Skyway Epic 2019 and 2018

2019 skyway epic 300 finish line pic2019 skyway 300 finish 2018 skyway 280 finish line pic2018 skyway 280 finish

I just realized I never finished the draft I had started of my race report from 2018. I’ve included that original draft at the end of this post after the 2019 race recap. Here is my finish line picture above that Brent took from both years. The left one is this year’s where the massive thunderstorms turned a nice evening into a very cold, wet one. I am literally wearing my emergency sleeping bivy like a toga underneath my jersey. In 2018, it was also quite wet, but also much colder. I didn’t have the winter weather gear with me that you needed so I stopped at a Family Dollar and bought whatever I could find — including oven mitts for long finger gloves!!!

2019 Skyway Epic 300
This was the toughest skyway yet, here’s quick recap – nice overnight temps to stay in the lower 50s (but of course it dropped into the 40s). Dry weather expected until Saturday afternoon when stray thunderstorms possible. It turned into a beautiful, warm day eventually but stayed perfectly cool for most of the day because of overcast skies. This was important to help manage water, if we ever get a blistering hot skyway, then you will be filtering water at nearly every water source you come to.

10 of us started the race Friday night at 10pm. I got the hole shot to the singletrack and pushed the pace hard for a long time wanting to lead the race from start to finish again this year. I knew that other people had better singletrack skills so I wanted to push it hard while hopefully the more skilled riders were cruising, conserving energy for the long race ahead. I ended up with almost a 10 minute lead coming out of the single track and hitting the Wiregrass dirt road. Lots and lots of ups and downs. I was conservative with lights because I didn’t bring a wall plug for charging anything and was relying on my beefy 15,000 mAh battery pack to keep everything charged. I ran both lights for the entire opening 11 miles of singletrack – a 750 lumen handlebar mounted light on its lowest setting (200 lumens), and my 550 lumen helmet light on its lowest setting (125 lumens). As soon as I hit wiregrass, I switched to the helmet one only on its lowest setting. I’d actually preferred to use the handlebar mounted one, but my helmet one was “iffy” in being able to turn it off because of quite the soaking in rain on one ride. So while it was working, I wanted to exhaust it and save my nicer 750 lumen light for when the first one unexpectedly stopped working or got stuck in high mode running the battery down quickly.

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Low to high point fat bike fun in Minnesota

Ice beard less than halfway through the ride.
Fun adventure in the north woods of Northern Minnesota today. I rode from the lowest point in Minnesota (Lake Superior, 603′) to the highest point in Minnesota (Eagle Mountain, 2301′). It was a tough ride with lots of uncertainty. I had attempted this same ride in 2016, but failed. In 2017, I was hit by a car a month before our Christmas trip and was still on crutches while the rest of the family went skiing. This year, I had set aside a day to forgo skiing and try this same ride again, but this time a bad winter storm was bearing down supposed to hit about the time I made it back to the cabin. Lots of uncertainty – the only thing in my favor this year was warm temps in the teens, but that was actually a problem as I sweated a ton and had one water bottle for an 8 hour ride.

Highs and Lows
I have been on some fun adventures on the bike over the years. Here’s all the state high points I have climbed on my bike in reverse order of when I climbed them.

  • Minnesota – 2018
  • Virginia (second highest point, haven’t climbed highest yet) – 2017
  • Mississippi – 2016
  • Florida – 2014
  • Arkansas – 2012
  • Tennessee – 2009
  • Georgia – 1997
  • North Carolina – 1995
  • South Carolina – 1995
  • Alabama – 1994

Minnesota and Florida are special, though, in that I have now ridden in both of them from the lowest point to the highest point of the state in a single ride. South Carolina is interesting, too, in that I rode from the highest point to the lowest point in the state in a single ride, but not the other direction. Ok, let’s get back to this Minnesota adventure.

2016 failed attempt
In 2016, I was thwarted by lots of snow and a late start after skiing half a day. I made it to the start of the trail at sunset (without a light) only to find the trail covered in half a foot of new snow from the day before plus who knows how many feet of snow under that. I tried to ride the first few feet and slid out and decided it just wasn’t going to happen. I made it home well after dark (almost 7pm). I vowed to come back the next year and start earlier in the day and take a light. Here’s a timelapse video of the first 9 miles of the ride before my battery died in the cold.

2017 crutches
In 2017, I was recovering from surgery on my foot after being hit by a car traveling 45-50+mph on a county road south of Birmingham. I was going 13mph up a hill at the time of impact. Very, very thankful that my worst injury was a torn-up foot. I impacted the car’s windshield which acted like a cushion and saved my life. The damage to my foot came afterwards sliding alongside the road after the driver slammed on his brakes. I have no memory of the collision or aftermath. My memory from before is spotty, too, the only thing I specifically remember is stopping at the gas station in Sterrett to buy gatorade about 10 miles before impact. I was on crutches while the family went skiing.

2018, success!!!
Our plan for this year included three days of skiing, but we only bought a two-day pass for me so I could try this ride again. The weather forecast for Lutsen down on the lake was for a temp in the low teens rising to the 20s by the afternoon with a big winter storm coming. 12-18inches of snow predicted with wind gusts blowing to 35mph starting by about 4:30PM. My worst case scenario would have me back to the cabin by about 4PM, so I thought I was safe.

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