Riding My First Century at the 2013 Minnesota Ironman

Image Credit:  HaveFunBiking
With a wintery April and a major winter snowstorm only six days before this year's Minnesota Ironman Ride, there wasn't much opportunity to train on the bike outdoors.  That didn't stop a record number of cyclists from coming out to ride the new routes through the St. Croix River Valley.  4696 cyclists turned out for this 47 year tradition that kicks off the Spring riding season.  The beautiful weather forecast for ride day that was provided by meteorologist Kristin Clark from 2WheelWeather helped in doubling the number of day-of  registrants to over 1000.

I arrived at the Washington County Fairgrounds around 6:15 am to a flurry of activity.  Many cyclists had already arrived and many more were filing into the fairgrounds parking areas.

By 7 am many were headed towards the starting area and ready to hit the road and I joined them.  The weather conditions were perfect and many described it to be some of the best in the history of the Minnesota Ironman.

I was doing the three loops making up the century ride and wanted to get an early start.  I would start with Scandia Loop,  jump onto the Afton Loop and finish with the Gateway Loop.  The Scandia Loop headed north through farm country towards the town of Scandia and back down through the river valley on the way to Stillwater.  I saw every kind of cyclist along the way, the seasoned veterans, recreational riders, children & elderly, recumbent bikers, fatbikers and unicyclists.  Part of the fun was seeing all of the different styles of bikes being ridden.


There were two rest stops conveniently located along the Scandia Loop, one in Scandia and the other at Pine Point Park in Stillwater Township.  I made a quick pit stop at both for water and a little refueling for the long ride ahead.

By the time I made it through Oak Park heights to catch up with the Afton Loop at Oakgreen Avenue, I was still feeling pretty good after 50+ miles.  It was this section of the ride that would put my legs and will to the challenge.  My longest ride outdoors this year was only 54 miles and that was three weeks ago, the rest of my training was all indoors doing hill climbing intervals on the spin bike.

After about 3 miles in, it was all downhill from there to Afton.  The ride was fast and was one of the most scenic sections of the entire course. 

After all of that downhill riding I knew that meant a big climb up out of the valley upon leaving Afton.  Afton Town Square Park was the next rest stop where I took a break, ate something, got some more water and applied some sunscreen.  By now the temperature was nearing the high 70's.

Now it was time to tackle the category 5, mile long uphill on the St. Croix Trail.  I took it slow and steady and made my way up out of the valley passing a unicyclist along the way.

I rode along quiet country roads with plenty more hills and stopped a couple of times to work out cramps in my hamstrings. 

There was one last big hill on Manning Avenue as I made my way back to the fairgrounds to join up with the Gateway Loop.  Physical exhaustion was setting in and even though I was drinking plenty of water and Gatorade, I was feeling a bit dehydrated.  The Afton Loop with all of its hills really took a lot out of me, but I conquered it and only had about 30 more miles to go to complete my first century ride.

I went past the fairgrounds and started on the Gateway Loop without taking a break.  I told myself a break would come once I made onto the Gateway Trail.  When I got a couple of miles into the Gateway Trail, I stopped and rested shortly and got right back on my bike.  I had enough water with me and I figured I would stop at the rest area at Pine Point Park at the end of the trail.  There I would take one last break before facing the strong headwinds on the way to Stillwater and Oak Park Heights.

The hills on the last four miles of the route seemed to be the toughest ones of the day since I was all out of energy by then.  My body was telling me "no" but I powered through it knowing I was almost done.  I rode into the fairgrounds feeling relieved that it was over and excited that I had just completed my first century.  My bike computer read 107.3 miles with 7 hours, 34 minutes ride time in the saddle.  My goal was to complete 100 miles in under 7 hours and I was successful with 6 hours, 56 minutes. 

Image Credit:  Russ Lowthian
My sponsor Penn Cycle was going to set me up with a road bike for this one, but I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it on my mountain bike.  I will be doing a gravel century later this summer and wanted to get a feel for what 100 miles on a hilly course with a mountain bike was like.  After the Ironman, I think I have a lot more training ahead of me, gravel isn't as easy going as paved roads are.

Thanks to Jon Ridge and the rest of the people and sponsors that made the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride possible, they did a great job putting this event on in a wonderful new location.  It was very well organized, the routes were scenic, challenging, well marked and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again next year.

For more pictures, visit my Flickr set 2013 Minnesota Ironman Ride.


The Spring Biking Season Kicks Off With a Bang

After a long winter with the setback of a snowstorm filled April, the Spring biking season kicks off with a bang this weekend.  April 26th through the 28th is jam packed with cycling events for riders of all abilities.  From a road race, a duathlon and crits to rides, a bike social and a grand opening/Spring kick-off party, there's something for everyone.  According to 2WheelWeather, there is a warm up on the way just in time for all of these events.  So get that bike out, get 'er tuned up & ready and embrace a long awaited Spring biking season.

April 26, 2013
Bike Jerks Presents Night Moves 2-Bandit Cross Night Crit
Minneapolis, MN
Facebook Event Page

April 26, 2013
Spring Party/Grand Opening of the Hub @ SPOKES
Minneapolis, MN

April 27, 2013
Falls Duathlon
Cannon Falls, MN
2 mile run, 14 mile bike, 3 mile run

April 27, 2013 
Ken Woods Memorial Road Race
Cannon Falls, MN

April 27, 2013
The Pain on the Floodplain Two
Minneapolis, MN
40 miles

April 27, 2013
30 Days of Biking Bike Social
Minneapolis, MN

April 27, 2013
Tour de Red Wing
Red Wing, MN
43, 37, 16, 10 miles

April 27, 2013
West Bank Ride
Minneapolis, MN

April 28, 2013
Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride
Stillwater, MN
100, 75, 50, 25, 15 miles

April 28, 2013
Water Tower Turnaround Criterium
St. Paul
U of M St. Paul Campus

For more upcoming cycling events, see my post 2013 Minnesota Bike Tours, Rides, Races & Events Schedule.


2WheelWeather Providing CycleCast For the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride

Meteorologist and avid cyclist Kristin Clark will be providing her 2WheelWeather CycleCast services for Minnesota's longest running century ride, the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride (MIBR).  These hyper-local forecasts will be updated in the days leading up to the MIBR and be valuable to cyclists with their detailed weather information for the St. Croix River Valley.

Kristin has provided her 2WheelWeather CycleCast for events that heavily rely on knowing the weather.  These have included the Fatbike Frozen Forty, Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout, currently the Trans Iowa V9 and the T.I. V9 CycleCast on Mountain Bike Radio.

Here's what Kristin had to say about the MIBR CycleCast.

"Every Ironman rider has a story and almost every story involves the weather.  Over its 47-year history, the Ironman Bicycle Ride has gained quite the reputation for showcasing Minnesota’s wide array of weather. From sweltering heat to snowy streets, the weather can add it’s own element of difficulty and riders need to be prepared.
The MIBR CycleCast will take the guesswork out of the weather by providing riders with a highly detailed, hyperlocal ride forecast. As a biker and a meteorologist, I take my scientific background along with my knowledge of biking to better inform cyclists of the weather they will likely face along the Scenic St. Croix River Valley.  

There's no denying that weather affects everything we do, especially when it comes to cycling!  Hoping that the MIBR CycleCast can be your home for all your cycling weather needs. Best of luck to all the Ironman riders!"

The CycleCast provided by 2WheelWeather for the MIBR will include all of the details below and will posted on ironmanbikeride.org & 2WheelWeather.com.
  • 3 days prior to race - Video forecast - This will be 2-5min hyper-local, geography driven weather forecast specifically for the ride. It will include many graphics and me specifically. Just like you would see me if you were watching me on WeatherNation TV.
  • 24 hr after race follow-up - Blog forecast (Post-Race Weather Round Up)
What to wear for a ride that is known as the best organized with the worst weather is crucial to being prepared for the elements and remain comfortable. Coach Bob from Total Cycling Performance has put together a list of things to consider, as well as some recommendations in choosing the proper clothing in a post entitled "A Simple Question:  What to Wear?".

Check Kristin's CycleCasts and video forecast so you are prepared for what the weather has in store for the MIBR.

If you are a race, ride or event organizer that is interested in 2WheelWeather's forecasting services, contact Kristin directly at kristin@2wheelweather.com.


Zap Twin Cities: Encouraging and Rewarding Commuting By Bike in Minneapolis & St. Paul

Zap Twin Cities is looking for St. Paul, Minneapolis and University of Minnesota commuters to get "Zapped".   The program was first implemented in 2012 by the University of Minnesota in January, then by Commuter Connection for Minneapolis in August and by St. Paul Smart Trips for St. Paul in September.  The goal of the program is to promote and increase bike commuting in the Twin Cities Metro area.  It provides incentives and rewards for those that already commute by bike and encourages others to start commuting by this method.  This is a completely free program and trip counts are automatically uploaded.  Participation in Zap Twin Cities will save you money on gas and parking, provide eligibility for great prizes and is a fun way to improve your health.

Image Credit:  Joe Bielawa
Image Credit:  Joe Bielawa
Registering and getting tagged is easy.  A small RFID tag is installed in the spokes of your front wheel and then you just register online.  There are several locations to get tagged.  University of Minnesota students and staff can get tagged at the U of M Bike Center during normal business hours or at a mobile "Zap Zone" tent to pop up around campus this spring.  In Minneapolis you can bring your bike or front wheel to Commuter Connection located at the US Bank Plaza-Skyway 220 S. 6th St. Suite 230.  Commuter Connection will also have a booth at the Minneapolis Farmers Market and at events around Minneapolis throughout the spring and summer to get cyclists tagged and registered.  Minneapolis commuters can also get tagged at the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center on the Midtown Greenway or at Varsity Bike and Transit.  St. Paul commuters can bring their bike or front wheel to St. Paul Smart Trips located in the Alliance Bank Center at 55 E. 5th St. Suite 202.  Call ahead at 651-224-8555, ext. 23 or 24 and they will make sure they are in to tag your bike and get you registered when you stop by.

Zap stations are strategically located around Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota Campus and in St. Paul.  As a cyclist passes by these Zap stations an audible beep and a flash of light will indicate that the ride has been registered.

Minneapolis has 12 Zap readers (orange) and the University of Minnesota has 19 (yellow).

St. Paul
St. Paul has 7 Zap readers (blue) around the downtown area.

Image Credit:  Joe Bielawa
Image Credit:  Joe Bielawa
To get zapped, a cyclist simply has to look where the Zap station antenna is pointing and pass by within 5 to 15 feet of the "Zap Zone", not on the sidewalk side or directly below the unit as indicated in the picture below.  The audible sound and light will indicate a successful Zap.  Riders only need to be zapped once per day to receive a round trip ride credit.

The online web app keeps track of all of your Zap ride statistics so manually recording them is not necessary.  Log in at the Zap Twin Cities homepage to access how many trips you have logged in a given time period,  mileage totals, CO2 you have saved, gallons of gas saved, calories you have burned and if you are a member of a team you can see how yours compares to others.

Zap Twin Cities rewards have been supported by local bike shops that donate prizes and the program will expand this year to include gift certificates to restaurants, movie theaters, and tickets to sporting events.  After logging ten rides cyclists automatically receive a prize.  Each month that a participant in the Zap Twin Cities program registers eight rides they are automatically entered into a drawing for valuable prizes.  Prizes are different every month, so get tagged, registered and start getting Zapped.  University of Minnesota students and staff that are UPlan Medical Program-covered participants can bike their way to health care savings by earning points for their Wellness Points Bank when they have 50 trips recorded as part of the Bicycle Commuter Program.

Employers that would like to implement Zap Twin Cities as part of their own health and wellness program can contact the Commuter Connection and they will help get you started.  

Stay up to date on the Zap Twin Cities program by liking them on Facebook or following on Twitter (@ZapTwinCities). 

This program is a cooperative project of Commuter Connection, St. Paul Smart Trips, the University of Minnesota and Dero Bike Rack Company.


Twin Cities Area Mountain Bike Trail Directory

Battle Creek Regional Park
Image Credit:  MORC

Carver Lake Park  
Map     Trail Info     Facebook  
Image Credit:  Mountain Bike Geezer

Elm Creek Park Reserve
Maple Grove
Map     Trail Info     Facebook
Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

Fort Snelling State Park**
 St. Paul
Image Credit:  MN Trails

Hillside City Park* 
 Elk River
Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

Lake Elmo Park Reserve*
Lake Elmo
Map     Trail Info  
Image Credit:  downanddirtyrun.wordpress.com

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve
Map      Trail Info
Image Credit:  MORC
Lebanon Hills Regional Park-West
Map     Trail Info     Facebook     Twitter
Image Credit:  Griff Wigley
Long Meadow Lake (MVNWR)
Map     Trail Info

Mendota Trail (MN River Bottoms)
Map     Trail Info

Minnesota River Bottoms
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area**
Map     Trail Info
Image Credit:  TrailLink

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Image Credit:  MORC

Salem Hills/Harmon Park Reserve  
Inver Grove Heights  

Terrace Oaks Park West

Theodore Wirth Park
Map     Trail Info     Facebook     Twitter
Image Credit:  Mountain Bike Geezer

*fee required
**State Park Vehicle Permit required

 Trail Ratings
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