Free Your Mind, And Your Legs Will Follow

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Duluth Does Not Disappoint: Heck of the North Recap

Getting ready at the start

Double checking everything

Lining up

Rolling alone on some beautiful gravel

My camera got all foggy cause it was in my jersey pocket

At the finish

beer time

My Good friend and organizer of the race: Jeremy Kershaw

The drive to Duluth was great. It only took 6:45 and was very scenic. I had the tunes pumping and was thinking of all of the little race details from last year. I rolled into Duluth and stopped at my favorite spot the Burrito Union for some pre race fuel. I then headed over to the local shop SkiHut and signed in and greeted my friend. I also saw Mike Johnson from Iowa and we talked a bit. I then set up my camp site in Jeremy's backyard and got everything ready for the following day, had a beer with Jeremy while thinking back at our Trans Iowa experience this past April, then headed to bed.

I got up at 6 am and got dressed and made sure to drink plenty of water this year. Last year I got dehydrated and there was no drop bags. This year I made sure to drink a lot of water and to pack an extra gatorade in my drop bag. I loaded everything into the car and arrived at the checkpoint an hour early. I made sure that everything was perfect and was ready when the roll out came. The morning was cool but as soon as we started to roll out of town I warmed up. My computer wasn't working and I looked down to see a crooked computer magnet on my spoke. I left my cushy spot in the front of 150+ riders to turn my magnet because I knew that navigation is key on these long gravel grinders. I quickly made my way back up to the front of the group. I saw my friends Tim Ek and Charlie Farrow towards the front of the group and said hello to them. Charlie asked me how I felt and I said pretty slow and that I had felt like I had no power in my legs the past two weeks. He agreed and said that he hadn't been on the bike in a few weeks. We quickly rolled into a bottleneck as there was a bridge out/new pipe going into the ground. We had to grab our bikes and walk a short stream to get to the other side. I quickly lost valuable time as people took their time crossing the "dangerous" and cold water....what the hell....just jump across. I rode with a guy (I think the owner of Burrito Union) for 10-15 minutes alternating pulls to catch back to the lead group. We looked at each other when we finally latched on and agreed that we were warmed up. We continued to roll with no more than 30 of us in the lead group as we headed into the first trail section. The race quickly broke up and I nailed a hidden culvert and my handle bars slipped in the stem. I readjusted them and got back on the bike and took the trail section a little more cautiously. I was alone for several miles and tried to keep my speed around 19-21 mph. I looked back on a short paved section and was caught by 3 riders who were pushing pretty strong. We then hit another trail section and dropped one of the riders. The 3 of us cruised into the halfway check point rolling between 20-25 miles per hour on the brutal wash board gravel. The gravel was dusty and dry but very rough and chunky. The wash board was so deep in some sections that my bottles flew out and I had to stop and get them. 

At the halfway point Jeremy greeted us and told us we were doing great. We didn't stop for more than 5 minutes and I ate some sunchips and unloaded some garbage and my long sleeve jersey and gloves from my back pack. I added a gatorade to my bladder and grabbed two extra granola bars. We then left in the same group we rolled in with. My legs were starting to burn a little bit and I knew that I couldn't hold the previous pace that we came in at. Another trail section and I was with Peter who I had ridden with earlier. We had dropped a few other riders but gained another. I felt confident through the trail section and as we left we had dropped the rider we just picked up. My legs were burning and starting to cramp up. I kept fighting the cramps throughout the rest of the day. The wind never really seemed to be at our backs but constantly in our face or at our sides. A quick re-route at the end of the course gave me a fright as I had been dropped by the group that I was riding with even though I could see them in the distance I knew that my directions had totally changed and I needed to follow where they were going. The course looked like we were back on the same route that we started on and we skipped the final hilly 3 rivers section. A short trail section later and my legs were full on cramping. This was bad news because I knew that the final huge hill lay ahead. I rolled out of the trail section feeling like a slug. I went to take a drink from my bottle and realized I was completely out of liquids. I had planned perfectly as I was almost to the finish. The last hill I popped my gear in the 34-34 and just spun as easy as I could still trying to fight off the cramps. I was at the top and never happier to see some familiar faces cheering me on. I cruised to the finish and asked jeremy what my time was. He said he didn't know but that I was in the top 30. I couldn't believe it. I had done way better than I thought. I was handed a beer and layed down in the sun to relax and finally take in the beautiful day without worrying about time or wash board gravel or drinking electrolytes or any crap like that. Just drink my beer and chill. 

Thanks to Jeremy for organizing this great event and making me feel so welcome at his home. This is one of my favorite events and is always so well organized. I love the Duluth area and the whole downtown. The after party was at a classy bar where we had drinks and dinner and talked about the great race and beautiful day we had just experienced. Thanks to all that helped with this. 

The next day I experienced one of the best places on earth:

You get the picture.....

Best weekend of the year???

The Slender Fungus is preparing an Iowa training ride in the next week or two if you are interested get at me or Ari. 



  1. Nice work again, Buddy. Great having you out. Next year, though, you have to bring the rest of your SFCA flunkies!

  2. Wherabouts in Iowa? I may be up for it.

  3. JB, great race. sorry I missed you this year.

    Pedal Hard!

  4. At Craig.
    We are planning an excursion out to Iowa but we cannot make the location public. The Slender Fungus Society is very secretive and cannot disclose such information in fear of copycats. Please contact Jay or myself for details and we would love to have you come out and experience the awesomeness.
    thank you,