Mike Lufholm is a 32-year-old inline skater born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, but he has called Minneapolis home for the past decade. On May 27th, 2020, Mike began a 153-mile four-day skate along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior from Grand Portage to Duluth.
How long have you been skating, and what kind of skating do you do?
My aunt Susie is friends with Brett Hull, and he had given my cousins a couple of pairs of his Ultra Wheels pro skates back in the day. I remember using them in their driveway when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. At age 12, I got my first glimpse of aggressive skating when I saw some kids jumping off a picnic table in front of my school. My mom bought me a pair that day, and since then, I have never stopped skating. This year marks 20 years on the aggressive blades. Aside from trick skating, I also enjoy weekly roller hockey games with the crew and cruising around parking ramps at night. I’ve just recently got the bug to try to go long distances.
When did you get into big wheel blading?
I got my first pair of big wheel skates 3 years ago. I took many photos with Chris Farmer, and he got me hooked up with my first pair of 3x125s for helping him out with photography. He got me the all-black Powerslide Swells. They have been absolutely amazing skates. I used them on my ultra skate and went 153 miles without a blister! Huge shoutout to The Farm and Powerslide.
Has your approach to aggressive skating changed since you began big wheel blading?
Yeah, definitely. I feel more confident and consistent than ever. My legs feel strong. At first, it’s weird going back and forth from a 60mm anti-rocker setup to a 3×125, but you get used to it the more you do it. Variety is the spice of life, and I enjoy all wheel sizes. I’m about to get some Wizard Skates, and I am really excited to explore a whole new avenue of blading.
What is the furthest distance you have skated in a day before this trip?
26 miles. I completed my first marathon two years ago, and up until my trip, that was the longest distance I’d ever skated in a day.
Did anyone inspire or motivate you to attempt a long distance skate?
I was really inspired seeing Caleb Smith complete some really long skates, most notably his recent ultra from San Francisco to L.A. That dude is a beast! Nicest guy too. Tracy White has also been a huge inspiration to me. He’s doing a lot for inline skating and has got me involved with many different skating events. Oh, and Tall Tone from Chicago too. He’s just the most inspiring human I’ve ever met, and he shreds.
When did you begin planning your adventure?
I had the idea a few months ago. I originally reached out to a few other guys and was thinking about making it a group skate. Then COVID-19 happened, and all of my summer plans were canceled. I basically called it off. I was furloughed from my job in March, and I was skating just about every day. My legs were starting to feel really good, and the idea of the North Shore Ultra popped back into my head. I didn’t have definite plans to do it until 2 days before I left. I spotted 4 days of good weather and just decided to go for it.
Split Rock under the stars.
Why did you decide on the North Shore of Minnesota as the route for your first ultra skate?
I love going up to northern Minnesota to take photos and be outside. The stars shine so brightly that far north, and if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. It’s one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the state. Highway 61 runs along the shore of Lake Superior from the Canadian border to Duluth, MN. Bob Dylan has written songs about the scenic highway. The North Shore Inline Marathon, one of the biggest inline races in the country, also takes place on scenic 61. I thought it would be rad to skate the whole thing!
It looks like you skated a mix of roads and trails; what was the terrain like?
A good portion of the route was on the shoulder of the highway. The pavement was smooth most of the time. There were a few stretches of the uncomfortably narrow shoulder, but otherwise, it was perfect. About a quarter of the skate was on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. It starts and stops several times, but the longest stretch of continuous trail is about 20 miles long. The trails were absolutely amazing. It’s an ongoing project, and there are plans to expand the trails in the future.
How many miles a day did you skate?
I skated 153 miles total. I started at 10:00 am on Wednesday and finished by noon on Saturday. My days were broken up like this: day 1: 53 miles, day 2: 40 miles, day 3: 32 miles, day 4: 28 miles.
Sunrise at Tettegouche State Park
Did you experience any bad conditions on your route?
NONE! Seriously, I got so lucky. It rained for like 45 minutes one day, and that was it. The temp was around 55-65F each day, absolutely perfect skating weather!
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Did you have any close calls, accidents or issues with people?
Not really, everything went super well. Turning and looking for traffic with a heavy pack on my back felt a little sketchy at times, like the momentum of the extra weight from my bag felt like I was going to lose balance at first, but I just had to be mindful not to turn to look over my shoulder too quickly.
What was the most challenging part of your skate?
The first few miles were the toughest. I had to skate up Mount Josephine, which is over 3 miles uphill. It sucked. When my dad was dropping me off, he was like, “Are you sure you don’t want me just to bring you to the top of the hill?” It was tempting, but I passed on the offer. The reward was getting to bomb down 3 miles downhill after making it to the top.
Were there any moments when you thought you might not make it?
No, I felt pretty confident the entire time. It wasn’t a race; I was on my own time. I was aiming to finish in 4 days, but I had the option if I needed an extra day to finish.
How much gear did you pack with you?
I tried to keep my bag as light as possible. I brought a tent, a small blanket, some layers of clothes (it dipped down to around 40F at night), 6 pairs of socks, 2 extra wheels, a couple of power banks to charge my phone, DSLR and tripod (didn’t end up using either of them), and my wife packed me an emergency first aid kit with some basics. My bag weighed around 35 lbs with everything.
Where did you spend your nights?
There was a state park 50 miles from the start that my dad and I stopped at on the way up. To lighten my bag for the first stretch, I stashed my tent behind a log at a campsite. It was a bold move to leave my tent so far away. I didn’t have a choice; I had to skate 50 miles to sleep in my tent. Due to COVID-19, all campsites were technically closed. It was a risk I was willing to take (street skater mentality) and luckily never ran into any issues camping illegally. I hiked a good distance out of sight and didn’t make a campfire or anything. The second night I camped in a state park on a mossy rock on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior. It was a magical place to wake up to. On the third day, my wife met me in Two Harbors, MN, and we got a hotel room. I was able to leave my bag in the hotel on day 4 and got to skate the last 28 miles without it. It felt so amazing to skate without the pack on the last day!
What did you eat along the way?
There’s a town every 15-20 miles along the way. I was able to stop at general stores and restaurants each day. I packed a couple of beef jerky bags and some granola bars and always made sure my 48 oz bottle of water was full when I stopped for breaks.
Were you practicing social-distancing and taking COVID-19 precautions?
I wore a mask when I stopped to get food and used sanitizer like usual throughout the day. It’s a pretty rural part of the state, and I didn’t see anyone else wearing masks; I got many stares for wearing it. I continued to wear it every time I stopped, though. I barely saw any other humans the whole trip.
From your edit and photos, the scenery of the North Shore looks absolutely stunning! How many state parks did you pass through?
They call it God’s country up there for a reason. It is so beautiful the entire route. There are at least 10 state parks along that stretch of road. Each one is beautiful in its own way. There are so many waterfalls, beaches, geological features, and nature to look at. I didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife, but in the past, I’ve seen moose, wolves, bears, bald eagles, and much more.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done different?
I definitely would’ve brought a thicker blanket and a foam pad to sleep on. I didn’t get excellent sleep the two nights I camped. It gets cold at night up there. I also would’ve left my DSLR at home. iPhones have such great cameras nowadays, and I never bothered pulling out my actual camera.
What was the most fulfilling part of this trip for you?
Finishing the first day was super fulfilling. I had no clue how I would hold up, and I really proved to myself what I am capable of on day one. I hit many big achievements that I’d never done in a single day of skating; 30 miles, 40 miles, 50 miles, and double marathon.
Protests against the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer broke out during your skate. When did you first hear about his murder, and how did it affect you?
I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered by the police the day before my trip. It was so tough to watch. I lived a block and half away and shopped at the grocery store where he was killed. The next few days were an emotional rollercoaster. I didn’t have service for the first 40 miles, so I couldn’t check the news or go on Facebook or anything. I got to my tent and set up camp, and finally started to get service on my phone. I started seeing some photos and live streams of what was happening back home in Minneapolis. I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. I knew I needed to put the phone down and get some rest, but I couldn’t look away. I was in the most peaceful place I could imagine, watching my city literally burning to the ground on my friends’ live streams. It was all I could think about over the next few days. Returning home was surreal. I took a skate through the city to see the aftermath. It was tough to see, but I was so impressed with how quickly our community has come together to clean up the mess.
Now that you’ve knocked off a 153-mile ultra skate, what’s next?
I haven’t thought that far! I am a pretty sporadic person, and I have never been much of a planner. Who knows, I might get the itch to go out to the Badlands in South Dakota one of these days. I’d love to cover some distance out there.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to try a solo long-distance skate?
Just go for it! You’ll be surprised at what you can do when you put your mind to it. Try skating as much as you can leading up to it. Invest in comfortable skates—pack light.
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