August 21, 2017

Forgive me. This will be long.

So a bit over a week ago, I did this thing. I told you all about it, then I left on vaca, and left you all hanging. Suffice to say, I survived. It was an amazing thing to be a part of. The start was at midnight(first image), and the first 60 miles was predominantly downhill. It was nearly a full moon, and the skies were clear as a bell. I found myself all alone for large portions of the night, so I decided I'd save my lights batteries and run with out them for a while. At one point, I went nearly twenty miles with no lights but the moon. I think that was my favorite part of the ride. The first checkpoint(we received cue sheets to each subsequent check point) was in total darkness, around 3:30 am(really, I flew the first section!). I was feeling good, took a couple hits of bourbon, grabbed some coffee and vittles and kept going(thank you thank you thank you to Michael for running a totally pro check point!). Pretty quick stop.

The next section was up to, through and out of the Minnesota River Valley(through Redwood Falls). It was probably the prettiest section. Around 4:45, I could start seeing the gloaming, significantly lifting my spirits. I was listening to some music at this point, and SonVolt's Tear Stained Eye was playing, perfect accompaniment IMO. As we were rolling along through the valley, light was gradually coming through from the dawn. The valley was going through a transformation, waking up with birdsong and sights. Fog laying low, with colors softly being revealed. Flowers beginning to pop out, and farms waking. Sunrise truly ended our run through the River Valley. We climbed a Minimum Maintenance Road to the top of the valley. At the top, framed on the sides by the forest we just rolled through, and cornfields welcoming us to the flats of farmland, was the sun, in all its warm glory, greeting us for a loooong(er) day(middle image taken just after the climb(I'm the bright yellow dot). Things were pretty uneventful up to the next checkpoint. I rolled in at 7:38 ride time, finishing the fastest century(that was 120 miles long) that I've ever completed. And I felt great.

The ride to checkpoint three was uneventful, but for riding roads near Henderson that I got my introduction to gravel on. Riding those old familiar roads was very welcome. I knew that everything behind was new, but most of what lied ahead would be familiar terrain(really, from Henderson to the finish in Red Wing was on roads that I have ridden at least once). I got into checkpoint three, got my cues and took a little bit longer break. After all, I was 180 miles in. Fatigue was starting to creep in. I did still feel good though. I texted Lisa(I actually texted her at each stop, just to be that nice guy), let her know I was about an hour out of Northfield(yes, the route took us within two miles of home!).

Dutifully, an hour later, I'm rolling through town on Canada Ave, and dear Lisa had arranged to have a crew cheering us on! That was a sweet little lift that was worth more than you all know. It was so very good to see all of you out there. From there to Cannon Falls, the route was intimately familiar. Then hell started. Really. At mile 210, Trenton started routing us up these wicked rollers. For twenty miles. I wanted to strangle him. Which is really hard to do 'cause he's a really nice guy. I stuck it out though, again, riding roads that I've been on before, so I knew what was coming up. That both helped and hurt matters. The last image shows me rolling up to the sprint finish line(still about 5 miles to go though to the official finish). I am tired. At this point I have sixteen hours on the bike. I'm really ready to be done. A few miles later, in Hagar City, WI, I am. I shook Trenton's hand gratefully and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for providing my biggest challenge ever. I rode my bike 242 miles in one sitting. Something I NEVER thought I'd do. I did it in 16:16 rolling(18:24 elapsed) time. I averaged 15 miles an hour. I finished in 33rd place.

@thedayacrossminnesota I'm leaning to doing it again.

- Marty Larson

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