Duluth endurance cyclists leave mark in Trans-Iowa

From left Charlie Farrow and Tim Ek (who, along with Jason Buffington and Jeremy Kershaw make up the Death Before Dishonor group) at last year's Trans-Iowa. Note the headlamps because they will be riding all night.

Two of Duluth’s strongest endurance cyclists completed an amazing feat today in Iowa. The Trans-Iowa is a two-day, 300-mile bike race on mostly gravel backroads that starts at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning and finishes when you either cross the finish line or quit, which many people do. To win, you have to pretty much ride without stopping for a little more than 24 hours.

Tim Ek placed second in a sprint for the finish. Tim rides for Salsa bikes.

Charlie Farrow placed fourth after riding all night with Tim.

You can listen to the audio updates of the event here.

These guys pretty much have no off season, riding bikes all year long while the rest of us are skiing or waiting for winter to end. In these races, they don’t know the route until the race starts. They get cards that tell them how long to ride and when and where to turn (and hope they don’t get lost). They have none of the silly support cars or other help you see in professional bike racing. They are basically on their own.

In September, Duluth will host its own version of this race for the third year. Called the Heck of the North, it runs along gravel roads from Duluth to points north with a grueling finish up Seven Bridges Road.

Congrats guys.



about 12 years ago

Isn't this sort of like Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa? 

Still, quite burly ... quite.


about 12 years ago

@zra  RAGBRAI riders average 68 miles a day, on paved roads. Chubby families can complete the RAGBRAI. People who party until dawn in the campgrounds along the way can complete the RAGBRAI. 

Congratulations to Charlie and Tim, who did something really hard really well.


about 12 years ago

Kudos. Quite an amazing feat!


about 12 years ago

Charlie and Tim - you guys are SLABS!  Way to go on the top 5 finish to the two of you!  Isn't that 2 consecutive 2nd place finishes for you, Eki?  Lordy...  Fantastic work guys!


about 12 years ago

RAGBRAI is not a competition.


about 12 years ago

One word - awesome. You two just became my heroes! Someday I hope I can do something as amazing as you!


about 12 years ago

Not to be a jerk, because my butt, arms, and feet would be killing me if I tried such a thing, but we've run into several people doing TOMRV out and back all during daylight, instead of taking the two days that everyone else does.  Granted, that's only a total of about 200 miles, but it's hilly as hell.

I couldn't do the 300, but I'm still not overly impressed.  If they had held a 14-15 mph average, then I'd be fascinated.  Obviously, it depends on the course.

As a comparison, there's the mentally challenged guy that frequently did 300 miles a day on a fricking Pee-Wee Herman type bike.  He had a map on his wall with a 150 mile radius circle drawn on it.  He decided that was as far as he could go in one daylight period before turning back.  Sorry I can't find a reference, because the only thing I have to go on is that his goal was a million miles during his lifetime and with a google search, I keep running into Danny Chew, who is not the person I'm talking about.  I think it was Bicycling magazine that did an article about him sometime in the 1990s.


about 12 years ago


300 miles of this vs. supported road ride... apples and dumptrucks


more:  http://jkcadence.blogspot.com/2011/04/trans-iowa-education.html


about 12 years ago

Part of the reason that they can't maintain 14-15 mph "average" is because of the condition of the "B" roads that are part of the course--muddy, unridable, paths through farm fields that force riders to CARRY their bikes for a mile or 2 at a time while trudging through mud that turns to cement on their shoes.  Perhaps this makes the Trans more "fascinating."

john hatcher

about 12 years ago

I love this post. I'm sure Charlie and Tim are really sad some of you are not impressed with what they did (not sure what emoticon denotes sarcasm). Here's a few shots from Jeremy Kershaw to suggest that you may not quite get what's involved here.

Joe Mann

about 12 years ago

Great job guys.  I was only able to follow your dust (mud) for the first 30-35 miles.  Then I just followed your tire marks.  To the comment that this is not that hard.  I have done countless 24 hour road races, 600K rides, Paris-Brest-Paris, too many TOMRV's and RAGBRAI's to remember and the Race Across the West.  They are all different animals.  Mentally Trans Iowa is the tough.  You have no idea where you are or where your next meal will be.  As far as physically, the mud roads zap your strength, the rough road surfaces beat you up and the hills on this ride make TOMRV a piece of cake.  I have never climbed so much at "speeds" under 5 mph in my life.  Again, great ride guys.

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