Extreme North Dakota Racing Report
Well it’s been over a week since endtombed and endtrails, last week I was in full recovery mode after injuring my Achilles tendon on the 4th running lap Sunday. Didn’t want to quit for the day only 6 hours in, but I was in pain and didn’t want to injure the Achilles more, I still have a lot of adventuring to do in the near future!! Leading up to the race, I was mentally prepared to bike 100 miles on the Salsa Blackborow. I had put 500 miles on the fatbike in the last 6 months, and had one good 30 mile outing in the sandhills about a month prior to the race. My farthest biking excursion in one day prior to this year’s endtombed had been 50 miles which I had rode during last year’s endtombed on a full suspension Kona.
Come race day it was tough to be mentally focused, I haven’t been around the GF area in a few months and was happy to see all the friendly faces. But knew that I had to put all of my attention on riding if I was going to pull off 10 laps in 12 hours. I made a pact with myself to not enter the lodge from race start until I was finished with all 10 laps. I had planned out in my mind I could ride one lap every hour and save 2 hours for rest in between laps. Prior to race start I had many friendly conversations with fellow racers and supporters. Even missed the pre-race meeting as I reminisced recent adventures and heard comparable stories from other adventurous folks. It was impressive to see all the other fatbikes around, including several Salsa Beargrease’s.
Lining up for the race start, my adrenaline was in go mode, I jumped over a flower planter and clicked my heels together, it was going to be a great day! I jogged around the le mans start, felt good to get some fresh air and the legs warmed up prior to hopping on the bike, I was in the zone staring out into the sky and taking in the beautiful scenery. I didn’t want to be in front or in a hurry since we had 12 hours of riding time. In my mind I wasn’t racing anyone out there, the game was against my mind and body, and all the other racers were there for support. For those prior 500 miles rode on the Blackborow, there were only a few occasions where I had other riders with me. Thus I was reminiscing the friendly faces that were out there today to ride with.
After getting back to the start line, I walked over to my truck and grabbed my bike, I wanted to ensure I was in the back of the pack thus not following too many people on the single track, where I could settle in on my own pace. The course was a bit muddy and I knew I had some advantage with the 5 inch tires. I passed a few people on the wider trails in the first mile, than fell behind a few folks on the stretch of single track along the side hill, not too bad just required a bit more concentration. I was trying to get into my own rhythm by finding some fellow racers that were going my pace. I did not want to get caught up with those going too fast and get burnt out early.
It had been several months since riding the trails at Turtle River State Park, but the memories kept flooding back all day long. Floating around the corners, squeezing between the trees, and hammering it up the hills. Even the “farm” area was exciting, this is what the Blackborow was made for, off-road adventure! The bridge didn’t slow me down this year either, I had ridden several wood bridges in much more sketchy situations, thus my confidence was high as I flew across the river, under the trees, then back up the big hill. The first lap felt great, so I continued on for a second without stopping for a break. This ended up being the day’s mantra, two laps then take a break. During the first two laps my Dillinger tires had picked up a lot of mud and sand on the single track sections, then flinged it everywhere upon reaching the paved sections. I had to close my mouth or eat the sand mud combo!
After 2 laps, I took a short break to refuel and fill my water/heed bottle. I felt great and was soon off and pedaling on the third lap. The riders were much more spread out at this point, and all previous course confusion had been figured out. I could feel some fatigue after the 4th lap, my quads were taking a beating pedaling the fatbike up the 3 big paved hills. By this time I had the shifting and momentum game down, but as the day went on my strength was disappearing and I had to relearn that game for every subsequent lap.
After lap 6, the portion of my quads on the inside of my knees were starting to hurt even more. I took a longer break maybe 30 minutes, talked to some friends and fellow racers, with their encouragement it was easier to build up the mental capacity to continue on. During laps 7 and 8 my mind was starting to fade, but my body was still programmed to keep going. Funny how that works, by lap 9 my mind was back in the game as I knew I was going to pull this off. I grabbed my lights after finished lap 9 along with a headlamp which turned out be a lap saver.
I started the 10th and last lap with some sunlight left, cutting short my extra break as I knew my bike headlight had not recently been charged and had no idea how long it would last. I made it about halfway through the lap prior to turning the headlight on, except it didn’t even turn on..oops no charge at all. Oh well, improvise and use the headlamp, luckily by this time it felt like I could finish the lap with my eyes closed. The headlamp provided just enough light to keep up some speed and show fellow racers where I was. Shortly after the headlamp was on I felt a few sprinkles, well this could be interesting! Luckily though the rain never came it just sprinkled here and there. Upon reaching the farm, my headlamp was not that much help, and I used memory to get over the bumps and humps. Reaching the bridge, I couldn’t see much so dismounted and walked across, one out of 10 isn’t bad. After going up the big paved hill and down the road I let 2 racers pass me, thus using there light to help navigate the next section, from here on I knew there were no problems lying ahead. It felt awesome to come across that finish line with approx. 40 minutes to spare! I had made it, goal accomplished, 100 miles in under 12 hours on the Salsa Blackborow – adventure by bike J My legs were shot, I had just over 12 hours to rest before trying to run 50 miles the following day for an entry into the undead hall of fame.
Driving back to Turtle River State Park on Sunday morning summed up how my mind and body felt, it was a bit foggy, and I had to focus all my attention on staying between the lines, slowing it down a bit and hoping the turn was coming soon. That fog lifted by race start both weather wise and my mind, however my legs did not want to cooperate. I placed myself at the back of the pack again mostly with fellow runners that had biked the day before. My trekking poles were in my pack just in case I needed them early on (this brought up several comments from fellow racers but again I was racing for me, not them or the podium), I was walking fast at best. This brutal pace continued for at least 3 miles, I couldn’t get my legs warmed up enough to start a run and my body was rebelling against me, stopping to relieve my liver and bladder every ½ mile. Luckily I had 2 fellow runners that stayed a steady distance in front of me so I could play the chase game and hopefully break through into a running pace. Eventually the walk turned into a jog, and finally a run with about a mile left in the first lap, but it was all mental my body did not want to be there. My lap was so slow I was worried about getting passed by a fresh solo or team runner on my first lap!! Luckily I was crossing the bridge over Turtle River headed towards the finish line when another fresh runner caught up to me (but didn’t pass), if nothing else went right for the day, at least I didn’t get lapped on the first go around J
Upon finishing that first lap I had to continue on, I knew if I stopped then my day could be over. The next 4 miles felt great, I was running most of the time, still walked up a few hills, then wham hit a big wall, hobbled for a bit and reluctantly took my trekking poles out and went back to a jogging pace. My arms and upper body were in good condition, forearms a bit sore from the bumpy single track the day before, but I was hoping to power through this. It was going to be a rough day indeed! The pain was bearable only because it kept switching locations and I was able to play a mind game with it. Runners kept passing me but that helped out, there were also a few runners that were still going my pace, reminding me that I’m not alone out here. After lap 2 I sat down for a while, reassessed the situation, one lap every 90 minutes is all I had to do, and that was exactly my pace now counting my rest time. My legs were sore but my mind was still in the game, so I refueled and took off for another lap. Usually I would report that my third lap is the worst, for some reason it usually works out that way, but I was feeling reasonably good, running some, jogging some, and walking A LOT! Things were starting to get fuzzier, my mind was losing its capability to hold my body together and continue down the trail, it was a long third lap but I came in under the 90 minute mark. Took a seat immediately and nearly passed out in my chair. This ended up being a 20 minute break, so I was using up some of the 90 minutes for my next lap, my mental clarity was gone at this point and I didn’t care much anymore. Finally I convinced myself to get up and go for another lap. All was good, well as good as it could be at that point, walking and jogging (wogging) most of the time. About 3-4 miles in I felt an acute pain in my right Achilles tendon, ouch… this took me down to a slow walk using the trekking poles as much as possible. The pain faded a bit and I tried to jog but then the pain returned and I was walking again. This trade off continued until hitting the last stretch of pavement and I was able to jog again finishing up the 4th lap in 6 hours 4 minutes. That’s gotta be the slowest marathon (25 miles in this case) I’d ever ran.
Sitting down with fellow undead contestants I wasn’t alone, the pain monster was catching up to us. This was a tough break, I didn’t want to quit, but my Achilles tendon was really sore. After putting on a warm hoody and getting some food I felt my mind starting to fade. Usually a 50 mile day is completely attainable, however I run the first half with my legs and the second half with my mind. Today I had ran the first half with my mind and my legs were no were to be found. I knew this was it for the day so I hobbled into the lodge and found a seat where I could chat with volunteers and racers and still make the most out of the day. No undead hall of fame for me this year, but at least I’ll have a good reason to come back next year! I stayed around until the end of the race like usual, enjoying the lodge conversations, cheering on fellow runners, and taking a well-deserved nap in my truck. Once again thanks to END racing for a great weekend of races, the comradery of fellow runners, jolly volunteers, and Turtle River State Park! This will always be one of my favorite race weekends of the year J