I set out for Pando Saturday morning August 2nd to defend my title. Last year I captured first place with 14 laps and five minutes on my second place competitor. This is Fun Promotion’s annual 6 & 12 Hours of Pando endurance race.
I really like Pando’s trail. It’s has everything a mountain bike race should have packed into a short course- long climbs and descents, short steep climbs and descents, technical single-track and wide open sections for passing- all in about 3.7 miles!
For this event, Brent was running the course clockwise rather than counter clockwise but as usual with the start of each lap right up the ski hill. At the top, we turn left (east) and ride through the woods and down the first hill through the perennial “wet spot” mud-hole which gets worse and worse as the race progresses. Then uphill to the back of the Pando tubing hill, down again and after a right turn you have a long long long (did I say long?) climb up to the top and a flat sandy section. (When riding the course counter clockwise, racers will recognize this long climb as that fast grassy descent to the outside of the tubing hill). At this point you really have finished the hardest part of the course. The remainder has some small roller hills and contains the technical single-track
I arrived at Pando and set up my pop-up, chair and table and got all my gear and supplies ready. Founders Racing teammate Jane VanHof was going to share the site as we were the only two racing this event.
My strategy was to carry one bottle of Perpetuem (fuel) and one bottle of Heed for hydration along with Endurolytes and a couple Hammerjel packs and only stop at the tent when I needed to refill bottles.
At registration I noticed I had four other competitors in the six hour event. However, at the rider meeting a half hour before the start, Brent Walk changed the event and eliminated the 12-hour race since so few people signed up. The effect was to double the men’s 50+ category to ten of us competing!
I decided to ride hard and went full out right away. I did the first three laps in under one hour. I completed lap six at 2:05 (I was trying to do it in less than two hours). I didn’t need to stop until after lap eight where I swapped my Heed bottle and filled my now empty Perpetuem bottle with plain water. I ate a Hammerjel and re-filled my Endurolyte container and headed out again.
Lap 11 was where things started to go awry. My back tire was getting soft and squishy in the turns. It had been low earlier in the week when Joni and I rode at Luton. This was a huge miss on my part since I needed to refill the tire with Stans sealant and did not. I had gambled I could last the day without doing so. I considered dropping out at this point since I can’t ride with a flat tire. But perserverence won out. Into the tent, I checked my toolbox for a small bottle of Stans. It was there but only about 1/4 full. I removed the rear tire presta core, poured in what Stans liquid was available and pumped up the tire and headed back out. It lasted about two laps so I realized I didn’t have enough sealant and was going to deal with this the rest of the day. Lap 13, into the tent and I removed my tool kit from my lower bottle cage. I pulled out two air cartridges and put them into my back pocket. I dropped the Heed bottle and kept only the water for the remainder of the race as we were now in the last 1-1/2 hours of the event. I ate another Hammerjel, pumped the tire to 30 lbs and back up the ski hill.
I had been in first place most of the race. Every time I looked at the results at least up to 3pm (three hours) I was in the top spot but had two or more competitors with same lap count. This meant we were all pretty close in pace but I was merely finishing the laps ahead of them. But I had not looked at the results postings since 3pm and had no clue where I was in the standings.
I gutted out another lap (14) and up the hill to start lap 15. Down through the mud pit and up the steep climb on the other side I finally stopped a minute. It was hot and humid and I felt my heart beating hard! I put my fingers on my neck and could feel the artery thumping away. Whew! Then a guy on a fatbike rides by and says “you should get going. I think you are in the lead.” So I rode onward. As I approached the last few rollers of the course I looked at the clock. Part of me wanted it to be over and part of me figured I’d go out for another lap if I could make the cut-off at the lap chute. For those who don’t race these events, for a six hour race, if you make it through the chute by 5:59:59 you can go for another lap and make it count if you finish it. But if you get there at the 6:00:00 mark or later you are done. So I rode on, and figured the clock would tell the tale.
As I rolled into the chute, Jack Kunnen said “one more Dennis” and I did get there with about five minutes to spare so UP the hill one last time. I actually got a bit of second wind and rode pretty hard most of the lap finishing strong at about the 6:25 mark.
You can see from the attached photo of the results I was leading up until that lap 11. This was the fifth hour and all the fiddling with the wheel took time off the course. But that’s part of racing. I should have had my equipment ready. Lesson learned. Bog Kidder rode well and hard and finished ahead of me by 18 minutes. However had I not done the 16th lap I would have been in third place. Going out that one more got me the second place podium spot!
Teammate Jane Vanhof also rode hard with 16 laps and unfortunately had NO competitors. No other women showed up to compete in the six hour race. So to crank out 16 laps was indeed solid self-motivation. She could have done one lap and won.
Next up Ore to Shore. I looked up my last Ore to Shore result from 2009 and finsihed in 3:39 which is 13.1 mph average. So my goal this year is to be closer to 3 hours. (I rode Ore-to-Shore in 2011 but was in between three of my last of five 100-milers so I rode the 28 mile race with Joni that year and didn’t consider my finish time).