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Friday, May 13, 2016

A Sudden Turn

A turn so quick and decisive.  How did that happen?  Just like that, in what seemed like a moment, my run at the Black Hills BackBone was over at 143 miles.

At about 03:00 this morning, while churning up the long climb on Tinton Road en route to O'Neil Pass, an unexpected freezing rain and driving snow, at 28 degrees, enveloped me.  I thought I was prepared.  I thought I could ride it out.  Even after an hour of battling through, I thought I could wait it out a bit in a trail head shelter.  But it didn't stop.  And it was too wet and too cold.  Almost two hours later, with no prospects of let up and shivering beyond my control, I called Shaun for an extraction.

It didn't start out this way.

No limits.
I start at the North Dakota border at noon, a nod to the old 24 hour mountain bike races, after hitching a ride from our NDSU daughter, Chani.  Sunny, 75 degrees, practically no wind for these parts (15-20 mph).  The first 100 miles fly by in about 8 hours, pretty quick for me on a bike loaded for a 300+ mile ride.  I could actually visualize the finish at the Nebraska border.

Bison herd in Harding County.
The next 33 miles to Spearfish takes longer, as I stop a couple of times to adjust layers for the dropping temperatures and rising winds.  The terrain also leaps from horizontal to vertical, with an increasing quantity and quality of steeps.  Whoever designed this course has a mean streak.

Dropping into Spearfish shortly after midnight, I replenish water at a convenience store, enjoy some hot food and drink, reconfigure gear for the long night ahead and assess status.  I am a normal tired, given the roads covered and energy expended, but fully engaged in go-mode.  It is colder than forecast, but not a lot.  The 30 mile climb up O'Neil pass should keep the fires stoked, the sun will rise and another glorious day awaits ahead in the heart of the Hills.  Sounds like a plan.

It is, until it isn't.  Shortly after climbing out of Spearfish and turning onto Tinton Road, the sprinkles start.  Not enough to turn around, when I still could.  Sprinkles turn to flakes, which I actually take as a positive.  But the snow brings a nasty companion.  Freezing rain.  Oh, it starts as a light drizzle, hidden amongst the snow flakes.  But they eventually conspire with the cold to drive me into that shelter.  Once stopped for any length of time, my ride is over.

That was a great ride on the Northern Prairie section of the Black Hills BackBone, maybe the best conditions one could reasonably expect.  Those were hard lessons entering the Black Hills.

The course record remains open.

A scene as bad as this picture ended this run at the Black Hills BackBone.

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