Ragnarok # 5 is in the books. This is a 100 mile plus gravel road race that I have been doing every year since the boys in Red Wing first conceived the evil idea in 2008. It was my first ever century ride on a bicycle and will forever hold a special place in my heart. That first year was filled with horrendous weather and the only thing that saw me through to the finish, after nearly 12 hrs, was the comaraderie and co-misery of two great friends Scott and Porter.
This year, the forecast during the week prior to the race, looked a bit grim but on race day we were greeted with mostly cloudy skies for the morning with a temp starting out around 50 degrees. Absolutely perfect as far as I'm concerned. My day started with a 4:45 AM alarm. Started coffee and jumped in for a quick, wake up shower. Truck was loaded the night before so now it was time to whip up some banana pancakes before heading out the door. I ate 3 of the 4 pancakes and decided to shove the extra one in the feed bag on the bike.
I rolled into Red Wing around 6:40 with plenty of time to make a bathroom stop and get signed in at the race table. Pre-race time was filled with the usual milling around and greeting friends and training buddies at the start. I handed off a jug of water and a small cooler to Bob's Shepherds wife, Carol, for transport to the first check point. Having this option is a huge time saver. Thanks Carol!
The first few miles of the race, for me, are usually very predictable. I'm a slow starter, so I purposely take it very easy on most of the climbs and try not to get sucked into a pace that I cannot handle early on. After about 45 minutes or so, I started feeling like all systems were firing strong and I started passing a few people until I settled into my spot in the long string of spaced out riders. About 1 hour and 15 mins into the race, as I was chatting with another rider, suddenly there was the sound of a large pack approaching us from behind. 6 or 7 riders blazed by us like we were standing still. I chuckled and said "That's funny."
"Why's that?" the other rider said.
"Those are your leaders." I responded. "They must have taken an awfully wrong turn."
Ahh, the joys of an unsupported, pay attention or pay for it, type race!
The checkpoint in Zumbro Falls came around mile 39. I came in feeling good, got my new cue sheet to get me to Lake City and headed over to see Carol and refill my bottles. Neil Cary also came in about this time but beat me back onto the road by a minute or so. Neil was riding strong and he and I would leap-frog a few times until nature called him for an extended break. I made a quick phone call to my sister Kyleen and my wife while on one of the flat stretches along the Zumbro river, just to give them a quick race report. It was nice to chat with them for a while. Shortly after that, there were a few more killer hills (624th!!) that quickly caused me to shed the extra layers I had debated about removing earlier.
I rolled into Lake City (81 miles) excited that there was only another 26 miles left in the race. I was now in a state mentally where I just wanted to close in on that finish line. I wasn't in a dark place but rather just looking forward to being done. I filled waters and was back on the road after a 5 minute stop. There were 4 more major climbs left. The first is Heath's Hill (335th min maint rd.). This is one of the steepest and roughest climbs on the course but thankfully there's a reward at the top. I managed to climb the whole thing without walking so I celebrated by accepting a hit of Crown Royal and some summer sausage provided by the fine Almanzo crew at the top. Next up were the three stooges of 335th, Huneke and Lehrbach. All of these are long slow grades that finish off with steep kickers at the heads of their respective valleys. Having climbed Heath's, I knew I could tackle these last three also. Somewhere along Huneke, I felt the twinge of a cramp in my left leg. It wasn't severe, but just enough to let me know to tone it back just a bit, pedal smooth circles and drink the rest of my fluids. As we turned on to Lehrbach I caught up with Steve S. We chatted for a while but I was focusing most of my energy on trying to get to the finish before the 8.5 hour mark so I wasn't to talkative (sorry Steve). I increased the pace a bit and despite Steve saying he was completely blown, he managed to stay right on my wheel. I was hoping to put a bit of a gap in prior to the kicker because I knew, with legs that were on the verge of cramping, I wouldn't be able to turn the screws on that final push. At this point another rider with whom I'd been leap-frogging, passed us one final time on his push to the finish. Steve was strong on the climb and crested about 20 seconds ahead of me. Knowing we were close, but not exactly how close, I still had the goal of getting in under 8.5 so I started ramping it back up on the flat run across the top before the final, flying fast downhill, to the finish. I caught Steve on the downhill and holllered "Let's go, we'll make 8 and a half hours."
Happy to be done, we both rolled in at 8 hours 26 minutes. A personal record for me.
Leg 1 - 42 oz Nathan Catalyst electrolyte drink, 1 banana pancake, 1 gu pack, 5 hr energy
Leg 2 - 90 oz. Catalyst/endurolyte drink mix, 1 pack sport beans, 1 pb/banana burrito, 1 gu, 1 caffeinated gu, 2 perpetuem tabs
Leg 3 - 42 oz Heed/catalyst drink, 1 perpetuem tab, 1 small clif granola bar, 5 hr energy, 3 slices sausage, 1 hit Crown Royal, 1 blackberry double caffeine gu
Five Ragnarok Finishes