David Sheek Post Race Recap - Unbound XL 2023
Dubbed the ultimate endurance challenge, this monumental event pushes athletes to their limits and beyond, taking them on a grueling journey through rugged terrains, relentless elements, and the sheer depths of their determination. Unbound XL is a 350 mile self- supported “adventure” through the Flint Hills of Kansas. Follow along as we catch up with Niner athlete, David Sheek as he recaps his experience in Emporia, KS.
Q: What was your Result?
A: “30th (Sounds weird to say but only 47 of the 191 on the start list finished..”
Q: Are you happy with your result?
A: “Absolutely, YES! This was something I have been wanting to do for redemption of not finishing in 2021 due to flats. I really did not tell anyone or talk about the plan to try the 350 because I had a hiccup in the plan this year. I started with fitness I would not expect much from due to an MCL injury that happened 11 weeks ago. All this said, I am there for the adventure and to take the Magic Carpet Ride (MCR 9 RDO) across Kansas.”
Q: What frame/ fork were you riding?
A: MCR 9 RDO with the FOX 32 AX Factory Suspension Fork
Q: what drivetrain and gearing? How’d work out for you?
A: “Shimano GRX Di2 11spd 2x with the Niner spec EASTON EC90 CARBON 47X32T crankset. I swapped the rear cassette to an xtr 11-40 for extra love knowing I was carrying a bigger load and had a lot of miles I needed to spin. The set up definitely worked and I was amazed how well with all the mud, sticky clay peanut butter goop that I was collecting. The Single Speed winner was amazed I didn't snap my derailleur off and was still riding.”
Q: Tires! Tires are one of the biggest things on everyone’s mind. What conditions did you encounter? How did they perform? What PSI do you run? Any changes for next time?
“Tires are always key in Kansas!...”
A: The Rene Herse 700C X 44 Manastash Ridge TC Tires with the endurance+ casing. This is the first time since riding this event since 2014 that I have not had a flat or puncture in the Flint Hills. I tested them out in April as we hosted a TUFF camp that lined up with our friend Bobby Thompson's Flint Hills Gravel Ride and had the same experience so I knew these were going to be a solid choice. I was running them around 30 PSI on the Niner RLT in April but with the extra weight of the MCR and all the gear/nutrition strapped on I took the pressure to 34 F/35 R. If I had to do it again, knowing there was going to be that much mud, I might choose the 700C X 38 or 42 option with similar casings. I can't say enough on how well my tires performed, I hate changing flats in the mud. :)”
Q: Fuel? How did you fuel/stay fueled up?
“I made a plan and reviewed it a few times to really dial it in…”
A: “... Took notes from Amanda's finish in 2021, eliminating extra stuff and then packed it up in bags for each section of the course. This is something we always share and teach others about at our TUFF camps. How to take a course and break it down into sections looking at each stop (Aid Stations or Gas Stations in this case), take into account the course profile and more to make sure one has enough nutrition and hydration to be safe for their adventure. All this said, I was drinking some high carb hydration and other bottles filled with 1000mg of sodium each because I lost a lot of sodium in my sweat. The goal was about 300 cal. or 80-100g of carbs and about 700-900 mg of sodium per hour. While there was a goal of the amount of ounces in fluids this definitely changed once I had to start using bottles for cleaning mud off my bike. Definitely and just one of the reasons I had to take some extra time to recoup at the refuels.”
Q: Mentally... Can you share any mental tips & tricks that helped you finish?
“ I had a goal to finish. I went into this event reminding myself it was not about the race but the adventure..”
A: “...and my goal is to get through it this time. It helped that I had a text reminder from Amanda that I do love it when the conditions get shitty and I thrive on it. All this said, this year the XL was a lot more than what I had planned for so I had to relax and find a rhythm that allowed me to get into a zone that pedaled through each section. There were some dark moments, there are always dark moments in these long ventures, so you just slow down, eat, drink, take in the scenery and refocus on the goal at hand until you come around.”
Q: Any other people, brands, teams, you'd like to thank?
A: “Niner of course! And, all the brands that have supported Amanda and I to build a little race program and help with our Mammoth TUFF event and ventures. Rene Herse Tires, Bellwether Clothing - TUFF Collection, SDG Components, Chamois Butt'r, Hammerhead, Shimano, Pro Bike Gear, Hammerhead, Lazer Helmets, and Four Wheel Camper. But more, Amanda "Panda" Nauman and friends that helped me get to the line for this thing. It's an XL story! “
Q: Race Recap... Anything else to share? Insights, wisdom, jedi tricks?
“There is a reason why people in the Midwest ride with chain cleaners that have brushes…”
A:”... I learned this the hard way and lost my magic mud-clearing wand in the night and had to start using my fingers, then had to buy some fancy mechanic gloves at Casey's general store to not ruin my other gloves. But the nice part about stopping at gas stations is also the windshield washing scrubbers next to the pumps, they hold a lot of liquid and the sponge can do wonders when cleaning up the drivetrain and stays. This is not recommended during daytime hours or when a station is busy and will not be taught at a TUFF Camp but you can learn more about the event and such at TUFF. ventures “