Sunday, April 8, 2012

Training for a Race That I'm Not In - Trans Iowa

Sasquatch Loop, Take Two
An impromptu meeting at a local restaurant had Hondo and I planning for a second crack at the Sasquatch Loop, only this time backwards. Our goal was simple, travel light and fast. I would prepare my kit in such a fashion that Farrow would ultimately blame me for trickery as he was convinced I planned to leach off his supplies while in route. A second goal included minimal stops and if a stop was needed it would be a quick one. I would travel with only the two water bottles seen above for the 143 mile adventure, therefore I'd most likely be the one making those stops. The Sasquatch Loop covers extremely remote sections of Northern Minnesota and I failed to factor in our backwards direction in connection with resupply options. It occurred to me about 45 miles into the route that "Hugos", the minimalist general store/bar may not be open at the early hour we were set to encounter it. My only option would be to syphon water from Hondo's camel back, which was met with an averaged sized rant from the aging one. As luck would have it, Mr. Hugo opened shop two minutes before our arrival. Farrow would "soft pedal", which means "HAMMER" while I was inside refilling my bottles. My resupply was less than 2 minutes as I really hustled. Quickly, I was back with my partner, but the temperatures were rising and I had too many clothes on.

Farrow chastised me continually, while he reminded me that he was told "There would be no stopping". He agreed to allow me a quick stop at the "children's cemetery" (pictured above). This point in the route almost deserves a stop we both concluded. While I shed layers, Farrow paid homage to the fallen children buried deeper in the forest. Suddenly, he emerged from the trail mounted and riding his steed only to shout, "I'll see you down the road" and he was gone. He was taking the "no stopping" thing seriously.

Hurriedly, I secured my belongings and ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the fly.

We had reached the "Crossing" and were about to embark on a 26 mile stretch of remote highway that takes one across the Laurentian Divide. Concern was not a part of us as we rested comfortably in the fact that our "backwards" direction would allow us to enjoy the worst the divide had to offer in the form of a descent. But, there were plans we were not made privy to, namely WIND! The "crossing" turned into a slog of head down, muscle crunching, endless riding. Frustrated with the situation and feeling double crossed by the Sasquatch I began to push the accelerator harder. Soon I had gapped my partner, leaving him in the wind to "think things over". I figured he needed the time alone. I pushed hard, hands in the drops, topping out on false summit after false summit. A glance over my shoulder had me knowing that my "boot was on his throat" as my friend languished alone in the wind. I sat up, allowing him to come back to me, his only comment after is arrival was this, "Everyone must face the crossing alone". He was right. Soon our hearts soared as we began the sudden descent toward the lake and the small hamlet of Beaver Bay, Mn.

It was as if we rode into a refrigerator approaching the lake. The temperature dropped at least 10 degrees, or so it felt. But, good news, the flags were snapping in our favor. A strong east wind would push us home. We regaled each other with past stories of triumph while soft pedaling at 24 mph. Then, I noticed it, storm clouds gathering ahead and I was low on water.

Farrow's mood switched from the giddy school boy at recess to a surly man filled with angst. He was disgusted with my need for hydration and I knew there would be no stopping for me. I surged ahead, ultimately finding refuge at "Betty's Pies", a famous tourist attraction legendary for fattening them up. I stormed into the restaurant eagerly seeking a faucet. Two young girls, possibly Betty's daughters, I don't know, pointed one out to me. I was back on my way in under a minute. Soon I caught Hondo. He was giggling and had a deranged look in his eye. I asked if he was o.k. and in an effort to save honor he cast my concerns aside. Consistently the warrior was dropping off my wheel and some times he would do it when I was in mid sentence. I'd hit the climax of a great story, look to him for what I was sure to be a favorable reaction and he'd be "off the back".

Then, it happened:  Farrow flatly states, "I have to stop, I'm bonking,  I need to get food out of my pack." I respond with, "I'll soft pedal." Farrow knows this means I'm going to "floor it". He mutters out an impish giggle. I ride on ... alone.

The rains come and my partner is with me again, we don't speak of the "bonking", almost as if it never happened. I'm getting wet and cold, I tell him that I'm stopping to put on my rain coat. Farrow doesn't believe in rain gear, feeling that it's over rated. He pushes on saying something about me "catching him". Not even a "good bye". We're separated, but I'm certain I'd see him out ahead, but I don't. "Did he throw himself in the lake as one last grasp at honor?", I ask myself. "He must have, Bravo old boy, Bravo", I think.

The clouds open up and despite my rain gear I'm getting wet, really wet and cold. The only thing on my mind is the climb that awaits me. I must head straight up from the shores of Lake Superior to my home which is perched at the top of Duluth's hillside, if I'm to stay true to the route.

I nearly wept as I turned the cranks over one revolution at a time as the rain blasted down on me. Stumbling into my basement, soaked to the bone, quads full of a cement like substance I sense a strange solution rolling down my cheek. I realize it was one, lone tear, for Farrow.


Ari said...

Reading this long story after battling winds for 5 hours off Lake Ontario, I cannot figure out whether the Eki-Farrow duo are friends or enemies. Eki, you will be missed at T.I.

Anonymous said...

This was not first time Sir Eki has left me for dead...and it won't be the last time...still I cannot think of a better friend and training partner....such is the twisted logic of the DBD Training preparation of IOWA...

hamza khanzada said...

so wonderful blog
i like it
i want to join the bicycle race
hamza khanzada