Yesterday was truly an epic day. It was Saturday, the 23rd of July 2006, the day which hosted the Kenwood Racing Super-Enduro. What is the Super-Enduro you ask? Well, it's basically a mtb ride to cover all mountain biking areas in the metro area. Sure, we've done numerous enduro's in the past few years, but none that were this complete nor this long.
The event was (very well) organized by Stone, so we started near his place in Longfellow, at Minnehaha Coffee. I opted to drive over to his house, and start from there since riding from St. Paul would have moved this event from Epic to Stupid. Billy and Stone were waiting at Stone's place, pretty much all set to go, so I unloaded the bike and we rolled off to the coffee shop. 2 blocks down we ran into Freeride and Thorny who were already lost and going the wrong way, so they jumped in and we all headed to the coffee shop.
Once there, I was shocked to find a full bike rack and a whole lotta people waiting. Wallace and KK were the Kenwoodies there, but in addition there were 4 Penn boys and Chuck from H-wood racing. So 11 people in total, which is huge for a ride like this. We all went in and got fueled up for the day, then sat around outside for a few minutes eating and drinking. I think my favorite part of the ride occurred just as we were getting ready to leave. I'm pulling my new bike out of the rack and Chuck comes over to look at it 'cause he obviously had no idea what to make of this thing. His first question was "is that some really old bike?" to which I simply replied "nope, brand new, this is my 4th ride on it." To which he followed with "that thing's a singlespeed, you're gonna get dropped!" A point which he seemed adamant about, so I didn't even reply. Chuck's a plenty nice guy and you'd think he'd have ridden enough with me by now to know what kind of bike I would be on. I was pretty surprised that I ended up being the only person on a single for the ride. Tomac was supposed to be there on a single, but some family obligations kept him from making it at the last minute, so I was on my own.
I knew this was going to be a long day with a lot of road riding between off-road areas, so I had at least planned ahead. I knew the 34:17 gear I had on there wouldn't be cutting it on the roads and the front chainring is a spiderless XTR set-up so that size is locked in and I didn't have any smaller cogs in back. Fortunately One on One came to my rescue with a 14t cog at the last minute. I was thinking a 15t would have been perfect, but 14 was close enough and certainly better than 17. I put both the 14 and 17 on the bike figuring I'd just switch between gears as we went from pavement to dirt, seemed like a fine plan.
So the ride starts of and we head down to Minnehaha falls and hit some of the single track in there. I didn't get a good feeling since We basically just rode from pavement straight into trails with no break, I was stuck in the 34:14. It was a short section though, and I made it through fine. We returned to pavement to head down the path and towards St. Paul. At fort Snelling, there is a very steep paved hill you have to climb up to get to the bridge with will take you to the promised land (St. Paul). This hill is usually the site of big-ring sprints and heroic climbing efforts to race up it. Yesterday it almost ended the ride for 2 of us in the first half hour. Freeride was in front of me going up it, and I was cranking with everything I had (big gear). Suddenly Freeride shifts his front chainring and drop's the chain while pedaling really hard, his foot drops underneath him and his bike is instantly sideways, while I'm instantly running into him. I jambed on the brakes but couldn't stop fast enough, so I tried to steer around him, but I ended up riding over his rear wheel, then endo'ing for what seemed like forever. I balanced on my front wheel long enough to have the thought to unclip, which I did and landed on my feet. Freeride had somehow done the same, neither one of us hit the pavement, but both bikes did. I looked back to see my brand new bike bounce in the air, then land on it's side. Miraculously not mark on the fresh paint. I landed on the handlebar and pedal. We both pressed on.
We got over to St. Paul and headed to St. Croix Farms for a few hot laps. By the time we got there, I was figuring out there were a few repercussions from the crash, and I had to stop to make adjustments. The others took in a short lap while I readjusted my front brakes and straightened out my stem and bars then hooked back up with the group. At this point, Chuck, the guy who was full of sage advise at the start bailed out and went home. No comment on how appropriate it is that he's an H-wood rider!
After St. Croix falls, we headed across the river on the new 35e ped bridge and over to Salem hills. I hadn't been to Salem hills yet and wasn't sure what to expect. The trail was actually pretty fun. It's not a hard trail, it's rated as beginner, but it's well laid out and can be ridden pretty fast. The 34:14 wasn't much of a problem here. K-racer Miriam also showed up here and rode with us for a little while, and another Penn guy jumped in as well. So we rode off from here with 11 people again and began a longer road section south to Lebanon hills. The Penn boyz that showed up were all really fast and one or two were a little too eager to hit thing hard, so we ended up time-trailing it down there at about 20 mph for most of the way. I kept thinking I'd get shot out the back since my gear was now on the low side but I managed to hang in there. We finally hit Lebanon and all the Penn guys were starting to complain how out of gas they were. I thought that was funny since I was actually feeling alright, and they were the one's going far too hard on the ride so far.
Unfortunately KK had to turn around and head home due to prior obligations just as we got to Lebanon hills, down to 10 people again. We put in a good lap at on all the trails and regrouped in the parking lot to head to lunch at a nearby Bruegger's. Stone and Wallace were feeling fiesty though and wanted a second lap, I knew we had a long day ahead yet, so I opted out. The rest of us headed to lunch and to sit around inside the air-conditioned bagel shop.
Lunch felt good, I mean really good. We all had sandwiches and refilled out bottles, then headed out. Terrace oaks was next, as it was only a couple miles away. But before we got there, 2 more Penn Boyz bailed out and headed home. Down to 8.
Terrace oaks was a blast for me. I hadn't been there in years and it brought back all the good memories of when I worked at BJ's in College, since we'd go down there once a week to ride. The trail is nearly the same as it always has been, but since Lebanon is so closeby hardly anyone appears to ride terrace anymore. All the better for us, in fact I like that trail far more than Lebanon since it's more grown in and feels like a real "trail".
From Lebanon it was time to see what we were made of. Headed down to the Riverbottoms trail and since we were on the south side of the river, that meant riding the Nettles to get to the trail. The two Penns boys that were left were adamant that they would not ride the nettles. sissies. So they pulled out once we crossed the cedar bridge. Down to 6.
We crossed the Nettles, and they actually were not anywhere near as bad as they can be. Got to the riverbottoms trail and proceeded west. We hit the raft crossing of 9 mile creek on the trail and all 6 piled onto the raft. The sucker was stuck, wouldn't budge to move across, and just by looking down we could tell the water was low. Thorny slowly and gingerly lowered one foot down into what we thought would be about a foot of muck to try and pull us across. When he jumped down with both feet and the water wasn't even over his ankles we all just about fell over laughing and proceeded to walk across the creek and up the other side. Keep heading west...
Hit the west end of the trail at the Bloomington Ferry bridge and stopped to take a little water break and discuss how we didn't want to climb the steep road up from the parking lot. Eventually we had to head up though. Since I still had not changed to my lower gear, I was rocking the big gear up the hill, so I had no choice but to go hard. Full sprint up and I found myself alone at the top, so I just headed out to the convienence store we had agreed to stop at for more Gatoraid. Regroup at the store and hang out for a few minutes. Things are starting to seem more somber, and I think people were really starting to feel the hours of saddle time we've put in. Amazingly I'm feeling pretty good yet and I don't know why. I have no right to feel good, I haven't trained at all and I'm probably in the worst shape of the group. I'll credit the bike and the Cliff-Shot-Blocks that I've been eating all day. I got a bunch of those as free samples and was pretty skeptical, but man they really seem to help.
From there it was due north up to the Gravel Grinder. Most folks don't know the Gravel Grinder, it's a short (probably about a mile long) trail just north of 494 in Edina. It's all loose gravel and it's all either straight up or straight down. Honestly I think this thing is the hardest trail on the whole ride just due to the climbing. I'm still rockin' the 34:14 so I know there are only 2 options: go hard or walk. The latter would have been the smarter option, but I chose the first. I hit the gravel standing up and never sit till the top. Wallace is right on me, but there's nobody after that. I had made it about 15' from the top when I spun my back tire a bit. Not enough for me to stop, but enough for Wallace to seize the moment and pass me. So I followed him down the other side, sketchily since the Crow tires aren't exactly good on this kind of stuff. The two of us popped out the other side and there was nothing doing behind us. We rode on, but they decided to turn back to make sure everyone was coming. We finally all met back up and consoled each other on the pain we were feeling. Unfortunately these was worse to come.
The Euro-climb was just ahead and I had forgotten about it. Damn. That's a paved climb through some residential neighborhoods, very curvy, very steep and very unrelenting. I popped about half way up and had to back off. It took some time, but I think the big gear had finally gotten the better of me, I just watched in envy as the others downshifted into lower gears to make the climb. I suffered my way up the rest of the climb and regrouped with the others down the road. It was time for some caffeinated GU.
We were rapidly nearing Minneapolis so discussion turned to what to do next. Freeride was going to head off at an upcoming intersection since we were almost to his house. Thorny was planning on riding back home too, but his route would be further north along ours. Stone and Billy were losing motivation to hit Wirth and were thinking about just heading back to Stone's place to start the BBQ festivities early. Wallace and I were unsure, so we all kept riding.
At France Ave we had to make the critical decision. Billy and Stone were set of calling it a ride, so they were heading back to Stone's place. Thorny was heading north from here to his house. Wallace and I conferred and while we both didn't feel great, we felt like we still had a little gas and I felt like I would be disappointed if we didn't do Wirth, afterall this is the Super-enduro!
So Thorny, Wallace and myself headed north (3 left). Throny was in a trance, just riding, just trying to get home. He was way in front of us and was still pointing out road obstacles as if he thought we were right behind him. He peeled off at Glenwood Ave (2 left) and Wallace and I began our last dirt-ride of the day, Wirth. It was actually a really great ride I thought. The trails were great, not too many folks out and I felt like we had truly made it a super-enduro. Once the lap was complete, we headed back south to the Greenway and rode that over to Stone's house. Perfect timing since Stone and Tomac were just out picking up the dinner. We each took a quick shower, then gorged on BBQ. Awesome.
My hat's off to Stone for organizing such a great day. Wallace thanks for making it a super-enduro with me! I think the mac-daddy mileage prize has to go to Wallace for sure though as he put in the bonus lap at Lebanon hills. That guy is tough.
The new bike was great for the ride too. Honestly I've never been so comfortable on a ride of this length as I was yesterday. The singlespeed turned out to be not too bad and I just might recover from this one in time to ride it again next year.