of the race is spectacular. There’s just something about that which gives me great joy. Maybe it’s just a reminder of how rugged and wild it is out there. The river is about 2 miles shy of the 2nd aid station and I decided that I’d skip the shoe change after the river in order to save time. Most of the races I’ve done this year in Colorado have included rivers and I haven’t changed shoes for those!

I went in and out of the aid station quickly as Ryan switched out empty wrappers for fresh food and another Osprey hydration pack. (Osprey has been a sponsor of out team for a few years so I fortunately have a few of these lying around!)

Section 3 of this trail, (miles 52 to 79) is generally the toughest. It’s very exposed, it’s rough, it’s hot, and usually you’re very fatigued by now. This is where I fell apart last year so I made it a mission to control myself through here and not let the wheels come off. I had an uneventful and solid run into aid #3. I made another time-saving decision to not throw my music on. I would have had to run the headphones in my jersey and pick a playlist, etc. I felt that I was staying nice and focused and I should just keep rolling with it. At this point, I still felt very motivated and strong. I raced smart and aside from a few small crashes, was riding very smart.

The Finish

Leaving the 3rd aid station, I let the idea of a sub-9 hour day enter in my head. I started calculating the time it would take and it looked like it would be close. I told myself to limit bathroom breaks (if I could!) and to start taking some more risks. This is where I started to feel the fatigue. I started riding a little harder and I had a couple small crashes (one in front of the photographer) but nothing more than a bruised ego resulted from any of them. There was one point after I crossed I-94 that I thought I could go under 9 hours if there were less than 5 miles to go. I couldn’t remember exactly how far out I was. That was when I saw Nick and asked him how much further. He said 7 miles and I believed at that point it wasn’t going to happen. That’s when I had ‘the talk’ with myself. I wanted nothing more than to have a straight forward finish to the race. I’d been out for nearly 9 hours and didn’t want to suffer and stress all the way to the line.

Well, this is bike racing. And I felt I owed it to my family and to the people at that race. I dug deep for the last 7 miles. I knew that you can’t ask for better conditions than we had that day. I knew it was going to be close and I knew I had done the work to be ready for the final 7 mile battle. ‘If it’s going to happen, it has to be today.’

When I got to the barbed wire fence where you can see the highway, and essentially the finish, I thought there was a chance. I kept going hard and when I saw Nick near the end of the trail and the start of the bike path, I saw it was likely I would finish in under 9. Nick yelled some words of encouragement - as he’d been doing all day when I’d see him - and I went into the pain cave for the last half mile or so. I saw my mom come out to greet me at the finish, but I was a little worried there would be a discrepancy in my time vs the race time so I had to keep going until I hit the line. 8hrs56min. Luckily for me, I didn’t change shoes or put my headphones on. I think that would have put me over 9 hours!

Everyone has been so complimentary regarding the race and it’s humbling to be in such a group of truly great people. I’ve said this all along - everyone that was out there that day is a hero in my book. No one knows how hard the trail is until they ride it. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s race recaps and my only regret is that I didn’t get to meet a lot of the other people out there. My wife and I did double-duty that day and celebrated our wedding that evening with family - so I wasn't able to hangout longer in Medora. To all of you who were out there that day - my hat is off to you! To the volunteers and everyone who made it possible - thank you so, so much.

Thanks to the photographer, Chad Ziemendorf, and the filmmakers out there and to the people I owe photo credits to. (Kathy Taylor, my family, MDH 100 FB page, someone on the internet for the Badlands photo...)

I was only able to race the way I wanted to because of the effort my family put into the day to help. The time and effort is so appreciated. I owed it to you guys to keep fightin’ at the end there!

The new record will be broken. Whether it’s next year or years from now, I think it will be broken. I’m sure I have some friends salivating at the chance to come up and give it a run. However, I’m very proud to say a native North Dakotan holds it for now!

I believe the spirit of that race isn’t held in times and records, though. I believe the people make it what it is - and that’s a great life experience.