The All-Human-Powered Tour DuLuth 2009 Recap
In 2008 David Stenehjem had a vision. In his sleep one night his singlespeed Surly Karate Monkey came to him, a tear trickling from it’s headset down the right side of his fork, pleading to be ridden. Dave had been spending too much time skiing and not enough time with his beloved Karate Monkey. Upon waking, Dave knew just what he had to do. This was when the idea for an all human powered Tour Duluth was birthed.
Dave presented his idea to me soon after. His vision was to ride our bicycles to every trail on the Tour Duluth itinerary and ski every kilometer. The idea appealed to me immediately and so I became his comrade in this venture.
For the 2008 attempt we awoke to sub-zero temperatures. I lost sensation in my feet about 30 minutes into the ride out to Spirit Mountain and never fully regained sensation until 13 hours later. The short story of this failed attempt was that we skied 45 K and got to 5 trails but came up short. As we sat at the Mount Royal Grocery store in a puddle of our own sorrow and bonked to the point of incoherency, we made a pact to give a second attempt. For this attempt, we strategized that we needed to make a few changes.
1. We need to be in better shape
2. We can’t be trail hosts (as this made us run out of time for Snowflake due to our hosting at Chester)
3. We need to figure out a better way to carry our skis than on our backs
4. We need to eat and drink more
Taking this hard lesson from 2008 we came at the Tour Duluth with vigor and a sense of purpose. In our preparations Dave had realized if we used our straps at each end of our skis we could have a ski on each side of the headset and seatposts of our bikes. The appearance of our skis protruding out in front of our bikes gave us the feel of a warrior riding his mighty steed, lance at his side ready to impale any cranky dragons that came our way. This was the type of inspiration we needed.
Last year we tried to summon the spirit of Will Steger to carry us through Tour Duluth. Our failure was undoubtedly due in large part to his spirit not being quite rugged enough. To up the ante Dave came up with the idea that we should try to allow Norse God of Thunder, Thor, to be our main inspiration. If you know Thor’s story, his most epic battle consisted of him killing the Sea Serpent, Jormungandr. However, his wounds from the battle were so severe he was only able to take 9 steps after killing Jormungandr before he died himself. It was with this sense of purpose that we approached the all human powered Tour Duluth. It may kill us, but we were going to finish the whole shebang.
At 4:45 am I left my house and made my way up to Dave’s. We took off at 5 am, Tour Duluth 2009 officially underway. Mother Nature was a good deal more kind to us this year as we were met with temperatures already in the 20’s at the start of our day.
Our good fortune would end quickly though as it was soon discovered that Dave’s pedal was slightly askew, thus stripping all the threads of his crank. Anyone who rides with me knows that 95% of the time I’m the one who has the mechanical, so this was a bit peculiar. I was starting to think that Jormungandr might be up to some wiley tricks, so I kept my senses keen to any further treachery. Luckily, Dave was able to get his pedal back on with the few remaining threads. This got us to Thompson Hill but it was there that his pedal completely came off. We decided to go on and try to get to Spirit. There we would call for reinforcements to bring either a new crank or a new bike. From Thompson Hill we kind of resembled a three legged race as Dave pedaled with his one good side while holding on to my backpack, getting a little extra help by having me pull him along.
This got us to Spirit where the skiing portion of the day started. We did the 11K, took the connector to Magney and back, then did the inner loops at Spirit.. The trails were quite icy but fun. The 11K at Spirit was in the best shape of the system. The iciness made for some pretty precarious downhills. I fell numerous times and found that with the icy and hard nature of the snow I could slide for quite a while after my body hit the ground. On at least two occasions I slid completely off the trail, still staying on top of the snow while I flew through brush and debris. Luckily no injuries were incurred and we able to make it back and enjoy some coffee and bagels with the other Tour Duluth participants who were starting their ski at Spirit.
Our good friend Justin Guthman was able to bring his wife’s bike for Dave, who handled the loss of his Karate Monkey with grace and acceptance. Justin joined us on our ride over to Piedmont where the three of us skied after the trail had been freshly groomed. The temperatures were warming up, leaving the snow pretty soft but it was a great ski with the fresh grooming.
After Piedmont we hopped on Arlington and took that over to Snowflake. It was here that the snow was getting really soft. Most of the trails were mashed potatoes in the sun and pretty solid in the shaded areas. We were at the 41 K point when we started and it was here that I really started to slow down. One of our first objectives after last year’s failed attempt was to be in better shape. We both agreed that we probably weren’t in as good of shape in 2009 as 2008 and it was here that I started to feel it. I lagged behind Dave quite a bit over the 15 K at Snowflake but we got it done and headed down Arrowhead towards Hartley. Dave had the good idea of hitting Bagley from the backside entrance as we were right there on Arrowhead but before he could ski there we ran out of time and Dave had to return home. He’s the lucky dad of an at-the-time week-old baby girl, Kjella, and his parental duties took precedence over our late winter Death March. Dave’s physical prowess most resembles that of a white-tailed deer as he never seems to tire and is usually bounding around with a smile on his face. He was out in front all day and could have easily finished the whole Tour. Maybe next year we’ll do it and he can have Kjella on his back in a papoose the whole time. I’m sure I’d still have a hard time staying with him.
From here on I was going solo, and it was a good thing because I’m pretty sure the last four trails were the slowest I’ve ever skied in my life. Without Dave to try and keep up with I was full-on sloth mode. Bagley was in pretty rough shape but I did Hartley after that and it was great. The trail was beautiful and I got to appreciate all of its beauty because I was moving at the speed of a stalagmite.
After Hartley I took Glenwood down to Lester and did 10 K there. I had thought I did the requisite 15 K but after further reflection I realized that I would have needed to do the golf course loop to complete the full distance and I didn’t. The trail at Lester was quite icy and fast, making it a pretty quick ski. I was later asked what I thought about as I skied alone for so long and I honestly don’t remember. Most of the trails were quite icy so I think I was pre-occupied with self-preservation for much of the time. I most resemble a lumbering ox with a lame leg during most of my athletic pursuits so just staying upright was my primary focus through much of the day.
The sun was setting as I was leaving Lester to do the last trail of the day, Chester. As I started climbing up from Superior St. on 24th Ave E I was starting to suffer for the first time on the bike. I definitely get pretty wiped out from the longer skis but up until this point the cycling had been pretty comfortable. I could feel Jormungandr starting to gain on me, poised to take me down, only one trail away from completing the mission. Luckily, a guardian angel showed up in the form of roadie Adam Hanson, coming back from a road ride out east. He offered encouragement and paced me up the hill, bringing me all the way to Chester Bowl. His help was much appreciated as we left Jormungandr in the dust and I was ready as could be expected for the last ski at Chester. I decided to classic the trail at Chester and I’m pretty sure I broke the city record for the slowest lap there of all time. I had no energy to get up the hills so most of my ascents were slow-paced walks. I even had to take my skis off at one point to go down one of the downhills as it was completely dark out and I didn’t trust my body to be able to keep me on my feet. At this point I was also starting to get quite chilled as the dropping temps were making my sweaty clothes cold against my skin. Eventually I finished the trail and biked on down the hill, returning home at 8 pm. 15 hours and 15 minutes of activity for the day. A rewarding, but brutal effort.
I’m currently accepting applications for the All Human Powered Tour Duluth 2010, so if you want to join in on the sufferfest next year just let me know.