12 Feb
2017

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Day 12 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 12, 2017   comments 0

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love finishing my first-ever fat bike race.

By Anna Schmitz

Anna_1.pngSometimes community means getting a lot of help to do something really stupid. For me, this year, that was finishing my first-ever fat bike race. I’ll be keeping a running tally throughout this story every time someone helped me, using numbers in parentheses.

I had fat biked exactly zero times before signing up for a race, which is pretty similar to how I’ve done all my bike racing thus far. When I showed up for my first track class at the velodrome, I had literally never seen it before. With that as my standard, I was actually ahead of the curve for the fat bike race.

My teammate Brenda posted a Facebook status asking for literally anyone to teach her how to fat bike before the race we had both signed up for. Before we knew it, three of our friends had arranged to meet up to fat bike that weekend (1), and one of them was hooking up both me and Brenda with free fat bike demos from CAKE Bikes (2).

This was ridiculous, in that it’s sort of like giving your 15-year-old neighbor the keys to your Jaguar. We spent the afternoon zipping around on the bikes, with the friend who connected us with the bikes also giving us tips for steering and remaining rubber side down (3). Brenda and I spent most of the day shrieking and making monster truck noises while cruising over snow in the sun, and felt at least somewhat prepared for the imminent race.

Because the world is rapidly coming to an end, the bike race we signed up for came in the middle of a January heat wave. There was more grass than snow visible on city boulevards. I biked to the gym in a wool sweater without a jacket. The website for the race informed participants that the race would go on regardless of weather conditions.

A day before the race, the race organizers sent an email telling riders that, despite the fact that every other fat bike race within 100 miles had been cancelled, this race would still happen. I did not find this particularly reassuring. If your entire family wants to throw away the moldy bread in the fridge, it’s not necessarily worth bragging if you decide to make a sandwich with it, you know?

My concerns were confirmed upon arriving at the race, after a carpool spent scream-singing along to Blink-182. (I had called Brenda in a panic when I got to my house to drive to the race and realized my boyfriend had our car keys and was in Saint Paul. Our friend Blake, who she was riding with, picked me up at home at the last minute and threw my rented bike on his rack (4)). We rolled up to the start with a solid 10 minutes before the race began. Chelsea, an employee of The Hub, cheerfully informed us that the snow conditions were the worst she had ever experienced. The race had been shortened from a 13k to a 10k to its final form: a 5K.

Anna_2.pngChelsea checked the pressure on our tires, and immediately let air out of them in an attempt to better prepare us for the conditions (5). We arrived at the starting line at the last possible second, joining a small crowd of racers — and we were off. Sort of. I hopped off my bike within the first minute or so, opting instead to run-push it through the sloppy mess of snow-slush.

This was more or less indicative of the entire race. I walked, jogged, pushed, wobbled, crashed, and occasionally rode my bike through the course. I passed Fuerza teammates and we woo-ed each other on, laughing at the total dumbness of everything (6). I commiserated with the middle-aged dude riders near me, and also with the photographer. (Me, sweatily pushing my bike past him: “So glad you’re catching all of this.” Him: “Oh yeah, it’s been great to see all the high-speed action.”) My chain dropped, and a friend asked if I needed help with it as she rolled past (7). I somehow made it to the finish, and two friends who had already crossed the line were cheering me on (8). I finished in 49 minutes. The winning woman finished in 42 minutes. It was a three-mile race.

After everyone had finished, we headed to the food tent to stuff our faces with mini donuts, and another teammate offered me some of her cheese and salami (9). My boyfriend arrived a bit after the race had ended to drive me home (10). He asked how the race had gone, and I told him it was one of those things that’s so dumb that it circles back to fun again. It’s the kind of dumb fun that’s so much easier to have when you’re helped every step (or bike push) along the way.

Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

11 Feb
2017

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Day 11 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 11, 2017   comments 1

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love feeling powerful.

By Joy Elizabeth

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I feel powerful when I walk into work in my winter cycling gear and co-workers tell me that they admire my strength or that I inspire them to brave the cold.

I feel powerful when I pass another powerful winter cyclist and we give each other the all-knowing nod. To me the nod says, "I see you. We're doing great. It's damn cold."

I feel powerful when drivers yield to me even when they don't have to. We both seem well aware that they're sitting on that plush seat with the heat blasting.

I feel powerful when I push myself hard up hills and then feel my blood rushing to all my cold spots and sweat soaking through my layers.

I feel powerful when my body quickly thaws in a hot bath and my newly toned leg muscles begin to release.

The importance of being active and feeling strong was not instilled in me when I was young. I envied athletic people from a distance and slowly accepted that I'd never enjoy exercise.

Biking changed that for me. Feeling powerful in my body is really new to me and it feels SO GOOD!

Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

10 Feb
2017

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Day 10 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 10, 2017   comments 1

I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love a Wintry Checkpoint.

By Judy Kerr

Judy2.pngWhile I am not an avid winter cyclist, I do have my moments. My awesome partner and hero (JJ Kahle) is the epitome of a dedicated cyclist. I admire and wish I could feel that same level of love for bikes that they do.

To coin the creed associated with the organization from which I’ve recently retired, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These words can also be applied to my partner and their love of cycling. I, on the other hand, sometimes have to drag my sagging self onto the saddle and force my legs to make the revolutions to propel me along, albeit slowly.

I have a bit of the naysayer in me, but usually after a few minutes of sucking in lungsful of fresh air, the oxygen reaches my brain and reminds me that riding my bike is a good thing.

What I love best about Minnesota winter is the random adventures, sometimes involving our bikes, that JJ and I set off on. New Year’s weekend was one such adventure. We loaded up the bikes and drove north… way north… to Grand Marais. Icy roads and snowy conditions be damned! After more than five hours on the road we reached our hotel on the shores of the mighty and wondrous Lake Superior.

We offloaded our bikes, the grey underbelly of the sky hanging over us, and rode through mushy brown snow to reach the park where the CheckpointMN site is located. The short ride was akin to pedaling our bikes through peanut butter. After only one minor mishap we reached our destination.

We miscalculated where the actual checkpoint was, though, and ended up not only riding/walking on the mostly unplowed road, but then locking our bikes and scaling an ice-coated barrier wall that led to a lighthouse on the shoreline. We were not the only ones brave (?) enough to skate along the wall toward what we thought was the checkpoint, a foolish decision perhaps, but still we embarked with determined caution.

Judy.png

About halfway across the wall, with the light fading fast and the steely waters crashing into the barrier below us, we decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of a broken limb or cracked skull, not to mention an ice bath, so we did an about-face to head back to solid, snow-covered land. Along the way we chatted with some people who were kind enough to clue us in that the checkpoint was across the parking lot from the Coast Guard Station and not at the end of the icy precipice on which we were slip-sliding along. We thanked them and slowly retreated from whence we came (sometimes on our butts because the surface was glassy and the icy claws of water reaching for us were a bit frightening).

Once back on the snow-packed trail, we unlocked our bikes (thank god we hadn’t tried to walk the bikes along the stony skating rink) and walked up the path to the little park-like area you see in the photo above. Nice solid ground well away from the chilly waters. I am hunched against the brisk breeze (thanking all the higher beings in existence for guiding us back to shore safely) and I’m fairly certain my face is about to crack with my attempt to smile, but we made it to our destination and snapped photos to prove it.

As evening descended upon the town, we churned through the brown squashy streets back to the hotel and stowed the bikes. We bundled up and walked two blocks to an awesome restaurant, “My Sister’s Place,” and enjoyed tasty burgers and beers. We’d survived another adventure and lived to ride another day.

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Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

09 Feb
2017

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Day 9 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 9, 2017   comments 1

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love the quiet.

By BrieAnna Lindquist

I love how quiet and in your own world you can feel on a winter's night.

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See more of BrieAnna's work at http://www.bringostarr.daportfolio.com/

Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

08 Feb
2017

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Day 8 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 8, 2017   comments 1

I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love my commute.

By Bri Whitcraft

My commute takes me along West River Parkway along the Mississippi River, crossing at the Franklin Avenue Bridge. As I rush to work and meander home, I can't help but smile. It amazes me that I'm even in the city. Bald eagles soar above me on crisp, sunny mornings, and owls hoot at me in the pitch blackness of the early evening. My favorite is crossing the Mississippi River — it's never the same — roiling, rambling, rushing, freezing, thawing, but always moving forward.

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Photo by Bri Whitcraft

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Photo by Bri Whitcraft

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Photo by Ben Shovel

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Photo by Bri Whitcraft


Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

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