Those are the letters that no person in a “race” or time event of any kind wants to see after their name. DNF – Did Not Finish… I was humbled in South Dakota this weekend. I went in there thinking that this ride was going to be tough but that I would be able to finish. I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete, but I really wanted to finish the ride. The Dakota 50 is in its 10th year of existence and is a very popular ride in the western Black Hills, in the Spearfish area. Melissa and I signed up to give it a try after we talked to a few friends of ours that do it and said that it was just a great event, tough but great. We went into the event feeling great. I normally get really nervous before events and that is why I do not do them anymore, my stupid nervous stomach makes them no fun for me. But this event was different I had a great night sleep, I got up Sunday morning at about 5:20AM, got my things ready to go and got to the event site, excited, feeling great and ready to ride. Melissa was the same, she was ready to go. She doesn’t have the same nervous issues I do so that stuff is easier for her. Anyway the race/ride started at 730am and Melissa and I started in back because our plan was just to ride the event and not race, therefore we didn’t want to be in anyone’s way, we headed out of town and made our way through the streets of Spearfish to the first climb which was a dirt road leading up to the start of the single track trail that we would be on for the next 45 miles or so. UGH, first climb to the single track was a bear and I started to question my abilities. And the sad thing was, we were only about 2 miles in. Holy Crap, 48 miles left. Was it going to be like this the whole time was it going to get any easier? I knew that we made the wrong decision to ride our single speeds for the ride instantly and should have brought our full suspension bikes, the outcome may not have been different but it might have been a bit easier. We made it into the single track and it was a tough, lots of sand and loose rock. I was a little ahead of Melissa and slowed down every once and a while to wait for her. We finally met up at mile 6, when I heard, “Crap, my pedal fell off!” I went over and looked at her bike and it wasn’t just her pedal, but she broke her non-drive side crank arm off. What now?!?! I looked at her and could tell she was bummed. This was a show stopper and something I could not fix on the trail. I brought some tools and things, but never thought in a million years I would have to fix a crank arm. We talked for a few minutes and she told me to keep going and to finish. I felt really guilty because I didn’t want to leave her alone and I had no idea how long it was going to take me to finish. But after a little back and forth I pressed on. The next 4 miles were tough for me, I felt bad about her day ending so quickly and that we weren’t going to be able to do this together.
I made it to the first rest stop at 10 miles and refilled my water and Gatorade drink, had a little rest and pressed on. The next stop was 12 miles away. The first 2 miles after the 10 mile stop gave me a little more energy, a little better trail to ride on and a little more downhill to rest my legs. I made good time for the next 2 miles. I got to mile 13 and the climbing started again. My legs were already shot. I kept thinking, why am I trying this on my single speed for the first time. Why didn’t I bring my Yeti and ride my good bike. This is a bear. I am not cut out for this kind of climbing; I am not a real biker. Thoughts like that kept going through my head over and over. My legs were cramping up at about mile 16 and I knew I was doomed. There was no way I was going to make it the whole way. I was starting to have to walk up almost all of the hills and was riding all of the flat portions and downhills, which were few and far between. I thought to myself, make it to rest stop #2 and call it a day. Go back and spend the rest of the day with your beautiful wife and enjoy that beautiful country out there. At mile 21.75 I called it a race for me and headed back. I was picked up by another rider and his support person that gave up at the same point. I was so disappointed, so bummed and so humbled. I have no ego about things like this but it sucks when you realize you can’t do something that you really want to do. I just wasn’t in good enough shape and have never ridden those kinds of climbs, they were very brutal… Now the thought about next year goes into my brain… Should I try again next year? Should I figure out a way to train for this ride and give it a go? I think Melissa is out no matter what, but would I like to give it a try again, or am I just not cut out to ride that kind of ride? I did make it 21.75 miles of the hardest terrain that I have ever ridden and I did it on a fully rigid single speed 29’er, so looking back I am pretty happy with that. Well sort of. *sigh*
Besides the race our trip was amazing. We had so much fun out there. I love the Black Hills area of SD. And I think Melissa loves it as well, I spent a lot of time out there as a kid and I have tried to show Melissa everything that I love about the hills in the two times we have been out there. This time we did a few other things that we hadn’t done the first time, the highlights were Devils Tower and Bear Butte. I have this life list of things I dream of doing before I die, some are silly things and some are cool things, well at least to me they are. I was able to cross 2 more things off my list on this little trip of ours. 1 was doing a watercolor of Devils Tower while at Devils Tower, I did that, I screwed it up but I did it none the less. I give it another try from the photos I took of the tower soon. The other thing was summiting Bear Butte. Melissa and I did that on Friday, it was amazing. Bear Butte is a “mountain” right outside of Sturgis that is considered a holy area to the Native American’s. It is big hill that rises 1,434’ above the prairie floor and is out in the middle of nowhere so it just looks cool when you drive up to it. There is a great and very challenging hike to the summit. It is short 3.5 miles round trip, but it travels up some steep and narrow slopes, across huge fields of scree and up some very sketchy terrain. The hike was amazing; there are Indian prayer bundles and prayer flags hanging everywhere, they were just beautiful and so cool to see, it is what I picture the Buddhist prayer flags looking like in the Himalayas. We made it to the top and really enjoyed the views. I was so happy to share my hike with Melissa and be able to say that I did another thing on my life list with her. Other than that it was a beautiful long week in the Black Hills the weather was perfect. We were able to enjoy our time together out there, reflect on our year, make a few plans for upcoming adventures and think about life in a quiet beautiful place…
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