Duluth Trip & Dirt Spanker race report...

We all survived the camping trip to Duluth - Tara, Lisa, and myself. That's quite a drive with Friday afternoon summer weekend traffic and Sunday afternoon/evening weekend traffic heading home.

We loaded up the Mercury Villager mini-van after I took out the 2 middle seats and slid the rear bench seat forward. There was plenty of room for all of our camping gear - 3 cots, 2 tents, Coleman stove, cooler, sleeping bags, pillows, suitcases, water can, buckets, chairs, etc... . I put the bike on the rear rack and off we went.

We made a "pit stop" at REI on I-494 just to gaze at the camping gear and get a coffee mug. We arrived at Mt. Du Lac around 6:45 Friday night, checked in and selected a campsite. We got the campsite all set up, and figured we better get something to eat. The guy at the ski resort desk where we checked in said that just around the corner was a place that served food called the Wobegon Bar. So we headed over just in time to catch the end of their Friday night all you eat Fish Fry. There was some nice local color there and we had a good time before heading back to the campsite to start a fire in the fire pit.

After a peaceful night's sleep, we got the fire going Saturday morning, had oatmeal and coffee while we made our plans for the day. There was a Super D downhill mountain bike race on Saturday at the ski area (which I was not participating in) and the pre-ride for the XC course would not be available until after 3 pm. We three tourists started our day with a drive along the north shore to see a lighthouse or two, some waterfalls, and whatever else came along that inspired us.

Our first stop was in a town called Two Harbors and we headed over to see the Lighthouse and take a tour. We were able to walk down and dip our feet in Lake Superior, use the restroom and take some tourist pictures of the place.

Two Harbors Lighthouse...

Two Harbors Lighthouse

The next stop was to see Gooseberry Falls. Pulling into the parking lot, it appeared that everyone else had decided to stop there as well as the lot was full, and cars were lined up along the sides of the roads for parking leading into the lots. I was fortunate that somebody was backing out right when we pulled into one of the lots and grabbed a spot. Due to the drought this year, the water falls were more of a trickle than usual (so we were told). We saw pictures and video in the visitor's center of what it "normally" looks like. But this picture shows how little water is falling at the moment...


Normally, water is cascading off of there. But not this year. The trail around all the connected falls is pretty cool and with the water being down, we were all able to walk out on the rocks that are normally covered in water.

As we headed up the north shore, the clouds were quickly building up and some summer showers started to hit. Hey - perfect weather to see a lighthouse, right? We parked in the parking lot to see the famous Split Rock Lighthouse and paid to take the tour. Here's the lighthouse itself...


And here's a more majestic profile view...


We learned that Lake Superior (the largest of the Great Lakes) has enough water in it to cover Canada, the US and South America with a foot of water. And of course, these lighthouses are no longer operational due to GPS, Radar, etc... .

Now we realized it was 2 pm and we were getting hungry for lunch. We sort of a made the decision to alter our plans of getting lunch and cooking dinner at the campsite. Instead, we would just skip lunch and have an early dinner in Duluth around Canal Park. So we drove the hour or so back to Duluth in pouring rain for the first 30 minutes of it and headed into Duluth where the sun was shining again. We headed over to the Canal Park area and of course, saw the famous port that is still in operation. This is a must see piece of technology (the lift bridge)...


There were plenty of enticing places to sit outside and eat on the patio of a restaurant. I asked a couple standing in line at the parking lot while waiting to pay for the parking if they were from the area and what they would recommend for a good restaurant. They gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to a fancy Italian restaurant which fit our taste buds. As we got to the restaurant at 5 pm, there was a huge storm blowing in, so we asked to be seated inside. We finally snagged a table at 5:15 for some fine dining. The storm continued and there was a bit of lightening and thunder. As we exited the restaurant lots of sirens were going off as ambulances and police cars were rushing past - all due to lightening hitting a 26' sailboat. It turns out, one boy was killed, and 6 others were injured. We didn't know the death at the time, but I read about it when I got home. Here's the link to the story, including pictures and a video of the horizontal lightening.

By now it was after 7 and we headed back to the campsite. It had rained from the storm, but not so much that things were too wet. The wood still lit for the camp fire, and it wasn't muddy as our site was well protected under trees. It was too late to do a pre-ride lap, so I just spun out the legs and rode the opening gravel climb from the base of the ski mountain to the very top in my granny gear. That alone was enough to wake the legs up following 2 days off the bike (Friday/Saturday) and created enough sweat that I needed to rinse off. This was a rustic campsite with no showers, so I used the ski area's bathroom sink to wash my hair, shave and do a washcloth spit bath. The ladies did the same and we walked up the hill to our campsite to settle in for the night. We visited around the campfire with the tent neighbors from Rochester until about 11 pm. Then we went to bed. It rained during the night, but it was not a large amount of rain.

We got up about 8 on Sunday, started the fire, made eggs, bacon, and coffee for a beautiful sun shining morning. The weather was perfect. Blue sky. Cool temperatures. What more could one ask for on race day. After breakfast, I went down to get registered and use the restroom. I went out for a warm-up on the bike, then headed back to the campsite to get my GU, water bottle and oil the bike chain.

The opening climb was certainly a way to get the heart rate elevated. I had spun up it the night before, so I knew it was a several minute ordeal (there is no climb in Iowa this long with the grade we were scaling). It was perfect Dakota Five-0 training I thought as that course features some long fire road grinders. I did the first 1/2 of the climb in the middle ring, and then switched to the granny ring on the top portion to keep the heart rate calculated before entering into the singletrack. We had a steep quick descent immediately followed by another steep climb. Okay, so scratch that calculated heart rate agenda. This course was a screaming real mountain biking course. Rough. Bumpy. Roots. Steep drops. Steep ups. A downhill course section with nice berms to lean over and rocket through. It was a full suspension bike's dream! Ah, then came the climb to the top again, but from a different fire road starting position on the east side of the mountain...


I was able to pick off 2 riders on this climb and maintain my momentum up the hill.
We were due for three laps of this pain/pleasure mix, and based on the timing of my first lap - I could see I was going to be out there for 90 minutes. I saw ahead of me the same guy that had finished 2 seconds before me in the previous race. When climbing a steep and long fire road climb, what looks like "not too far" ahead (say a couple hundred yards or so) translates into a lot of time. I gave chase in the singletrack hoping to catch up with him via determination.


Laps 2 and 3 were equally fun and I didn't have any problems with the trail. No falls. No near falls. I was not able to close the gap and catch the rider in front of me. For the most part during laps 2 and 3, I was out there solo the entire way. Part of that was due to the attendance at this event being regretfully down (it's a long drive up there). That's too bad, because a lot of people missed out on an excellent race course and perfect riding conditions.

The finish line descent after the grueling 3 laps was a serpentine descent down one of the ski hills in the grass. I crossed the line in 4th place for my age group...


One minute, twenty seconds out of a podium spot which indicates plenty of room for improvement. ;-) Coming off the 4 hour endurance ride race pace effort on Wednesday, and the grueling M.E. intervals and weights on Thursday - it was not a bad race for me considering I was on the monster RIP 9. The training was helpful for the upcoming Five-0. The taper plan is now unfolding following Monday's recovery ride and Tuesday's shortened intensity planned ride.

After the race, we took down the campsite, I got cleaned up and we headed to the awards ceremony for burgers. I won a shirt in the drawing (neon green). Then we headed home with Tara driving. The first 30 miles on I-35 took 90 minutes due to traffic, road construction and having to sit in bumper to bumper congestion. I did work on my class in the backseat all the way home (took a nap of course) and we got home around 10 pm. All in all a fun weekend in terms of camping, sight seeing, racing and getting up north.

Now back to reality here (work started this week).

1 comment:

0s0-Pa said...

Looks like a gorgeous place to go camping and explore the great outdoors. Thanks for posting pics!
-Jackie @ Rectangular sleeping bags