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Katie's "50 Miles of Epicness" Write-up

The Two Headed Monster Adventure
Katie Weinberg Bruns

It’s been planned for weeks now….. or at least a day depending on who you talk to. Goal is Danbury, one way or another, the classic, “You’ll do whatever it takes… walking, riding, or crawling to that finish line.”

One group plans on running the entire Gandy Dancer Trail starting in St. Croix Falls.

“Who caused this?” Lisa’s dad said, with a wide eyed quizzical look as we were describing the adventure. It began, we believe, with the one and only Greg Norman, informing the idea master of Eric Olson that he would like to ‘Run 50’ before ’50.’ So, here we all are. The bat sign is lit to the crazy masses of the St. Croix Valley, and we answer the call.

The running group started the snowy trail at 6:30. Yes, a solid 1-2inch base layer of pearly white snow, with a crisp layer on top, so you are able to hear each foot print crunch through, trying to reach the limestone we all wanted so desperately to see that day. That is all I really know of their story… so onto ours.

It began that Friday evening. Or possibly over a few beers the weekend before. Lisa making eye contact with me over her IPA, “You know what would be awesome?” And I respond, raising my eyebrows over my own glass…. "That’s typically how one of our adventures begin."

A week later, we stand freezing in Charlie’s drive way, as he graciously let us try out his Salsa Tandem bike, giving us detailed instructions on how to ride and fit… I am nodding my head, thinking, “what the what have we gotten ourselves into.” We get it down though, that night, going around the block at least 10 times, repeating our cues, and making sure ‘communication’ is spot on. Or, at least enough to get riding in a straight line, because we figure we will have plenty of time to figure out the details on a 50 mile ride the following day. Bound and determined to prove our doubting husbands wrong, and that this was indeed… an awesome idea.

We start our Epic adventure later than the runners, little past 8, as we hook up the burly, yes, a burly, carrying our two back packs and a few coats, and any other apparent necessities (#fireball) for the day. We set out on the trail to try the snow for the first time. “Holy moly, can we do this? This is freaking hard.” I say with a heavy breath as I look over at Lisa, a fleeting thought occurs that we could just drive up and skip the whole thing…. Only fleeting though, if you know either one of us, those thoughts may come quick, but they pass by even quicker. And off we go, crushing through the snow like an awkward plow.

Notes on a tandem: The front person, the Captain, is in charge, they steer, tell you when to stand, sit, break, turn, farmers blow, breath, spit, etc. And, the back, the Stoker, pushes the pedals and enjoys the ride, the ‘power house’! It really does take a lot of communication, everything from pace, to standing, to wanting to stop.

What you hope for:

Captain: Ready

Stoker: Ready (balancing both feet on pedals in back)

Captain: Go (captain starts pedaling and smoothly transitions to the bike and steering in a straight ace line)

What actually happened:

Captain Lisa: Kate, ready?

Stoker Kate: ummm, hold on, yep. No. yep, hold on, let’s move the right pedal forward again. Okay, yep, nope, slipped off. Okay, Ready!

Captain Lisa: Alright, HERE WE GO, pedals, we go a little righttttt, then lefttttttt, then pedal, pedal, straighten out.

Both: Sweet! Better than last time!

And, this my friends, is what got us to Café Wren, where we enjoyed a warm cup of coffee (maybe with a treat of Bailey’s to sweeten it up) and some lovely Almond Joy Rolls that tasted as divine as ever. After, we did a switch of Captain and Stoker, had the realization that there was a cover to keep the snow out of the burly-- the entire time packed in back, and then off we went traveling another 15 miles to meet the gang at Lewis. Only one small mix up of the stoker (me) ‘loosing’ the pedals, on the one and only hill we call ‘lemon drop hill’ in honor of Grandma’s Marathon, as I sat enjoying the ride with my feet straight out, encouraging Lisa, as she is wondering why this is so hard.

Lisa commandeered the right for the rest of her time as captain to repeatedly call back, “Are you pedaling?”

The sun broke through the clouds, highlighting the trail, the breeze was just a whisper, and the temperature a dreamy 37 degrees; and in the distance, we finally saw a few specs, yes, that is them, the RUNNERS. We rode through the line of runners with Cher, “Turn back Time” blaring on the portable speaker we brought, stoker hands up and ear to ear grins on both heads of the monster as we were not only having a blast but finally connected with the group.

We all made a pit stop at the Sundown Saloon. Nice little tavern right off of 35, on the out skirts of the quaint Lewis township. People gobbled up burgers, soup, and beer as we all filled one another in on our mornings. The group of runners being a solid 9 with two more wonderful ladies joining the fun at the bar, being the energy boost for the final 20 miles.

Every one of those people impressed and inspired me. Watching their appreciation for what they had already accomplished in these conditions combined with their determination on what was left to devour.

The rest of the day on the tandem flew by, we enjoyed the breathtaking views of the various lakes in Northern, WI, watching as the sun slowly crept to meet the tree lines and the yellow and orange rays shined off the fresh cover of snow. As we covered a wide variety of topics, stories, and feelings shared, a true testament and bond of friendship. I cherish these moments and these are the times I feel my true self.

 During this time, Lisa exclaims, “We should Ice them.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Defines the Art of Being Iced:

Being Iced refers to when one unknowing suspect comes across a bottle of Smirnoff, (I.E: the shower, a pillow, a stairway, in the Middle of the Gandy Dancer Trail outside of Webster.) Once the unknowing suspect, becomes ‘knowing’ they must step back from whatever they are doing, open the bottle, kneel and finish the entire bottle as if surrendering to the master mind of this trick. They have then officially been iced.

Jim, who finished strong at mile 30, retrieved the truck from Danbury and was able to get us the necessary supplies. So, the fearsome foursome (lucky Jill joined our group of master minds in Lewis) made a line of ‘Ice’ across the pathway and within a half hour the unknowing suspects came running and walking about. Brian, was first, thankfully, as he gets to the line and completely understands the awesomeness that has just occurred. Drops down to a knee and starts the process. All of them were troopers and enjoyed the refreshment combined with a Bloody from Dan the Man Campion who came fully decked out with a crate of supplies and beer on the back tire of his fatty, riding from Danbury to meet the group.

The dusk melted away and night sank in, temperature dropping at least 5 degrees, the chills for us bikers set in, and the monster with two heads was done for the day. We looked on as we saw the headlights glow, and the runners, hopefully a little refueled from the refreshments, embarking on the most crucial point of the day, their own personal trials and tribulations of whatever humanity they had left. It was impressive to watch and be a part of. Knowing that they were all cold, wet, and tired. Knowing that they have been out since 6:30 AM, and most of all WONDERING what stories Eric had left to tell.

We waited excitedly and impatiently at the bar in Danbury for some sign, constantly texting our weathered travelers. The veteran runners were the first to walk in, all having already completed a 100 mile event this past year, smiles and signs of another accomplishment splattered on their faces. And then the second, the first timers, all walking in, a wave of relief washing over their bodies, and visibly all of ours in the bar as well. Soaking in what had happened, what ground was covered; then of course, focusing on getting DRY!

The rest of the night was filled with the Danbury Casino Seafood buffet, laughter, and good conversations. The heroes of the day being anyone in the world that went outside and took advantage of that sunny, beautiful, almost wintery day. Proud to be a part of an adventurous community filled with outstanding friendships, people that push each other to their limits, for nothing else but the satisfaction of a day well spent.

I am grateful for a body that moves, a mind that somewhat works, a spirit that thirsts for adventures, and of course friends to lead the way. (Shout out to my amazing husband and his determination--- loved watching him push his limits and accomplish this challenge. Another shout out to my partner on the two headed monster and adventures Lisa Thanig, for always pushing my limits and making it another memorable adventure for the books). 

 Thanks for reading. Adventure on.

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