Box of Frogs Adventure

Back in April, I signed up for the 60 mile Box of Frogs bike ride (there was also a 100 mile route). I knew the ride would be a huge challenge as I have only been on one 60 mile ride ever before (and that was back in 2012) and the longest ride I've done so far this year was 35 miles (actually made up of two rides with an hour break after 20 miles).

Uh, now that I look at those stats I realize that it was a bit more than crazy for me to sign up for the Box of Frogs. What was I thinking?

Well, I guess I wasn't really thinking. I just saw the bike ride on Facebook and was intrigued by the fact that the ride was multi-surface (tar, paved bike trails, river bottoms trails, gravel and dirt) and was set up so that the riders all end at about the same time. I like that end at the same time idea and I just felt like I had to sign up for the ride.

60 miles seemed reasonable to me at that moment in time. "I can do this!" I thought. So, without thinking much about whether it made a lot of sense to do the ride or not, I signed up.

All of the other long rides I've been on have been "supported" and included rest stops with snacks and bathrooms and SAG support (SAG stands for "support and gear" - meaning you can get help with a mechanical and/or a ride back to your car if need be). I always go on long rides with Owen (or once, in the case of RiotGRRRavel, with my friend, Lisa). But Box of Frogs would be my first "unsupported" ride and my first solo ride. Heading out on an unsupported ride without a buddy kinda scared me but it also felt important for me to go it alone.

I average about 10 mph on gravel rides so figured it would take me about 6 hours of riding time to finish the ride. I knew that I would need several breaks along the way so I planned to start around 7:00 to finish at 2:00.  I contacted my friend, Kate who was planning to do the ride, so that I would have her cell phone and text her to check in for safety during the ride.

A few days before ride start, Andy, the ride's organizer, mentioned that due to recent rains there would be wet portions on the ride and we would have to walk our bikes around them. I figured I could deal with a bit of damp and was glad to see the forecast for the ride was for clear skies and warm weather. Yay!

The night before the ride, I packed up Zippy, my trusty Salsa Vaya, my bike gear and what I hoped was enough food into my van. Then I did my best to get a good night's sleep so I could wake up fresh at 5:00 a.m. to drive up to St. Paul to start the ride.

It rained all night. Torrential downpours. I couldn't sleep.

Come morning, I was tired but the rain had stopped. I drove to Shamrock's in St. Paul where the ride was to start and end and saw friends Kate and Victoria take off on the ride as I unpacked my Vaya. I got to ride start, checked in, found a guy named Marsh who was willing to ride out with me to get me off the city streets and onto the first portion of the route (on a bike path) and set off on my ride.

The Box of Frogs route
St. Paul to rural Vermillion/Farmington and back to St. Paul
The ride started out so easy! Marsh and I rode and chatted as we found our way to the paved trail. Then he showed me how to get to the river bottoms part of the trail. This part was dirt and very damp but still okay to ride. But then it wasn't okay to ride. Portions of the trail were flooded and I had to work my way around the water "So this is what Andy meant when he said portions of the route would be wet." I thought.

Well, that's sort of what Andy meant. I soon learned that we were on more of a cross-country obstacle course bike challenge than Sunday morning bike ride and that there were many more flooded and wet portions of the ride to come. The wet route was no fault of Andy's - he actually planned a pretty straightforward route - but Mother Nature had other plans and the rain turned the ride into a tough-mudder sort of adventure for the 60 Box of Frogs riders.

Victoria working her way through the deep mud along the Minnesota River Bottoms.
with Grant, Mike and Kate offering support. 
I could go on and on and explain each of the challenges we faced but that would take too long! In short, I ended up catching up with Kate and Victoria and rode with them the rest of the way. Boy am I glad I had their company! (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) We rode through mud, around mud, carried our bikes over logs and bridges and slogged through 6 plus inches of mud across an abandoned beaver dam where, once we got through, other Box of Frogs bikers shared their coffee with us. I like nice people who give me coffee :-)

This all happened in the first 10 miles of the ride. We had 50 miles to go.

Self-made rest stop. 12 miles to go. My dirty legs and bike.
Then we found ourselves riding on suburban streets and trails then found ourselves some gravel and rode that happily for awhile. Then we rode alongside some highways. We were only about a third of the way into the ride at this point and were tired and stopped for a rest. Then we found our way onto more gravel and on to what appeared to be nice dirt double track to ride on. But it wasn't nice dirt. The dirt was wet and slippery and our tires sunk in. Portions of the double track were flooded. The riding was really REALLY difficult. But we made it through.
Lovely scenery with dirt double track that was actually slippery to ride and totally flooded in places.
Now that I think of it, "we made it through" pretty much sums up my Box of Frogs ride.

And we made it through the rest of the ride. More muddy and flooded double track. More gravel. A stop at a church to to refill our water bottles and rest (thank you to the nice Pastor who, puzzled at our appearance, asked "what kind of bike ride are you on so that you got so dirty?" yet still graciously welcomed us inside). Headwinds. Hills. Long hills.

But, to offset the tough ride, there were other Box of Frogs riders along the route who shared beef sticks and gummy bears and made us laugh and smile. And, throughout the ride, Kate, Victoria and I shared some laughs and great conversation to make the miles go by. There were also stretches of flat and easy terrain to give us a break and build our spirits.

Post ride - caked mud on Zippy the Vaya. 
Then, finally, FINALLY!, the city of St. Paul where we got to ride (downhill!) across the High Street Bridge (I cried I was so happy!) and back to the ride start at Shamrocks where Owen and my kids, Rose and Ryan, cheered for us as we rode in.

We did it! We made it through. We finished the ride of a lifetime! In the end, we logged 58 miles and averaged 10.1 miles per hour and managed to climb something like 2,300 feet. We spent about 7 hours out in the sunshine and biked for 6 hours. I ate way too much beef jerky and nearly ran out of water. But I did it!
Just after finishing Box of Frogs
I'm looking pretty exhausted but Kate and Victoria look fabulous! 
The ride was certainly A Grand Adventure!
  • A grand adventure that I probably could have finished on my own but was much, much better (and safer) shared with Kate and Victoria.
  • A grand adventure that tested my bike skills (I slipped and slid a lot but never fell over) and my endurance (I believe my REVAMP workouts helped me in strength and staying power).
  • A grand adventure that left me tired for two days afterwards but really didn't leave me feeling stiff and sore. 
  • A grand adventure with no flat tires or any other problems with my Salsa Vaya and Kate and Victoria's bikes (Victoria rides the same make and model of Vaya as mine, Kate was on a Surly something or the other - I forgot which one)
  • A grand adventure that makes me think I'm a bit on the crazy side but I'm okay with that.
I wouldn't exactly call the ride "fun" but my friend, Max (he rode the 60 mile route and only stopped to rest for 7 minutes total - amazing!) said the real measure of whether you had fun or not on such a ride as the Box of Frogs is you say "yes" when it's time for the next ride.

Well, I must have had fun because, YES, I would do it again!

Back home again!


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