A great cause, passionate organizers, community support, challenging course and fun atmosphere all contribute to the Dutchman’s Dash in Chaffee, MO being one of my favorite events of the year. In its sixth year, the Dutchman’s Dash has raised over $50,000 for The Alzheimer’s Association. With family matriarchs affected by this disease, Blaine and Morgan Swinford work tirelessly to honor their memory as well as provide help and hope for those currently in the battle. The couple are energetic, personable, connected and super involved.
The Swinfords are quick to acknowledge the many volunteers and sponsors who make the event successful. It really is one of the happiest, most engaged groups of race volunteers I’ve seen. The sense of involvement spills over into residents of Chaffee, a town of about 3,000 in southeast Missouri. Local businesses step up to sponsor at several different levels to show their support for the cause, the event and the families. Local running, cycling and multi-sport communities turn out in good numbers each year.
The event features a 5K run, a biathlon and a fun ride. The races are challenging and chip-timed by Missouri Running Company. The 5K if a relatively flat, fast road course that draws the area’s best runners as well as families pushing strollers. One of the fastest guys I know got third in his age group if that is any indication of the quality of runners. The race makes it easy for those who may not run regularly to get some morning exercise, while showing their support. Awards are given to finishers in age groups from pre-teen to 70-plus.
The biathlon route is anything but flat and fast. Strava showed 780 feet of gain, with over 100 of that coming in one steep climb before the two-mile mark. There is no risk of boredom from long, straight stretches of flat road. When there isn’t a hill, there’s a curve, sometimes in quick succession. The rural setting makes for a scenic ride. The fun ride across this route is an option for those who want to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace.
The biathlon run is similar to the ride with the majority of the five-mile course on trails around Tywapitty Lake. The first climb is long and steep as runners ascend a ridge leading to an ATV path before transitioning to single-track. The wooded trail is well-maintained, yet challenging with plenty of climbs and curves. Footing is safe and stable with sturdy bridges across several of the steeper crevices. The course is well marked, keeping runners on the right path through the woods. Aid stations are thoughtfully placed at the entrance and exit of the single track.
A mile of paved road leads back to the Chaffee VFW which serves as host venue for the event. Missouri Running Company’s finish chute brings biathletes past the post-race party filled with the 5K finishers. It’s a fun atmosphere as finishers awaiting the awards ceremony enjoy beer and homemade bratwurst. Homemade is more than just opening a package and throwing meat on a grill. A group of volunteers grind and blend the meats and spices, stuff the sausages and then cook them on site.
Plenty of food, drink, music and conversation keep participants refueled and entertained as they await the awards and drawings for several very nice prizes. The post-race festivities are a fitting end to a great event that raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Association.
I was pleased my performance for this year’s race. It was my second fastest finish in four attempts. Most of my training is on relatively flat roads, so the hills and trails offer challenging variety. I was able to maintain 19 MPH on the bike even though some of the climbs had me dropping down to the small ring. The elite riders quickly separated themselves and those of us in the middle spread out soon after leaving town. I spent much of the ride near a couple other cyclists. There were no restrictions on drafting and one of the riders near me took full advantage of that opportunity. I have no problem with drafting, but it would have been nice if he would have taken a couple turns pulling me along. He finally passed me near the apex of the final climb. I wasn’t able to get on his wheel as he pulled away for the last mile and a half.
I saw the same two guys from the ride during the first part of the run but then found myself quite alone for a couple miles of the single-track trail run. I settled into a pace and was enjoying the peaceful solitude of the wooded trail. Crickets and cicadas chirped along with an occasional bird. I heard the light pounding of my feet on the soft surface below. My breathing was steady and rhythmic. The sounds of nature and runner were becoming a soothing symphony and then there was a distinctive flapping sound which broke the peace. I’ve heard the unmistakable sound before. The tissue where my triceps should be slapped against the fat of my back. Ugh. A horrible dose of reality smacked me out of the blissful state!
I continued, undeterred to enjoy the rest of the trail. Actually, it was a great run. Exiting the trail, there was a brief run across a levee to a welcomed aid station. I recognized the runner ahead as the guy who was drafting on the bike. He had maintained a steady pace through the trails. Back on the road I was able to catch and eventually pass him prior to the finish. I thought I had put to rest my competitive ego and was quite content just running my race. But it really felt good to run past the guy who had spent much of the ride on my back wheel.
Most of my races this season have been slower than previous finishes over the same courses. It was encouraging for me to finish this race faster that the past couple attempts. The weather was ideal and I had no mechanical or physical failures. All this was added joy to the Dutchman’s Dash which is an annual ‘must do’ on my race calendar.
Special thanks to Angela Davenport Bedwell who captured the event visually and shared hundreds of photos on the Dutchman’s Dash Facebook page. Most of the above pictures were taken by Angela.