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Trenton's DAMn Story: From Birthday Gravel to an Epic Challenge for Average Humans [DAMn Part 2]

Trenton & Erik. Photo by Todd Bauer
The Day Across Minnesota (The DAMn) officially ended in 2021 after 5 years. It just recently announced it is back for 2024 and Co-founder and Race Director Trenton Raygor shares how it all started, why he brought it back, and how average people can discover something within themselves at The DAMn.

Registration for The DAMn and Double DAMn opens at 8am on Saturday, January 6. To get registered, visit The Day Across Minnesota.

Interview with Trenton Raygor:

Trenton, How Did This Start & Have YOU Done The DAMn?

I first rode the 240 mile route with my friends Robert Hest and Carl Newberg on my birthday in September of 2016. As a birthday gift, my dad dropped us off in Gary, SD and picked us up in Hager City, WI.

At that point it was a birthday gravel ride, but after completing it and processing the adventure that we all just had, both Robert and Carl strongly encouraged me to put it out into the world for others to experience.

So, in December of 2016 I opened up registration for The DAMn. I was guessing that maybe 30 people might be interested, but was shocked when 150 people registered in less than 48 hours. Almost 9 months later, my good friend Erik Englund as well as my brother (Jackson), father (Joel), and mother (Carol), would all help put on the very first Day Across Minnesota.

I race directed The DAMn from 2017 to 2021 when I announced that due to family obligations, 2021 would be the last.

In short, life got busy and Erik and I both needed to get some time back to spend with our kids. That said, at the same time I also announced a new 480 mile route (The Double DAMn). Our official roster that year of 500 filled up in mere hours.

I first rode the new 480 mile Double DAMn route with my friend Charles Parsons in July of 2021...we finished 46.5 hours later with 505.5 miles under our belts. We both rode it on single speeds. I then race directed the last DAMn in August of 2021.

Both riding as well as race directing The DAMn have been challenging yet incredibly rewarding experiences.

Photo by Todd Bauer.

My good friend and film director extraordinaire, Nicholas Kapanke, has even memorialized the 2018 and 2021 events into two award winning documentaries. 'Delta of Spirit' is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime and 'The Last DAMn' is set to be released later this year.

'The Last DAMn' points out that since it began, 1,746 racers have attempted The DAMn and only 755 have finished.

Why Did You Put The DAMn Into the World For EVERYONE?

It was originally just a birthday gravel ride and a reason to ride bikes for a day with friends. Another reason was to visit some of the state's historic locations by bicycle...places that my grandfather Mearl, a local historian, had told me stories of and had written about. That was the madness behind the route...and to cross the entire state on gravel by bicycle was going to be a big challenge.

However, the reason why I listened to Robert and Carl and decided to put it out into the world as a race came from an entirely different place.

It wasn't until my 30s that I found confidence and strength in who I am. I'm not 100% sure why it took me that long, but it likely had to do with my mental well being, how I was spending my time, and who I was spending it with.

Once I started riding the bike regularly and reaching for the harder stuff (tough gravel races like Trans Iowa) I began meeting people who I genuinely admired and wanted to be around. These people worked hard, showed up, and inspired the hell outta me.

They were husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, who worked regular jobs in manufacturing, education, food service, transportation, health care, and everything in between. They seemed like just average human beings until they were doing something hard on a bicycle. Then they became superheroes.

The DAMn is a space that was created for us average human beings to discover something within ourselves.

At the finish line. Photo by David Markman

Anyone can find reasons why they can't do something and if your can't is stronger than your can, we won't be seeing you in Gary, SD. If you can work hard, show up, and give it all you've got, you might just have a transformative experience.

You might find that something in yourself that you've been searching for or something that you didn't even know existed. We might just see you at that elusive Hager City, WI finish line.

Since we announced that The DAMn is back in 2024, all kinds of new riders have reached out. Some have even told me how they aren't sure they can get it done, but plan to work hard, show up, and will see how far they can make it.

It's for these people. They are why we do The DAMn.

After Saying Goodbye for 2 Years, Why Did You Bring DAMn Back?

Why bring it back? Over the course of the past two years, both Erik's kids and my kids have gotten into high school mountain biking. Their involvement has even led us to coaching their teams. They have also done a little bit of gravel riding and racing and really enjoy that as well.

One day earlier this fall, my youngest asked if I thought of ever bringing The DAMn back.

He said he thought it would be inspiring to see some of the kids on his team try to get it done. My oldest agreed. Erik and his kids agreed.

We all agreed that it's time to do The DAMn, again.

With that, only 1 rider under the age of 18 has ever completed The DAMn. It will be interesting to see if more young people give it a go in 2024.

I hope so.

What Do Say to Those Who Are Interested But Unsure if They Can Do It?

It's all about the journey...and I'm not just talking about the 240 miles of gravel between Gary, SD and Hager City, WI.

It's easy to fixate on the event itself, but the road to The DAMn is underestimated and will do incredible things for each of our racers.

Ride your bike and try new things. If it works, go with it. If it doesn't, try something new.

There's definitely room to learn from others on the road to The DAMn, but make sure that you're honest with yourself about your intent and do what works best for you.




Plan a New Gravel Adventure

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