Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring is for gravel epics...and other things as well...

A free-flowing random cathartic muse on the season so far, with an emphasis on the Ragnarok 105, etc…

One thing is for sure and thatz that the Ragnarok 105 was a wonderful start to the racing season. The predominately gravel-road course encompassed a myriad of beautifully thrilling Mississippi river valley farm and wooded roads that abound all around Lake City, Red Wing, Millville, etc. It was a great turnout with many eager riders (I bet close to 100 riders?) enjoying comradeship enhanced by the fine weather and top notch race management. The race in all aspects [from pre-race organization to spot-on maps to good-cheer from the race directors] was well worth the entry fees that were significantly less than those offered by Granny Gear Productions (GGP). [Note: The entry fee for the Ragnarok 105 was $0.00 while the entry fee for the 24 Hours @ 9 Mile this year due to new management under GGP is well over $340, not including camping fees and a USC license—I said this was a random entry!]

Given the free flowing nature of this blog-entry I will now willy-nilly, simply, and randomly without grammatical boundaries, sentence structure, or Judo-Christian parameters write down what comes to mind when I reflect on the day @ Ragnarok 105:

Camping at the nearby state park was outstanding. Wild turkeys are impressive animals, but seem to lack respect for the American Way. Is it just me, or Are the thousands of adults that dress themselves up like the Hells Angels of yesteryear and ride super obnoxious, ill-conceived Harley-Davidsons displaying abnormal behavior? The Dual Exhaust Motorsports Community (DEMC) has stored away itz arsenal of rocket snow-sleds and pulled out their monster powerboats for on the same day as the Ragnarok, it actively waged an early albeit high-tech, high octane, and unmerciful war on little fishies in the backwaters of the Mississippi. I know this because we shared an expansive parking lot with the DEMC for the start of the Ragnarok 105 over in Colville Park. There had to have been a thousand huge speed boats motoring out of the marina at around 7:00 am on Saturday morning. In a vivid juxtaposition, while the cyclists busily, albeit quietly made pre-race adjustments to their simple bicycles, hundreds of power boats patriotically pulled out of the harbor and headed up the river to do battle. The scene of this citizen navy reminded me of depictions of the Spanish Armada or photographs of the beach invasion of Normandy. Furthermore, as those large men motored slowly onward in their hot-rod boats, many smoking their first cigs of the morning, I remember having the odd thought that those un-American fish are gonna get what they deserve! I also remember thinking that computer technology combined with the combustion engine had served us well in the pursuit of finishing off any fish or other wild beasts that were able to get through the 20th century.

Itz only April 20th and I already have almost thirty hours of racing in for 2009 and by Sunday, May 3rd that total could easily surpass fifty-five hours!!! Twenty-three hours+ in the Arrowhead 135 in February, ~six hours to complete the Ragnarok 105, and most likely a good twenty-four hours+ to finish the Trans-Iowa. All this before most of my buddies do their first short mtb race for 2009, starting at the Cable Classic on May 16th…Although I just saw on worldcycling.com that TJ Woodruff, Chris Peariso and Tom Bender (all local WORS fast guyz) all did very well in the Sea Otter MTB race. Doug Swanson (in my opinion, still the best racer in the Midwest) and local Duluth roadies, Jake Boyce and Matt Hanson all did well in the Durand, Wisconsin road race on Saturday. This reminds me that I must get to work on publishing the 2008 List of The Most Impressive Accomplishments in My Smallish Cycling World. Note: Unfortunately, regarding The List, the governing body has declared that a few modifications be made, including the delisting of the following endeavors from consideration: duathlons, triathlons, and snowshoe racing (especially when using ping-pong racket sized snowshoes on groomed ski trails). Essentially, the DBD Honor Board felt that these “activities” did not rise to the level of the definition of “sport.”

Back to the Ragnarok—the first half was conducted in a nice amicable atmosphere with Larry Sauber, Nick Oswald, and Tim Ek leading the boyz up the initial steep hills. Dave Pramann, the wise old fox, sat back and let the young bucks fire up the significant climbs. The coolest bike was the baby-blue Voodoo single-speed rig rode by whom I believe to be Heath Weisbrod. The coolest jerseys belong to the Cars-R-Coffins contingent. Both Weisbrod and Oswald demonstrated great ability in this hundred mile effort. This new wave of really strong and fast guyz on single speeds is most impressive. My buddies, Jason Novak of Rochester and Jeremy Kershaw of Duluth also had fine efforts. Look for Novak to contend in Iowa and Kershaw to boldly attack at Almanzo. Also most worthy of note is the grand effort demonstrated Joe Meiser by riding his Great Divide Race bike in full regalia. Look for Joe to be a top finisher in the upcoming thrilla in Iowa…

Very early on there was a collective sense of sadness and lost when Charly Tri flatted, the author wept (which had a dehydrating effect later in the race). Immediately there was a concerted attempt by the humanistic leaders to reign in the group, to in essence harness the pace until Mr. Tri could regain the group. Further down the line, but still relatively early into the fray, Tim Ek flatted and then again all seven of the lead group expressed great remorse for their fallen comrade and consternation for random evils that are willy-nilly visited upon the very best of our species. Upon hearing the news of his demise, I could not help but to recall that Ek had not been seen in church on Easter Sunday. Back to the race and Ek’s inopportune mechanical: dealing with a flat at that point, some thirty miles into it, given that the pace had increased; catching the front runners would have involved a mammoth effort and thus represented a major conundrum for my partner from the Hills of Duluth. I rode on with tears streaming down my face, soaking my lapel, as I truly had planned to ride the whole way with my trusty training partner and kindred spirit.

Forced into a realm of surreal dichotomy, Mr. Ek was compelled to ride the remaining seventy miles solo in that nether-land between heaven and earth and between elation and remorse. So it was that on this day, Ek was a recipient of the free swinging “hinge factor,” but remember—that mystical door swings both ways, so watch for him to seek revenge on the barrens of Iowa come the first Saturday of May! Like a ship without a rudder, the loss of his intrepid partner forced the unstable and promiscuous one to attempt to develop a hasty plutonic relationship with another. Tri and/or Pramann were the obvious choices to be on the short-list for a spontaneous tryst; Tri being young, athletic, and fast while Pramann’s experience and capacity for stoic suffering is legendary.

Contrived in Duluth during the week prior, the plan-of-action had been to try some kind of “break” at the halfway checkpoint. A pivotal point in the race where riders were required to stop to sign-in, pick up a second course map, and reload on fluids, etc. Pramann knew the plan, but enigmatically failed to act choosing instead to follow his own covert and calculated T.I. agenda, (I am picking Pramann to win the Trans-Iowa). Jeremy Fry seemed to know the score as he left the half-way point hurriedly, but then inexplicably not more than fifty feet out on the road, Fry stopped to curry favor from a support car that drove by and then pulled over. For a moment, the writer was left to his own devices, so he immediately panicked. But alas Tri came up fast and thus a partnership-of-convenience; made-in-haste was formed. Under the banner of “Out of sight; out of mind,” Charly Tri took off up a long slightly inclining jeep-type trail with the author in tow, exercising full-on “draft-mode” position. The shared and stated goal was to go hard for as long as it took for us to be out of the line of sight from the chase group. It was great while it lasted, but I knew it would never last for there was just too much that separates us. He is youthfully athletic, charismatic, and a man of the prairie. I am old, hideously decrepit and malformed, and a man bent on taking his last breath in the arctic wastelands.

All things equal, Charly Tri would certainly prevail within the dimensions and scope of a Ragnarok-like event, so it was no surprise that after about an hour or so of fast mutually beneficial racing, each taking a pull after quick exchanges, he methodically rode away into the sunset on a long asphalt ascent. He was impressive as he broke free from our ill defined relationship and then in the blink of an eye, he rapidly disappeared into the grand coulees of the Mississippi bluff country. He never looked back and I never saw him again (except afterwards when he generously gave me a Coke)…

Alone with my memories of scornful rejection and yet still in contention for a top spot with less than twenty-five miles to go, I resolved to push on as hard as I could with the hope that those that followed would be unable to develop into an effective chase group. On every ridge top, I scanned the valleys below for riders and my heart continued to soar each time for I saw no one… Riding into the city of Red Wing, I had but one thought and that was how good it was gonna be to crack open a bottle of cold New Glarus Black Wheat Ale.

Many thanks to the race organizers for a wonderful day of cycling. One day in the near future, we need to put together a similar event up here in the Northland for the Ragnarok represents the best of citizen racing in the good ole USA…


  1. Strong performance Mr. Farrow... I liked your attacks on the climb leadups, forced me to drop a gear and chase... I learned the hard way at the check point. TT'd 40 miles for some reward to move up 2 places...

    Larry Sauber (brother in-law of Rebecca)

  2. I appreciate the compliments there fellow Charlie. It was good racing with you. Maybe we can get a MN train together at TI to hold off the Polska onslaught from WI?

    Seems people were really surprised by our transition turn around. The funny thing was that I was originally going to bring a second camelback so as not have to refill. I thought my transition was only average. I expected that most would have been out already.

    Larry, good job on the chase. It was sure fun to antagonize you guys to go for the make believe KOM points.

  3. Thanks, a fine read. I also liked December posts from your pals "Worst dayz" out stories.

    Anyway. Good race indeed. Both you Charlie's we're looking strong last I saw ya.

    I wish the Vodoo was mine. That was indeed a nice looking blue-ish. Mine was a misfit psycles. Believe vodoo was Brad Prudhome's bike. Someone mentioned his name as 3rd SS. By the split times it looks like him. We're we're close chasing you'awl into Zumbro, then post race he said he fell way off ending 3rd. Vodoo man had the cool carsrcoffins jersey too. So cool bike & jersey for vodoo man.

    Funny thing- "carsrcoffins" "vodoo" guy was "smoking a cig" post race! Stellar vodoo attitude. Gave me a chuckle.

  4. Dear Larry and Heath: I'd like to invite you guyz to submit a piece on "my worst day out." Also, it was great seeing the both of you again!!!

  5. Be advised judgement is severely lacking in your selection of a T-I favorite. Surely there are 5-10 guys entered stronger than that guy. He is so old he uses bladder-incontinence drugs, his butt still hurts from Rag, he is up nights with foster babies, what are you thinking?

  6. Appreciate application to contribute to world renound and colorful gathering of words at this cycber location. Worst days out.. Lord knows at my ripe age(-7) one should be fortunate enough to have such biking luck, or perhaps it's called situational climate finding skills. I've been into a said situation or two wilderness packing, sliding and climbing. However my biking predicament stories are not up to relitive world class ratings! Mr. fostering man recently suggested a race north. I admitted the chicken lives here. So reading about the surburb worst days is what I'll continue to do for now. Judgements supported, may it bring fortune to all at TI.....

  7. BRAVO..."Anonymous" the trans-iowa fits well with the notion of reductionism...Men reduced to sinew and rubber on the ground.

  8. Charlie,

    I was not there for long, but it was fun riding with you. A wise man once told me "Hardmen don't Dance" I look forward to seeing you in Iowa.

    The SS dudes rocked. I hope to do more of these and get to know some of the regulars.


  9. Trans-Iowa looks to be dry and fast this year. We'll see if the mighty winds of last year show up again!

  10. Nothing important to say, I just wanted your comments on this post to get in the double digits. Look forward to riding with you more this season. By the way, all the cool kids pee there pants. Nothing to be ashamed about, Mr. Anonymous.