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Mountain biking
Dwight native Shawn Pedersen rides atop Angel's Staircase in Washington. (For the Pantagraph)

SEATTLE -- Dwight native Shawn Pedersen has found the perfect playground in and around Seattle. He can ride his mountain bike close to home or make forays into the wilderness to race the bike in the mountains. He can kayak in the sea.

His longest bike race this year took him 100 miles in 29½ continuous hours across snowmobile trails and frozen rivers and lakes on the tundra of Alaska. He pedaled through the night as temperatures dipped to minus 20 degrees.

"There were a few times I had discussions out loud with myself about why I was there. But I've learned to manage the pain, manage the risk," said Pedersen, 32, son of Doug and JoAnn Pedersen of Dwight.

He has shorter races scheduled this summer, 30 and 40 miles, but many of those miles are up and down.

"It's certainly different coming from corn and soybeans to the mountains," he said. "But I wouldn't change it. I love it."

Pedersen started his trek from Dwight to Seattle in Chicago, where he became a bike mechanic for REI Inc., a national sporting goods chain. A buddy decided to move to Albuquerque, N.M. Pedersen thought that sounded good, so he took a job with REI there.

It was time to move again when forest fires shut down his favorite pastime, mountain biking. But where this time? When he got out a map, Seattle stood out. He'd never been there, but two friends moved there earlier, so he decided to join them.

He again got a mechanic's job with REI, this time at the company's flagship store. He's risen to lead technician of 20 mechanics who assemble new bikes and repair bikes and ski equipment.

The job is perfect for him, and the surroundings suit him just as much.

"I love it. We have mountains, volcanoes, ocean and beaches."

Pedersen enjoys hiking. But his passions are mountain biking and kayaking, and the Pacific Northwest offers plenty of both. He loves to race in mountain bike events, especially 24-hour solo races where riders complete as many loops on a course as possible across high mountain trails.

He also enjoys cyclocross, which includes biking, running and climbing over obstacles while carrying his bike.

He's taken part in an eight-person team relay race on a course that travels down a mountain to the sea. A skier passes the baton to another skier who passes it to a downhill runner who passes it to two canoeists, who pass it to a mountain bike rider, who passes it to a kayaker, who was Pedersen. To soothe his equally strong passion for water, Pedersen modified his home workshop into an assembly area where he plans to build his own kayak this summer.

He enjoys epic mountain-bike rides that require climbs of 6,000 to 10,000 feet.

Even "average" mountain bike rides around Seattle offer climbs of 1,000 to 4,000 feet on trails with mud, tree roots and rock.

His only road bike race on the calendar is the Paradise Ride, 40 miles up and 40 miles down mountains near Mount Rainer.

The name of the ride comes from the midway point, Paradise Resort, not because it's heaven to do, he said. Temperature can reach 90 degrees in the summer even at that altitude.

Pedersen travels into Canada and Alaska to do endurance races, such as the frigid Susitna 100 held near Anchorage in February.

The temperature dipped so low at night his camera froze. Every competitor -- whether riding a mountain bike, cross-country skiing or running -- was responsible for toting a long list of survival gear, including a sleeping bag rated to minus 20 degrees and a minimum of 3,000 calories of food at all times.

Pedersen carried 10,000 calories. The wind blew snow across the trails and created huge drifts. Snowmobiles loosened the top layers of the trail so narrow bike tires would sink.

He used 4-inch wide tires with little air so they flattened and rolled on top.

"Two hundred people signed up, 150 showed up and 27 had to be evacuated by airplane. If you can't get out on your own, you had to be flown out," he said.

"If you finish it in those conditions, you are a winner," said his mom. "I know I'm just being a very proud mother, but he is just an amazing young man."

In warm weather, Pedersen has raced the 40-mile mountainous Test of Metal in British Columbia, with its 4,000 feet of climbing, several times.

The event is grueling, yes, but popular, too. Registrations for 1,000 people sell out in less than 20 minutes. The GearJammer in July is this summer's main event for him. The 30-mile route has even more elevation gain than the Test of Metal.

"Nuts? I think so," he said.

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