DAMN Planning, Preparation, and Strategy

So the DAMN (Day Across Minnesota) is my big target for the year — a 242-mile gravel race starting Gary, South Dakota and ending in Hager City, Wisconsin. It’s going to be brutal. It’s going to be a gut-punch. I’m actually excited for it.

A group of us from the bike shop have been planning on doing it this year and it’s going to be a blast. You can expect me to be posting about it a lot between now and sometime in mid- to late-August when I post the recap on here.

It’s already at the forefront of my thought processes and I’m refining the strategic plan as I go. Here’s where I’m at.


There’s multiple aspects to this. The primary focus right now is on checklists of the packing variety. What do I need on the bike? What needs to be in my support vehicle? What do I want to eat? When do certain things need to happen?

So this week, the plan is to crank out packing checklists. I also need to set a date in which to pre-drive the course and take a ton of notes. This will probably happen in March or so.


Right now, this is both mental and physical. I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of staying healthy and getting well-trained physically for the race. This also includes having to continue with rehab on the lower back in the hopes that it’ll all hold together on race day.1

I need to figure out any changes that I’m going to make to the bike. Thus far, the only real change I’m considering is adding a pair of clip-on aerobars so that have some variety of body position and an advantage when the winds pick up (and they will). I may also buy a spare set of wheels to toss in the support vehicle, just to be on the safe side.

On the physical side, it’s a bit of a grind right now. I’m putting in base miles and hitting the weights. The goal is to have 3000 to 3500 miles on my legs prior to the event, and ideally have my FTP up around 240 or 250. In the name of tapering, I did schedule a camping trip during the “rest” phase leading into the ride, so I should have pretty fresh legs by the time it’s time to put rubber to road.


I’ve already eyeballed the course layout online. I plan to start at midnight sharp, which means a lot of long hours in the dark. So I’m planning on taking it easy until sunrise, as I don’t want to eat shit on something that doesn’t show up in my headlight beam. I figure I’ll be at the 85-mile checkpoint (where support is okay) at around 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The sun will be up by this point, I can take on more fuel, and then drop the hammer until the 170-mile mark, being very careful to not bonk and to make good time. If all goes well, I expect to be in at the second checkpoint at around 2 p.m. or so. The last 72 miles I fully expect to be the hardest part of this, and I’m hoping to get through them in 5.5 to 6 hours, getting me to the finish between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m., before sunset.

Potential Issues

Injury. My co-workers at the bike shop talked me out of adding a dirt jumper to the fleet this year under the auspices of “do you really want to get hurt before the DAMN?” And to a lesser degree of “do you really have space for another bike?” The answers here, of course, are “no” and “maybe.” But yeah, I gotta be careful with this.

Back issues. I’ve had back issues pretty much since I left the army. I’ve been working through the Foundation plan to help rehab them, and I’m going to keep those exercises up until the DAMN — even when I’m on vacation.

Next Steps

  • finalize packing lists
  • finalize spare parts list
  • put milestones on calendar
  • order aerobars
  • research/order inexpensive gravel wheelset
  • test old bike headlight, look into modern alternatives if necessary
  • pre-drive the course
  • don’t get injured

(Featured image created with/generated by Adobe Firefly 2 Beta. Prompt: bicycle racers on a gravel road with hills and storm clouds in the distance.)

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.