From Luverne to Crane Lake

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 3, 1999

Dick Schindler has what it takes to compete the grueling Minnesota Border to Border Triathlon that awaits him and his three teammates.

Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Dick Schindler has what it takes to compete the grueling Minnesota Border to Border Triathlon that awaits him and his three teammates.

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At least he thinks he does.

"This is what you need," the Austin resident and Adams based physician says, holding a small bottle of White Lighting bike cleaning lubricant and a similar size bottle of Dave’s Insanity Gourmet Cooking Sauce. "You need speed and you need to be a little insane."

The two props draw laughs from his teammates, who have just finished packing the team’s support van full of gear they will need for the four-day trek across the state that includes over 500 miles of cycling, running and canoeing.

Schindler, his youngest son Issac, and fellow Austinites Terri Bergstrom and Julie Thomsen are expected to be one of the 40-50 teams entered in the annual race that begins today in the southwest border community of Luverne. Over four days, two, three and four-person teams in men’s, women’s and co-ed divisions will travel northeast across farmland, pine forests and river wilderness. The race ends at the Canadian border, finishing at Crane Lake.

After a parade and banquet in Luverne Monday night, the first day is a 200-mile bike ride mostly up Highway 23, ending in St. Cloud. The route is mostly flat two-lane roads with wide shoulders.

The second day is also cycling and also roughly 200 miles north, but around Mille Lacs Lake, ending in Eveleth. The second day of cycling is a bit more treacherous. Although there is less traffic, roads are narrower and there are fewer shoulders to ride and more turns and hills.

The third day is a 50-mile run on asphalt backroads to Cook.

The fourth day is 50 miles of canoeing to Crane Lake, beginning at the Timbuktu Landing and paddling across Lake Vermilion to the Vermilion River. There are 11 portages or stretches where the team must carry the canoe on land to the next available entry into the water, up to a mile in length. The portage terrain is approximately 50 percent hills.

When the last paddlers have crossed the finish line, all of the racers gather at the local volunteer fire department for a fish fry.

A major difference between the Minnesota Border to Border and other triathlons is that each stage must be broken up into intervals between the teammates. Each team member must complete a quarter of each day’s distance. For example, the team from Austin will rotate every 5-10 miles on the first two days of biking and every 2-3 miles of running.

Dick and Isaac, who works in the Acute Care division of the Austin Medical Center, have already been through the experience. Dick and his oldest son Eric, who is also competing in this year’s race with another team, first competed as a two-person team in 1982. Dick and Issac did the race together for the first time in 1986.

Last year, Issac, Eric and their brother-in-law Kurt Swanson competed together as a team, finishing second. Dick was the support member of the group, but actually competed in two stages for another group from out of state.

"It’s a great way to see the state," Issac says. "Most people aren’t there to win it. They’re just doing it for fun."

Which why this group is competing. Well, except for Issac.

"I just want to beat my brother," he says jokingly.

"Teams get together at night, so you get to know people all over. It’s very social."

"Anyone can do this," Issac says. "But you have to train ahead of time. You can’t just be in pretty good shape and expect to finish."

Because the race is so much longer than most races, Dick and Issac said the race is 75 percent mental, but add that participants must be in good physical shape. Race organizers recommended biking 150-200 miles, running 30-40 and canoeing 2-4 hours per week for training for the race. The group from Austin has been training specifically for the Minnesota Border to Border for the past three months.

Julie’s husband, Dave, an accomplished cyclist in his own right, is the support staff member or "super gofer" as he calls it, of this team.

The Austin foursome agreed that Dave’s role might be the most vital of the group.

The support team, which can be as many as two people, is responsible for interpreting maps, watching for safety hazards, making sure of food and water supplies for the racers, setting up gear and caring for equipment.

A bum knee prevents Dave from running this year’s race, but admits he prefers the solo adventure.

"He’s returning the favor," Julie says, adding to the reason for Dave’s absence for the team.

"I guess it’s my turn," says Dave, who had Julie as support for numerous 24-hour bike races in Michigan. "Besides I’m getting old."

The Minnesota Border to Border, which varies from the traditional triathlon’s three events and distances of 2 1/2 miles swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running, began nearly two decades ago and draws participants from every where. Last year, a team from Colorado counted 47 of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes on their journey north.