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    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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2013 Great River RAGNAR: Connect, Conquer, Celebrate

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http://atver-acis.lv/tyre/2249 The Great River Ragnar:  A relay running race from Winona, Minnesota to Minneapolis, Minnesota, some 200 miles of paved road, gravel, and bike path. Teams made up of 12 souls searching for more than 'just another running race' split themselves into two vans, (often rented, borrowed, or acquired by a means we shall not mention here) shove one runner toward the starting line and head off for the next "exchange" point where the next runner will await the arrival of the first in order to carry the torch or in this case bracelet, onward toward Minneapolis. This pattern would repeat itself countless times or so it seemed as one foot gets placed in front of the other with one goal in mind - finish.

great post to read Sometimes the journey is the destination.b2ap3_thumbnail_P8170049.JPG

My wife Amy first mentioned the Ragnar while we were discussing my tentative summer race schedule. We considered the conflicts that would arise as she pursued her interests in marathon running and I in bike racing. A glaring problem popped up as I mentioned the date of the North Dakota's Mah Dey Hey 100 mile mountain bike race. The race I'd thought about for a year was on the same date as something called "The Great River Ragnar". Amy expressed strong interest in participating in the race and went on to explain the concept to me. Confused, I listened and tried to come to terms with the "team concept" of the run. In all honesty it all seemed a little far fetched to me. I mean running 200 miles with two vans of 6 runners in each. How would the logistics of such a run be effectively managed. As she went on I must admit that my "full listening power" began to wane. However, the conversation presented itself again a few weeks later and Amy was becoming more determined to do this thing. We thought about how we could do both. I could take the car to North Dakota, she could rent a car or maybe jump in the back of someone else's. As time passed I began to think about how often she stands in the pit area of my races or drives with me to the far reaches of Kansas, the list goes on. North Dakota could wait. An opportunity was in front of her and who knew maybe in front of me as well. 


As we headed toward Winona I contemplated my role in this race. There'd be a lot of driving, waiting, cheering, and hopefully sleeping. It wasn't until final registration and the start that the reality of what my role could really be came to me. I was following "van 1" (Amy's van) to Minneapolis and I would be getting a view into the minds of 5 women and 1 man all running with one single goal. I needed to pay attention! The potential dynamics of these 6 unique personalities would begin to unfold and I'd be there observing. I wondered how it would turn out. Would I be staring at a potential crisis, conflicted as to whether I should intervene, much like the wild life scientists who is forced to witness the slaughter of a weaker animal by a stronger one? Or would the stars align perfectly for these 6 individuals to gel in a synergistic effect allowing them to "Connect, Conquer, and Celebrate"? 

Seeing Kristin, the first runner off the start was a polite affair, athletes who barely knew each other interacting in a careful, if not "correct" manner. Mild jokes were being tossed about and a nervous feeling hung in the air much the way the early morning mist hung over the near by Mississippi. I snapped a couple of photos, but for the most part kept my distance and allowed the group to mingle through the uneasiness that often comes with first time social encounters. Jeff was the first to break the ice with me as he commented on the Salsa hat I was wearing, which lead to a conversation about a mutual friend in Quinn, the designer of this website. Jeff showed me a willingness to venture into an area that had nothing to do with our current surroundings...I liked him right away.

A few minutes before the start I noticed Kristin's demeanor change as she began to slip into "game time" mode. Kristin is an ultra distance runner with quads that would rival some of the fittest endurance cyclists I've raced against. She'd clearly been to the rodeo before and the look in her eye told me so. She slowly disengaged from the group and made her way to the start line. I noted the familiarity she displayed with this situation as well as the nerves that serious athletes always feel as it comes closer to the time to do what they love. Kristen can flat out "bring it" when it comes to running and the farther she has to go the better.

The team cheered for her as she made her way to the front of her wave and in a moment she was gone. Light hearted conversation accompanied the group as they made their way back to the van, but the same look Kristin had on her face seemed to be hanging on the rest of her team. This thing was under way and they were on their way to Minneapolis on foot!

I wished them luck and went my separate way in search of my own short term adventure. I'd be riding Winona's single speed national championship course for fun. I knew it was a great set of trails so I was up for a couple hours of riding before I'd be back on assignment.b2ap3_thumbnail_P8160033.JPG

The El Mariachi Ti back on the bike rack and my ride complete and I was heading North up the Ragnar course looking for the "Lake Superior Skippers". I had arranged to meet them at an exchange point in which van 1 trades off with van 2 allowing the second group of runners to do the heavy lifting for awhile. Amy's group would take advantage of some well earned rest and a hearty lunch, I'd be there with them. A peruse through the gps in my car had me finding a restaurant near by that would make us all happy. Upon entering the bar and grill it became clear to me that something had changed among the group. The social formalities that existed earlier in the day had made way to jokes and light hearted ribbing. It seemed the group was getting to know each other as they traded stories of their "kills". Disturbing as it is a "kill" in the Ragnar indicates a pass of a slower runner. Participants count their "kills" and even go so far as to display them on the windows of the van as if they were WWI aces recording shoot downs on the side of their planes. I wasn't sure where I stood with the sportsmanship of such a gesture, but the group seemed to be reveling in it. Like a good journalist observing from afar I kept my mouth shut. It wouldn't be long before I'd be asking each team member how many "kills" they had and nodding in approval with each answer.b2ap3_thumbnail_P8160042.JPG

The meal unfolded as one normally would until a moment arose that stood out. While Mandee, the team's speed demon inquired about the difference between a malt and a shake I noted the only male in the group, Jeff having a difficult time deciding on his lunch time "fuel up". The girls each told the waitress what they wanted, nothing alarming, but good solid meals nonetheless. The saying "silence is deafening" took on a new meaning when Jeff, the soft spoken young man I'd connected with earlier in the day ordered a FRUIT PLATE! The girl's eyes darted around the table at each other as if they were asking, "did that just happen". He floored the group with his drink choice, a cappuccino with the whipped cream on top. Mandee could take no more and spoke up, "REALLY?! A FRUIT PLATE?!" She said what we all thought and laughter took over the awkwardness of the moment. In my head I told myself, "now we're getting some where".

Jeff took a bit of a beating during lunch, but rode through it in good spirits. It seemed the tone was set as the group shifted back into race mode heading toward their new home, van 1. With each of them having run at least one leg of the three they would complete, the nerves seemed to be out of the systems. However, there was still the question of how the body would respond to a hard run followed by a significant break, another hard run, and so on. I wondered how the strategies would play out. Would each of them approach their upcoming turn on the road with some restraint or would they push their limits given whatever distance was in front of them?b2ap3_thumbnail_P8170056.JPG

I hit the road without the group toward the next "major exchange" or another van swap. The group would leap frog forward on course without me while I charged my batteries with a cold beer, some pre-season football, and a mediocre small town meal. Ultimately, I met them at the Elsworth, MN High School which served as the completion of their van's night time leg (sort of, Kristin would need to do a 4 a.m. start for her 3rd leg). Upon my greeting of the team I immediately noticed a looseness among them, a camaraderie that seemed to have been born during the earlier lunch episode. This time their connection presented itself in an overly used inspirational slogan that is simply too vulgar for me to mention here. Let's just say it involved a fear of not being let into Heaven if the good Lord viewed either one of them as uh ... less than tough. I should add that none of them were the religious type, but this proved to be a rallying point among them and it was a HUGE motivator. As I meandered through the sea of white vans and reflective vests I finally heard Amy call out to me with a sense of urgency that caused worry in me. "What's wrong?", I thought. "She must have hurt herself". No, her dream came true at the completion of her night time leg. There, just beyond the exchange point, a calico kitten. She was certain it was a sign from above. She came to me with such excitement and adrenaline that you'd think she had just won the lottery. She let me know how lucky I was that we weren't going to keep it, because it already had a flea and tic collar on, so it must have belonged to someone. My questions about how her run went didn't matter, it was now all about the kitten. Nicole, runner #2 giggled in the back ground as Amy went through the scene with me. "Do these girls know they are in a 200 mile running race or do they think this is a party?", I wondered.b2ap3_thumbnail_P8170062.JPG

The team cleaned up at the high school and we pushed on to a friend of Amy's from long ago. Joanna lived in Elsworth and was gracious enough to offer her home as a 3 hour napping spot for the crew. The team jumped at the chance and it wasn't long before sleeping bags were thrown about the home, some bags would never be used again. Kristin was having a bit of gastrointestinal issue. No, she didn't soil the bag, but the group agreed that there was enough methane gas trapped in the material to take out a small country. Nicole bore witness to the foulness of the moment as Kristin sacrificed herself in order to save the team. As Jeff so eloquently put it, she "dutch ovened herself".

Sleep deprivation began to show itself and I could see it written on all their faces. I've shaken hands with the sleep monster more times than I'd like to remember and I know what he looks like, he'd visited each of them in his own way. Some deal with being beyond tired by getting crabby, some get quiet, some get confused, van 1 went BAT SH*T CRAZY! Tonya, the van's captain and primary driver lead the team by handling the logistics, knocking out solid runs, and sending a vibe through the group that said every thing was under control. Hell, I felt more calm when Tonya was around. As Tonya provided the glue to hold it all together, the rest seemed to try to tear it apart with teen ab2ap3_thumbnail_P8170068.JPGge antics. Nicole never stopped giggling, Jeff provided nonstop fodder for the laughs without even knowing it as the group seized each opportunity to laugh at the only male runner's actions. So what if the guy ordered a butterball turkey dinner at 7 a.m. in Perkins. The innocence by which Jeff moves through life is enough to make any one smile and his food choices are enough to make a group of women howl with laughter.

They were a tight nit group now, swearing openly, teasing each other and even taking a few shots at the guy gathering the story. I liked what I was seeing, this was what team work should always be about. Amidst all the joking and the 12 year old slumber party vibe was always a sense of encouragement and positivity. I heard them complimenting each other and marveling at the quick pace of each other's runs. They never said a negative word.b2ap3_thumbnail_P8170050_20130824-135802_1.JPG

The small towns had turned larger and the endless stream of trees had turned to strip malls. They were getting closer to Minneapolis now and the remainder of the run was in van 2's hands. The plan was for van 1 to meet the 6 members of van 2 at the finish. Once the final runner came into view they'd join him and cross as a team. A great plan indeed, but the road construction in the big city threw a wrench into it forcing their runner to stop dead in his tracks about a minute out from the finish while he waited for all of the "Lake Superior Skippers" to arrive. Finally, all were together and 12 runners crossed the line together.

Previous to the start of the event each of the runners of van 1 only knew one other person they'd be running with. Some 26 hours later they had made a connection with all that would last a life time. I was fortunate enough to be there to see it happen. I want to thank Amy, Nicole, Tonya, Kristin, Mandee, and Jeff for reminding me what sport really is about. All athletes could take a lesson from this group. They exemplified competitive spirit while having the time of their lives. They were doing what they love to do and in those moments I saw in their faces a happiness that others spend their whole lives trying to find.

Thank you van 1, thank you for letting me be a part of it.



http://summerbeam.com/sumer/krematoriy/2144 b2ap3_thumbnail_Tonya.jpg Tonya:  The van's captain. Tonya proved to be the rock that the team needed to lean on when sleep deprivation made things dicey. She handled the complexities and logistics of such an event with ease. Tonya went deep during her runs and came out with some of the best times for her distances she'd ever had. She lead through example.

24 heures annonces rencontre "I can run faster than I think, I can run on 2 hours of sleep and love every minute of it." -Tonya

my company b2ap3_thumbnail_Amy2.jpg Amy:  Amy, the ace up the team's sleeve. She is modest and humble, but keeps a killer instinct hidden down deep inside. She's the type of runner that would raise her hand to volunteer to do the longest leg in the worst conditions. She proved to be the team's 'worker bee' that can simply GET IT DONE and still have time to pet the kitties.

moved here "I can run, and run well, three times in 20 hours on no sleep even when everything in my body is telling me otherwise." https://ballspondjoinery.co.uk/rimonat/592 -Amy

rencontres el qantara b2ap3_thumbnail_NIcole.jpg Nicole:  Nicole, was born an athlete, it just took her until her twenties to find out. She is a natural runner who laughs at pain. She has a competitive side to her that runs below her giggles and good nature. Don't land in her sights during a race, because she'll track ya down!

"...just don't walk...who cares how big that hill is...run it down!" -Nicole

b2ap3_thumbnail_Jeff.jpg Jeff:  Jeff, the unassuming, overly polite, innocent boy from Iowa. He wedged his way into a van full of women and proved he was a force to be reckoned with. His good nature and outstanding human spirit make him that much more of a runner. Jeff never backed off and scored some of the fastest runs of his life during the 2013 Ragnar.

" The race gave me confidence. Never in my life could I have dreamed up running under a 7 minute pace with no sleep and already having a run under my belt." -Jeff

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mandee.jpg Mandee:  Mandee, the quintessential "fast girl". She blistered through her runs as her competitive drive took over. A life time of soccer has given her a set of running legs that turn over smoothly and quickly. She's driven to win!

"You put your mind and heart into something (even a race) and you can do anything." -Mandee

b2ap3_thumbnail_Kristin.jpg Kristin:  Kristin, the ultra distance runner of the group. She knocks out 30 mile trail runs on the weekends for fun. She crushes races like the Boston Marathon. She is a self made athlete who doesn't know how to give up. She defines commitment.

"I've always known runners were a tough, cool group of people, but I have a newfound respect and appreciation for how awesome and tough runners are...for so many reasons." -Kristin








A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.


  • Guest
    Jeff Pauley Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Awesome overview of this race Tim! Thanks for tagging along and giving us your rendition of it!

  • Guest
    Peg Oman Sunday, 01 September 2013

    That was an amazing recap of an amazing race! I have much respect for all of you. What an awesome thing you all did to run so well on such little sleep and to have so much fun doing it! Very proud of all of you and especially my nephew, Jeff, who I have always known is a super person! Congratulations to all of you!

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