Race Report: Single Speed USA (SSUSA) 2013, Winona, MN

via Twin Six
ia Twin Six

In the spirit of SSUSA I bought a tallboy PBR before writing this race report. Keep that in mind because PBR tallboys and Miller Highlife seem to be the backbone of this race. Grand Forks, ND’s famous "Dave the Bike Guy" tricked me into signing up for SSUSA late one night, convincing me somehow that they were running out of registration spots. Without heed and following my own late New Years resolution of actively trying to mountain bike more I registered. The general description of this race is a Single Speed National Championship located in Winona MN this year. The thing is, no one really cares who wins or what place you came in or if you finished at all. And you don’t have to qualify to compete. Sure, 1st place male and female win a pretty cool handmade trophy (and so does the person who is “DFL” Dead F@!#$%^ Last), but other than a white board where someone who was still sober was able to write the names and times of the first 20 people to finish it’s more of a party than a race.

SSUSA changes locations every year and the next location is determined at the end of the race during the post race party via derby (bumper bikes), keg stands, and whatever events happen at the bar that evening.

Onto the race/party. I had a great time. Registration was an all night event at the bar, with many racers partying till last call. Bikes were everywhere. Expensive bikes were everywhere. Some were piled above my head in a stack. Dave and I stayed up late eating free popcorn and joining in on the rowdy unchained world that is SSUSA. I’m really surprised no one was arrested all weekend. Genuinely surprised.

via Dave Sears
hoto by Dave Sears

SSUSA started with tons of people in costumes, spandex, and nothing at all. It was a Le Mans start (meaning we ran to our bikes) before hitting the trails. I was on a fully rigid Redline Monocog 29er with v-brakes. The trail was 30-40 miles and gaining a total of 4,000 ft elevation. The trails in Winona were great. Some had to be connected by moderate sections of road, but I enjoyed them as a means to give my arms a rest. There were such steep uphills, that everyone ran or walked them. There were such steep and long downhills that my arms felt like Jello and for the 1-2 minutes that I was flying 20+mph down double track I had to yell at myself to hold on. This happened repeatedly. I literally thought I would destroy myself in an accident had I not held on to the brakes as tight as humanly possible. My arm muscles were so weak with fatigue trying to hold on and I kept feeling my biceps slapping on the bone they were attached to. It was a lesson of pain management and it made me jealous of everyone with a suspension fork and hydraulic brakes.

The trail had a few sag stops with more beer than water. If you thought you were going to fly through without putting one back, be prepared to be heckled, have things thrown at you and (in one case) someone with a slingshot was taking aim on racers who were “losing the race.” The beer stops were great and hydrating. My legs held up all day without cramping and after however many hours it took me to finish I was exhausted, happy, and looking for food and water.

For any of the gear heads, I was riding a 32-20 and it did me great. I could ride almost everything except for the parts where I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have picked an easier or harder gear. SSUSA revived my mountain biking appetite (as I was hoping) and I am stoked to get on any trail I can find.

I took a nap and thankfully Dave forced me to go the after party. It was at another bar downtown and featured music by a band called “DNF”. It was loud and fast, which matched pleasantly with the fireworks people were setting off inside. Students back in town for the semester would come up to our party floor, look shocked, disgusted, or incredulous that people twice their age or greater were getting wild. Again, I don’t know how I never saw any cops. I had a great weekend. I’d do it again, and I’d encourage anyone to join. Tons of great trails and tons of great people. Thanks Dave!

Here are some links:




Photo by Todd Bauer via Gearjunkie.
Photo by Todd Bauer via Gearjunkie

So Where Have I Been?

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack 
You may find yourself in another part of the world 
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile 
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife 
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? 

- Talking Heads

It's been a while since the last blog post, and they tell me it's important to keep up the facade of actual work being accomplished.  So here goes.

Man, summer is busy!  We went to a wedding, bought a house, moved, got a dog, built a fence, and it's the end of August already.  It's been good, though.  

So it begins

I'm itching to officially launch a new feature when I get the time to write it all up.  It may not work the way I expect, and it requires more involvement from the Northern Plains Athletics community.  Note that I didn't say work.  It's not so much work as a way to build our small (but growing) regional community of athletes.

On the professional race front, I've been heavily involved in the backend of ENDracing.  There are more races happening this year than ever before, and my small part is to help out where I can in order to keep Andy (the race director) sane.  I've plugged these races enough on Twitter, so I won't do so again here.


On the personal race front, the last race I did was the Dewey Du.  I supported a swimmer for END-WET and manned a semi-remote checkopint for END-AR.  Both took more out of me than I had anticipated, so the time has come again to pull the plug and start training in earnest again.  Cyclocross and mountain bike races approach, followed by the intent at distance fatbiking, if you get my drift.

 Ted (general NPA lackey and hosting provider--go buy some Toe'ds) managed to make it to SSUSA, and I'm expecting a race report from him any day now.  Right, Ted?  We sent people far and wide from Grand Forks to race the last few weekends.  Of the cyclists, the Maah Daah Hey 100 and SSUSA called.  Of the adventure racers, END-AR24 gave them mosquito bites to be proud of.  Of the runners?  I'm sad to say that I don't have a good connection to the local road-racing set--get in touch, guys!  Sean Cooley won at least sixty-four distinct triathlons this summer.  

There are many race reports to write and be read.  If you'd like to know why I'm not the one writing them yet, read that second paragraph again.  What did you do with your summer?

Avn Association 10 Miler 52

Race Report: Dewey Du


Some cities have an established hometown marathon, some have a classic 10K, others have a "everyone can do it" bike race, and Grand Forks has the Dewey Kvidt Memorial Duathlon (now including a 5K/10K).  I don't think I'm overstating my case by saying that it's one race pretty much everyone can get behind--on the way home we even drove by a bar that had an advertisement up on the marquee.

Although the race started the year I moved to Grand Forks, this was only my second time competing.  It's definitely been on the horizon and growing every year, spitting out some names you might recognize more recently from the Minnesota triathlon scene.  Last time I did the race, in 2011, I ended up fifth overall and, due to the no-double-dipping policy, third in my age group.

But let's stop right there.  Do you really want to read about my training and my race?  I didn't think so.

The Dewey Du is held in memory of Dewey Kvidt (who passed away in 2005) by his family.  It's a testament to his love of sport that they even began to go through the trouble of organizing such a race, and have kept it going for so long (this was the eighth year).  This year was the first year starting from the Choice Health & Fitness Center in south Grand Forks, so it meant less indoor space for everyone and more exposure to the elements before the race.  You know what?  Nobody seemed to mind--7:45 AM, intermittent rain, 20+ MPH wind, and a bunch of us shivering under some large tents in the parking lot.  I've been to races with better weather and more miserable people; maybe we were all just glad it wasn't snowing.

 The run course was well-designed except for a few blind corners and one oblivious runner (me) who missed an obvious turn.  The 5K/10K began half an hour after the duathlon, which let all of us see who we were really racing against.  That wind was blowing from the north, and the bike route was an out-and-back...to the south.  Which meant 30 MPH out and 12 MPH back if you were one of the stronger riders. 


What's that mean, anyway?  "Stronger riders."  The fastest riders?  The riders able to snake in between the air molecules and eke out a little more speed?  I think we've got it wrong.  There were some physically powerful riders out there, but they may not have been the strongest.

For the last few years, I've been involved in the organization Ground UP Adventures, the goal of which is to get youth into adventure-based activities.  Three of the youngsters who have been there from the beginning (back when the local youth climbing club first started) are Erin and Megan (sisters) and Lucy.  They're 13, 11, and 13 (or so) respectively.  The reason I bring them up now is that they were there Saturday at the duathlon, not to cheer or compete as a team, but to each do the full race (5K/25K/5K).  They finished the race, on a day when riding into the wind was so tough that three or four miles an hour (what they could muster at times) was barely enough to keep upright.  

They got up early enough to start a race at 8 AM on a Saturday.  They pushed through two 5Ks (the first of which they had ever done back in February), what must have been an excruciating bike ride, and what I find most impressive, two transition areas.  Two easy places to drop.  Two places to stop and relax (and there was cake!).  But they didn't (you can check the results).  They kept moving and kept racing.  Megan came in from the bike leg, barely moving, and her only question was "Do I have time to finish?" before taking off like a rabbit. (I only wished I looked as fresh into my second run.)

I'm super impressed.  I'm writing all of this because you should be too.

I understand why we push kids into team sports (because it's easy, because their friends are doing it, because it's what we did), and I know these girls play soccer and volleyball and all those "regular" things.  They've done shorter adventure races on other youth teams and been successful.  But the thrill of being out there on your own, and it being you against the wind, and knowing you want to push as hard as you can with nobody else to fall back on, I think that's important, and maybe they're realizing that too.


All photos by Wes Peck.

What's your Big Hairy Goal?

2013-03-16 18.23.28
Racers feeding their inner demons at CP3 of END-SURE.

With summer spring not-winter on the horizon, it's time again to put your money where your mouth is and pick a "big hairy goal."  I think I first heard this term either from Andy or one of the good folks at Operacion Muerto, but I can't find any evidence of that.  All it means is a goal that's going to send you over the moon if you accomplish it.  Sometimes the planning and execution of these things can take years (summiting Everest, cycling around the world, etc.), but that's for the people I like to call (affectionately) "the real crazies."  If you're new to the game, pick something doable but hard.  Like the hardest thing you've ever done.  Or the most planning you've ever needed.  Or something you've failed at before.

One such BHG that requires no entry fee is the Operacion Muerto Summer Challenge 2013: a ride or run across Manitoba without using any paved roads.  Another in my local area is the Winnipeg-Grand Forks-Fargo ride (2013 details TBA; not sure if this will be gravel-only as well).  For touring cyclists, though, this stuff is easy.  For multi-sport athletes, perhaps the Minnesota Lowest to Highest Duathlon Challenge is your cup of tea: race from Lake Superior in Grand Marais to the top of Eagle Mountain (the highest point in MN) and back.

Personally, I'll be tackling the Lutsen 99er as proof that I can ride farther off-road than ever before, on this on a Surly Pugsley, as well as finishing a complete 24-hour adventure race at END-AR.  Are these big goals compared to other people?  Not necessarily.  Do they matter to me?  Undoubtedly.

You're primed and ready now: what's your Big Hairy Goal?

NPA and Toeds team up to provide third END-SURE checkpoint

(zoomable map here, miles count down to finish, 1.5 mile out-and-back at CP2 is not included)

Northern Plains Athletics and Toe'ds have teamed up to provide a third checkpoint for END-SURE: the Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience...and what an experience it's going to be!

Together with Toe'ds executive chef Ted Bibby, I'll be hauling gear in (on foot or via snowmobile) to the most 'wildernessy' part of the 31-mile END-SURE course to set up a checkpoint and aid station between six and seven miles from the finish line.  Unexpected amounts of snowfall have made the finish time estimates grow longer and longer the closer we get to the race.  The impending storm tonight into tomorrow will add insult to injury, and perhaps finally convince some of the racers that they'd like to be wearing snowshoes (for those not in the loop, gear has been quite the debate).  

If you'd like to follow along with the race, we'll be tweeting from @nplainsathletes, sharing the hashtag #endsure with the two other checkpoints and the finish line.  Check out the roster to see if you know anyone in the race, and feel free to tweet us some messages to pass along.  An extended 6.5 hour cutoff to reach CP2 at mile 18 means a potentially longer finishing time, so who knows how long we'll be out there.

New! Maps by Event Type

[This post refers to functionality that has been removed.]

I've been working on this for a while and finally found the time to figure it out this weekend.  Any of the #hashtagged event types listed in association with an event can be clicked on to bring you to a page listing upcoming events of that type.  This is nothing new, but NOW you get an interactive map of those events!

Check out the example below, which can be accessed here.
If you want to quickly search by event type with a map, mouseover the 'Event List' menu item up at the top and select from the dropdown menu.

One quick note on maps: Basemaps shown on Northern Plains Athletics use OpenStreetMap, the world map that can be edited by anyone.  If you prefer base maps from Google or somewhere else, you can select a different base map by clicking the  icon in the upper right of each map.

Got #Results?

I've dabbled in hosting results before, but it became a big mess very quickly, so I set it aside.  I'd still like to incorporate a regional athlete ranking system someday, akin to that on crossresults.com, but that won't happen until there's a little more user interaction.

Results are important, however, so I'd love to at least link to them on the site.  There being a lot of races, this becomes difficult unless you (the race director!) send them in.  Skinnyski has a great writeup on results and Google Docs/Drive and how to get things in the right format.  Ship your results to me in any format (even including snapshots of the results sheets) and I'll get them up under the right event.

Results will be accepted in the following manner:
- in an email to matt@northernplainsathletics.com
- in a comment on the event page (this will get them out there the most quickly)
- in a tweet to @nplainsathletes, with the hashtag #results
- in a post on the Northern Plains Athletics Facebook page

Thanks for the help!
- Matt

Uniting the Climbing Community

Over the edge into 2013... Attention climbing gym managers!  Let's collaborate and schedule next year.  I'd like to see two regional series, one each in the spring and the fall.  This doesn't have to be formal, but the fewer date conflicts there are, the more climbing everyone gets to do.

This plan is focused on the North Dakota-South Dakota-Minnesota-Manitoba region, but obviously if there are competitions that are outside the edges of this region that will pull climbers away, we need to take that into account as well.

What you need to do:
1.  Look over this list.  If you see a comp I missed, mention it in the comments (and provide a link if you know it).
2.  Grab a weekend in the comments.  Make sure to include your email address so we can all contact each other.  If there is another kind of event near you that might draw away your climbers, keep that in mind.
3.  Comment about what you think will work and won't.
3.  Send other managers to this page to do the same thing.

Obviously, none of this is binding, but again it seems silly to have comps within weekend travel distance that fall on the same day.  I'm posting this to get the momentum going before next year rolls around, but if someone wants to jump in and be "in charge," feel free.  I'll keep this page updated as I find out more, or you can check the official list of future comps here at NPA.

- Matt

Comps that happened in 2012:
February 11 - SDSU (Brookings) (toprope)
February 17-19 - Festiglace (Winnipeg) (ice)
April 14 - NHRG (Grand Forks) (toprope)
April 21 - Vertical Endeavors (Minneapolis) (toprope)
April 28 - UND (Grand Forks) (toprope)

October 20 - NDSU (Fargo) (toprope)
October 20 - Boulders (Madison) (boulder)
October 27 - Vertical Endeavors (St. Paul) (boulder)
November 10 - NHRG (Grand Forks) (toprope)
November 10 - Vertical Adventures (Winnipeg) (toprope)
November 10 - MN Climbing Coop (Minneapolis) (boulder)

Comps scheduled for 2013 (when other things are happening):
Jan 5 Sat
Jan 12 Sat
Jan 19 Sat
Jan 26 Sat
Feb 2 Sat
Feb 9 Sat
Feb 16 Sat - Vertical Endeavors Passion for Flashin' (St. Paul) #toprope
                     - Festiglace (Winnipeg) #ice
Feb 23 Sat
Mar 2 Sat
Mar 9 Sat
Mar 16 Sat
Mar 23 Sat - SDSU Spring Cling (Brookings) #toprope #boulder
Mar 30 Sat
Apr 6 Sat - 
Apr 13 Sat - NHRG Escape the Horizontal XIII (Grand Forks) #toprope
                    - Vertical Adventures Brass Monkey (Winnipeg) #boulder
Apr 20 Sat - Vertical Endeavors Spring SCS Comp (Minneapolis) #toprope (comment)
                    - NDSU Rocky Balboulder (Fargo) #boulder (email 2012-12-12)
                    - UND Dirty 30 (Grand Forks) #boulder
Apr 21 Sun - UMD's 22nd annual Concrete Smorgasbord (Duluth) #toprope (comment)
Apr 27 Sat - Boulders (Madison) #boulder
May 4 Sat
May 11 Sat
May 18 Sat
May 25 Sat
Jun 1 Sat
Jun 8 Sat
Jun 15 Sat
Jun 22 Sat
Jun 23 Sun
Jun 29 Sat
Jul 6 Sat
Jul 13 Sat
Jul 20 Sat
Jul 27 Sat
Aug 3 Sat
Aug 10 Sat
Aug 17 Sat
Aug 24 Sat
Aug 31 Sat
Sep 7 Sat
Sep 14 Sat
Sep 21 Sat
Sep 28 Sat
Oct 5 Sat
Oct 12 Sat
Oct 19 Sat
Oct 26 Sat
Nov 2 Sat
Nov 9 Sat
Nov 16 Sat
Nov 23 Sat
Nov 30 Sat
Dec 7 Sat
Dec 14 Sat
Dec 21 Sat
Dec 28 Sat