by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com
The morning of Sunday, April 30th started early for me. I hit the road heading to Waconia for my first ever Minnesota Ironman. The temperature was in the high thirties and there was an overcast with a high probability of rain during the day. But, it is Minnesota and the Ironman is a 51 year spring time biking tradition here, right?
The Weather was Still Dry for the Minnesota Ironman Upon Arrival
About a half hour drive from Bloomington, I was in Waconia around 6:30 a.m. I unloaded my bike and was greeted by thousands of riders and several bike shops in front of the Waconia High School. After checking in, the weather was still holding dry at 7 a.m., but where was my riding partner?
Starting the ride early, these Minnesota Ironman cyclists made it back in before the rain began.
Once inside the High School, I was met by the Waconia Chamber and several exhibitors including the Waconia Brewing Company. Past the vendors, the registration table was packed with riders excited to embark on the new ride routes in Carver County.
While waiting for my co-worker, Andy, to arrive before finally getting onto the course, I visited with Penn Cycle, Erik’s Bikes, VeloFix, Gateway Cycle and Park Tools.
The Minnesota Ironman Ride
As Andy and I set out on the tan pavement of the route, we were pleasantly surrounded by the pastures and fields of Waconia’s rural area. With excellent road conditions and wide shoulders, the beginning of the ride offered a bike path feel. Our planned route was to head out on the 25 mile course (purple). We would decide after the rest stop if we wanted to tack on the last section of the 100 mile course (orange), to make the whole ride around 40 miles for the day. This flexibility is one of the best parts of riding in Carver County out of Waconia.
Andy has only been riding a bike for a few months, using the Minnesota Ironman as his inspiration. To his credit, he didn’t get an easy ride to conquer this year. Both the amble route and the weather took a left turn. Heading west on County Road 32, we saw its beautiful and quiet charm flanked with tree farms, horses, open fields and the largest goose I have ever seen. The bad news, while on 32, it started to rain.
The largest goose I have ever seen
The Weather Soon Became a Factor
The misty, gentle, northeast wind we started off with became a stinging cold gale once we crossed the Crow River and headed north. The constant headwind and freezing rain combined to make for the most painful type of exfoliation as we approached route 30. Now heading east, riding parallel with the Dakota Rail Trail, the damp wind was cruel. While the Dakota trail was not part of the official Minnesota Ironman course, some took to it due to the stand of trees that would help break the winds that were attacking from the north.
Thank Goodness for the Rest Stop in Mayer
At the end of County Road 30, we hit Mayer and found the Community Center there where the rest stop was located. The volunteers were simply amazing. The food was ample and tasty. Plus, Penn Cycle and Spokes Bike Shop were there to handle any mechanical issues that may arise. Andy and I grabbed a quick snack, warmed up, had the pros at Penn check our bikes and rolled out before the cold set into our bodies. We decided to stick with the standard 25 mile route, concerned that the weather would be getting worse.
Now on route 7, crossing the Crow River again, there seemed to be no end to the beautiful scenery of Carver County. My focus was to get to County Road 10 and enjoy the tailwind as quickly as possible. Any discomfort we felt over the last several miles would soon be rewarded once we turned south on 10. Now the hero, the wind at our backs allowed us to enjoy the gorgeous rolling hills that were breathtaking. Thanks to the tailwind helping us, we flew toward Waconia High School with relative ease. The farms made way for the Wahibo Marsh, home to dozens of beaver dams and countless feathered residents.
Andy Ellis Completing his first Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride in Waconia, MN.
Soon, we spun back into Waconia High School with the wind still at our back. The finish line and Red Bull arch signaled our completion of the 2017 Minnesota Ironman. This also secured our our well deserved bragging rights.
Overall, the only complaints for this ride was the weather, which no one could control. As for the course, support, organization and camaraderie, I give this ride nothing but accolades. I know I will be riding this area throughout the summer. When organizing my 2018 calendar, I will be sure to leave the last week of April open for the next Minnesota Ironman.