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2014 Sasquatch Dash Finale 25k
Yesterday was the last in our free summer trail running series. While most of the races are between 5k and 10k, we like to go big for the finale with a 25k. This is a really good lead up to fall marathons. I think over half of the group is either running the Birkie Trail Marathon in two weeks or the full or half Gandy Marathon in four weeks. Some of us are doing both.
Last year we had unseasonably warm temperatures with temps around 90 by the time folks were finishing. This year we had much more seasonable temps, perhaps even on the cool side. Temps at the start were around 45 and were maybe touching 60 by the time everyone finished. PERFECT running weather.
I also happened to show up with this super hot runner all in purple. She managed to get a picture with our mascot at the trail center.
We had a decent crew. This did whittle the crowd down to the more serious folks. You don’t get too many fringe participants for a 25k trail run. We did have a couple of first timers. Someone who lives near BRC, a Boston Marathon participant, and someone’s friend they dragged with.
Anyway, the race. We started with 1.5 miles of single track along the St. Croix River. A week ago when Ben marked the course there was a decent stretch that was knee deep in water with all the rain the valley got that week. The boys and I checked it out the night before and found it muddy, but no longer underwater. Unfortunately we didn’t get as far as the creek crossing to see that the rocks you can normally walk on were underwater. I almost made it across the creek on a really narrow log before losing my balance and plunging one shoe in. I’d complain, but a few miles later both feet were just as wet from running in wet grass.
After the single track we hit pavement for about 1.3 miles. Not to worry though. To make up for the pavement in a trail race, we climbed 250 feet over that distance. That is an average grade of 3.5%. Given that there was a quarter mile downhill too, the actual climbing was at over 4.5%. Easy peasy right?
We then hit the access trail to Big Rock Creek. A half mile with some ankle catching weeds and we were onto the perimeter trail at BRC. 8.5 miles of epic double track. I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that the only flats were the tops and bottoms of each hill.
I was treating this race as my practice run for the Birkie in two weeks. I carried water and shot blocks. I ended up only drinking half the water and eating four shot blocks. I probably needed to be a little more dilligent about doing that. On previous training runs I had a sip of water at each mile and a shot block every two. I think I need to set some timers to remember to eat/drink that aren’t tied to miles.
I started out fairly hard. By the time we hit mile 8 and the high point I was starting to feel it. I was a little worried that I was only running target marathon pace and was probably in the target HR range for the marathon but was getting tired. I’ll save my final analysis for after the report.
Anyhow, I finished the loop of BRC and was heading out the connector trail back to the pavement. My hip flexors started talking to me and since there was no way I was catching anyone and I didn’t think anyone was going to catch me I decided to jog it in easy. That same 250 feet of climbing was going to be descending and I had no desire to shred my quads today. That said, on a predominantly downhill stretch, on pavement, I was doing a 9:05 pace with a heart rate well above a 9:05 pace HR.
Crossing the creek with a mile to go I just waded in. It felt great. I finished 4th* (a guy who definitely would have beat me got lost… again. So I was really the third to the finish, but I should have been fourth).
Afterwards we all enjoyed a potluck and some good company.
So in the end, up until I coasted it in, I was averaging an 8:55 mile. Which is right on target for my minimum goal time. I had an average HR of 162 over that stretch which is probably right. My legs were starting to feel it, and I was definitely getting tired. Could I have run another 10 miles? Sure. Could I have kept that pace? Hard to say. Probably not with that much climbing. The good news is that I think we did 90% of the climbing in this 15.5 miles as we should do in two weeks over 26.2 miles. So could I have run another mostly flat 10 miles? Hopefully.
So, it was a good time, not a huge confidence booster, but it wasn’t a breaker either. I’m feeling decent today. I was crippled after the marathon last year. I’m going to head out for a roller ski in a little bit here. So knowing I didn’t kill myself is good. On to the next adventure!
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Sasquatch Dash 25k in the morning!
Perfect temps, great trails, good company. I can’t wait.
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I just booked 19,000 miles of air travel. Eeps.
Just over 48 hours of airport/airplane time for roughly 16 hours of meetings.
The good news is I get to run on my 4th continent. It isn’t really a goal, but I do like saying I’ve run in other places. I’m staying 2 extra days since I’ll be all the way on the other side of the world.
Should be fun(ish).
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Gravel Conspiracy - Stage 3
Last day. I woke up on the floor of the hotel feeling pretty good considering how far I had ridden the previous two days. Bonus of the hotel was the nice hot breakfast. I had a waffle with strawberry sauce, a danish, some milk, and a cup of coffee.
The day actually started a few miles down the road in Beaver Bay so we loaded the truck with our stuff and rolled down the road leisurely to Beaver Bay. My little group gapped me as I was dorking around with my watch and the thought of catching them was a little daunting. But I knew we were regrouping so I wasn’t too concerned. We were supposedly going to do a group photo, but that didn’t actually happen. We all gathered and then, “go”.
The first 15 miles were all down the Gitchi-Gami paved bike trail along Lake Superior through Split Rock and down to Gooseberry Falls. This was expected to be a pretty fast roll-out. As expected a group of the studs rolled off the front quickly. I was nearer the back with Keith and Dallas. Once we got rolling though we started bridging up to the studs. It was fun riding.
Just as we caught onto the back of the real studs, the “winner” of all of the GC stages I have ever ridden decided to make his break on the steep climb up Split Rock. My buddy Frank on his fat bike tried to close it down. I’m not sure what possessed me, but I figured I should go too. If nothing else I could bridge up to Frank and play domestique for a little bit. We never even closed the gap down at all. The leader was GONE.
But, I felt pretty good so I just kept on plugging. That selfie was of me in second place on the trail. The studly group caught back up and I settled into the pace line doing my fair share of time on the front. Frank apparently wasn’t digging the pavement on his fat bike and was no longer in the group.
I kept thinking I had no right to be in this group. I was one of the last finishers day 1 and middle to back third on day 2. But I felt good, definitely working, but not too bad. My thought was I would stay with this group until I blew up and when I did it was going to be spectacular. Paul Sherwin and Phil Ligget who are well recognized commentators from the Tour de France mention pedaling squares or caring your suitcase of courage. I was doing the latter and expecting to end up doing the former.
We eventually hit 61 at Gooseberry and then a few miles later turned inland onto the first gravel of the day. I was pretty sure this is where I was going to blow. In fact, just a mile in I was struggling to hold a wheel. I sat up, was about to call it a day, and then for some reason got back down and accelerated up to the next wheel. Next thing I know it is just me and another guy sitting 2nd and 3rd on the day.
We chatted and rode hard for a while and then he just pulled away from me. Mile 31 brought the truck, an 8oz Coke and a cookie. Still sitting in an unbelievable third place I didn’t stay long and bolted for the start of the ATV trail.
Unlike the day before, this ATV trail was pretty flat and smooth. It did eventually degrade into a trail that was considerably over grown. I kept riding hard though. I was churning out far more power than I had previous days. It was fun.
I would have loved to have stopped at the creek crossing pictured above to enjoy it and soak my feet, but I was in 3rd! So I took a few pictures, crossed and got to riding again.
The wind was pretty viscous all day. No matter which direction we were going it was a headwind. Riding alone that meant I had no where to hide. The last 14 miles were almost all on pavement. While this is easier rolling, the wind was rude.
I couldn’t see anyone behind me, and I was certainly looking, but I kept riding as hard as I could. That last downhill pictured above where you can see the lake I thought I noticed a pack behind me. Considering I hadn’t seen them previously I assumed they were moving quickly. I just lowered my head and powered the last mile to the finish. I finished 3rd on the day! Ahead of a number of major studs. A group rolled in less than a minute behind me.
I am extremely proud of this ride. I’m not sure if everyone else was just coasting in on the final day, but I rode great. Maybe next year I should do more riding before hand. It apparently took me 150 miles of riding to warm up. Then again, RBN1 really wants to do this next year.
The Korkki ski area has a nice toilet with a view.
55.2 miles, 3:35:36 ride time, 15.4 mph
221.73 miles, 16:46:43 ride time, 13.2 mph
Another great year.
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Gravel Conspiracy - Stage 2
This was the big stage. On paper it was going to be my longest ride ever at 102.5 miles. Given how poorly I felt on the bike the day before, my main goal was to be able to finish this before the sun went down.
Planned roll-out was 9:00 and I gave some thought to leaving early. Despite being one of the first people up, I was still one of the last ready to go so there was no early start for me.
We rolled out of Artist Point in Grand Marais and headed straight up hill. I just started spinning easy and was actually staying with a few people so that was promising. The first few miles were pavement before hitting some gravel. 12 miles in, and a 1,000 feet of climbing we hit Mark Lake Road. We did this one last year in the opposite direction so I knew it was a bit more rugged. It wasn’t too bad, though I did “fall over” at one point. I won’t call it a crash because I wasn’t hardly moving at the time. It was muddy and a truck had created a big muddy berm I caught my front tire on and I ended up putting my knee down. No big deal.
Mark Lake Road also had the cool beaver damn last year. This year it was at least twice as tall. I’d have been washed away had it let go while I was riding past it.
Some miles later we hit Sawbill Trail which is a gravel super highway in the woods. It is at least 3 lanes wide. Thankfully it was not washboarded as it has a tendency to get and we were headed towards shore and not away. It was a sweet five mile stretch at almost 18mph.
Then we had a killer grind on 600 road. We got to descend Heartbreak Hill thankfully. But we got to do the equivalent amount of climbing twice (once up the backside of it, and one on the valley opposite it). Up until this point I had been riding with my buddy Keith which was nice since him and Dallas dropped me like a bad habit the day before. At this point I was able to just grind away up the hills away from Keith.
Mile 50 brought us to the Trestle Inn. A bar in the middle of nowhere. It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t all that far behind a bunch of people. We were all stopping in to refill bottles and eat. I personally had a 1/2 pound burger with fries and a mug of tap root beer. Definitely one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. This also reminds me that I was starving all day. The day before I wasn’t hungry riding at all. Today I just couldn’t get enough calories in. Gels, shot blocks, cookies, animal crackers, beef sticks… it all went in.
After that it was 17 miles of grinding. I gave a moments thought to trying to stick with Dallas and company, but quickly realized I was riding way out of my comfort zone. Keith dropped off the back immediately as well. Turns out he had been considering dropping out at that point. That 17 miles were very lonely. Long stretches of headwind, no shade, and a very gradual and rough aggregate climbing. Just a plain slog.
We then had a mile of pavement and suddenly I felt great. 131 miles of riding in the proceeding 24 hours and I’m now feeling good? Whatever. We had a really fun stretch of double track which I thought was going to have the truck at mile 78. Turns out it was mile 87… but I still felt good and had been just hammering it.
I rolled into the rest stop and quickly consumed several thousand calories. A couple of cookies, a brownie, some Doritos, some Fritos, a can of Coke, some chewy spree… yeah, still hungry.
From there we had about 5 miles of ATV trails and then pavement and downhill into town. I knew the ATV trails would be rugged, but I was thinking short ups and downs with lots of sand and some rocks. What we found after rolling out was JUST out of sight was the biggest, gnarliest, steepest climb I have ever done on a bike. I rolled up to the bottom and just started swearing. That said, I just ground up it in the smallest gear I had. The picture of me leaning on the tree was the reward. A fantastic view of the valley.
I caught two guys who had left just before me. One guy on a mountain bike and one guy on a cross bike. This was NOT the cross bike section. I took off with the mountain biker and we started just crushing this gnarly stuff. Splashing through puddles, over rocks, etc. It was fun. We hit another nasty climb and he decided to walk so I took off on my own.
Shortly there after we started downhill. First it was ATV trails. Then gravel. Finally onto pavement. I continued to crush it feeling the best I had yet. There were a few paved climbs before getting into town. Those were annoying. I did catch one more rider just as we descended into town.
That night I actually showered instead of swimming in the lake. And used the hot tub. And the water slide. And ate pizza. And drank beer. And slept on the floor of the hotel room. And slept like a baby!
TL;DR - Started off slow, but finished feeling better than I had at any point on this trip.
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Gravel Conspiracy - Stage 1
Business time. OK, eventually this day meant business. We got up, had breakfast, packed up, and headed over to the Korkki Nordic Ski area between Two Harbors and Duluth to catch the bus. This year was a point-to-point-to-point stage event so we loaded bikes and gear in the back of the big truck, got a little run down from head conspirator Josh, and hopped on the bus for a ride to Grand Portage on the Canadian border. We stopped in Grand Marais for lunch. Let me tell you, a quarter of a family size Oktoberfest pizza (sauer kraut, brown mustard, and sausage) from Sven and Oles is not good riding food. It is good, just not for riding.
We finally unloaded in Grand Portage to begin our ride at about 2:00 pm. This seemed like sufficient time to cover the 62 miles back to Grand Marais before dark. Seemed like.
As a reminder, this was a “gravel ride”. I put it in quotes because while some of the roads were definitely gravel roads, some of them were, well, less than gravel. Some of it was some really gnarly, rocky, rutted, messy, stuff. Plus the 3,000 feet of climbing (no where to go but up from the lake). Then add in the fact that while I was about to ride 221 miles in 3 days, I had only ridden 221 miles going all the way back to June 15th.
Anyway, stage one was a killer for me. I had absolutely no pop, and people just rode away from me and all I could do was sit and grind it out at my own pace. As I rolled into Grand Marais at dusk I was a bit worried about the 102 mile stage the next day.
The selfie is of me, the pigeon river, and Canada. The first 20 miles or so were within spitting distance of Canada. The next picture is of some beautiful valley just up the hill from Grand Marais as the sun was going down.
This was the second day in a row I didn’t shower. After setting up camp at the municipal camp ground (including cold pizza delivery from my parents who happened to be staying at a B&B in GM this weekend) three of us went and jumped in the lake to freshen up. And freshen up we did. DAMN was it cold. Much colder than the evening before. It felt good though and revived me enough to have dinner and think about surviving stage 2 the next day.
A rough day in the saddle to start the adventure. Almost 5 hours to ride those 62 miles. Aching legs, aching butt, no feel for the bike. I went to bed really hoping I was going to feel better the next day.
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Gravel Conspiracy - Stage 0
This is going to have to come in parts. So we will start with Stage 0, otherwise known as the day before.
I took the whole day off of work and after getting the boys on the bus headed over to Frank’s place to load up the car and head north. We stopped at his dad’s cabin somewhere in NW WI and had a fire to cook some brats and beans.
We continued on up to Two Harbors to camp in the municipal campground for the night. We took a nice short 30 minute run from the campground along the shore on some nice trails and out onto the breakwater. Afterwards we cleaned up with a legit swim in the big lake. It was cold and refreshing.
Another team member Greg met us and we had dinner in town (opting to drive not bike) and then had a beer at the Castle Danger tap room. This was followed up with more beer around the campfire before crashing for the night.
The last picture was of a boat leaving harbor under the full moon.
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Campfire lunch at a buddies cabin on the creek, a short trail run in Two Harbors, including out into the break water, then dinner tap room and camp fire on Superior including an ore shop leaving harbor.
Decent start to the trip.
I’m also four beers in.
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That isn’t a picture of my scale, but that is what it said this morning. I’ve seen a number lower than 160 exactly once since I started caring about fitness again in 2009. As a reminder I was 145 pounds tops in HS and a very active runner/skier. At one point post college I was up to 205.
RBN1 has been saying I’ve been leaning out. I wasn’t 100% sure I believed her. While my diet quality is definitely better as a whole, I certainly still do indulge with some regularity.
In any case, this is good. My training volume will continue to be high for a while and if I can keep the diet quality up I should be able to drop a little more. Down in the 150-155 range by February would be incredible.
On that note, I fought the urge to go get fast food today and ate the veggie and fruit heavy lunch I brought from home. Win.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, all integers are the sum of at most 159 prime numbers. How the F Jean-Marc Deshouillers proved that in 1973 or why he would I have no idea.
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I was told I earned all of my boyfriend points back tonight by taking care of RBN1 after her long run. Cooking dinner, laundry, massage, etc.
I hit up google to find a witty picture to go with this post, but all I found out was that I really don’t want to be using boyfriend points in the way the urban dictionary defines them. We were using them in a playful fashion and seriously, what is wrong with just actually being a nice guy? Anyhow, I am proud of her and she has come a long way in this marathon training thing. Just a few more weeks to go!
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