This past Saturday we hosted the Tour Burnett trail bike and trail run adventure. This wasn’t a race, but more of a long afternoon on the backroads and trails in the Danbury and Webb Lake area. I’ve been biking and running these challenging trails (one of which runs directly behind my house) for years and finally got around to planning a non-motorized event on them.
My inspiration for the course layout and length was the Barkley Marathons in the mountains of Tennessee – check out the documentaries on Netflix or Youtube. The idea of not having any entry fee or chip timing came from running the Sasquatch Dash trail runs. Anyone can plan a 5K as a fundraiser – but I wanted to make an event that would be a backwoods, self supported, no fee ride and run that would be brutal enough to scare off the weekend warriors. Just by finishing this course you’d achieve podium status. As a triathlon junkie, it just made sense to mix biking and running to make it a multi-sport endeavor.
The purpose of the event was to raise some money for the Keizer Lake Trails project. The Lake Country Pedalers Bicycle Club has spent the last year working with the Burnett County Natural Resources Board to get permission to build a silent sports playground on a 1,352 acre property just east of Webster. The property has eight lakes, is completely forested and is hilly. There are approximately 13 miles of established two rut trails on the property now. Our goal is to build some singletrack trails and some remote bikepacking campsites. Construction has started on two of the campsites – special thanks to the crew and kids from Northwest Passage for the labor. One campsite is on the shore of a trout lake, and the other is on a peninsula surrounded by water and almost has a Boundary Waters feel to it. Imagine bikepacking up the Gandy Dancer Trail and having to ride less than five miles off the trail to enjoy some excellent backcountry camping. The next step is to design the singletrack trails. Anyone who has trail design experience and is willing to help us with this can contact me at email@example.com. Check us out by searching for Keizer Lake Trails on Facebook.
The course consisted of a 20 mile ride that included grass covered snowmobile trails, paved roads, gravel roads, sand roads, and sandy ATV trails, mostly surrounded by the Burnett County Forest. The 10 mile run was an out and back course on the snowmobile trail, complete with a “pit stop” at the Voyager Village Clubhouse. In order to get full credit for finishing the course, participants had to come back with a drink receipt from the bar. My hope was to get about 20 muddy and sweaty runners up at the clubhouse having a mid-run drink and show that the silent sports folks spend money in the community.
We started the day with a group photo, then went over the course details and handed out maps. We lined up on the trail and the official start of the event was when Kevin Link rang the bell on his bike. Within the first mile we had our first rider drop out with mechanical issues. After a few miles myself, Kevin Link, Grant Arneson and Greg Atkinson were in the lead pack. By the time we hit the sandy Pearly Swamp Road, Kevin and Greg had dropped us and it was Grant and I in the chase pack. We noticed bike tracks on the road and knew that some riders had taken a wrong turn so we chased them down and came up on Renae Wright and Don “The Donfather” Meck (who just turned 77 this week) as we entered the last ATV trail. The roads that go through the county forest aren’t maintained very often, but ironically they were graded this past week and some of my course markers were removed, so some of the riders missed a 3 mile section of gravel and ATV trail. We just hammered the last two miles of snowmobile trail and got back to the house to grab our running shoes and drink money.
This is where the pack thinned out. We started the day with 14 riders, and most of riders either didn’t plan to run, had other commitments later on, or had enough good sense to “know when to say when”. Four of us laced up our shoes and headed off into the woods again. The idea of an ice cold drink kept us going for five miles to the Voyager Village Clubhouse. As we ran past the golf course and then staggered up to the bar with our muddy clothes and scraped up legs we got a lot of looks. A group of golfers at a table asked us what we were up to. We explained that we’d been riding and running for almost 4 hours and then I noticed that the one golfer was leaned back in his chair, eating from a pile of peanuts that he had mounded up on his beer belly. We ordered drinks and figured that we’d spare the bar patrons from having to smell us and we enjoyed our beverages on the patio. The five mile run back home was nothing short of a death march. Cate and Jeff ran off ahead while Mitch and I kept each other motivated by joking about how the sun was going down on us. We got back to the house and enjoyed a potluck dinner and a beer and swapped stories while the kids ran wild outside. In the end, it was myself, Mitch Coe, Cate Hayman and Jeff Howe that finished the first running of the Tour Burnett. And yes, we have the receipt to prove it.
If we decide to do it again next year, we’d love to move it to the Keizer Property itself (we are still working out insurance issues with the County Forest folks) – watch for details. Special thanks to my family for hosting a bunch of crazy riders and runners and to the brave souls who came out to tackle this challenging course. At the end of the night we counted $316 in the donation jar!