Heck of the North

For those not familiar the Heck is a relatively flat ‘gravel’ race on what are often bumpy/dusty gravel roads NW of Duluth.  The route is punctuated with a long finishing climb and a scattering of trail sections.  Most years the trail sections are very wet to the point of requiring dismounts.  The flat nature of the course often keeps a large lead group together late into the race which has made for some exciting finishes.

I’ve been going good and was willing to try to take a flyer early in the race.  Such a strategy had been bubbling up since late summer and was further reinforced by my experience at the Gravel Conspiracy.  The pace always starts pretty high but I was looking for a way to get up the road from the start.  Figured I had to get it done early as possible or else it wouldn’t seem ‘stupid’ on my part and wouldn’t be allowed to happen.

So started my first ever Gravel Grinder. on Oct 2014. With just mt bike racing and road racing background, figure this be different. At this time I had done a few 100 mile bike races like Lutsen 99 and Mohican 100. This concept of a gravel grinder seemed different, being unsupported and unmarked where you have to follow cue cards to figure out the course.IMG_2119

So start off at the water front in Two Harbors. Weather is brutal, today, cold, lots of wind and wet. Going to be tough.
Now traditional for gravel grinders you ride a cross or cyclocross bike. Which i dont have. I am going to be one of the few on a Mt bike. On entry seems about 85% of the field are on cross bikes. With a few of us on mt and a few fat bikes as well, wow.

Well at least I am not only one. So get to start area and its quite low key atmosphere from other events i done. More less we just start and go.
Just around within the first 50 feet i see a few stacks of cue cards already on the ground, quite funny. First part of event is just a rolling start up along the highway to northward on to some county rd’s and dirt where the racing actually starts.

Run into a few more people riding mt bikes and one guy on another rocky mountain, so quite good. By this time, the pack is now splitting apart. front to back.

So getting onwards, lots of dirt roads, and weather was steady strong winds all day. Rainy and snow at many times. So into about mile 4 we come across this stream crossing. Almost impossible to ride through it, and only way was to walk it. However being cold out and October, this is a recipe for disaster. So i took leap of faith and ran through it. Now feet all nice and wet ready for a very cold ride rest of the day.
So a few things on doing this event which i entered just to try out a gravel grinder. One cross bike is rule of the day. Being on a mt bike is a HUGE handicap when on these dirt roads. If you ride a mt bike in a gravel grinder get some skinner tires for it. As it does feel sluggish more. However during this event on the trail systems we biked. I was at an advantage to all on cross bikes. Was able to handle and ride faster on the trails over the cross bike people. so hit and miss.

During this event from doing other long distance events, i got my on bike nutrition and hydration system all good.
Camelbak full of water with some fizz in them, and 2 water bottles, one full of Perpetium and other water bottle with electrolyte replacement.

On first part of event, about 3 times did go off course, thats the part of this type of racing, reason was i just following other riders and not watching the cues. So one point rode off at a cross turn with a few other people , and trail kept going. to a point which the bike tracks ended. so we turned around realized the mistake. Then back on another trail in lots of water and mud.

Overall a good ride for most of first part. Second time and 3rd time going off course. was when riding on a road, get into a steady pace and the turn off was some trail entrance off side of road, easy to miss almost, good thing we ran into people at end going on other direction who realized they missed the turn. So a few back tracking in this adventure. so far a good experience.

So going back up the road about more people turning off onto this trail. For some reason seem a good move though, as now i was with a big group of people , everyone seemed happy and smiling and happy so it was good time. On this trail part , now i was riding past people again since being on a mt bike. Come across a few guys on fat bikes too, very interesting. So after trail part come across to more dirt road and then steady paved road.

Going up a hill i can see the waterfront of Duluth in the view. Seems close to turn around point now at the Lester Park. So this is now at mile i think 67 or so. My feet are stone cold and wet all over. Hands are cold as well, it has been a big adventure so far. So go to a nice downhill and i almost ride past park but i see a few volunteers waving me in. This is a check point so one must check in here.  It is good to stop at this moment. I quickly take off my wet socks and put on new ones i had in my drop bag. Wow what a difference. Also change gloves as well. There is a nice fire pit here as well so i am warming up my hands now as well. Have 2 bananas and few cookies and refill my bottles with water, i could sit here rest of the day. But still have over 40 miles to finish.
Seems a few people at this point were calling it a day, too bad but it happens. Have to say “ been there down that’ AT this point since i was in a 4 week training burn out. I am ready to go but not 100% fitness i was early this summer.

So anyways make my way back on the course and head back. AT this time seems i am going to be riding solo rest of the day. I am now in auto pilot so just going to cruise it and enjoy the ride. I wont be able to pass people in my state but i will be able to finish. So continue riding and now i have to actually read my cue cards exactly. I am finding it actually fun to follow the directions instead of following someone else, more fun and i can do it better it seems. So going back up a few hills i am barely making it, but riding it, all well.
AT this point course is part on a two way back and i am seeing riders just heading to lester park. And they are fair way back. So it does give me confidence that i am not going to be last and not only that, not even in the last of the pack.

So continue on on more roads and tails. Having more gels and patting some dogs along the way on some dirt roads. Fan club i assume.

So later one reach one more trail. Catch up to one guy on a cross bike. We ride this muddy section and come across one part of trail and little confused, but looks like we are on right way. Back out onto a road and realize its almost done. So finally ride down this nice road, sun has finally come out. The end is also near, been a long long day, but great adventure. So being a nice grassroots events, i see a team of amazing volunteers at the timing check point. we call our number to them and that is it, we have finished, rest of way is a neutral ride to the waterfront to cross the official finish line.
Looks like a great event will do it again.
Overall came in 90th spot, so not bad seems half field did DNF perhaps or not sure how many started, but i was under 9 hours on this one. considering i had a 3 week training burnout.

Putting bike away is nice, but cold. As cool down time now. Other people are finishing but seems the area is happy. People did have a good day. Looks like i will be back for next year. I think only one from Ontario, and Canada here or i think one guy from Alberta was in it, but not sure.

So this was my first time on a gravel grinder event, have to say a good experience and will do it again for sure.
Thanks for listening. Check out my blogs and website at



Here are the results of the Race

Here is another look. Thanks again for being a part of this year’s Heck of the North!
Finshers by Time:
207 Ted Loosen 36 M finished Geared 6:27:09  Fastest Male
303 Charlie Schad 44 M finished Geared 6:27:15
40 Jake Boyce 28 M finished Geared 6:33:01
12 Nikolai Anikin 34 M finished Geared 6:36:07
222 Todd Mc Fadden 50 M finished Geared 6:36:36
381 Corey Shouse 44 M finished Geared 6:37:50
37 Rhett Bonner 50 M finished Geared 6:50:21
9 Chris Anderson 32 M finished Geared 6:51:56
298 Matthew Ryan 39 M finished Geared 6:53:00 (Time penalty for course infraction)
199 Matt Lee 22 M finished Geared 7:02:33
147 Paul Harrison 35 M finished Geared 7:02:37
156 Scott Hippen 46 M finished Geared 7:02:40
1 Peter Aas 50 M finished Geared 7:02:42
115 J Ross Fraboni 34 M finished Geared 7:02:44
254 David Olheiser 41 M finished Geared 7:03:15
239 Sara Morse 35 F finished Geared 7:03:20     Fastest Female!
45 Andrew Broadmoore 38 M finished Geared 7:03:41
60 Paul Carroll 45 M finished Geared 7:03:43
253 Nick Nygaard 24 M finished Geared 7:12:03
39 Doug Bowen-Bailey 45 M finished Geared 7:12:09
367 Mark Wilhelmson 61 M finished Geared 7:12:52
275 Erik Peterson-Nafziger 42 M finished  7:13:56
288 Dave Riggs 53 M finished Geared 7:21:33
8 Bruce Anderson 56 M finished Geared 7:21:38
50 Thomas Burch 58 M finished Geared 7:21:49
35 Brad Birkholz 46 M finished Geared 7:21:52
176 Jon Kern 44 M finished Geared 7:26:11
153 Robert Hest 23 M finished Geared 7:31:06
22 Bj Bass 32 M finished Geared 7:31:51
286 Kristin Riching 30 F finished Geared 7:31:59
179 Scott Klein 40 M finished Geared 7:32:05
99 Gregory Evans 45 M finished Geared 7:32:10
269 Charles Parsons 47 M finished Geared 7:32:17
324 Tony Stensland 43 M finished Single Speed 7:33:43 Fastest SingleSpeed
143 Matt Hanka 36 M finished Geared 7:34:50
310 Jack Schwinghamer 45 M finished Geared 7:38:23
280 Mark Rathbun 55 M finished  7:39:22
75 John Cron 47 M finished Geared 7:39:26
122 Chris Gibbs 42 M finished 7:40:39
159 Jeff Hunt 55 M finished Geared 7:40:45
72 Andrea Coyhen 25 F finished Geared 7:49:34
188 Tim Kufahl 31 M finished Geared 7:53:07
24 David Bell 56 M finished Geared 7:53:19
171 Tom Karlson 47 M finished Geared 7:56:02
2 Kent Adams 54 M finished  7:56:06
172 Eric Kehrberg 50 M finished Geared 7:56:11
246 Mark Nestande 53 M finished Geared 7:56:16
248 Pam Nielsen 38 F finished Tandem 7:56:36
215 Sean Mailen 29 M finished Geared 7:59:39
102 Gordon  Faulkner 71 M finished Geared 8:00:12
196 Michael Larson 58 M finished Tandem 8:00:19   Fastest Tandem
276 Jeff Pokorney 38 M finished Fat Bike 8:00:52   Fastest Fat Bike
260 Robert Orlikowski 40 M finished Geared 8:02:37
109 Michelle Flanagan-Haag 50 F finished Geared 8:05:22
42 Luke Brager 34 M finished Single Speed 8:05:25
167 Joe Johnson 29 M finished Geared 8:05:53
137 Mike Haag 50 M finished Geared 8:05:57
221 Shane Maxwell 36 M finished Geared 8:07:26
174 Andy Kennedy Lageson 35 M finished Geared 8:07:31
241 Michael Murray 55 M finished Geared 8:12:57
283 Jim Reed 54 M finished Geared 8:13:03
229 Rob Milburn 46 M finished Geared 8:13:27
267 Joseph Pahr 55 M finished Geared 8:17:43
124 Dean Gies 60 M finished Geared 8:19:16
83 Paul Dennis 42 M finished Geared 8:20:08
27 Joel Benton 39 M finished Geared 8:21:27
53 Jeff Bushendorf 32 M finished Geared 8:21:30
271 Erik Paulsen 45 M finished Geared 8:21:42
195 Marty Larson 41 M finished Geared 8:21:46
321 Ryan Sportel 39 M finished Geared 8:22:00
307 Jay Schneider 48 M finished Geared 8:22:53
71 Benjamin Cox 29 M finished Geared 8:24:55
134 Geoffrey Grosenbach 39 M finished Geared 8:30:21
57 Ivor Campbell 50 M finished Geared 8:30:56
220 Sean Mattner 36 M finished Fat Bike 8:35:55
100 Cameron Evjen 34 M finished Geared 8:37:23
23 Ben Bastian 31 M finished Geared 8:41:53
344 Andy Thieman 35 M finished Geared 8:41:59
309 Matt Schroeder 37 M finished Geared 8:42:03
379 Rich Zvosec 56 M finished Geared 8:44:24
315 Brian Simon 44 M finished Geared 8:45:51
311 Mark Seaburg 55 M finished Geared 8:46:50
175 Steven Kenny 49 M finished Geared 8:47:13
325 David Stephen 55 M finished Geared 8:53:46
211 Timothy Lupfer 34 M finished Geared 8:53:49
123 Jay Giddings 40 M finished NULL 8:54:21
190 John Kurth 47 M finished Geared 8:54:26
180 Steve Knauss 46 M finished NULL 8:54:30
266 David Pace 50 M finished Geared 8:55:54
285 John Rescigno 36 M finished Geared 8:56:04
308 Steve Schoo 51 M finished Geared 8:58:47
136 Craig Gustafson 53 M finished Geared 8:59:39
332 Jared Sundstrom 25 M finished Geared 9:02:22
66 Grant Cook 24 M finished Geared 9:02:24
256 Neil Olson 31 M finished Geared 9:02:27
218 Russ Maron 62 M finished Geared 9:06:39
52 Nathan Bush 25 M finished Geared 9:08:19
14 Justin Anthony 34 M finished Geared 9:08:22
127 Chris Godsey 43 M finished Single Speed 9:10:58
301 Allen Sanborn 35 M finished Fat Bike 9:11:14
342 Ryan Terpening 33 M finished Geared 9:11:18
364 Tavis Westbrook 40 M finished Geared 9:15:34
361 Andy Weinzierl 31 M finished Geared 9:17:39
279 Robin Raplinger 50 M finished NULL 9:17:59
282 John Raub 43 M finished Geared 9:18:16
200 Mike Lee 32 M finished Geared 9:18:24
293 Cole Rogers 55 M finished Geared 9:18:56
170 Phil Juskiewicz 53 M finished Geared 9:22:16
261 Chris Orr 39 M finished Geared 9:22:31
228 Barry Meitler 38 M finished Geared 9:22:34
103 David Faynik 52 M finished Geared 9:22:37
360 Conrad Wasmer 44 M finished Geared 9:25:03
319 Patrick Smith 33 M finished Geared 9:25:10
149 John Hatcher 49 M finished Single Speed 9:26:06
61 Nadine Chalmers 27 F finished Geared 9:27:10
197 Michael Latsch 33 M finished Geared 9:31:06
177 Roger Kim 26 M finished Geared 9:32:03
372 George Williamson 46 M finished Geared 9:32:07
38 Freddie Borstad 49 M finished Geared 9:34:46
111 Eric Flom 48 M finished Geared 9:34:55
129 Christopher Goscinak 26 M finished NULL 9:36:42
289 Erik Riker-Coleman 42 M finished Geared 9:37:12
184 Greg Kremer 55 M finished NULL 9:39:50
178 Andy Kircher 42 M finished Geared 9:39:54
28 Doug Berg 45 M finished Geared 9:41:04
357 Eric Viken 46 M finished Geared 9:41:10
291 John Rockwell 43 M finished NULL 9:41:44
268 Christopher Parker 39 M finished Geared 9:41:48
110 Shaun Floerke 49 M finished Geared 9:41:54
203 Gary Lindberg 50 M finished Geared 9:42:30
43 David Brande 52 M finished Geared 9:47:33
89 Steve Drew 47 M finished Single Speed 9:50:22
158 John Hoch 42 M finished Geared 9:50:26
117 Chelsea Froemke 24 F finished Geared 9:50:35
64 Joe Clark 34 M finished Geared 9:50:39
238 Mark Morrissey 44 M finished Geared 9:50:44
198 Troy Lawrence 42 M finished Geared 9:51:04
69 Shawn Cotter 48 M finished Geared 9:51:59
340 Christopher Tassava 41 M finished NULL 9:55:19
225 Troy Mcdermott 39 M finished Geared 9:59:07
281 Kate Ratkovich 29 F finished Geared 10:01:18
94 Patrick Eidsmo 30 M finished Geared 10:03:20
318 Alec Smith 36 M finished NULL 10:04:49
358 Vlad Vinnik 27 M finished Geared 10:09:22
77 Dan Cruikshank 52 M finished Geared 10:14:00
322 Scott Stanke 39 M finished Geared 10:14:23
106 Chris Finch 46 M finished Geared 10:14:28
202 Michael Lehmkuhl 40 M finished Geared 10:16:03
181 Paul Knutson 30 M finished Geared 10:18:46
182 Alex Koppi-Kohn 27 M finished Geared 10:19:05
194 Leigh Langum 23 F finished Geared 10:19:13
63 Ross Christenson 47 M finished Geared 10:19:20
17 Daniel Backman 27 M finished Geared 10:20:22
34 Ryan Birkemeier 26 M finished Geared 10:20:25
165 Kurt Jankofsky 34 M finished Geared 10:20:30
278 Kip Praslowicz 35 M finished Geared 10:20:34
18 Charlie Bailey 68 M finished Geared 10:20:39
233 Jere Mohr 36 M finished Geared 10:22:44
135 Leah Gruhn 35 F finished NULL 10:22:50
294 Jeff Rogholt 39 M finished Geared 10:22:55
320 John Spartz 52 M finished Geared 10:24:42
185 Ken Krueger 50 M finished Geared 10:25:13
252 David Nygaard 50 M finished Geared 10:27:12
155 Bridget Hines 25 F finished Geared 10:27:17
247 William Neumann 44 M finished Geared 10:28:28
19 Ryan Baker 39 M finished Geared 10:32:29
31 Danilo Bibancos 34 M finished Geared 10:34:10
313 Bill Selbig 44 M finished Geared 10:34:19
187 Robert Kudrle 45 M finished Geared 10:34:34
235 Anton Moody 35 M finished Geared 10:34:50
226 Michael Mcdonald 26 M finished Geared 10:35:27
355 Charles Valade 45 M finished Geared 10:49:48
255 David Olson 54 M finished Geared 10:49:57
214 Andrew Magill 42 M finished Geared 11:27:57
Did not Finish
302 Julian Santana 33 M Did Not Finish Geared
58 Marko Carlson 44 M Did Not Finish Geared
292 Buck Rogers 42 M Did Not Finish Geared
335 Brett Swenson 31 M Did Not Finish Geared
183 Josh Kowaleski 27 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
217 Dave Markman 25 M Did Not Finish Geared
317 Andrew Skildum 44 M Did Not Finish Geared
7 Bryon Amo 43 M Did Not Finish Geared
236 Ethan Moore 27 M Did Not Finish Geared
273 Nicholas Payne 35 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
272 Kelly Payne 35 F Did Not Finish Geared
20 Mike Barnidge 35 M Did Not Finish Geared
32 Shawn Billing 33 M Did Not Finish Geared
219 Larry Marx 65 M Did Not Finish Geared
78 Adam Curtis 39 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
93 Troy Ehle 37 M Did Not Finish Geared
259 Robert Orange 53 M Did Not Finish Geared
150 Mark Hegg 36 M Did Not Finish Geared
290 Kristin Riker-Coleman 39 F Did Not Finish Geared
213 Chad Macheel 37 M Did Not Finish Geared
62 Jeff Christenson 36 M Did Not Finish Geared
270 Peter Pascale 42 M Did Not Finish Geared
11 Timothy Andrew 48 M Did Not Finish Geared
209 Jon Loye 37 M Did Not Finish Geared
121 Jared Gazda 30 M Did Not Finish Geared
138 Paul Haberman 46 M Did Not Finish Geared
326 Peter Stock 51 M Did Not Finish Geared
13 Christina Anthony 35 F Did Not Finish Geared
333 Adam Swank 39 M Did Not Finish Geared
314 Dave Simmons 36 M Did Not Finish Geared
92 John Egbers 60 M Did Not Finish Geared
131 Dennis Grelk 35 M Did Not Finish Geared
169 Don Joling 46 M Did Not Finish Geared
173 Chad Kelly 44 M Did Not Finish Geared
141 Scott Halverson 50 M Did Not Finish Geared
84 Curt Dimberio 43 M Did Not Finish Geared
305 Liz Schleif 55 F Did Not Finish Geared
148 Scott Harstedt 35 M Did Not Finish Geared
193 Dayton Lang 53 M Did Not Finish Geared
299 Joe Sacco 47 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
366 Chris White 51 M Did Not Finish Geared
116 Laura Francis 29 F Did Not Finish Geared
295 Declan Ross 13 M Did Not Finish Geared
296 Patrick Ross 45 M Did Not Finish Geared
304 Nathaniel Schiesher 32 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
114 Alex Fortney 45 M Did Not Finish Geared
10 Ross Anderson 36 M Did Not Finish Geared
365 Karl-Johan Westin 43 M Did Not Finish Geared
70 Trevor Cotter 22 M Did Not Finish Geared
162 Bryan Jacobson 39 M Did Not Finish Geared
48 Michael Bunda 33 M Did Not Finish Geared
65 Ryan Clutter 41 M Did Not Finish Geared
251 Keith Nordskog 48 M Did Not Finish Geared
139 John Haire 62 M Did Not Finish Geared
223 Ed Mccalley 63 M Did Not Finish Single Speed
369 Quinn Williams 39 M Did Not Finish Geared
96 Nicole Eikenberry 43 F Did Not Finish Geared
95 Mark Eikenberry 44 M Did Not Finish Geared
376 Max Wunderlich 27 M Did Not Finish Geared
67 Dan Copeland 31 M Did Not Finish Geared
237 Ben Morrison 28 M Did Not Finish Geared
338 Maicie Sykes 29 F Did Not Finish Geared
145 Sarah Hansen 25 F Did Not Finish Geared
354 Brent Vacinek 38 M Did Not Finish Geared
341 Mike Teitelbaum 55 M Did Not Finish Geared
80 Kyle Davis 28 M Did Not Finish Geared
108 Jeff Fisher 39 M Did Not Finish Geared
163 Don Jahr 54 M Did Not Finish Geared
168 Paul Johnson 48 M Did Not Finish Geared
5 Carrie Altrichter 26 F Did Not Finish Geared
205 Sam Linhoff 29 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
49 Benjamin Bungarten 27 M Did Not Finish Geared
245 Jayne Nemeth 49 F Did Not Finish Geared
336 Eric Swenson 51 M Did Not Finish Geared
152 Joe Hense 30 M Did Not Finish Geared
107 Aga Fine-Olheiser 41 F Did Not Finish Geared
353 Jacob Tyson 25 M Did Not Finish Geared
204 Jesse Lindhorst 25 M Did Not Finish Geared
240 Parker Mullins 23 M Did Not Finish Geared
359 Deb Vomhof 52 F Did Not Finish Geared
374 Mike Wozniak 40 M Did Not Finish Geared
363 Robin Welling 22 F Did Not Finish Geared
25 Robert Bengtson 61 M Did Not Finish Geared
112 James Foley 50 M Did Not Finish Geared
231 Caroline Miller 27 F Did Not Finish Geared
323 Tim Stark 27 M Did Not Finish Geared
274 Jose Perez 36 M Did Not Finish Geared
345 John Thoennes 62 M Did Not Finish Geared
306 Carissa Schmidt 31 F Did Not Finish Geared
262 Charlie Orsak 62 M Did Not Finish Geared
327 Michael Stowman 46 M Did Not Finish Geared
128 Mary Gorski 51 F Did Not Finish Geared
265 Reo Owens 32 M Did Not Finish Geared
349 Ryan Topel 44 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
146 Madeline Harms 28 F Did Not Finish Geared
130 David Graham 33 M Did Not Finish Geared
15 Curt Arrigoni 53 M Did Not Finish Geared
88 Corbin Doty 30 M Did Not Finish Geared
21 Dee Bartlam 45 F Did Not Finish Geared
26 Dave Benson 47 M Did Not Finish Geared
346 Tom Thomas 40 M Did Not Finish Geared
362 Jj Weizel 43 M Did Not Finish Geared
347 Andrew Thompson 38 M Did Not Finish Geared
339 Steve Tannen 46 M Did Not Finish Fat Bike
76 Laura Crosby 32 F Did Not Finish Geared
380 Rod Raymond 49 M Did Not Finish Geared
82 Michael Denker 44 M Did Not Finish
375 Jerry Wright 58 M Did Not Finish
329 Frank Strack 38 M Did Not Finish
142 Karen Hanka 35 F Did Not Finish
206 Dennis Liphart 49 M Did Not Finish
201 Taylor Leege 36 M Did Not Finish

Thanks everyone!

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