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- TOUR DE CHEQUAMEGON BIKEPACKING ROUTE
Boasting over 100 miles of unpaved dirt and gravel, and accessibility for a midwesterner with a family and full time job, this weekend bikepacking route is a great escape that provides easy access to the Chequamegon-Nicolet wilderness. Created By: Dave Schlabowske Originally published on Bikepacking.com and featured here with their permission. From BIKEPACKING.COM: This 110 mile route is over 80% gravel roads, most of which are well maintained and fairly hard-packed. If you ride just after a heavy rain, which can wash out the crusher fines on the hills, expect to find exposed baby head rocks. To give riders a taste of the other riding options in the area, we included 3 1/2 miles of rough, looser ATV trail, a similar length of easy CAMBA single track and the last 12 miles are on low-traffic, rolling, freshly-paved town roads. Think of the ATV trail and single track as the amuse-bouche, gravel as the main course, and the pavement as dessert. Tour De Chequamegon Bikepacking Route Map: BIKEPACKING.com is dedicated to exploration by bicycle. They inspire and inform through original bikepacking routes, stories, and coverage of the gear, news, and events that make our community thrive. They believe travel by bicycle has the power to encourage conservation, inclusivity, and respect for all people and cultures. More here. Disclaimer: If you choose to ride this route, you do so at your own risk. You are 100% responsible for being prepared for all conditions and making sure that biking these routes is legal. Before riding, check local weather, road conditions, closures, and property ownership. Obey all traffic laws and follow land use restrictions. Do not ride these routes without proper safety equipment and navigational tools. The accuracy of these routes cannot be guaranteed neither can we guarantee that these routes are on public property. TheNxrth.com and its contributors are in no way liable for the personal injury or damage to property that may result from cycling this route or any other routes on this website.
- SCARED & ALONE FOR ENDLESS MILES THROUGH STORMS IN THE DARK: HOW KATE COWARD GETS STRONGER WITH AGE.
Kate Coward found ultra endurance racing later in life. Now she's hooked on pushing boundaries, losing her GPS in the middle of storms in the dark, and helping others live their fullest potential. In this interview, we talk about biking, motherhood, and Arrowhead 135. Kate Coward is a Minnesota based athlete, mother, business owner, and coach with an addiction to pushing boundaries in everything she does. She helps people discover their full potential with custom ultra-endurance training plans. To learn more about Kate or her business, Full Potential Performance Coaching, visit her website. Kate, you've already had an incredible career as an endurance athlete. Where do you go from here and what exactly is your personal best? Thank you! I’m a little panicky because I feel like I found this sport late in life and there is so much I want to do! I’m still searching for my personal best. I seem to be getting stronger and faster as I roll through my 40s — so I’ll take it! I have a number of goals on my list to accomplish, and you never know where life will head but I will work toward them. The toughest thing for me is focusing on a sport or a season. I enjoy anything long and hard across any mode of transport all year around, but to be truly competitive you have to specialize and have an off or rest season. What's the hardest event you've ever done? 2020 Iditarod 350 hands down. It was the most physically and mentally demanding event I’ve done. I lost my GPS at mile 100 and then my phone. I was blind for the next several days feeling my way through windblown “trails” or whatever was left of a trail I could find, through lakes, rivers, and mountain passes. I had to use my intuition to get to the checkpoints - thank goodness I have a great sense of direction. There were a few hours here and there I thought I was walking off into the abyss. "I walked for endless miles through storms, in the dark, in -50 F weather and had a lump in my throat for 2 days straight on the trail. I was scared and lonely. There was a legit threat of safety from the outrageous numbers of moose on the trail. Everything hurt. My brain was tired from all the emotions and working so hard to overcome the mental pressures. So that win was so sweet and catapulted my confidence. Maybe that is what I’m the most proud of? How was your 2022 Arrowhead Ultra? Highs, lows, and how does it compare to your other Arrowhead events? I love the Arrowhead trail and community, so that did not disappoint! The 2022 race was somewhat uneventful for me. The weather was warm and the snow wasn’t super fast, but firm and rideable. There was no risk of frost bite. I had no epic battles with myself or the trail. I didn't eat or drink enough which hurt me, but my body knows what to do. I had some aches and pains, but nothing unusual. I think the biggest hurdle was that nearly the entire race was rideable, and so it was very physically demanding because it was just non-stop riding. I’ve completed this route 8 times, 6 of which were actual races, and every other journey had a struggle, either internal or external. I’ve walked my bike for hours on this trail, fallen asleep at the wheel and ridden into trees, shared hours on the trail with new friends, breast pumped milk at checkpoints, biked alone during a -30 F night unsupported when there was no race in 2021. When I did the race on foot, I did a double 270 mile with very little training and in my first trimester of pregnancy. On skis, I had to get cortisone shots in my forearms after my tendons flared up and I got nerve damage from double pole planting for 35 hours. So much drama! 2022 was “easy” relative to other years. I was kind of trained - just held onto some fitness from the summer gravel season. Weather-wise, we lucked out because just 1 day after the race cut off, the region experienced record temperature temp of -42 for the date! I had some “lows” but pretty quickly pulled myself out of them with my mental techniques. I know the course well enough now I sort of know where I am, but I don’t bring a computer or watch, so sometimes an hour feels like many hours … so the biggest challenge is staying present and trying not to anticipate the finish. I think time was slowed down since there wasn’t anything interesting to focus on, people to chase or be chased. "The highs were DEFINITELY being on the starting line with this awesome community after 2 years apart, and then rolling into CP2 and CP3 because the volunteers and Embark Maple crew were totally awesome!" I always look forward to these checkpoints for the people as much as the recharge. How does motherhood tie into your purpose as an athlete, coach, and business owner? Many of us have been socialized to think your life is over when you have kids — or that you won’t be able to be as fast or strong since your body changes (as a woman). I’m still besties with all my alpine ski racing friends from when we were teenagers, we are all raising our kids together now and sharing outdoor experiences with them. Also, pay attention - there are a number of the most insane female pro female athletes out there who have kids and continued their careers and are thriving. This has been such a passion of mine. "I changed my expectations and approach to my training and competition after having my son, and turns out I just got stronger and faster." Ultra racing it the greatest equalizer … age and gender seem to fade as we do harder and longer events. This really inspired me to show other (women especially) that you have so much more potential than you know. Maybe things change with kids. Maybe your long run on Saturday is half with a kid in a stroller at a slower pace. Or maybe you have to get on the trainer at 9pm. It’s all possible, just about changing your expectations, getting creative with your workouts, and having a supportive partner or family. What's the achievement you're most proud of? Hard to say. I usually put everything I have into everything I do in many areas of life, so I usually walk away feeling proud I gave it all. Finishing in the top 15 at Unbound 200 last year, my second gravel race, was definitely a highlight. The caliber of talent was the most concentrated I’ve ever been around. I was very surprised at the finish! Flat bars or drops? Equal opportunity! Music or silence? If I’m with others, always silence (or chatting of course). Long runs - podcasts Short runs or races - music. Biking: podcasts. Bike races: silence. Favorite on-course snack? Embark Maple! Favorite place to ride in The Nxrth? I love the Driftless region down near Lake Pepin. It’s as close as we can get to mountains and gorgeous views. Book recommendation? My favorite book is the 2nd of the Pillars of the Earth Series by Ken Follet, World Without End. love epic sports books such as Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald, about the epic Ironman Triathlon battle between Dave Scott and Mark Allen, arguably two of the best Ironman triathletes of all time. Otherwise I recommend Andrew Coggan’s Training and Racing with a Power Meter book -haha!
- BIKEPACKING MINNESOTA'S NEWEST TRAIL SEGMENT [VIDEO]
From KevDoes YouTube Channel: If you want to start bikepacking, but are worried about going too far from home or don't have the time or money to travel somewhere far, this video gives you a quick one-night bike packing idea that you can do from your backyard! Visit parksandtrails.org for more information on the Parks and Trails Council!
- MISTAKES WE'VE ALL MADE: ELENA WILLMOT'S FIRST GRAVEL RACE EVER ON LE GRAND DU NORD.
Elena Willmot has a tendency to do things on a whim. During the height of the pandemic and the low of a blah looking calendar, she discovered Le Grand Du Nord, promptly registered, and embarked on the adventure of her very first gravel race. Read about her accomplishment and the familiar mistakes we've ALL made at one point or another. Le Grand Du Nord is an event of Heck of the North Productions. The 2022 event takes place on May 28, in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Options include 26-miles, 54-miles, and 110-miles and all routes follow the beautiful Lake Superior shore linen before climbing to their final destinations. Story: Elena Willmot Photos: Elena Willmot and Clint Austin At the height of the pandemic last winter, with nothing to do and no one to see, I found myself glued to my phone for hours, sinking deeper and deeper into the couch cushions. Normally, this time of year was bearable - enjoyable, even - but not being able to travel meant we had no big events to look forward to. No family holidays. No ski trips. No trips to see friends in southern climates. It would be another month or two until the snow was deep and compact enough to ski on and several more months until I could get back on my beloved mountain bike. I scrolled through an endless supply of photos and videos, swapping between social media platforms, looking for that hit of dopamine, when I saw it: an image of a cyclist riding down a gravel road banked by healthy evergreens and a small pond, ‘Le Grand du Nord’ in bold red letters across the top. The photo exuded warmth and sent my heart into overdrive - I desperately missed being on my bike. I clicked the image and was taken to the Heck of the North Productions webpage, where I read about a gravel bike race, called Le Grand du Nord, that was planned for the end of May. Registration was only a few days away! There were three race options advertised: 20, 50, or 100 mile race along the hilly backcountry gravel roads that snaked around the small town of Grand Marais in Minnesota. Twenty miles felt doable… I had friends that biked from Duluth to Two Harbors and back in a day, which was way more than 20 miles. The course wasn’t advertised until the day of the race and I would be required to navigate using a GPS watch and cue card, neither of which I had any experience with. I quickly sent the link to several friends, hoping to drum up some interest, and I just as quickly received several declines. I desperately needed something to work towards, something to look forward to, so I decided to do it alone. Preparing While the countdown to race registration began, I fixated on learning as much as I could about the race and gravel biking in general. Was this doable for an average person, like myself? How would I train in the snowy, wet winter months? What on Earth is a cue card and how do I read it? I researched GPS watches and invested in one I could use across sports. I watched YouTube videos about cue cards and gravel biking. I read the Heck of the North website so many times, I could have re-written the ‘Event Info’ page verbatim. I went deep into past race archives hoping to spot a name I recognized - someone I could reach out to and bother with all my beginner questions. Being relatively new to this town, I wasn’t surprised that it was a fruitless exercise. On registration day, a 9 am alarm reminded me to sign up. I tentatively opened the registration link and began filling out my information. My fingers hovered over the Submit button - I’ve always been anxious about trying something for the first time. My anxiety had been at an all-time high while navigating pandemic life, and I was tired. A wave of frustration hit me and I hit Submit. It was time to throw myself into new things. What was the worst that could happen? I suppose my bike could break down. On that thought, I researched bike maintenance clinics in town and enrolled myself in the first one I could find (thank you, Ski Hut). With a new GPS watch, an indoor stationary bike, a bike-tuning multi-tool, and a spare tire, I was ready to start my training. I created a training plan that mimicked the half marathon training plans I had used in the past: I biked on the stationary bike 3 days a week with a longer weekend ride and some yoga mixed in. I followed various YouTube videos that helped add structure to my rides. When pavement finally emerged from under layers of snow and ice, I hit the trails. As race day approached, nerves seeped into every part of my days. What if I couldn’t finish? What if I got hurt? Or lost? As if heard by the gravel bike gods, Heck of the North decided to release the course map 6 days in advance. However, in order to make a nice loop, they needed to extend the race an extra 6 miles (for a total of 26 miles). I poured over elevation maps, satellite images, and Google’s Street View, trying to memorize every turn. The Friday before the race, I picked up my race packet and proceeded to find a cheap way to attach my cue card to my handlebars. My concoction ended up requiring a plastic sheet protector that held the cue card, a hole punch, duct tape, and several zip ties. My first rookie mistake was not testing my MacGyver set-up before the race… Race Day My wave didn’t start until 10am, so I had plenty of time to eat breakfast and drive the 2.5 hours up the north shore to Grand Marais. I loaded my Camelbak with water, tools, some extra layers, and sunscreen. The weather was expected to be near-perfect for a bike race with light winds, sun, and temperatures in the 50s. I parked and walked my bike four blocks uphill to the starting line, too embarrassed to risk not being able to bike up the steep incline like all the other spandex-laden race-goers appeared to do. I gathered with others in my wave and was thankful to see an assortment of t-shirts, bike shorts, and leggings - these were my people. I positioned myself behind two older women at the starting line and followed them closely when the timer hit zero. I used the cheers from the small crowd to propel me forward - I spotted my husband taking a video and waved. Within 100 yards, we hit a stoplight and waited for several cars to pass through. We all laughed, as it felt very anticlimactic. The first three miles were along a gradual hill that climbed out of town. Vehicle traffic began to die down and the racers started to space out. I decided to pass the ladies in front of me and wished them well. I felt a scrape along my knee and looked down. The plastic corner of my cue card set-up repeatedly scratched my knee with every pedal stroke. Frustrated, I was forced to swing my right knee wide when pedaling. At mile four, I turned a corner only to find myself gazing up a steep hill with at least 30 people scattered about, struggling to push their bikes up the hill. I knew this hill was coming, but it looked significantly more intimidating in person than it had on Google Maps. I pedaled as far as I could (likely a handful of yards) before I, too, had to push my bike up the hill, my heart nearly exploding my chest - I was sure it was the end of me. I stopped to catch my breath at the top, at which point the two ladies I started with biked past me, waving and smiling. I never did catch up to them again. The next 15 miles went smoothly - I got into a groove and became immersed in the scenery around me. At one point, I attempted to grab a swig of water while continuing to pedal - like the pros do. Just as I reached down to grab the bottle, my handlebars jerked to the right causing me to drop the bottle and then bike over it. They made it look so easy on YouTube! As I turned around to pick it up, no fewer than 3 people asked if I was okay and if I needed any help. In that moment, although embarrassed, I knew I wouldn’t get lost or be left behind. I biked on. Hanger Strikes Around mile 18, I started to lose my momentum. I was tired and irritable. I got frustrated easily and had to push my bike up a few hills, kicking myself for not being in better shape. I watched a gentleman with a small child strapped to his handlebars pass me, the kid waving and giggling as they passed. I was also passed by a group with toddler trailers attached, the kids happily bouncing along behind their parents. At this point I realized my second major mistake: I didn’t pack snacks. I was excessively hangry. I slogged through the last 8 miles in a state of misery. I cursed myself for doing this and for doing it alone. Maybe someone to talk to would have made this last stretch bearable. Or snacks. Snacks would have definitely made it better. La Fin du Grand du Nord Just when I thought I was going to lose it entirely, the road curved down towards Highway 7 - the paved road we started on! Relieved, I crossed onto the highway and coasted down the gentle hill back towards the starting line. The sounds of cowbells, music, and cheers started to get louder. Adrenaline kicked in and I pedaled harder, ignoring the “SLOW DOWN” signs posted along the route. I turned onto 3rd Avenue and immediately spotted my husband trying to point me out to our dog, who looked utterly confused. Thankfully, he had a feast waiting for me once I sailed over the finish line. We sat on the Voyageur Brewing deck soaking in the sunshine and reflecting on the past several months - how motivating it had been to have this goal to work towards and how biking, in general, had really brought us through the difficulty of pandemic isolation. I came into the race with zero expectations for myself, so I was extremely proud and humbled. It was a really difficult route for someone as un-athletic as myself (like really un-athletic), but I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive environment in which to try it out. I know I’ll find myself on another gravel race someday (I started plotting my next race the following day), but next time, I’ll be sure to bring snacks.
- FATE X FATTIES: FAT BIKE WORLDS WILL RETURN TO WISCONSIN IN 2023 [VIDEO]
Fat Bike Worlds, hosted by Borealis Bikes, just announced they'll be returning to New Richmond, Wisconsin in 2023. Find a spread of race highlights, drone flyovers, and people wearing bacon costumes in this recap video. To learn more about the 2022 event visit FatBikeWorlds.org
- IS CAYUNA THE BEST FAT BIKING DESTINATION?
This past Weekend, the Minnesota MTB YouTube Channel headed up to Central Minnesota to check out what Cayuna has to offer in the winter. Is it just as fun as in the summer? Find out in this latest video.
- RYAN STEPHENS ON SUB-ZERO, 4AM ADVENTURE PHOTOGRAPHY & SHOOTING 906 TRIPLE CROWN EVENTS
Ryan Stephens learned to shoot outdoor adventure photography in the middle of the night while capturing the stunning northern lights. A regular photographer for The Marji Gesick, Polar Roll, and The Crusher, Ryan shares his story in today's interview. Ryan Stephens is a photographer living in Marquette, Michigan. He specializes in shooting action sports and nature and is the Photo & Video Director at Northern Michigan University. Photos: Ryan Stevens Photo @ryanstephensphoto You’ve photographed Marji Gesick, The Crusher, and Polar Roll. Have you ever actually biked any of Todd’s events? I will happily go camping when it’s -40, but I’m still not crazy enough to race any of Todd’s events. Plus then I would miss out on photographing them! What’s your background and how did you choose photography? My Dad passed down his love for biking to me at an early age. He would take me to the local trails, dirt jumps or skatepark and we would often take pictures of each other to see how much (or little) air we would get on the jumps. Before long I felt the need to document the silly things my friends and I would do around town and on a jump in my backyard. I would use a little point and shoot but I found the limitations of that pretty quickly. My parents bought me my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel, for my high school graduation gift and I brought that camera to college which is when I really discovered my love for photography. How did you learn outdoor adventure photography? When I was getting started I just got outside with my camera as much as possible because I loved it and it was just another excuse to play outside. Getting into specifics and technique came along later. In the digital age it doesn't cost anything to learn by trial and error and leaves no excuses to just practice and practice. I noticed that I didn't see much night photography online, so I decided to focus on that, and for a long time that was all I did. Many nights after class and work my friends would go out on the town while I would drive to the middle of nowhere shooting the stars all night.I would check for northern lights nearly every night, and when I found them I would shoot until 4 or 5am often in sub-zero temps and still find a way to make it to my 8am class. After you master your camera shooting in the dark with freezing hands and dying batteries, every other shooting situation becomes much simpler. Through social media I eventually gained a small amount of local recognition which opened opportunities to work with some great local professional photographers who helped me learn so much about not only the craft, but the directing and business side of photography as well. The U.P. has an iconic reputation. What is it about the land and people that give it such an adventurous spirit? The U.P. is a beautiful, yet rugged place to live. Lake Superior and the surrounding landscapes are extremely unique and provide opportunities for adventure, but also bring isolation and rough weather. It takes a certain resilience to make a life here and the people that do are often the ones who embrace winter and know how to make the most of it. The adventurous spirit thrives here and this small community understands the importance of being active outside and the happiness it brings. Do you get cold shooting hundreds of active fat bikers while you stand still in the snow? My shooting style while on an event like the Polar Roll is actually very active which helps me stay warm in the winter. I make it a point to move around the course as much as possible to capture as many racers in different locations, climbing trees to get different angles, and flopping around with snowshoes to get a unique photograph of as many participants as possible. My family often joke about how many jackets I own, but being an outdoor photographer in the U.P. makes you realize quickly that you need good gear. Being able to focus on your job instead of your survival makes a big difference in the end result of a shoot day. What do you shoot with? Canon R6 with my main lenses being the Canon 16-35, 50, and 70-200. What kind of biking do you do? A big reason I moved to the U.P. was because of the phenomenal terrain here. Mountain biking is one of my favorite things to do while not behind the lens and I feel fortunate to have one of the best trail systems in the midwest a mile from my house. To see more of Ryan Stephens' work, follow him on Instagram or check out his landscape print galleries and race coverage.
- PART TWO: 45NRTH RIDERS' BIKEPACKING "PORTAGE" ALONG SUPERIOR SHORELINE.
Part 2: This winter, Matt Acker needed an epic bike adventure. Bringing along a few fellow 45NRTH riders, he hit the southern shore of Lake Superior from Whitefish Point to Grand Marais. To read Part 1 of the bike adventure, visit 45NRTH.com. Photos: Neil Washburn Follow along for the full story and stay tuned for Part 3 coming later in February.
- 135 MILES & 1 LESS KIDNEY. WHY MARK SCOTCH, 66, "RETIRED" FROM ARROWHEAD THEN CAME BACK FOR MORE.
Mark Scotch, an endurance athlete, met a stranger in a bar and offered him his kidney. Most people don't realize the critical need for kidney donations or that 13 people die every day waiting for a kidney. Read this story and interview with Mark to learn about his heroic generosity and how he continues to live a life full of adventure and physical activity. The Arrowhead 135 is considered one of the 50 hardest races on earth. It is a human powered endurance event taking place during the coldest part of winter in the coldest place in the United States. Mark Scotch's story has caught media attention and inspired many people. His project, "The Organ Trail", chronicles his health journey as well as his endurance adventures. Head to his blog to read his full race report. All photos by Jamison Swift unless otherwise noted. You “retired” from races like Arrowhead 135 and Tuscobia Ultra but you did them both this winter. WHY? Back in the winter of 2019/2020 I had completed Tuscobia 160 on skis between Christmas and New Year. I then completed The Arrowhead 135 in late January 2020 using a kicksled. This was the final discipline that qualified me for the a'trois award, doing the AHU by bike, ski and foot (kicksled is included in the foot category). I had also completed the AHU unsupported on bike in 2018, so I thought it was time to give up my roster spot and let someone else take a crack at The Arrowhead. My wife and I were both retired so after Arrowhead 2020 we took off to escape the rest of our midwest winter heading southwest towards Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Along the way we stopped in Natchitoches, Louisiana for the night. That's when I met Hugh Smith, found out he needed a kidney and I offered him one of mine. During the process of learning what I needed to do to donate for Hugh, I read that 13 people die in the United States every day waiting for a kidney transplant. Neither my wife nor I knew that and for some reason it hit me. I rather quickly came to the conclusion that there are probably thousands if not millions of people able to donate that don't know about the need and maybe they would be willing to donate a kidney to save someone's life if they did. I decided to start The Organ Trail: A Kidney Donation Journey, to create awareness about the urgent and dire need for donors AND to demonstrate that a healthy person that qualified could donate a kidney, probably save someone's life, and then go back to the lifestyle they had pre-donation surgery. In my case that prompted me to come out of "retirement" and do both the Tuscobia 160 and the Arrowhead 135 in the winter of 2020/2021 on one kidney. Covid canceled the 2020/2021 races so I had to wait until winter of 2021/2022, at age 66, to do them. I finished both events, with one kidney and didn't experience any ill effects. Tell me about Arrowhead 135. Highs, lows, and did you finish? With the warm temps forecasted for Arrowhead 2022 I was excited to not have to deal with the -10 to -20 degree temps we had to handle just a few weeks earlier at the Tuscobia 160. I started out feeling quite well, eating and drinking into the first checkpoint at the Gateway store. I knew, once again, that this was going to be my last Arrowhead, so like at Tuscobia earlier in the month, I stopped and "enjoyed" the opportunities to rest a bit, socialize with as many racers and volunteer friends as possible during the race and at the checkpoints. I think I was in 13th place or so coming into Gateway. I had a bowl of soup and some hot chocolate and took off in 20 minutes or so. I knew I had to keep my calorie count up so I tried picking up the pace and began eating more frequently. With one kidney, water consumption was a much bigger concern for me than in years past, so I also was very grateful that with the warm temps accessing my camelback tube was easy and there was really no danger of dealing with a frozen tube. All was good.....but I did start to realize that my desire to eat was not really what my throat and stomach had in mind. As time went on, it became obvious that getting food down was going to be an issue. I slowed my pace some to try to relieve the stress on my body but it apparent that I was going into some serious calorie deficit. About 7 miles from Melgeorges Shalane Frost, the women skier from Alaska, came up from behind me and passed me as I was walking up a hill. She stopped at the top and pulled her backpack off and was grabbing some food and water when I came up to her. She looked at her GPS and smiled broadly as she stated "1/2 way there". I smiled back and offered, that no, Melgeroges is 1/2 way. She took a 2nd look at her Garmin gave a quizzical look at it and me as she restated, "no, 1/2 of 135 miles is..." and as she was doing the math I broke in and asked, "Is this your first Arrowhead?" to which she replied "yes". I said, "I'm not the skier you are, for sure, I can tell that, but I've skied this twice before, trust me on this one, just figure Melgeorge's is 1/2 way". Shalane seemed like a very humble, thoughtful and confident person, respecting the opinion/advice of someone that has covered the distance before, and slowly nodded her head as she repositioned her backpack back on and took off. I ran into Shalane a bit later, almost literally, when just a few miles down the trail she surprised me by skiing towards me. She had come to a Y in the trail and had taken the correct, right turn, but she had turned around after a while thinking that she had taken the wrong fork in the trail. I said, no, you're going the right way. She stated she had not noticed any bike tracks for a distance and felt the left fork must be the correct one. I gently corrected her by saying, no, she had gone the correct way and that maybe some snowmobiles had come by and wiped out any bike tracks. Luckily she trusted me and we both took off, to turn left down the trail onto the lake. I was 6 minutes behind her into Melgeorges, the 1/2 way checkpoint. As a xc skier, I rather marveled at her form and strength. Having watched her glide down the trail and across the lake, I was rather surprised she hadn't caught me much earlier! Even on the soft, mushy snow, she barely sunk in as she kicked, poled and glided her way down the trail. Shalane not only obliterated the women's record, which Kate Coward had totally smashed a couple of years earlier, Shalane now has the record ski time for both women and men. Fantastic! My wife Lynn met me at the far side of the lake. She didn't say anything till after the race, but she said I looked pretty messed up. We hugged goodbye as she headed off to the Casino at the Finish Line and I headed inside the checkpoint. By this time I hadn't eaten much if anything for the past couple of hours, maybe longer. I got into the checkpoint and was offered wild rice soup and grilled cheese and I selected chocolate milk as a drink. The milk went down fine, the soup was ok, but after just one bite of the grilled cheese everything threatened to come back up to see daylight if I ignored the message my stomach was telling me. I tried to relax some, drank a bit more milk, got another bowl of soup, but even that was giving me that funny feeling you get right before a hurl. So, I knew what I had to do. I trekked on over to the Tamarack cabin, carrying my 1/4 eaten grilled cheese, untouched 2nd bowl of soup, and one more cup of hot chocolate. I laid down immediately and barely heard fellow racer Bob Hingtgen come in and do the same. I fell asleep so fast I didn't even set an alarm. After about an hour I woke up, warmed up the soup and sammy, and viola! Down they went. Bob got up as well and after getting our drop bags settled we signed out......but only after I asked the volunteer to text my wife to pick me up at any road crossing necessary to make our 2:30pm flight out of MPLS Tuesday afternoon. I wasn't sure when I'd finish at this point and we had a plane to catch. Bob and I took off, catching riders as we went. Bob ended up breaking his chain, but I hadn't noticed him drop back. He caught me past the hills 3 miles or so before the Embark (3rd) Checkpoint, I had stopped to talk to Todd Gabrielson, our snowmobile angel, to notify him of a biker that had bivied 10 feet off of the trail back in the hills which signals that they might need some help. I had some orange slices Bob and I shared and had put down as much food as I could, which included a few Gu blocks and some regular Gu. Bob and I came into the checkpoint both calorie starved. I was able to squeeze down 2 Embark syrups, (man, that Coffee Syrup was tasing great about then!) and we took off. The trail was solid and I knew I could hammer it, even with not many calories, as long as I kept my electrolyte levels up so cramping wouldn't occur. I had been popping Hammer Endurpolytes and drinking water, so I just tried to ignore my muscles and get on with it. I was hoping to see Lynn at the finish line and not at any of the up coming road crossings this close to the end. It wasn't long before we came upon another rider and he was admittedly tired and having some issues. He wanted to hang with us, so I suggested he tuck in behind Bob and we took off. I just decided to move out solo if needed at the max speed I could muster. Luckily, I got the finish before Lynn cut me off and I pulled in feeling pretty dang good considering. Retired......again! How do you feel pushing your body like this after donating a kidney? I feel really good that I was able to finish a very tough Tuscobia 160 in the cold temps and also Arrowhead, although not as competitively as I'd have liked, but still respectfully. I actually wanted to push my body to be confident when telling people that yes, one can donate a kidney and truly go back to what they were doing pre-donation. My main concern really wasn't my "body" but more making sure I took in enough water to give Lefty (my remaining kidney) the best opportunity to function at the highest level possible while filtering my blood. An interesting fact is that 1 out of 750 people are born with only 1 kidney and generally never even know it until later in life. Kidneys in a healthy person function at less than 100% each so if only one is left, the slack can be picked up by the remaining kidney. The remaining kidney will actually grow in size in many cases as well, to increase its capability. To learn more about kidney donation, visit the National Kidney Donation Organization. Visit The Organ Trail to see more of Mark Scotch's journey and follow along on the adventure.
- SNOWBULLY: 2 HOURS RACING IN THE COLD DARK NIGHT WITH BRIAN DAVIS
Brian Davis just raced the Snow Bully fat bike race at Iola Winter Sports club. It is a gorgeous area with rolling hills and perfect Wisconsin country charm. There is normally no fatbiking on the Iola club trails, but for this event which is part of the Iola Winter Carnival they got to tear it up! Brian Davis is the inventor of Fix It Sticks, Backbottle and The Weatherneck System and creator of Hollow Socks. On his YouTube Channel he discusses race tactics and strategies to be a faster, fitter and smarter cyclist.
- CADEN BUDD'S STORY: 15 YEARS OLD, WINS FIRST US FAT BIKE OPEN, BEATS DAD.
Caden Budd just won the first ever US Fat Bike Open in the Elite category in January. In this this story, he shares his race day recap and how he got the top spot on the podium. At just 15 years old, Caden shares what the race meant to him and what challenges he's looking forward to next. The Inaugural US Fat Bike Open is a Wiscosin fatbike race that took place at the Green Bay Country Club on January 22, 2022. It was the second of four races in the Broken Spoke Snow Crown Series. Over 220 fat bike riders braved the frozen tundra for the race. Story by Caden Budd The first ever US Fat Bike Open took place on January 21, 2022, and it was AWESOME. With all the energy floating around that day and the days leading up to the race, you could tell that this was going to be a big race now and years to come. Event organizers George and Sarah Kapitz had only a month to get everything ready, it turned out amazing. With more time and some possible cash prize sponsors in the future, the goal is to make this a big event with people from all over the country to come and race. Race Day Preparation For me, preparation started the Wednesday before. I wasn’t going to be able to pre-ride on Saturday, so I figured that the Wednesday group ride there would have to do. The course could not have been any more perfect that day, as I like to say, It was like riding on a highway. For those of you new to Fat Bike riding or racing use to plowing snow that means really fast. I was really nervous as to how the race was going to go. There was something about this race that lit a fire in me to want to win it. Wednesday’s ride was the only day that week that I felt like my legs were not sore and I could really ride hard. My legs felt like garbage Monday and Tuesday. I joked with my mom I was hanging it up at 15 and retiring. Saturday arrived, I was up at 5:30 and at the course by 6:30. It takes a crew to put on a race. Working for Broken Spoke Bike Shop event organizers and sponsor, I was accountable to help set up. Once we got everything set up for the day, I went to get changed. Mens Elite and Advanced was the first race. I had just enough time to squeeze in a lap before the race to check out how much the course has changed. There were snow drifts starting to build up, and I had to drop my tire pressure. I let out some air until I had 5 psi in my tires. There would be no highway riding. Just in time for the start It was taking a lot longer than I thought to get ready, and soon enough I had only 5 minutes until race start, and everybody was already in the starting corral. I was just getting down there, and was lucky enough to be let up to the front row. I felt amazing on the first lap of the race. I was sitting in fourth for the first half lap, until I moved up to second before the big hill. After the hill, it was just the two of us. My father, Mike Budd, and I were off the front, and it would stay that way for the rest of the race. During the race, I did not feel strong. Every little incline I felt like if he pushed it just a little harder, I would pop off his wheel and have no shot at winning. I couldn’t let him see any sign of weakness or he would take advantage of the opportunity. Fortunately he did spot weakness and take off, and I was able to hang on for the entire race. Calculating moves on the last quarter mile With about a quarter mile to go, I messed up going around a corner and a gap opened up in between us. It stayed like this for a couple hundred feet. Luckily for me, some lappers just got into a skinny section of the trail just before we could pass them, so I was able to catch back up to my father. To win you need to be strategic and know when to make moves. I started my sprint early and got around him just before the last corner. All I had to do was not crash and I would take the win. My approach worked. I managed to win the first ever US Fat Bike Open in the Elite Category. There are some awesome WI and MI racers that come out. We push one another to be our best and have a great time racing and hanging out after. After the adrenaline settled down, I was able to reflect. All I could think about was how lucky I was. There were so many scenarios where I would have easily lost, and it went perfect. Thanks to George Kapitz for having the vision to create a cycling community and for putting on the best Fat Bike Races in Wisconsin. Thanks to Team Broken Spoke for being incredible teammates. Special Thanks to my parents for enabling me to discover and pursue racing. Up next: winter goals What’s next for me this winter? My two big races are Fat Bike Birkie in Cable, Wis. and Polar Roll in Ishpeming, MI. My goal is to finish top 3 for both short races. Being only 15, I have a few years to master the short course before I can compete on the long course. I also have the rest of the Snow Crown Series, which I am striving to win the overall in Elite. Here is my question for you…what are your plans this year? Whether you are thinking about trying it out, just bought a bike, or an experienced rider, come check out all the great Fat Bike racing in northern Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. There’s nothing like enjoying the winter on two wheels pedaling in the brisk air. Better yet, when you fall there’s no road rash. To learn more about the US Fat Bike Open and the Snowcrown Series presented by Broken Spoke Bikes, visit SnowcrownSeries.com .
- 45NRTH RIDERS BIKEPACK LAKE SUPERIOR COAST ON FAT BIKES, GO OFF SWEET JUMP.
This winter, Matt Acker needed an epic bike adventure. Bringing along a few fellow 45NRTH riders, he hit the southern shore of Lake Superior from Whitefish Point to Grand Marais. To read Part 1 of the adventure, visit 45NRTH.com. Photos: Neil Washburn Follow along for the full story and stay tuned for Part 2 coming later in February.