With the Lutsen 99er mountain bike race just over two weeks away, I needed to get in one more big ride before the window for “training effects” closed. Home and work calendars lined up to make today the best option, and though I would have gone out even if it was 40 and raining, I lucked out and got some spectacular spring weather: about 80 degrees, sunny, a gentle breeze.
My route was designed to take all day and to hit some of my favorite hills and gravel sections as well as new roads far to the south. I needed pretty much an hour to feel fully warmed up, which confirms other recent rides and tells me to go out easy at Lutsen. My all-time favorite climb, up the Shady Lane Trail minimum-maintenance road southwest of Cannon Falls, did not disappoint, being as steep as I remembered and badly rutted with the spring rain.
Much of the gravel – known and unknown – was great, though I guessed wrong about the southernmost parts of the loop, and wound up riding way too much pavement (or at least the grass/gravel shoulder of paved roads). I also learned that Steele County does a bad job maintaining its gravel roads, which were uniformly as crappy as the rare bad gravel road in dear old Rice County. On the other hand, Steele County had sheep!
About halfway into the ride, as I turned back onto the completely unshaded gravel superhighways of Rice County, I started feeling pretty gassed.
I had forgotten my cash, so I couldn’t pick up a cold drink or ice cream at any of the infrequent convenience stores, and the water in my backpack grew more unappetizing as it grew more tepid. I decided to stop in the sprawling metropolis of Cannon City to sit in the shade of a roadside church and down my Red Bull, about an hour earlier than I had planned. I think my expression says it all with regards to this decision:
Back on the road, I rode past a beautifully dilapidated farm
and then ran out of water, meaning I had consumed 3.5 liters (about a gallon) in about seven hours. Oof. All that went in, but none came out except through sweat. Double oof.
I managed to choke down enough food to keep me going through the rest of the ride, including the “Radar Hill” climb just outside Northfield, which I saved for the end. The ascent was its usual legbreaker, but I wanted to see how hard I could go on a stiff climb after an all-day ride, since the Lutsen course finishes with a nasty ascent to the finish. Answer: not super hard, but steady enough.
All in all, I got my money’s worth: just about a full century, mostly on gravel, and 3,600 feet of climbing in just about 8 hours. I lost about 7 pounds on the day, despite taking in 1,800 calories. Again: oof. I’ll definitely need to eat and drink more at Lutsen – and take more backup liquids (more Red Bulls, Coke, electrolyte drinks).
Except for that more or less harmless error, everything went well. My aching hands tell me that I need to find a better pair of all-day gloves, and my aching feet tell me that I need to leave my shoes looser, but those are easy adjustments. My snazzy new Osprey Rev 24 backpack proved to be a comfortable way to carry my water and food, the Beast never faltered, my tires (Larry front, Nate back) worked fantastically, I put on enough sunscreen to avoid getting burned, and my pistons fired all day.
Now I just need to rest up for the race. I’m stoked.