Duffel bags of clothes sat in a corner of Bob McEnaney's Woodbury home last week.
The veteran trainer wasn't donating to the thrift store. Instead, the 33-year cyclist had returned from teaching around 20 of his pupils at the St. Paul Athletic Club about the clothing they could need to brave the 2013 Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride.
"I told them 'These are your options, depending on the weather,' " McEnaney said.
Rain, snow or shine, this year's Ironman Bicycle Ride will kick off at the Washington County fairgrounds in Lake Elmo on April 28.
The Ironman is not a triathlon. It's not even a race. But McEnaney joked it can sometimes take iron skin to battle April weather in Minnesota.
McEnaney, who fights the weather to train outdoors year round, will join thousands of riders on the new routes after a 13-year stint ended last year in Lakeville.
Paths through Washington County stretch from Scandia in the north to Afton in the south and include Marine on St. Croix, Stillwater, Lake Elmo and Oak Park Heights.
Ride director Jon Ridge said it was time to move the event to a new location from Lakeville after registrant numbers dropped from a peak of 5,000 to 3,500 in recent years.
"We almost felt like we could've stayed in Lakeville forever," Ridge said. "What we recognized is the riders were looking for a new place to host the event."
Riders can piece together routes ranging from 15 miles to about 50 miles to form their own distance. All routes start and end at the Washington County fairgrounds. Mechanics, medics, rest stops and signage will assist riders through the varying loops.
Ridge said the 3,500 registered riders are 600 more than at this time last year and he expects up to 1,000 riders to be added the day of the event. Preregistration ended April 17, but riders can sign up the day of the race for $50.
"Considering the winter, or the non-spring we've had, we're pretty pleased with the cyclists joining us," Ridge said. "Even though many of them haven't been able to get on their bikes and train like they'd want to."
McEnaney said the hilly landscape of the St. Croix River valley offers a greater challenge to skilled cyclists than any other location in the ride's 47-year history.
More than half of the registered riders are signed up for 75 miles or more, but Ridge said that could change depending on road conditions and potential rain.
"One thing about Ironman is that the weather has always been an impact," Ridge said. "We've had people with sun burns and frostbite on the ride. You never know what late April is going to bring you."
McEnaney, the Minnesota Ironman's trainer for riders for the past five years, has competed in more than a dozen Ironman events dating back to the 1990s when it was held in Buffalo.
Referred to as "coach" on the Ironman website, McEnaney writes blogs detailing how to train for an early season event like Ironman. McEnaney said he'll make a post this week about what to wear if riders have to battle poor weather.
McEnaney runs his own training business by the name of Total Cycling Performance and finished up a 10-week session on April 20 with riders preparing for Ironman. Unlike previous years, all 10 weeks had to be conducted indoors at the St. Paul Athletic Club.
"People, for the most part, understand they're not doing [Ironman] to set a record for speed," McEnaney said. "They're really doing it to get out and hopefully enjoy the weather. Unfortunately, we just don't know what the weather is going to be like." □