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Good Luck and Be Safe At the Twin Cities Marathon!

No, this photo wasn't taken this morning. Hard as it is to believe, this image is actually from SEVENTEEN years ago (geeze...when did I get so old?)! Still, it's good to know I still look EXACTLY the same as I did on October 4th, 1998 (although I don't know what I did with those sweet white gloves).

1998 was the first and only time I've ever run the Twin Cities Marathon, but I plan on heading down there this weekend to run it again. I won't be very fast. Last weekend's Birkie Trail Marathon was a wake-up call to my lack of current fitness (the food in Peru was sure good), but I don't think I'll have a problem finishing.

The other day we all received a message from the marathon organizers warning us that there are some protests planned at the event. I didn't think much of it, but then we received another "reassuring" message from race organizers stating that "runner safety was their highest priority." If they'd said nothing, I wouldn't have thought about it, but since they kept bringing it up I started to worry. With the way that social media promotes argument over reasoned discourse, there is always the potential that a gathering of people could turn into something negatively charged--which would be an unfortunate turn for a positive event like the Twin Cities Marathon.

The best thing about marathons is that you meet wonderful, enthusiastic, healthy and positive people. Marathoners are some of the most sincere and generous individuals on the planet. Events like the Twin Cities Marathon raise awareness for a TON of great charities. Check out this page for a complete list of positive folks participating in the marathon with the purpose of helping out less fortunate individuals. This marathon is truly a selection of generous and caring people, and  I've learned that the greatest way to affect a change in the world is through positive efforts. 

Let's all strive to avoid conflict on race day and take the high road when given the opportunity. I want to hear stories of positive action and love of life as we enjoy our post race beer! Good luck everyone!

Also, there's still time to sign up for The Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon if you haven't already! We're already sitting at record numbers, and the more the better!

2015 Birkie Trail Marathon: Tammi Wins Another Marathon--Eric Gets #73

Eric Messing Around at the Start of the Birkie Trail Marathon
That was my 3rd Birkie Trail marathon and though I seem to get slower every year, my affection for the event only continues to grow. This year was especially fun for the new friends we made while camping out at the start line.

Speaking of that...camping is definitely the way to go. To be absolutely honest, I like everything about doing marathons except for the actual running. But as I've mentioned before, doing the running is necessary to get into that mental place where the pre and post campfire conversation is really good.

Here we are sitting with eventual race winner Marco Sturm:
Marco is a professional runner and it was very interesting to talk to the guy. He'd just done a 100 mile event a week ago, the Run Rabbit Run 50&100 mile event in Steamboat springs where he'd finished 5th. I asked him how long something like that takes, and he explained that his time was a little slow because he took a wrong turn towards the end and ended up running 110 miles (21 hrs 12 min). Although he still finished high enough to earn a cash prize, he said the wrong turn cost him about $3000 in prize money. I think missing out on that $3000 really bothered him since he brought it up a couple different times. 

It's interesting to see the sacrifices these pro athletes make. A lot of people are under the impression that a couple good results mean you'll have sponsors flocking to you, but that's simply not the case. I know of athletes who are world-cup medalists who have a hard time making ends meet. Marco works a part time job, and some of the trips he makes to do major events are a bit of a risk because if he misses out on the prize money, he loses money on the trip. He mentioned how he's been in the position where he's been obliged to run injured or at less than full strength. Make no mistake, these athletes work very hard and earn everything they get.

Speaking of hard working runners, Tammi continues her impressive run as multiple marathon champion:
Tammi finished 1st woman and 4th overall. It's so much fun to be at these events when Tammi wins. Obviously I never get to see it since I still had to run another 3 hrs to get to the finish, but just seeing her name at the top of the leader board and seeing her picture plastered all over the American Birkebeiner page is awesome. Tammi has really done something special this summer. Wins at the Birkie Trail Marathon and Eau Claire Marathon plus sub 3 hr finishes at Boston and Grandma's make for a summer to remember. Getting sponsorships is difficult, but if anyone deserves them it's Tammi. 

Heading up the "sweeper" division were Eric and I. Eric is chipping away at his quest for 100 marathons, and he knocked out #73 yesterday. Eric actually was being generous to run with me since the months I spent in Peru were spent eating all the great food (and not running much). With the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon coming up we were able to discuss some last odds and ends, and just have a "rolling meeting" to make sure we'll be pulling off another wonderful event. 

This year the Birkie Trail Marathon offered an Ultra event: a 100 km race that left at 6 AM. I thought that was nice because it meant the tent wouldn't be torn down by the time I finished the marathon. Just having the Ultra going on was awesome. That's a whole different type of energy. Those guys leave in the dark and return in the dark, and Eric was around to watch them come in.

It's nice to finish your marathon, get cleaned up, have a couple beers, and right when you're starting to feel human again, the ultra marathoners start rolling in. Trust me, they need your support in the last mile or two.

I'm always impressed by the quality people you get to meet at events like this. Everyone is so happy, energetic, and full of energy, and truly it is important to face the world with a quick laugh and an inviting smile on your face. If you can laugh and smile your way through a marathon, the rest of life is a piece of cake.

This year we had an especially great group of people sharing the camping area. I think I've done enough of these events now where just about everyone you meet reminds you of somebody from a long time ago, and making a new acquaintance is like having a reunion with a long absent friend. That Birkie trail always gets me after having spent so much of my life heading up there and enjoying intense experiences: every tree and every turn reminds me of friends and various stages of my life (both good and bad) that have come and gone. I saw Kevin Rodgers at the start and mentioned how I just like going up there. Kevin is a veteran of more than 30 Birkies and I knew he could tell what I was talking about (he went on to kick some serious butt in that half marathon too).

Camping is the way to do the Birkie Trail Marathon. That Ultra brings a serious vibe with it, and it's great to be in the presence of that powerful, positive energy. One of the folks we met suggested that we reunite in one year at Steamboat springs to spectate the Run Rabbit Run. I kind of hope it happens! But I'll be just as happy simply returning for the 2016 Birkie Trail Marathon.

Dryland Ski Training Sessions! HURRY Register by OCTOBER 1st!

Have your best ski season in 2016- prepare now with a dryland ski training program designed and led by personal trainer and fitness coach, Mike Colaizy, who has over 25 years experience in skiing and has completed 20 Birkies. His eight-week program will focus on strength, balance and agility work that easily transfers to snow. All levels are welcome, but make sure to register before the October 1st DEADLINE to ensure your place in the limited class of 12! At only $75 for 8 sessions, I expect this class to fill quickly!

Sessions are from 6 p.m. - 7:15 p.m. every Tuesday from October 6 - November 24, 2015

For more information call or stop by WRF, or check their website.
Wild River Fitness
2630 65th Ave. Osceola, WI 54020 | phone: 715-294-2164 |

!Passage Gravel Ride & Taste Of The Trails - THIS SATURDAY, Sept 26!

The weather is looking great for Saturday’s first Annual Passage Gravel Ride on the Gandy Dancer Trail. Come celebrate fall on the non-motorized trail. 

The ride is FREE, registration starts at 7am at the In a New Light Gallery South of Webster on Hwy 35. The 76 mile ride rolls out at 8am and the 35 and 12 miler roll out at 9am. Riders will be required to purchase a trail pass, which will be available on site at registration. 

Stay after the ride for the Taste of the Trail for live music and wine and beer sampling from local vendors. All proceeds from the Taste benefit Northwest Passage’s youth mental health treatment programs.

2015 CLOSEOUT BIKES by Salsa and Trek @ Cyclova XC! - !INCLUDING FAT BIKES!

Cyclova XC still has a handful of 2015 bikes on closeout - including Salsa Fat Bikes - but they're going fast!
The coming of Autumn is a very exciting time here at Cyclova XC!  For one, it's the best bicycling of the entire year.  Here at the shop, we're getting daily shipments of amazing new 2016 gear including FAT bikes, bikes of all other sorts, new xc ski product, snowshoes, and amazing Winter apparel!  In short, there's all kinds of amazing new gear coming and going!

With all of this new product coming in, there are a handful of amazing closeout deals on the few remaining 2015 bikes that we have remaining in stock.  Following is a list of product on closeout at prices too low to advertise:

2015 Salsa Beargrease Carbon, white,  LG (19")
2015 Salsa Beargrease 2, blue, MD (17")
2015 Salsa Beargrease 2, blue, LG (19")
2015 Salsa Mukluk 2, red/orange, LG (19")
2015 Salsa Mukluk 3, Red, SM (15")
2015 All City Macho Man, 56cm, complete custom build
2015 Trek Domane 4.7, 56cm, white
2015 Trek X-Cal 5 Disc, XL

Give us a call (715-483-3278) or email Frank ( for more information.  These deals won't last long, so make haste and get in to check this stuff out! 

Also, if you'd like to demo any of the amazing new 2016 Salsa bicycles, be sure to attend the Salsa Demo at Woolly Day on Sunday, October 4!

2015 Skull-N-Bones: Revenge of the Blue Hills

The Skull-N-Bones Gravel Challenge did its second tour of the Blue Hills yesterday, and it couldn't have been better! The weather was perfect, and race organizer Chris Locke did a fantastic job of marking the course and providing a certain amount of trail support (he said he wouldn't do either, but his philosophy with this event is to "promise little and deliver a lot"). For a free event, the Skull-N-Bones is hard to match, and honestly, I think you'd be foolish to shell out $150 bucks for a race if there's a free gravel event going on that weekend.

The story of this year's ride was heavily influenced by the events of the previous night. Eric T. Olson took a break from his pursuit of 100 marathons and decided to do Chris's ride on a Fat Bike (Eric bookended this event with marathons on consecutive weekends before and after). There is apparently free camping in the park in Bruce, so Eric, Micah, Shawn, and Todd all showed up. make a long story short, by the time the night was over they'd all destroyed any chance that any of them would do the 100 mile course (except for Todd...who bolted out of there early I hear).

Eric texted me the above picture on Friday night and I was kind of bummed I couldn't make it. Honestly, it's the camping and camaraderie I like most about these things (I could do without the bicycling). But if you don't do at least part of the ride, you aren't tuned in to the right frequency for the pre and post race I'm stuck riding I guess.

I got up at 5 AM and drove up from Chippewa on Saturday desperate need of a long day in the saddle. I'd had to take my daughters in to the dentist on Thursday, and I was still stressed out from that. My girls are 5 and 2, and already terrified of the dentist, so having to sit there and watch them be worked on gives me one of those headaches behind the bridge of my nose. The whole time I was there I had to restrain myself from going "grizzly bear" (tossing expensive equipment through the window and then making a break for it with the kids)...anyway, I needed to ride. Doctors don't know what's best for their kids, parents do.

At the race start, Branden Nall was there serving coffee, and Patrick Ross arrived ready to ride. Patrick runs the Solon Springs 100k Soup and Sandwich ride, which I want to make a point of doing this year (because Patrick is awesome). I'd been at the start about 40 minutes when the camping crew came shuffling in like death warmed over.

"Unghhhhh...." they all said, "no way we're doing the way!"

Perfect! I thought.

We finished our pre-race preparations, got a pep talk from Chris, and did a soft and civilized roll-out. Eric and Shawn were pushing the fat bikes, and dropped back content to take in the scenery and have a fun day. Micah was satisfied to do my casual pace, so the two of us rode along chatting with other riders and making our way through the course. I kept stopping to take pictures only to discover some ridiculous "card read" error on my camera when I got home. I downloaded some software to salvage some images, and this was one of the few that survived:
The roads were really great. You're in dog hunting territory up there, so you go by a couple places where there are packs of howling dogs chained to barrels...but that's cool. It's kind of the border of the frontier, there aren't any gas stations on the 50 mile course, and that's why it's awesome.

I was riding my Warbird which really isn't geared for the hills I encountered. There was no "sit and spin" I was stuck in "sit and grind" and I was SHOT by the end. Micah and I rolled into the fire hall, then went straight to Glory B's for some burgers and ice water with a twist of lemon (pitcher after pitcher of ice can imagine):
One by one, the others started trickling in and told us their stories of the day. The 50 mile course was a lot harder than I anticipated, and I knew that Shawn and Eric were going to be cooked after riding it on their fat bikes. But they were in good spirits when they arrived.

More and more, these are the kind of events I'm seeking out. You always meet interesting people on rides like this. Anyone willing to do a 5 hr bike ride in unknown territory has enough moxie to make them an interesting table mate while you both enjoy a local burger. It was really a fun day, and, most importantly, I was finally free of that Dentist's office headache by the time it was over. Next up: Birkie Trail Marathon!

Cyclova Bike Packing For Beginners Outing - YOU'RE INVITED - RSVP'ing Required - LIMITED TO 20 RIDERS!

Bike packing with friends (or by yourself) is probably the most fun you can legally have - join us for a semi-supported bike packing trip from Cyclova XC!
Welcome to the first annual Cyclova XC Bike Packing For Beginners (or bike packing veterans) Outing!  Your invited to this casual, semi-supported outing designed to help get people out experiencing the joys bike packing with like minded people.  Through this outing, we wish to break down the barriers that people may feel exist that have prevented them from bike packing - known by some as bike touring.  You CAN enjoy the incredible experience that awaits you with bike packing - getting your bike set up, selecting the gear to bring, and hauling the gear on your bike has never been easier! 

We will offer minimal support for this outing - including a vehicle which can carry some (not all) of your camping gear.  We will also bring with some food & drink to share.  In riding to and from our fabulous destination, we will keep the group together.  This event is strictly limited to 20 participants - RSVP'ing is required by emailing Frank (email:  If you have any questions, comment on this post or email Frank.

WHEN:  Depart from Cyclova XC on Saturday, October 3 at 1PM sharp (arrive early to load up your bike, etc).  Return  to Cyclova XC on Sunday, October 4 by 11AM.  Be certain to stay in town for Woolly Day (Free Salsa bike demo, group rides, bon-fire, and food)!

WHERE:  Start from and return to Cyclova XC in St. Croix Falls, WI.  We will ride 21 miles each way on a mix of paved, gravel and sandy roads to an undisclosed epic location north of St Croix Falls on the river.  We promise it will be one of the coolest destinations you'll have ever seen.  Campsites at this secret destination are FREE!  The destination will be announced prior to ride roll out - along with distribution of que sheets (directions on how to get to the destination).

BIKES:  You'll want to ride a bike with at least 2 inch tires and be able to carry most, if not all of your camping gear.  Think Salsa Fargo, Trek 920, or Fat Bike ideally.  Note that a gravel touring bike will be fine on most of the course, but you may end up walking sandy sections.  Be sure to bring flat tire provisions and be ready to take care of yourself and others out there!  If you don't have a bike capable of carrying your camping gear - come on in (or call) and talk with us - we will figure out a way to help get the first 20 eager bike packers along for the ride!

CAMPING & BIKE PACKING GEAR:  You'll want to bring what ever type of shelter that you might need (tent, hammock, bivy, etc).  You'll also want to bring what ever sort of sleep pad & sleeping bag you need to be comfortable - keeping the weather in mind.  Dress appropriately & bring clothes for your time off of the bike.  You'll also need camping lights for the evening hours as it gets dark up here in God's country!  Above all, keep it simple - and remember that less is more when bike packing (and often times in life)!  
Come on in and talk with us about bike packing gear - and how to carry it if you have any questions.  Bike packing is very simple - and we've got a great range of ultralight camping experience in our expert staff here at Cyclova XC - and have a great range of our favorite bike packing gear in stock! 

PARKING OF YOUR CARS IN TOWN:  This will be a busy weekend here in St. Croix Falls, with the Autumnfest Celebration going on.  With that said, PLEASE park your cars off of the streets.  We advise parking in one of the several FREE large parking lots on the Thompson Parkway - 1 block east of Cyclova XC. 

Questions???:  Stop on by, call, email, or message Cyclova XC (!

We look forward to a fun weekend of riding and fun outdoor experiences with you!  In the mean time, here are a few fun pics of bike packing experiences that I've had over the years - enjoy!!!

Yet another take on a bike packing rig for the road.  I created this beast for a bike packing trip in 2009 - a Surly Big Dummy custom build, with 29'er wheels (and 700 x 25 road tires) on it.  The Big Dummy made a fine bike packing rig - with huge cargo capacity, and the ability to carry 4 water bottles.  My setup of the Titec H-Bar allowed for a nice variety of hand positions.  This bike didn't accelerate fast, but once you got it rolling, it stayed rolling with relative ease.
You've never felt contentment after a long day in the saddle...  that is after getting camp situated, clothes drying, and food in your belly!
Bike packing isn't just for the Summer months.  Today's ultra warm, ultra light gear makes bike packing during the Winter months a reality!
Bike packing gear is useful for a variety of purposes.  Here I carry an ice cold growler of a tasty IPA from Castle Danger Brewery in my Salsa Anything Cage
Endless espresso, Malt-O-Meal, and granola = all the comforts of home (well, at least most of them)!  Here David is high on life during our 2009 bike packing trip to Canada! 

Skull-N-Bones Tomorrow!

Don't forget, Chris Locke's epic Skull-N-Bones Gravel Challenge is tomorrow (Saturday, Sept 19th) in Bruce, WI! See you out there! Meet at the Bruce Fire Hall, registration starts at 6:00 AM (the event is free).

Check out the web page above for more information, or the Facebook Event, or the Facebook Group.

Beware ATVs on the Gandy Saturday, Sept. 19th

Trail friends, as you know, Sat., Sept. 19 will find the 3rd annual DNR permitted, Veteran's ATV Ride putting non-compliant, motorized vehicles on the Gandy Dancer Trail for this one day event. The focus will be between Centuria, in Polk County, and Danbury, in Burnett.

The ride will depart Centuria, heading north, at 8:00 a.m., meet with more riders in Siren, at 10:00 a.m. and continue to Danbury for lunch at the Casino at 11:30 a.m.

After lunch, they will head back south with some travelling back to Centuria. If it works like last year, the group will stay pretty much together going north, but after lunch it's a free for all heading back south. They were spread out over a two hour period by the time they got down to Frederic, so the Gandy Dancer looks like an ATV trail at that point.

If you are on the trail and encounter them, THE LAW REQUIRES that they yield to non-motorized trail users.

Although it would be nice to have cyclists on the trail, I can't really recommend you ride for safety reasons. If you do happen to be out on the trail and something happens, please do not hesitate to fill out an incident report (click to download the form). Also, special permit holders are responsible for any damage to the trail that is a result of non-compliant vehicle use, so don't hesitate to report trail damage as well (either that day or the Sunday after the ride).

Be safe people! The reality is that it's dangerous for ATVs and cyclists to share the same trail, especially in a politically charged climate like we have on the Gandy. Have a great weekend!

Mullin's Sasquatch Dash Finale Race Report

A little slow in coming, but it was largely written before the Gravel Conspiracy so I decided I better finish it up and push publish.


Summer has been going pretty well for me.  I thought I was ahead of where I was training volume at this time last year, but a quick check of my training log kicked that thought to the curb.  Turns out I'm pretty much on par with total volume compared to last year.  October and November were big downers though so as long as I can stay healthy my Birkie to Birke plan should be OK still.

But back on track, this post isn't about the Birkie.  I was thinking about my overall aerobic fitness as I came into the final Sasquatch Dash.  Last year I was training for the Birkie Trail Marathon.  This year I had ZERO desire to run a full marathon again and thus have not been focusing on running volume.  In my sanity check of my training log I see I had some 3+ hour long runs in the month of August last year.  The chart below tells you the whole story of my running since the 50k this year (hint, other than the one random long run I did, nothing was longer than an hour and five minutes).

One random 25k run, then nothing else much above 7 miles.

So, we can confidently say I wasn't terribly confident in my legs taking me 13.7 miles this past Saturday.  Again, aerobic fitness wise, no sweat.  I've been doing some long roller skis the past few weekends, and my overall volume has been good.  What you can't tell from those runs is that quite a few of those have been workouts (intervals and tempo runs).  So while I'm not getting volume at least what running I am doing is work.

The next layer on my prep is working on pacing strategies in longer races.  Last year at the Birkie Trail Marathon I went out a little harder than I should have and then picked it up way too early.  This resulted in a catastrophic blow up.  Then at the Gandy I started perhaps slightly conservatively, bumped it up to the sweet spot at the half, then tried to bump it up another notch at 3/4 and blew up again.  So close.  Ski season was a lot of blowing up until the last race of the year at the Pepsi where I finally nailed it.

Gandy Marathon HR
Lastly, if we layer in the heat and humidity for the day, neither of which are my friends, my plans were formulating for a conservative race strategy.  It was pretty simple really, any time my HR exceeded 165 it was time to back off or more likely walk as that was going to be on the big hills of BRC.  I wasn't going to deviate from that plan until mile 10 at the earliest and I was going to do my best not to play into anyone else's race.


With the race starting with about 3/4 of a mile of easy crushed trap rock there was plenty of time to get things sorted out before hitting the single track.  I was cruising comfortably somewhere around fifth or sixth when we passed the campsite.  I was right behind Joe and ahead of Kevin.  Right after we crossed the creek my plan came into effect as my HR jumped on the steep hill and I pulled aside to let Kevin go past.

I managed to get to River Road keeping my feet dry and without spraining an ankle on the new log rolling obstacles which were supposed to keep my feet dry.  Starting up River Road I settled in to watch Greg, Kevin, and Tammi pull away.  Joe and Tony each made a quick stop and then stopped again for a bottle drop at the entrance to BRC.

The climbing starts in earnest as soon as you get in BRC and thus the hiking really started.  I'd get started up a climb and then revert to a power hike.  It wasn't long before Tony and Joe caught up.  Despite doing my own thing we ended up together for most of the loop around BRC.  I'd get a little ahead on some of the climbs and they'd catch back up again as they bombed the downhills.  My left hamstring was being a little tweaky and I didn't want to let it rip too much on the downhills.

Things were going well through all of BRC.  I wasn't feeling overly stressed and seemed to be managing the heat reasonably well.  I had my (well Starr's really I guess) handheld bottle and was sipping off of it every mile or so.  I had put about 2/3 of a package of Tailwind in it giving that a try (something new on raceday).  I can't really say how well it worked or didn't work.  I also had two shot blocks over the course of the race.  I never felt bonky nor did I have GI issues so I guess that is good.

Somewhere between 8 and 9 miles in Joe dropped back.  Tony and I weren't sure what happened, but Joe called back down from up the hill and said he was good and to go on without him.  Being I was trying to do my own thing anyway and he said he was good I continued on.  Tony being the good friend waited up for Joe.  I checked over my should a little later and was glad to see them both running strong so whatever had held Joe up wasn't too serious.

I timed my water consumption just right to drain the my bottle just before the water drop Ben left on the trail at mile 10.  Knowing how warm it was I only took half a bottle to conserve for people behind me.  And besides, I only had 3.7 miles to go.  The rest of BRC was a little tougher than the rest.  The sun was starting to come out and the last mile the ground was pretty soft.

On the way out of BRC Tony and Joe caught up again, but immediately made a stop to grab their bottle drops.  I continued on down the pavement to River Road and down to the Ice Age Trail again.  It was at this point that I finally decided I could take the 165 HR governor off and let it rip the last mile and half to the finish.

It certainly made the last 15 minutes of the race way more painful, but it also felt really good.  Flying along the single track, skipping over rocks and logs, and through the brush is just exhilarating.  I did make a quick stop to dunk my hat in the creek and splash my face and neck from the creek.  Given how hard I was able to push that last stretch I obviously had enough left in the tank.  I had no intention of taking this race to the limit though.


Overall it was a really good effort.  I definitely executed my plan.  Despite warm weather I was feeling pretty good towards the end.  Looking at my HR my average was quite a bit less than 165.  This was because I had a tendency to let my HR drop during the recovery stretches.  If I want to execute closer to full potential I'll need to be more diligent about keeping the effort consistent.  I'm not sure that I want to push the upper bounds any above 165 if I can get the average closer.  Some things to work on yet this fall.

Mullin's What's Next

The Gravel Conspiracy rolls out from Grand Portage about 1:00pm on this Friday.  Three days of "gravel" riding through the north woods of MN from the Canadian border down to Duluth.  Another incredible weekend on a bike. (Note: By the time I got around to pushing publish this is actually in the past)

Birkie Trail Marathon 9/26 - 1/2 marathon

Gandy Marathon 10/10 - 1/2 marathon

Ski season!

Event Report: Gravel Conspiracy 2015 - Bring your frields in 2016!

Gravel Conspiracy 2015 is in the books - and earned a unanimous thumbs up!  Photo Credit to Jason Kunshier
The 4th Annual Gravel Conspiracy Northwoods Adventure is in the books, and the Cyclova XC / Woolly Bike Club crew (who were there in force) all gave it raving reviews!  Thanks to Event Director Joshua Stamper for putting together such an epic event!  

A photo is worth a whole lot of words, so consider this a photo narrative of the event. 

The 2015 Gravel Conspirators are briefed by head conspirator Joshua Stamper prior to roll out from Korkki Nordic Centre.
The Gravel Conspiracy is a point to point - largely unsupported adventure bicycle ride.  This means that "you are responsible for you".  You are responsible for navigating yourself - the course isn't marked so you navigate / follow the course using que sheets or a gps device.  You must carry your own food & water.  You must carry (and know how to use) any tools/supplies you might need to take care of any mechanical issues you might have.  The event is supported in that your camping gear is shuttled from the start of the day to the finish - so you don't have to carry with your camping gear, etc.

The 2015 Gravel Conspiracy course was a fantastic adventure, covering a whole lot of epic country - you ride from the Canadian border at Grand Portage back to Korkki Nordic Centre in Duluth Township - taking a very indirect, route comprised of gravel roads, firelanes, atv trails, and a bit of pavement.  

Logistically, this event is challenging, but Joshua (Event Director) has it down to a science.  On Friday morning, we met up with everyone at Korkki Nordic Centre.  Upon arrival, everyone promptly loaded up their bikes and gear into the large moving truck, got a "de-briefing" from Event Director Stamper, and climbed aboard the cushy bus providing a one way trip to the Canadian border.  We stopped in Grand Marais for lunch at one of the wonderful restaurants in town.  From there, we proceeded on to the parking lot of the Casino in Grand Portage.  Upon arrival there, everyone kitted up in their riding gear, got their bikes ready, and assembled for the group roll out. 

Jason and Nate work to get their bikes ready before the start of stage 1 in Grand Portage - note Lake Superior and the Casino in the background.
Dallas reflects the mood of all the conspirators early on during day 1 of the Conspiracy - ALL SMILES!
Early Friday afternoon, the group rolled out from the Casino, rode up part of a paved climb north of the Grand Portage Casino, and then headed inland from Lake Superior - straight up an undulating climb out of the Lake Superior Basin.  At one point I'm told, we were only a few hundred feet from the Canadian border.  Much of the route for day 1 this year seemed rockier than it was this year - perhaps due to erosion from all of the precipitation this Summer.  This rough, rocky surface resulted in many pinch flats during the first half of day 1.  Thankfully, the gravel smoothed out toward the end of day 1's route - resulting in smiles as we rolled into Grand Marais!  Drew reported sneaking up on a large Timber Wolf at one point during day 1, while Cyclova rider Chris L had a very close encounter with a bull moose - all parts of being a "Gravel Conspirator"!

As day 1 went on, the gravel got chunkier and chunkier.  Here is a typical scene from the mid-ride on day 1.  Photo Credit to David Gabrys.
The chunky gravel on Day 1 claimed many inner tubes - here Micah executes a quick flat fix!

I spent most of "the Conspiracy" riding with my good friend Dave - it had been far to long since we had enjoyed a long bicycle adventure together!
"Roads, where we're going, we don't need, roads!' - (this is a Back to the Future reference for those of you wondering).   Conspirators encountered a bridge that was out over a river on day 2 of the Conspiracy!

Part of being a "Gravel Conspirator" is being ready for the unexpected, and you being responsible for you!  Sometimes you run into a moose - deal with it.  Sometimes you get a flat tire - deal with it.  Sometimes you get thirsty - deal with it.  You get the idea...  This year, we found a bridge that was "out" - we dealt with it as you can see in the above photo! 

Dave has a great eye for photo potential, which he found as I was sucking down this Gatorade.  Fun was had sweating on the Conspiracy course! 

Day 2 started out with a nearly 1000 foot climb.  This photo was taken at the top of the steepest grade near the top, with Lake Superior in the distance. 
Some people think that the Midwest is flat - those people haven't pedaled a bicycle up from the shores of Lake Superior to the top of the Lake Superior basin (or in the St. Croix Valley for that matter).  Climbing and descending is literally a constant theme of the Gravel Conspiracy!

This was the first Beaver Dam / water crossing of day 2.  Here Ben Mullin exhibits great skill in negotiating mud, a slippery culvert, and water of unknown depths. 
Speaking of beaver dams, here was an even rougher one at roughly mile 90 of day 2.  Photo Credit to David Gabrys.

If there is a sandwich in every beer, there are 3 or 4 in every can of Chef Boyardee!  I often go for nontraditional sports nutrition.  Here I am re-fueling during the 2014 Gravel Conspiracy.  Also note the Coke, beef jerky, and Honey Stinger Waffles next to me on the ground - they were next!  Photo Credit to Joshua Stamper

In addition to spending 3 days riding with great friends in epic places, for me the Gravel Conspiracy is about relaxing by the calming waters of Lake Superior.   This photo was taken near the campground in Two Harbors that I stayed at. 
Being a Conspirator is exhausting, even for the most accomplished endurance athlete.  Here endurance rock-star Ben Mullin shows that even he can be wore down by 3 epic days of gravel riding.

Race Report: Elroy Apple Dumpling Day Races

It's been a busy week and I haven't had a chance to write about this yet, but last weekend was marathon #72 for Eric. He's hammering away on his quest for 100, and darn if he's not within firing distance at this point! He just finished up the Minocqua No Frills Marathon the week before, so this was just a tag on. As Eric says, "it's good doing marathons on consecutive weekends, because you don't have to train for the second one." 

He called me up on about Monday, "Hey, there's a marathon in Elroy I'm thinking doing, the Apple Dumpling Marathon, want to come?"

Normally I'm inclined to do stupid things like that, but I'm still trying to get into "shape" after being in Peru this summer and I didn't feel like doing a marathon yet. I have two coming up at the end of September, so a half seemed more reasonable.

"I'll do the half."

"Sounds good!"

At first the plan was for Eric to pick me up at 4 in the morning from Chippewa Falls. Marathons are so run-of-the-mill for Eric that he's inclined to wake up at 2 AM, drive all day, run, then drive home (and then work a full day). But honestly, I'm too old for that nonsense. I talked Eric into finding a place to crash closer to Elroy on Friday night and he went for it.

The plan was to eat something at Casa Mexicana before heading down, but Eric kept texting me telling me he was going to be late. I took the family to Casa anyway. "Do you want me to buy you a burrito?" I texted. He didn't give me a straight answer, so I bought him one. When Eric finally arrived at our house my kids swarmed him. I held up the burrito.  "Want this?" Eric finally admitted that he didn't and we were on our way.

We stopped at Culvers and I had some sort of chocolate fudge caramel pecan Sunday because I read an article in runner's world about how that's the best thing to eat before a race...that and a discount burrito. Then we crashed.

The next day the alarm went off and we headed down to the Elroy Apple Dumpling Day Races.  It turned out to be a pretty well run little event. The marathon is run on a paved trail, which makes it a little faster than the limestone marathons that have become so popular. Those of us doing the half watched the marathoners take off, then we were loaded onto a bus to head out to our start line. Personally, if I'd been organizing it, I would have dispensed with the buses and just had both groups do an out and back...but oh well, they did a good job.

My race went off without a hitch, although the previous day's burrito turned out not to be a good choice (that's the last time I listen to runner's world). I was running along with a couple ladies who were singing and talking the whole time. They were running the exact sub 10 minute pace that I wanted, but after a while I started to feel creepy tagging along behind them, so I went ahead (they caught up to me right at the finish line). 

I'm always hoping to do my halfs in around 2 hrs, and I was playing catch-up for most of this one. However, the first 6 miles trended uphill. We went through a cool tunnel and I could feel the course start to descend so I thought I might be able to make up time. Didn't happen though, and I finished in 2:09, 45th out of a field of 90...which was fine by me.

I hung around handing out pamphlets for the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon and started up conversations with people. One guy remarked that Tammi's picture on the front was "inspirational" (I think so too). Eric finally trotted in, chatting with a group of people in sub 5 hrs. We had just enough time to drink a couple beers then we were back on the road. 

Days like that just take you out of your regular routine. It's like hitting "restart" on your brain. That made three straight weekends where I did a half-marathon distance, and I feel I'm at least good enough to survive the Birkie Trail marathon and Twin Cities. 

The next day, at about halftime of the Packer game, I started to get hungry. That's when I remembered that Eric left his burrito at my house. It's fine to eat those things when you're just going to sit around and drink beer the rest of the day. Seriously, don't try to run with one in your belly though...

Next up, Skull-n-Bones!

Ladies Night Out- FRIDAY OCTOBER 2ND at 6 p.m.

Women's Ride at Big Rock Creek 2014 Photo Credit: Starr T.
Join us for a fun night with local women who love to ride bike! Female cyclists of all levels of experience and enthusiasm welcome!

Friday October 2nd, 2015 @ 6 PM at Cyclova XC:

Ladies Night is a fun social event hosted by Kristen and Tammi at Cyclova XC to celebrate and welcome women to the cycling community.  This after-hours shindig is a great way to mingle and meet new riding friends, check out the latest greatest bikes, clothing, and accessories, AND WIN PRIZES!
Your invitation to Ladies Night includes FREE snacks, refreshments, and a FREE raffle ticket! Through the course of the evening you can learn more about cycling safety, group rides, products, the importance of a bike that fits, and bike maintenance. Bring your friends!

Don't let a breakdown stop you. Empower yourself with the skills to repair it! Photo Credit: Ben Mullin

Free Bike Maintenance Clinic:
Frank Lundeen, co-founder of Cyclova XC, will demonstrate The ABC's of Bicycle Maintenance (Air, Brakes, Chain).  Frank's easy-to-master approach will equip you with the skills to become self-sufficient on your ride. Learn how to fix a flat tire or a broken chain, care for your components, and perform a safety check before riding. 

There will be plenty of time for fun socializing and Q & A! 
And as always, this is a FREE event- open to all women, so bring a friend!

Check out the Facebook event here or for more information email Kristen:



Stolen: Salsa Bucksaw from Eau Claire, WI

Our friend Chris Locke (organizer of the Skull-N-Bones Gravel Challenge) just had his Salsa Bucksaw stolen while in Eau Claire, WI.  Please keep your eyes open for a Salsa Bucksaw being sold at an unreasonable price (and inform the police...please don't engage in any physical altercations with criminals).

Here's some relevant information:

Salsa Bucksaw 
Full suspension fat bike
Color: gold rush
Jones bars
WBC stickers on fork
MSRP: $3,999
If found please call me or the police. A statement has been filed with the Eau Claire Pd. The more people on the look out the better in my opinion. Thank you for your help.
Chris can be reached at: The Eau Claire police department can be reached at: (715) 839-4972

For more photos, check his Facebook post here. Hopefully we'll have some good news before his free gravel ride happens this weekend.

Sasquatch Report: Jonjak's Miserable Death Stroll Through the BRC Wilderness

Representing Sasquatch Dash at Machu Picchu...Should be good for a series point right Ben?
Another Sasquatch season is in the books, so I figured I'd add my own two cents about the last event. I was out of town all summer because the extended family in Peru wants time to play with my kids (who can blame them?). However, I find that in the absence of pending Sasquatch runs, there's really no motivation to lace up the sneakers. As a result, I really haven't run since Grandma's Marathon--and I discovered an awful truth about fitness: it takes a LONG time to gain fitness, and a VERY SHORT time to lose it!

Annoyingly, I have both the Birkie Marathon and the Twin Cities Marathon looming (how do I keep getting suckered into these things?), so I am in the unenviable position of having to race my way into...let's not say "shape"...let's say "not die mode."

Last weekend I did the Rutabaga run (which we should add to our schedule as a point earner I think). Rutabaga is a 12 miler, which is a nice distance because you don't have to do a whole half marathon. I made it through that run OK and thought that I could at least survive Sasquatch 25k--otherwise known as THE HARDEST RACE EVER TO BE HELD IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY!

Now, although I didn't train seriously in Peru, it's not as if I did nothing. The above picture is from the top of Machu Picchu mountain, which turned out to be a 4 hr hike. But although hiking gives you a basic fitness, that cadence of running cannot be faked. Even at Rutabaga I felt OK physically, but the body just couldn't turn the legs over (it's a weird feeling).

The other thing about Sasquatch 25 this year (actually Sasquatch 22.3, but who's counting?) is that it was HOT! Three steps into the run, we were all instantly drenched with sweat. Jeff Wolf made a kind effort to run with me, but after about 15 steps, he couldn't take the pitiful pace and shot off down the trail like a comet in the night. My legs were like lead from the beginning. I remember back in the old days I used to feel OK in a run for the first 15 minutes or so...that was nice. But now I'm an old man, one foot in the grave, hardly able to drag my broken, battered carcass from bed in the morning, and the races start slow and go from glacial to tectonic plate speed before finally halting completely. 

Anyway, the whole field passed me and I was left alone with my thoughts--which is terrifying. I'd marked the course, so I spent the whole time worrying that everybody was getting lost in the woods. A trail always looks different when you're marking it than when it does when you're running it. But hey...the purpose of Sasquatch is to get you in shape for Gandy Marathon (Fee increase on Sept 15th, so sign up NOW!!!), so a few wrong turns are acceptable. 

On Friday night, I'd left a couple water jugs out at about mile 9.5, and I ran out of water at mile 9, so I was desperately hoping there'd still be water when I got there. I'd only put out 2 gallons though, so I thought it was 50/50...but thank goodness there was still water when I got there. It's a good thing I put water out or half the field probably would have died: you're welcome.

I lumbered into the finish line to a rousing cheer (as always) and jotted down my name on the list. I was last to drag myself in so I didn't bother to put my time down. I figured Ben would take Shawn's time of 3:25 and put Ben: 3:25+, but he went ahead and rounded up to 4 hrs! What! I was like 3:47, and it would have been 3:44 if I hadn't milked the finish by waving the Cyclova and the Sasquatch flag over my head for the final stretch (and for the cameras...which somehow missed it)!

We all then settled in to a great pot luck. The Sasquatch crew always does a nice job at the pot luck, and I always appreciate an opportunity to make a few inappropriate comments (all innuendo). Hopefully we'll get to see the whole crew up at Gandy Marathon. I'm not running that one, but I'll be splitting microphone duties with Eric T., and we should have a great day! See you all at Sasquatch 2016!

2015 Sasquatch Dash Wrap-up

This past Saturday brought a conclusion to the third Sasquatch Dash series.  On a warm and muggy morning we had 21 folks come out to run a challenging 13.7 mile course followed by food and socialization.

Sadly, we only have a single picture of the entire event (next year we need to delegate the picture taking responsibility to someone else because obviously the Bens can't be given that level of responsibility).  Thus, here you have the Wolf method of flushing the legs after a hard run while simultaneously attempting to put the smack down on one of the cutest little girls around.

A big shout out to Scott at BRC for mowing the course and clearing some of the downed trees.  I'm sure it was a big job, but the course is incredible.  Also thanks to Ben and Micah for marking the course.  We had a 90% navigational success rate this time, which is pretty good for us!

We had a couple firsts/mosts at this event.  There may be others I don't know about, but I know these for sure.  For both Greg and Cory this was their first half marathon.  Greg's previous longest run was on Monday and was 10.3 miles.  Dude would be scary if he ran more.  Major props to both of those guys for making this beast of a run their longest ever.

Also, since the results won't show it, a shout out to Steve for going the extra mile... or two as the case may be.  He gets the award for making the 13.7 mile course a 15+ mile course just because he liked those hills so much.

So without further rambling, let's take a look at how the race shook out.

On the ladies side, we had two finishers, one navigational error, and one participant who planned to run short and executed to plan.

Tammi finished her run of dominance taking the finale by a wide margin.  Katie took a solid second.  Starr was one of our navigationally challenged participants (Ben Jonjak says he tried to turn those arrows into diamonds but saw that by the time the race happened his change still looked like arrows).  Sadly by the time she realized she had made a wrong turn she didn't have time to retrace her steps as she had a second race of the day to work in the afternoon.  Dorinda said before the race she knew she could do a half marathon if she was trained for it, but said she wasn't and planned to run six and that is exactly what she did.

On the men's side, Greg took his longest run ever by storm and ran his way to the top of the podium.  If Facebook is any indication, the walk off of the podium the next day has been interesting for him though.  Kevin was cool as ever ran to the second step of the podium.  Expect to see some more solid results from Kevin in the coming weeks at the Birkie and Gandy.

Another quick editorial note.  Normally we see Alex on the other end of the results.  Wisely he opted to show up late and just walk out on the course and cheer folks on.  I say wisely as he has been dealing with some achilles issues and like all great runners, had he been there when the "gun" went off, he would have felt it necessary to run.

Alright, so how did the overall standing shake out?  Remember, the finale counted for double points so there was a lot on the table here.  Also remember, we only keep the top 4 scores so there is the possibility some of your points get thrown out.  The tables below show the Final Points which is the top 4 scores plus bonus points, Thrown column which shows the highest score thrown out for that person, and lastly the final place.

If you show up to every race but one and win all of those, it probably should be no surprise that you win the overall title.  That is exactly what Tammi did scoring a perfect 110.

Starr turned in a consistent performance and made most of the events and earned herself second place in the final standings.

After that, Katie came in and played spoiler on Dorinda in the finale.  Dorinda is one of our most frequent competitors and her steady persistence ended just two points shy as Katie turned her third event with double points into a squeaker onto the third step of the podium.

On the men's side, we have a new champion to crown.  Greg turned a slow start into a dominating performance by the end of the series.  And despite a combination of illness and injury, I still couldn't quite overtake Alex coming in one point shy.

With that, the 2015 Sasquatch Dash series is a wrap.  If you have any thoughts or suggestions on how the series went, or what you would like to see next year be sure to share them.

Just because the Sasquatch Dash is over doesn't mean the running season isn't over yet.  The Birkie Trail Marathon (or half, or ultra) is coming up September 26th.  This is a pretty sweet event utilizing the double (triple?) track of the Skate and Classic Birkie courses plus some pretty sweet CAMBA single track.  Definitely worth a look.

Also, if you haven't signed up for the Gandy Marathon yet, you obviously haven't spent any time around Ben Jonjak or Eric Olson!  Seriously, you should check out the second year of the event on October 10th in Luck WI.

If you are looking for my personal race report, bless your heart.  I'll be putting that separately this time.