Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Sunday, May 20, 2018

City Slickers 200k

The City Slickers 200k provides a wonderful opportunity to use a few (of the many) bike-ped trails in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding communities.  At 200k with minimal climbing, it’s an ideal early-season brevet.  It’s also a popular brevet (30+ riders this year), so there’s a good chance of riding with a local cyclist who knows the route.

This is a ride I’ve wanted to do since joining the Minnesota Randonneurs, and fortunately, a lapse in my work schedule provided an opportunity to participate this year.  I’m glad it worked out…   …the brevet will be remembered for helping a new randonneur complete his first 200k.

Below are a few photos.  Enjoy!  The City Slickers 200k is highly recommended!

(Randonneurs gather at the Lake Street Dunn Brothers)

(Rob Welsh, Minnesota Randonneurs RBA, provides an overview of the day)

(Riding with velomobiles...  ...a first!)

(Crossing the Minnesota River en route to Ft. Snelling State Park)

(Barges along the Mississippi River)

(Crossing the Mississippi River)

(Quickly in a rural setting on the way to Afton...  ...glad for the wide shoulder)

(Freshly tilled fields ready for planting)

(A small section of gravel...  ...I saw a cardinal on this stretch of road)

(Passing through Hudson, WI)

(Crossing the St. Croix River)

(Heading west after a brief stop in Stillwater)

(Passing by the 'World's Largest Snowman' in North St. Paul)

(Brief detour before crossing the Mississippi River)

(A much narrower river only a few miles upstream from the earlier crossing)

(Riding near Maple Grove...   ...more excellent trails)

(Storm approaching from the west)

(Rain and wind passed in time to enjoy the iconic Grain Belt Beer sign)

(Crossing the Mississippi River one last time, with downtown Minneapolis in the background)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Run 4 Change

It’s been a slow start to the 2018 riding season.  Cooler than normal weather, coupled with consistent snowfall every 7-10 days since mid-March has made riding either too cold to bear or downright unsafe.  I didn’t start riding until last week.  Ugh…   …slow starts don’t bode well for early May brevets.  Anyhow…

The past four years I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the ‘pacer’ for Run 4 Change, a 1, 5, and 10 km noncompetitive run/walk to raise awareness of society’s attitudes about drinking and driving.  Tom and Arlene Deutcher, who lost four family members to a drunk driver in 2012, have courageously forged ahead to not only organize an event that has raised thousands of dollars to support programs that prevent drunk driving, but have worked with local politicians to impose stricter penalties and oversight on those who drink and drive in North Dakota.  Accordingly, context for the event provides an opportunity for reflection about one’s own family and friends, and the choices we all make to keep ourselves and others safe on the roads.

As the 10 km pacer, I've been following the same route along shared-use paths near the Missouri River in Bismarck.  The route begins in Sertoma Park and heads north just past the I-94 overpass before returning to Sertoma Park via an extended loop past the Dakota Zoo, softball diamonds, and amusement park.  It’s a mostly flat route with pleasant scenery and limited traffic.

My role is to stay ahead of the lead runner by 15-20 yards and inform other path users about the runner and (more broadly) the event.  The interactions are often an exercise in path-use diplomacy…   ..a smile and ‘Good morning’ often helps.  Most folks are amenable to adjusting to the right side of the path when requested.

My task is easy for the first three miles, as there’s typically only a handful of other path users to contend with.  The more challenging part of my role begins when we overtake the 5 km runners/walkers, who start after the 10 km race.  During this part of the pacing, I’m thankful I have a good bell to alert participants of the forthcoming lead runner.

This year Jennifer Eggert emerged quickly from the pack of 25 runners and maintained her lead through the entire 10 km race.  She ran impressively, averaging a little over seven minutes a mile.  Well done!

Here’s a few photos from this year’s event…

(Tom shares the mission of Run 4 Change)

(10 km runners at the starting line)

(One eye on the path, one eye on the mirror)

(An ice-free Missouri River)

(Lead runner near the three mile mark)

(BNSF Bridge from afar)

(BNSF Bridge up close)

(5 km runners/walkers ahead...   ...no more opportunities for photos from this point forward)


Monday, December 25, 2017

Putting a Wrap on 2017

This year saw a significant uptick in mileage, eclipsing 2200 miles total.  Most mileage was attributed to commuting, where I logged over 75 trips to work.  Long-ish rides on the Koga-Miyata were limited to the one 200km brevet in Montana and time on the Mickelson Trail, both occurring before June.

A good year, overall.  Certainly less randonneuring than I’d like, but until my work and eldercare responsibilities lessen a bit, one or two brevets per year may be all that’s reasonably possible.

Looking forward to cycling in 2018!  I envision riding in Minnesota, as the TCBC randonneuring group has an excellent slate of planned rides.  There’s also the possibility of resurrecting singletrack riding next year, pending an addition to the stable.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Marathon Man: Testing Thresholds

Plans for a late summer 200k gave way to increased eldercare demands, requiring me to stay near Bismarck over the weekends for much of August and September.  Unable to get away to Montana (Yellowstone 200k) or Minnesota (Hills of Wisconsin 200k), I looked for a substitute activity to fulfill an itch of ‘doing something big’ close to home.  On a whim, I signed up for the Bismarck Marathon thinking it would address the ‘itch’ while providing an opportunity to evaluate my physical/mental response to a runner’s endurance event.  I framed it to friends and family as 'an experiment', and besides, the cost for the marathon and half-marathon were the same, so I figured I’d just as well get the most for my money by going the full distance.  It seemed a logical choice (at the time).
I registered on September 10th, six days before the marathon, thereby eliminating any opportunity to train.  Moreover, my only preparation was to purchase a pair of Smartwool running socks and five Hammer gels at a local sporting goods store.  I did nothing else.  The experience was intended to test whether my body could withstand the stress of running 4+ hours with no real preparation aside from laying out my clothes/accessories the night before.
On September 16th at 7:30 a.m. I lined up with about 100 other runners at Cottonwood Park in cold, misty conditions with a light north wind.  I chose the 4.5 hour wave, wanting to complete the marathon by noon, thereby assuming a pace slightly over 10 minutes per mile.  Easy, I thought.
Easy enough through the first 12 miles.  I cranked out a sub-10 minute per mile pace with no problems, and felt buoyed by the ease of the effort nearly half way through.  Aerobically, there was no real stress given the slow pace, and (surprisingly) my knees, hips, and back felt fine.  The large, supportive crowd was an emotional boost, and the rest stops along the route allowed for frequent refreshment (water or watered-down Gatorade).
Beyond 12 miles was a different story.  First it was pain in my ankles, followed by my calves, then the balls of my feet began to go numb.  Later, my upper back and neck became tense.  My hamstrings were a mess 15 miles in, requiring frequent stops to stretch.  By mile 18 I was at a 15 minute per mile pace, walking about half of the time.  At this point my physical condition was similar to how I’ve felt at the end of 600k brevets.  Numb feet, sore shoulders, tense neck…   …essentially an exercise in pain management.  People I passed early in the marathon were returning the favor.  I was even passed by a member of the ‘Worst Pace Scenario’ relay team in the last half mile. ;-)
I finished, well outside my 4.5 hour goal, but - to place it in perspective - more than two hours faster than my fastest 200k brevet (James Canyon Jaunt, 2011).  All-in-all, the ‘experiment’ was a success, as I came away with some useful insights when applied to randonneuring.
The positives…
·       Never once did I worry about my safety.  The marathon followed shared-use trails for most of the route, limiting interactions with automobiles.  What few roads we ran were either closed or closely supervised with crossing guards.  This was nice.
·       As mentioned above, the supportive atmosphere from onlookers and marathon staff was a big plus.  This was especially appreciated in the last two (rather painful) miles.
The drawbacks…
·       The experience was not ‘collaborative’, as it often is during brevets.  Fellow runners generally kept to themselves, frequently in a ‘bubble’ fostered by a near-ubiquitous use of headphones.  I don’t regard this as a fault of marathons (they are intended to be an individual effort, after all), it just sticks out as drawback for me.  I like the idea of working together to achieve something significant.
·       Never once did I get into a mental state similar to a ‘reflective zone’, allowing me to think deeply about difficult issues, professional or personal.  No new ideas came to mind during the marathon.
·       Post-event pain was decidedly worse following the marathon than either of my 600k brevets.  Additionally, the upper back/neck issues required a trip to the chiropractor.
I’m thankful to all the folks who made the above insights possible, from the organizing committee to the many support staff.  The Bismarck Marathon is an excellent event.  Runners in central North Dakota are fortunate to have this marathon to look forward to each year.

With the marathon experience behind me, I’m turning my focus to wrapping up an eventful commuting year, a topic for a forthcoming post.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

George S. Mickelson Trail – Part III

A colleague’s wedding in the Black Hills over the Memorial Day weekend provided an opportunity to finally complete my ride of the George S. Mickelson Trail.  As reviewed previously, I biked the Edgemont to Custer section in 2014 and the Deadwood to Rochford section in 2016, leaving approximately the middle third of the trail between Custer and Rochford yet to be ridden.

Under overcast skies, temperatures in the low 40s, and a light headwind, I biked north out of downtown Custer on May 26th shortly after dawn.  It felt good to start the final section of the trail where I ended in 2014.

(Returning to the same sign, nearly three years later)

The moderate climb out of Custer felt good with the cool morning temperatures.  I wasn’t long before I was comfortably warm, stopping briefly near the Mountain Trailhead to snag a photo of the Crazy Horse Memorial to the east of the trail.

(Profile barely visible from the trail)

I arrived at Hill City 15 miles into the ride hoping a small bakery might be open for a light snack and coffee.  A quick detour on the main road through town yielded a couple options, but neither were open so I continued north.

The Black Hills are composed of some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world, estimated at more than two billion years old.  The Mickelson Trail cuts directly through this geological formation (known as the Harney Peak Granite Batholith) on the way to Deadwood.  At four places along the trail, the ‘cutting’ is literal, in that the trail passes through short tunnels bored through the hard granite.  Three of the tunnels (referred to as A, B, and C) occur in rapid succession between the Mystic and Rochford Trailheads.

(Tunnel A)

(Tunnel B)

(Tunnel C)

Shortly before arriving at the Rochford Trailhead I enjoyed a first…   …a mountain lion sighting!  Though it was only a glimpse, the body size and unmistakable dark brown tip on its tail confirmed that it was indeed a lion.  The cat ran ahead of me on the trail, approximately 30 yards out, before darting into a ravine.  Being a cat person, I briefly considered stopping to cajole the large feline out of the ravine for a little mid-ride laptime.  With a schedule to keep for activities later in the day, I opted to gear down and move quickly through the area.

(Puma concolor)

The turnaround at the Rochford Trailhead was brief, stopping only to use the facilities, strip off a wool undershirt, and fill my water bottles.  The temperature had increased considerably, so I was thankful for the hydrant near the shelter.

(Rochford Trailhead)

Though my trek north was a solo journey, multiple groups of riders were out during the return leg.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying the excellent weather and trail conditions.

(Heading south near Mystic Trailhead)

As I entered Hill City, incoming clouds beckoned rain, so I opted to continue on Highway 385 to save time.  The decision was questionable, as the busy four lane highway made for some nerve-wracking riding.  I was glad to return to the trail at the Crazy Horse Memorial turnoff for the final downhill stretch to Custer.

(Back on the trail with rain in the distance)

The Koga-Miyata performed well throughout the ride.  Aside from limestone getting stuck in the cogs (no fault of the bike), I had no problems during 80+ miles of riding.  Its comfort and reliability make it a good – albeit somewhat heavy – randonneur bike.  As of this month, I’ve been riding the Koga-Miyata for 20 years!