The MTBLIMO left Omaha with the always delightful cast: the eloquent EOB and his daughter and junior phenom and giggle box Abbey (AOB) who kindly listened to Dave as he spoke in depth of his avian encounters whilst on his travels this summer. To counter Dave's other words of wisdom, KGil was always ready to put in the last word. Sully and "Zander" as Dave likes to call Alex Sanchez filled out the roster. Eight people, eight bikes, two of which were inside in front of hundreds of pounds of gear with room to spare! This is why the moniker MTBLIMO fits perfectly.
We bunked in Mitchell, SD for the night at a quaint hotel. The next morning was a bit slow to go as we had to wait for Dave to dump the van's waste basket (he's a bus driver and likes things neat). But then he forgot it in his room and so had to go back and get the key, then proceeded to get the wrong room, went back down to get the correct room key and then back to the van. We think he was just taking an extra long dump and didn't want to tell us.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, everyone wanted good coffee so we stopped at a small coffee shack that only served foo-foo drinks so each one took a few minutes to make. Dave got friendly with the owner who happened to drive up through the drive through but it was all in good fun. Full of coffee and waffles, we were ready for the next 4 hours on the road.
By noon we made it to Spearfish. The campground's better spots were already taken so we plopped down in the middle in order to fit all of our tents plus the 13 other campers that were coming up with dogs, kids and what-not. It became Omaha Island.
After unpacking and setting up tents, we snacked and drove up to the first aid station and road about an hour into the trail before turning around. Sully broke his wheel but was able to get back on it to ride back to the van. We called Eyberg who wasn't coming til Saturday to bring another wheel. What a guy! Then I almost got taken out not once but twice while descending a fast gravel road. A deer cut right in front of me after prancing next to me for several yards and then taking his place was a playful young cow who also found it funny to cut in front of me at 25 mph. It was like the scene in Jurassic Park. I was like is TRex coming down the road? It was kinda nuts.
That night we did something a bit different. We took part in some of the town's bike week partying where they shut down main street for live music and food stations and kids riding bikes. We saw so many people from home it was as if we were at one of our own races. Talked to Perry a bit and gave him big high fives!
Saturday morning was an early rise to get up on the trail before the crowds. I was feeling like my cold was coming back and sure enough by the time I got down to the campground, my throat was soar. I was having a heck of a time dialing in my suspension and did a bad thing. I unscrewed a knob that drained the rear shock lever fluid and a couple drops came out before I could screw it back. Well that was enough to cause air bubbles and for the lever not to work. It was in locked mode! Great, I was going to have to race with a heavy hard tale! I confessed my sin to Ryan who calmly said let's get it to the shop for a bleed. We took it to Rushmore Mountain Sports right there on Main St and gave it to the possibly drunk mechanic (they were handing out free PBRs all day). He gave me some line about having trouble with a similar set up the week before. I went outside and sulked at my stupidity. The mechanic came out with Powder Puff and look of despair on his face. SHIT, I thought. I asked him what his look meant and he smiled and said, Nothing! Just kidding, all fixed. Whew!!! High fives all the way. I was back in business. And he added probably more fluid than what was in there before b/c it was pretty firm but I was done dicking with the thing and was just going to run what I brung. The rest of the day was just that: rest, eat, drink and self medicate. I should have added a whiskey shot or two to help me sleep because as usual, I did not.
The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I was eating and drinking coffee by 5am. Then I laid back down for about 30 min until I heard others stirring about. I already had all my gear ready so I got dressed and fidgeted around for a bit. I probably hit the loo about 5x before leaving the campground for good but before I could do that of course my Stages power meter battery gave me a low battery alert so I had to change that out really quick but it took enough time that I forwent with my warm up and instead just did some spin-ups around the start line.
The weather was perfect. The tiniest bit chilly and wouldn't even get into 80s that day. Absolutely gorgeous weather. My head was a bit stuffed and my throat scratchy but the lungs were clear. I took some Acetematiphine in hopes it would help with any body pain or soar throat. I went to the line, took a look around at all the friends from home and believed I was going to have a good day on the bike.
The race starts out of town with everyone in the wave leaving at once. (The next wave left 10 minutes later and that's where Ryan was so I had it in my mind to stay ahead of him as long as possible. More on that later). The opening climb takes about 15-20 minutes with some steep short climbs at the start to really peg that heart rate if you're not careful. By the time we were on gravel, I was breathing pretty good but in control. I had no idea how many women were ahead of me or behind. One or two did go by on the road not too long before the single track, I think. Abbey and I were together and right with Eyberg and Sully. They were our carrots actually for the first half of the race.
Once into the single track, I was feeling great and strong. Abbey jumped in ahead and was riding really well, even passing aggressively. We did pass one woman before the first road crossing and then soon after came up on a couple more who had passed us on the road. Abbey jumped on the wheel of one and I just kinda stayed where I was. They weren't going much faster. A few dudes got in between me and them but I didn't panic and soon I was back behind them. On a particularly technical power climb over a rock, Abs had to clip out so I did the same and just ran it. She didn't get back into her pedals before I got to her so I went by and took up the chase to the next woman. When we got to her she was actually off the side a bit fumbling with something and when she saw us hopped back on the trail. I tried going around her at first but as the trail started to go down, she passed us and Sully who was directly in front of me. The trail started to go up again and the woman, Petra - a local bad ass - was taking her time on the climb. I wasn't having that so I went by again with Abbey right with me and we got a small gap, even passing a second woman who had been in front of her. They didn't exactly chase, this is only like mile 15, so it's important to stay calm and stay steady. Lighting matches early results in them going out too soon sometimes. There was plenty of racing yet to do.
As the trail climbed towards Aid 1, it did start to get steeper and our gap grew. We were within spitting distance of Eyberg who would then just disappear on descents. Assuming the two women would do the same, I just tried to keep Todd in sight hoping to increase the gap to the chasers. We made it in and out of Aid 1 without getting passed. We took off and I again took the front. I was feeling good with my pace and wanted to keep it up.
The trail was super rough and a bit longer from reroutes from tree removal that had to be done to almost entire mountain sides due to two tornadoes that hit the area in the last three months. Despite that, it was still a great track. The Ridge Riders and Forest Service kicked serious ass getting that disaster area in shape for the race. It was sad to see such a beautiful area so ravaged.
For the next hour or so the trail gave us everything from rough to smooth to steep descents to climbs that took us off the bike. By Aid 3 I still had gas in the tank and as we began the romp up to the bacon station, we passed another very fast woman in my category who had stopped to fill her camelback. I said to Abbey, it was time to go. But that's more mental than physical because that climb is really long and gets steeper and steeper towards the top. Eventually Abbey had to dismount but because I absolutely despise walking my bike, I will go into the red longer than probably advised to avoid it so I kept riding. Eventually I had to also dismount towards the very top sandy section but only for a few steps. I could see Abbey around the bend so she wasn't that far off. I figured she'd catch up at some point but with that other woman from my category within minutes, I couldn't linger.
Once past the bacon station, it was more or less down hill. I put the hammer down down down but not so much that I my breathing was out of control. I managed Dakota Ridge with putting a foot down just once but not having anyone else in front of me to deal with so that was awesome. I caught Sully on the dirt road before the final section of single track. He was staving off cramps at that point. I dumped into the trees and turned on the after burners. I was by myself for the next 10 miles or so and just as I popped out of the trees and back onto the gravel road, I heard someone behind me. I figured it was Abbey or Sully but to my surprise it was Ryan. "Baby!" I yelled with a huge grin. What a wonderful surprise. He jumped out in front and together we road all the way back to the finish line. Luckily a parent of one of the junior riders snapped our picture as we came down the finishing chute. It was an epic way to finish the race!
Just over 5 hours it wasn't my best but right on par, actually, with recent results. Abbey wasn't too long behind as well as Sully and Eyberg. I only saw the one woman that we past at Aid 3. The other two I didn't see again. I landed in 3rd place in my age group and 7th out of over 100 women. Not bad for this old timer. The winner, Christy Olsen, from Cheyenne is an animal. Never saw her but that's b/c she was 30 minutes ahead the whole time. She ended up as the overall women's winner as well. I love it when the Masters women throw down.
But I love it even more when the kids throw down. Abbey won her age group by a significant margin, placing 9th overall out of over 100 women. Dillon got 3rd. Even more exciting are the new junior riders who finished the entire fifty miles for the first time. Elise, Niaomi, Maggie, Betsy, Lance and Jake all put their noses down and finished. It wasn't about getting a good finish time, it was about having a good time. And when we asked them if they'd do it again, they all said yes! That's what I'm talking about.
The Five-O casts a spell over all who come up to it. So much so that we even had five friends come up and NOT race but hang out, cheer on riders and enjoy the area. That says a lot about how the event markets itself.
So after the races and awards, many of us gathered at a local Mexican place for second dinner and then back to the campgrounds to seal the deal around the campfire. From Ryan learning how to do the "floss" dance from the kids, to the Cleasby's eclectic music mix, to Frank's Wizard Staff, this year's Five-O was less about the race and more about friends who shared the experience together.