Dakota 5-0

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September 1, 2013 marked my first foray into the 13th running of the Dakota 5-0 in Spearfish, SD.  I know Chad, Joe and possibly others on the team have ridden this in past years.  I was reluctant to make the nine-hour drive for one race but four of us signed up and we had a place to stay with our friend from Spearfish, so the stars were aligning.

The motto of the race this year was, “It’s a blessing not a curse, we’ll be riding in reverse!”  So the race was run backwards this year, which made it almost as unfamiliar to most of the regulars as it was to me.  We did a preview ride of the last six miles of trail the day before the race, so at least I knew a little of what to expect.

I and 649 of my closest friends gathered at Spearfish City Park for the 7 a.m. start on a beautiful sunny day with a predicted high of 80 degrees.  We actually set out in four waves, ten minutes apart, based on our projected finish times.  I put myself in Wave 2 (predicted finish time of 4:30-5:00), which worked out pretty well.  I ended up beating most of the Wave 2 people and even catching some of the Wave 1 people, I think.

The race has a lot of great features:

  • Lots of single-track (probably 60%).
  • Most of the climbing at the beginning.  By Aid Station #3 at Mile 26, at least 80% of the climbing is behind you and you can put it in “cruise mode.”
  • Great aid stations.  Volunteers were pushing food, Heed and water at me before I had even stopped.  They filled up my water bottle and Camelbak while I ate, etc.
  • The infamous Bacon Station at Mile 38, where you can load up on bacon and PBR beer before tackling the last (mostly downhill) section.
  • A great after-party at the park with several bands, beer, pop, ice cream, pasta, cake, etc.

I felt like I had a solid race and left it all out there on the course.  I was guessing I could finish in five hours and was just over in 5:06.  The consensus was that this year’s reverse route had easier climbs and was more fun, but was 10-15 minutes slower, so last year I probably could have beaten 5:00.  I ended up 12th out of 57 over-50 men, which was just three places out of winning some prize money, and 158th overall (I’m man enough to admit that eight women beat me).  My much-younger friends Royce, Matt and Mike finished in 4:18 (fifth in his group—worth $60!), 4:48 and 4:53, respectively.  No mechanicals and no major crashes!

So how does the Dakota 5-0 compare to the Butte 50?  Definitely faster—5:06 vs. 6:38 for me.  Less climbing (6000’ vertical vs. 8000’).  A much bigger scene (picture RATPOD on mountain bikes) with a great after-party.  The winning time here was 3:42.

If you don’t mind the drive, I would definitely recommend the Dakota 5-0.  I will probably do it again next year with an even-larger Missoula contingent, trying to best the elusive five-hour barrier…