The Munger Bungo 600k brevet is a north-south route from Stillwater to Two Harbors along Minnesota’s eastern border. The ride passes through Hinckley and Duluth using the 70 mile Willard Munger Trail. As a result, a significant portion of the brevet uses a safe – and mostly paved – multiuse trail. The brevet also has limited elevation gain over the approximate 380 mile route. These attributes made the Munger Bungo the perfect brevet for a randonneur attempting his first 600k!
And so I lined up with 22 other riders at 6 a.m. in front of the Stillwater, MN Super 8 on September 7th for what was to be a near-36 hour ride. What an experience it was to be!
In lieu of a chronological report, I’m opting to review a few key themes that emerged in my mind after some reflection.
This was my first brevet of the year. Further yet, it was my first ride of the year beyond 100 miles. As one might expect, I was riddled with self-doubt about my fitness going into the ride. This turned out to be a non-issue, as I was able to ride well for all but the final 60 miles (more on that below). My pre-brevet strategy of incorporating brisk 100 km rides every week beginning in late June seemed to work. These rides (typically starting at 3 or 4 a.m.) also allowed me to acclimate to night riding, which turned out to be important during critical sections of the Munger Bungo.
Being mentally prepared for the ride and highly organized with my gear was as important (and perhaps more important) than my fitness. As Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Accordingly, I made every effort to anticipate what I might encounter along the route in order to develop a strategy. Leading up to the Munger Bungo I took ample time to review the route and available facilities at each control. I developed a strategy to ride quickly early in order to provide ample buffer for the second day, when I knew I would suffer most. As time for the ride got closer, I reviewed (and re-reviewed) weather forecasts and carefully read the pre-ride report from Michelle Brougher. Collectively, this information was golden, as there were few surprises. I was even able to adhere to my pre-ride strategy, albeit at a slightly slower pace than expected due to a persistent headwind the first day.
As for gear, I organized clothes in my drop bag for specific purposes (e.g., Two Harbors out-and-back; Sleeping clothes; Second day gear), each in separate (and clearly labeled) freezer bags. This organization helped me transition quickly at the Munger Inn. As for what I carried on my bike, redundancy was key (e.g., two front lights, two tail lights, two tubes, two bottles of Ensure, multiple gels, etc). I only felt unprepared once toward the end of the second day, when I wished for my fenders (I removed them prior to the ride as the chance for rain was negligible).
Managing Pain and Fatigue
Having a shoulder still in recovery mode from a torn labrum (see first blog post), coupled with a touchy right knee (previously torn ligaments) had me concerned how my body would respond to 600k. As it turned out, my right shoulder was the least of my worries, but my upper back, neck and (eventually) right knee were problematic as the ride wore on. To mitigate inflammation I took one Advil at each control, but this proved ineffective in the last 60 miles. I included a tennis ball in my front bag and used it to massage my upper back by leaning against a wall (typically at a convenience store), and though it provided relief, I didn’t stick with it during the second day. In retrospect, I should have stopped periodically to stretch and use the tennis ball more frequently. Furthermore, I wonder if I would have benefited (in body and mind) from periodic mini-sleep stops. As it turned out, I wasn’t able to fall asleep at the overnight control, resulting in some fairly significant fatigue later into the ride. We took a mini-sleep stop along the Munger Trail on the morning of the second day, and even five minutes of shut-eye proved restorative. In future brevets, I’ll definitely be on the look-out for shaded park benches to take advantage of this opportunity!
Being Chased by a Pack of Dogs is a More Effective Stimulant than Coffee
I was blessed with two riding partners during the Munger Bungo: Phil and Randy. Phil and I began riding together shortly after Taylor Falls, while Randy joined us just as we started on the Munger Trail north of Hinckley. These guys were perfect riding partners. Congenial, communicative, and mindful, we passed mile after mile with ease. We rode at a similar speed, worked well in a paceline (0.5 mile/rider at the front), and fell easily into consensus on major decisions. With the three of us working together, we also were able to quickly catch route errors during the second day (errors, as it turned out, I contributed to). At the finish, I couldn’t thank them enough for their help and encouragement over the course of the ride. I hope to ride with them again.
And speaking of gratitude…
I owe a big ‘THANK YOU’ to the following people for their contributions toward making my first 600k a success:
- Michelle Brougher for organizing an excellent route, recruiting top-notch help, commandeering an amazing overnight control (including almond milk for breakfast!), and providing much-needed encouragement and advice before and after Two Harbors. And let it be known that the Espresso gel Michelle gave me made all the difference after North Branch!
- Rob Welsh for his communication prior, encouragement during, and congratulations after the Munger Bungo. The Minnesota Randonneurs are fortunate to have Rob as their RBA!
- Dr. Ian Fyfe, Tana Ciavarella, and Mike Ibach for putting my shoulder back together and guiding me toward a full recovery.
- Epic Sports for their support of my riding this year.
- My wife for putting up with my crazy training schedule from June onward, and for being at the finish when we arrived.
And Now for Some Photos!
(Riding together prior to Taylor Falls)
(Taylor Falls without the much anticipated donuts)
(Onto the Munger Trail)
(St. Louis River just outside Carlton)
(Along the Lakewalk Trail in Duluth)
(Darkness falls en route to Two Harbors)
(Back on the Munger Trail)
(At the finish with Phil and Randy. We made it!)