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Mud, Blood, Tears & Laughter

07/27/2012, 3:34pm CDT
By Angie Hop-Mracek

One minute you are thinking "I can never, ever do something like that" and the next minute you're driving away with a mountain bike in the back of your car heading north towards the Lutsen mountains.

Even God gives me free will . . .

. . . Patti Iverson-Schmidt does not. I've never met anyone like her. One minute you are thinking, "I can never, ever do something like that"—that being riding 39 miles on a mountain bike with no experience—and the next minute you're driving away from her house with a mountain bike in the back of your car north towards the Lutsen mountains.

The New York Times headline last week: The Cost of the Minnesota Flood estimated at $100 Million. The rain wasn't specific to Duluth, it also caused serious problems northward too, including Cook County, the site of the Lutsen 99er. There was much speculation as to whether or not mountain bike racers could even get to the course via Duluth or, once they got there, if the trails would be good enough to bike on. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, I was able to travel through Duluth and the trails were deemed raceable.

As with many of my stories, it starts far before the race, this time with a sore toe on Wednesday, three days prior to race day. With my doctorate of medicine in hand, thinking I had a simple blister on my toe, I started stabbing it with a safety pin. After much pain and blood, I decided it was indeed not a blister. But with everything triathlete I know, it'll probably just go away.

It didn't go away.

Traveling north, beautiful. Arrived on site, sore toe and all. I couldn't sleep, my foot hurt, it is 3:00 a.m. and I'm still wide awake. Fast forward to 7:00 a.m. Race start is 7:30 a.m. and I have yet to even unpack the bike from the car from the day before, and now there is panic. I pump up the tires to 35 PSI (funny, 35?), throw on my bike helmet, tuck away some race gels since I have no food and grab a water bottle of old, warm water out of the back of my truck. The chain has fallen off the bike, it is 7:15 and I still have a 1+ mile 5% grade climb to the start. I should've driven, but I’m clearly new to this. I pulled out the "F" word for the first time that day, certainly wouldn’t be the last time.

I arrived nearly on site at 7:28 a.m. and there was no way I was going to ride past all the great riders lined up. So, I hid near the finish line with a couple Lutsen resort workers and waited for a break in the pack to sneak in.

The first five miles were breezy, the second five miles are a constant evil climb, the third five miles were on tricky, wet cross-country ski trails, miles 16–35 were on gravel. I felt great; I was actually passing people on the gravel road climbs, but then would be caught on the downhills because I was a chicken, braking as much as I could. Eventually a cluster of guys I ended up riding by gave me the nickname "hill granny". (Just wondering if I can get through a day without even strangers making me the butt of their jokes.) Miles 36–39 were goofy, single trackish mud, puddles, rocks and steep up and downhills. Thank goodness I had my cool biking shoes courtesy of bike shop David Horstmann from Marshall, MN. The guy runs a great bike shop. Since I had not even thought about shoes 24 hours prior to the race, my carbon tri shoes wouldn't have worked so well. This set of 4 miles took me over 1 hour to complete. If I said it once, I said it 100 times, "I hate my life right now." It was hard. I fell, I cried, I swore, I walked a lot of it. Finally I could hear the PA announcer and knew I was close. There was a hard gravel climb to the finish with a beautiful place for spectators to watch finishers from an overhead bridge. I got close, hit sand and fell. The bike is on me and I can’t even get up. I wasn’t even embarrassed anymore; I left my pride at mile 37, now it was just about trying to figure out how to cross the line on the bike, riding the bike. So I did. I swore at the poor race director while he was removing my timing chip. I also apologized. He did a great job.

Oh, the sore toe? After noticing a red line creeping up my leg, I thought it would be best to drive to the Cook County ER. Sure enough, it was a Staph infection. I’m an unlucky bird. The doctor was impressed with my resolve to finish the race so I asked for pain meds.

The night ended up with great friends and an absolutely fun band called The Broken Spokes or, as the Northern Minn posters said, The Broken Spoke. Said talented, tough, get-me-to-do-everything-I-never-thought-I-could-do Patti Iverson-Schmidt also has a rock and roll band. Band members are very familiar to the MTN crowd, including Mr. Kerry Ynedstad. If you don’t know Kerry, you should. Although quiet, he is a hoot. Kerry is rapping really, really well, to B.o.B.'s "Airplane". My whole body was sore, including my stomach muscles, from laughing and doing the jitterbug. Yes, the jitterbug. I haven’t laughed and had so much fun in a very long time. Thank you, Lutsen!

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