Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ride a Century? Done!

On Saturday, I completed a goal I've had for quite some time - I completed a century ride on my Salsa Vaya!

100 miles - Done!
I'm proud of what I did - I'm getting kinda teary-eyed thinking about that moment when I realized I rode my bike for 100 miles! You see, a century ride is something that I never though I could do when I started bicycling six years ago. It's not something I thought I could do earlier this summer, even. But rides like the Box of Frogs, Riotgrravel and my bike packing trip have made me feel stronger both physically and mentally. As the summer progressed, my century ride thinking morphed from "Hey, I think I can do a century" to "When I do a century I'll ride my Vaya" (it's my most comfortable bike) to "I'm going to do a century this fall."

I rode my bike to train but I think the most important thing I did to get ready for this century ride is this - I told myself I could do it and started to believe I could, in fact, pedal my bike for 100 miles.

The best memories of the ride were the many short chats I had with people along the trail. I found that talking to people and hearing their stories energized me and kept me going. I'm going to write a blog post about that in the next day or two.

I could recap the ride in great detail for you but, frankly, most of what happened is I pedaled my bike for a VERY long time - just over nine hours.

There's more to it than that, of course, so if you're interested, read on for more info.


Overall, my body felt strong and my spirits were up most of the way. I was glad to have my husband, Owen, along for company. Owen's ridden several centuries before so knew what to expect and could remind me to focus on the miles accomplished instead of the miles to go. He's also great to talk to and good conversation really helps me keep my mind off of pedaling.

We had a gorgeous day for a ride - mid 70s, sunny, not much wind. For much of the ride I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the roads and trail. At times, the ride was boring. I had points when I was really tired. I hummed when I got a bit too tired and talked to myself sometimes, too. One thing I said to myself was "Little circles. Just make little circles." because my bicycling friend, Kate, told me to remember that all I have to do to finish the ride is keep moving my feet in little circles.

Physically my butt got kinda sore but I expected that. Nothing else really hurt during the ride - not for long periods of time, anyway. Both of my feet felt numb sometimes. My wrists got a little sore and so did my shoulders. I was pretty tired the day after the ride but not very sore at all. It's three days after the ride now and I'd say I've completely recovered.

My Vaya outperforms the Mukluk Owen was riding when it comes to speed so Owen had to work harder to keep up with his heavier bike. There were a few times when I had to slow down for Owen. That doesn't happen often (Owen's a fast rider) so it felt kinda good to be the speedy one for a change :-)  


  • Ride start at 8:08 a.m. (about an hour later than we should have, given how much I stop to talk to people)
  • Finished riding at about 8:20 p.m. (we had lights so were visible and could see where we were going)
  • Total moving time - 9 hours, 9 minutes, 7 seconds
  • Average speed - 11.0 mph (faster than the 10 mph I planned for)

  • I rode my Salsa Vaya 2
  • Owen rode his Salsa Mukluk 2 making this his first fat bike century
The Ride:
  • About 40 miles in, I was tired and wondered if I could make it but also knew I was stuck at that point
  • After the 50 mile mark (and a great lunch in Hutchinson) I was feeling pretty good and knew I would make it back. Still, I would occasionally worry that I would fall off my bike or something and not make it
  • We rode about a 12 mile stretch of gravel between Silver Lake and Lester Prairie. That might have been the hardest part of the ride but it was also really pretty out there on the country roads
  • I found it was NOT helpful to look at my odometer because it seemed to move way too slowly. Some of those miles felt super long 
  • I learned to celebrate the miles I had completed instead of focusing on how many miles I had left to do
  • Every 10 miles Owen and I cheered! I did switch this up and counted remaining miles after about mile 80, though
  • 80 miles was a point where I was just getting sick of riding my bike and wanted to eat chocolate
  • I realized when I was about .5 miles from our van that I was only at 97 miles so Owen and I rode back on the trail for a mile plus so I could get my 100 miles
  • I cried when I hit 100 miles - because I was happy. Overwhelmed. Amazed. Proud. Done!

The Route:

My main goal for this century was to make this a relatively "easy" ride so I could build confidence and convince myself to do an organized gravel century down the road. With that in mind, Owen created a mixed-surface ride that was mostly on bike trails. We avoided a lot of wind this way, had shade much of the time and also felt very safe not having to deal with traffic. We were super glad to be on trails at the end of the day because we finished the ride in the dark.

Here's where we rode - We parked the van at Wayzata Bay then road streets north a bit to pick up the crushed limestone Luce Line Trail. About 25 miles in, around Winstead, the limestone changed over to freshly paved tar. We stayed on the Luce Line all the way to Hutchinson. At Hutchinson, after a lunch break, we took the Luce Line back to Silver Lake rode gravel to Lester Prairie where we stopped for water and snacks. At Lester Prairie we picked the Dakota Rail Trail (limestone for a short bit then paved the rest of the way) back to Wayzata.

Until next time!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Coffee and Hammock Adventure

It's raining this afternoon so my mind is going back to last week when the weather was perfect and I went on a perfect bike ride adventure.

Last Wednesday, my friend Katy and I headed out for a bike ride from Northfield to Caron Park. Caron Park is a county park located about 8 miles south of Northfield. The route to Caron started out with a killer hill (called Question Mark Hill by the locals) and there are a lot of other hilly portions on the route as well. We managed to ride them all, though, and found our way to Caron Park.
Crushing gravel on the way to Caron Park
Zippy, my Salsa Vaya leaning on the Caron park sign
One of our plans for the ride was to have an adventure coffee like we did on our Coffee Outside Ride. I was out of fuel for my little Esbit pocket stove so Katy packed a one burner camping stove in a backpack so we could have coffee outside. First, though, we had to find an ideal location. Katy knew of a waterfall in the park so we set off on some single track (created and maintained by the local mountain bike club - CROCT - The Cannon River Offroad Cycling & Trails club). The trail was fabulous if a bit slick from a recent rain and leaf cover. Our skinnyish tired gravel bikes made for slow going and we walked portions of the trail which greatly lowered our overall average speed for the day but that just doesn't matter. Speed be damned. We were having fun!
Katy on the trail
Myrna on the trail 
We got to the end of the single track and still hadn't found the waterfall so we headed down another part of the trail system and soon found ourselves by a creek and beautiful waterfall. We walked our bikes across the creek and set up for coffee. Ah, I'm feeling relaxed just thinking about it.
The Waterfall in Caron Park
Our bikes leaning up against a bank by the creek
We made our coffee and then Katy, all smiles, said "I have a surprise for you!" I had no idea what sort of surprise Katy could possibly have. "I brought hammocks!" she said.
She was right, I was surprised - and delighted - at the prospect of hanging out in hammocks that afternoon because we had talked about setting up hammocks the last time we rode. The thing is, I don't have a hammock or really any idea of how to tie even tie one in a tree. But Katy's husband is somewhat of a hammock guro so she has access to many a hammock and knows the ropes (ha! pun!) of how set one up.

Katy took two hammocks out of her backpack and some rope and gave me a little lesson in how to pick a good hammock spot and how to get a hammock all set up. We put two hammocks side by side right next to the creek. After a bit of time getting comfortable sitting sideways in the hammock (I even managed to drink my coffee sitting there), I figured out how to get comfortable laying back. Katy did the same.
Drinking my coffee in the hammock
Hanging out in the hammocks
I'm not that good at relaxing. But that afternoon I just layed back in a hammock and Katy and I talked and rested and talked for I don't know how long. Time didn't seem to matter anymore. The fact that I had writing work waiting for me at home didn't matter, either. Instead, I soaked up the scenery. The sun shining through the trees. The sound of the water flowing over the little falls. I discovered that I was able to really be in the moment and forget about about my to-do lists back home. I truly relaxed!
My view
Katy's view
All too soon, we realized we'd better get back on the road or the kids would get home from school before we made it back to town. So we packed up our coffee things and hammocks, hiked with our bikes back up the trail then set off for the ride home.

The ride home was over way too quickly and the reality of getting back to the to-do list of the day set in once we got off our bikes. Yet, the memory an ordinary bike that turned into a grand adventure has stayed with me and even today when it's raining I remember the fun we had on our adventure bike ride.

Let's hope I can conjure up memories of laying in a hammock in the sunshine once winter sets in. Come to think of it, there's no reason I can't go for a ride, make coffee and lie out in a hammock in the middle of winter. Hmmm, I think I've got another goal!

**Thanks to Katy for sharing not just coffee and hammocks but several pictures for this blog post as well!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Prepping for a Century

About a month ago when Owen and I were on our bike packing trip, I decided I'd like to do a century ride. I've long wanted to do a century ride but have been somewhat intimidated by, well, riding 100 miles all at once. On top of that, a lot of the organized century rides are pretty challenging. But Owen came up with a century ride idea that sounded good to me so I'm going to give it a go!

Owen came up with a hundred mile route that is all on bike trails, most of them crushed limestone. I'll ride my comfortable Salsa Vaya and Owen will ride his Salsa Mukluk. Owen has done a half a dozen century rides before (he completed one yesterday as part of his ten ride personal road biking challenge) but he's never ridden a century on a fat bike. So we'll both be doing something new - I'll do my first century and Owen will do his first fat bike century.

The route will be fairly easy to ride and I plan to stop a lot along the way to rest and drink coffee (I do that on most every ride no matter the length!). Still, the ride will be an amazing challenge. We're planning to do the ride, weather permitting, in two weeks which means that I have to get out on my bike and put in some miles so I'm ready for the ride!

So I went for a 13 mile ride today. It was a mostly gravel route and my pace was a bit faster than my normal gravel average of about 10 mph. The day was nearly perfect for a ride, albeit a bit warm at 82 degrees with a headwind for much of the route. Still, the ride today was a reminder of why I like riding gravel so much.

There were few cars. The gravel today was dry and the majority of the asphalt smooth. I could hear crickets chirping in the fields. Saw dozens of grasshoppers hopping across my path. Heard the rustling of the wind through the corn and the sound of my tires on the gravel. I noticed how beautiful the corn and soybeans are now that they are turning from green to yellowish brown. I noticed the coming of fall. The sun on my face and the breeze blowing past me as I pedaled on my way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Coffee Outside Ride!

It's been a goal of mine for quite some time to actually have an "adventure coffee" bike ride. Many of my bicycling friends post pictures on Instagram with the hash tags of #coffeeoutside and #adventurecoffee and it always looked like a fun thing to do but I didn't even have a suitable pot in which to boil water let alone know the first thing about what sort of equipment I might need. So, I talked to some of my bicycling friends, most notably Michael L. and Christopher T., to ask them what I needed to get set up to make coffee outside and come up with some suitable gravel bike routes to ideal coffee break locations.

I discovered that the little Esbit pocket stove my son Ryan has would work well enough for a stove. I still needed a pot and a coffee making system of some sort so I went to Milltown Cycles last week and talked to Curtis about getting set up to make coffee outside.

Curtis was very helpful and I ended up purchasing a nice little GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist system and a Ultralight Java Drip cone filter. The Pinnacle Soloist system includes a pot with strainer lid that also works as a cup lid, a cup/bowl, a "foon" (spoon & fork combined) and a carrying case. The filter clips right onto a cup (it's made to clip onto the cup included with the Pinnacle Soloist system but will work on any cup/mug) and uses a drip method for brewing coffee. Curtis said I could use #2 paper filters for the coffee if I wanted or go without a filter.
I had all of my equipment - all I needed to do was get out and ride!

Well today was a good day for a ride! The weather was absolutely perfect for riding and Katy was free to go and so was Sara (Sara is new to riding with our Northfield Women's Gravel Chasers group).  I packed up my coffee making gear this morning and made sure to remember matches and coffee because I wouldn't have much success without a way to light my stove or coffee to brew! All of my coffee gear - my stove, the coffee filter, the coffee, matches etc. - fit right into the little pot and the pot fit into my handy Revelate Pika bag with tons of room to spare.

We planned to meet at Katy's house and ride and head south to Caron Park at 10:30. But plans changed last minute (life happens) and we ended up short on time so we decided to ride north to Waterford instead. Our ride was going to be a short one, but adventure can happen no matter the distance you ride if you have the right mind-set. Excited, I hopped on my Salsa Vaya and Katy, Sara and I headed out for our first ever adventure coffee ride!

About 5 miles out, at the Waterford iron bridge, we went offroading a bit to get to a suitable spot for our coffee break. We rode on a nearly hidden trail, hidden because the weeds were so high, and had to push our bikes through the trees.
Katy making the most of our adventure through the trees.
Within a few minutes we found a sandy little spot along the Cannon River with a log to sit on, lots of shade and nice view of the Waterford bridge - a perfect place to make coffee.
Sara and Katy at our coffee break location
It took me a couple of tries to get the pocket stove fuel lit (the fuel is a little solid block that fits into the stove perfectly) but once I got it going the fuel burned well.

I poured some water from a bike bottle into my pot and set it on the stove to boil. In about 5 minutes the water was hot enough to make coffee so I poured it over the grounds in my little JavaDrip filter and moments later had a great cup of coffee to share with my friends!
Katy enjoys coffee outside 
Couldn't ask for a lovelier location for our adventure coffee
We had a nice little break there by the river. In addition to coffee, I packed some meat sticks and chocolate and Sara brought some zucchini muffins to share. We sat and talked and shared a cup of coffee and snacks, a mini-lunch of sorts. It may not sound that exciting - but I'll say this - there's something really wonderful about making a cup of coffee outside and enjoying it by the river with your friends. It's like that simple cup of coffee transformed from a normal cup of joe to the best cup of coffee ever. Close enough, anyway. It certainly was wonderful and I'm already looking forward to my next cup of coffee outside!

Thanks, Katy and Sara, for going on an adventure coffee bike ride with me and for encouraging me as I figured out how to make my stove and all of my new gear work.

Next up? At some point I want to get a hammock then ride out to make coffee and then take a post-coffee break nap in the woods!