Monday, February 22, 2010

Pictures from Susitna 100

Sorry there aren't more but I didn't take my Camera along... won't make that mistake in Alaska again!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Susitna 100 – Ultramarathon in the Alaskan Wilderness – 3rd Overall, 2nd Bike

Back in Florida now and the temps are about the same (WTF). I usually talk about the race, how things worked themselves out, what went wrong, etc… so here goes, Got a good start took the lead about a mile into the race and with a hot pace to thin things out a bit. Pete, Joe, Erik and I were all that were left and were the lead group at about 10 miles in. From there Peter and I would trade spots often at the beginning and a couple miles from Flat Horn Lake it was just Pete, Joe and I. The three of us would battle it out Crit style with some shoulder checks, tire bumps and a couple crashes (literally would have been cool to have a helmet cam for the 10 miles on the river).

A while after Flat Horn Lake Joe slipped off the back after a monster pull left him little drained. Pete and I then rode together for the rest of the race with peter taking the lead a majority of the time. At each checkpoint we’d get a spit to Chet as we thought we could catch him before the finish. The conditions on Flat Horn Lake killed that goal as it was good skiing but very slow biking. We amp’d it up as we approached the finish testing each other on a couple of the courses only substantial climbs but we remained pretty much side by side… until about 2 miles from the finish when I bobbled a slick off camber section, Pete capitalized on this and unleashed a 2 mile sprint to the finish (or he started his sprint and I bobbled – can’t remember which happened first), try as I may I could not close the gap (I think it even got a little bigger by the finish). Kathi Merchant and I were talking at the last checkpoint about two hours earlier… I had commented on how fast Pete was after Luce’s when he was trying to catch Chet (the skier who had passed us near the halfway point), she said “ya, Pete always seems to have one more gear”… so I thought “well that’s cool, cause I got TWO more gears left in me”… I guess he had “three more left, Or, one more than me.”

Was a good race for me, no gear issues, no long stays at checkpoints, no physical issues (felt great all through the race and after). Finished the 100 miles in 15 hours and 12 minutes. 4850 calories burned; average cadence of 78; only 1770 ft of climbing (pretty flat course); max speed of 21.5 mph; average speed of (get this) 6.4 mph!!! Average HR was 73%. The best thing about my Garmin results is that none of my values (HR, cadence, etc) decreased at all during the race (arrowhead they did, but only because I was without a light for the last 5 hours). About 10 tire pressure changes, as the snow varied from hard and fast to soft and punchy. Bike was my Speedway Cycles FATBACK with a 100mm rear wheel and a new 70 mm front wheel. All my bags are from Epic Designs (especially like my new LARGE seat bag that fits my -20 Big Angus bag and -20 Big Angus foam pad and bivy sack). I didn’t use Eric’s pogies as the temps were too high, and the race was short enough I didn’t need the extra storage for food, used fingerless biking gloves for the first half of the race and some lightweight fleece gloves for the rest).

On a side note: It’s a small world; One of the 1049 mile award recipients “superAL” the man with the stash, is married to the engineer that I used to work for 20+ years ago in Des Moines, until they moved to Alaska. Who would have thunk… Meet a lot of great people at the race, the Burglunds, Brig Potnis, Ben LaVigueur, all the incredible checkpoint volunteers… The race was run with watch like precision (it’s like they’ve been doing it for years).

Being the first time in Alaska what I should spend my time writing about is the state… absolutely incredible; the view from the course was so astonishing I rode off the trail into waist deep snow looking at the mountains which completely surrounded the Susitna River… from Mt. Susitna to Mt. McKinley (Denali). After eating dinner with my dad at 2 am at Point Mackenzie General Store after the race, I took off on the Iditarod trail for an hour “cool down ride” and bivy’d under the stars on a hillside about 5 miles west of Knik. I can’t remember ever in my life seeing a sky so black and the stars so bright (was a new moon night). Saw a baby mouse (wasn’t all that small) on my way out, and a number of dog sleds. During the race we must have been passed by at least 200 snow machines… This area of Alaska must be to Snowmobilers what Moab is to Mountain Bikers… I’ll post some pictures soon.

A couple years back when I first caught the “snow biking bug” I found a blog by an Alaskan journalist who has the wonderful ability to put some spectacular vista in perspective with the human soul, and cycling to boot… also some pretty good photos too, It really inspired me to travel outside my Midwestern and now Floridian landscape to something bigger (MUCH BIGGER). If you get the opportunity, check out Jill's blog. I want to thank her for getting me that little taste of Alaska that I needed to make the trip (hopefully I’ll be back next year for something a little bigger).

If you want to experience Alaska in the winter (or summer) by bike; Bill and Kathi Merchant (the race directors for the Iditarod Trail Invitational) do bike camping excursions (they were out on the course with some fellow bikers the night of the race). Check out their blog, it's a great way to prep for the longer races like the new Tuscobia 200 mile and Arrowhead while getting a vacation in.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Arrowhead 135 Race Report

An incredible thanks to Pierre and Cheryl Oster who have grown the Arrowhead Ultra event to over a 100 racers in icebox of the US, and mostly of all organized it so well, they had volunteers helping volunteers. Joel Austin came along with me to take photos this year (Joel Finished 12th last year on a 26 inch “skinny bike” and will return next year on either a 29er skinny or a pugs). More photos of his can be found at: JOELSPHOTOS

My race reports are always a bit verbose (guess it’s difficult to condense 24 hour of racing into a paragraph).

The morning started off with -20d F and a minor 10 mph headwind for the first 8 miles. My first mistake was a classic rookie move of not getting my tire pressure dialed in before the race (at Tuscobia it took nearly 15 minutes to get the pressure just right). So for the first hour I stayed with the lead group of 10 but was working way too hard over 90% HR, so knowing that the trails wouldn’t change for at least another 5 hours and at that HR, I would only survive for another hour or two, I had to drop from the group and add about 3 psi to the front and about 5 psi to the back, made a couple clothing adjustments and back off I went (lost about 4 minutes on the group and the benefit of the pace line).

Although I had to ride a bit quicker to make up the 4 minutes, my HR was 10% lower as having the proper pressure now dialed in. Mistake 1 behind me... From there things were going pretty well, good trail conditions, manageable pace. About every 30 minutes I’d pass riders that had dropped from the lead group or had to stop to make gear adjustments. About 3 hours in I saw Dave Pramann (multiple year AHU winner and course record holder) ahead who was fiddling with some clothing changes. The two of us then worked together to close the gap to the remaining 3 of the lead group (Terry Brannick – 2009 AHU winner, Peter Basinger – Iditarod record holder, and Jeff Oatley – RAAM Racer and Iditarod winner) to about 2 minutes by the Gateway store checkpoint. We then finished the deal about 10 miles beyond the checkpoint on a couple of the long climbs.

Dave in his usual style, doesn't like to follow and then took the lead for the next hour, I would move to the front on a couple of the sections where I would amp up the pace a bit, on one climb about 6 hours in a monster climb hit, I punched back kicking it up to a 195 HR (100%) – not bad for over 40 and about 6 hours in. Between Dave and me we had whittled the lead group to the two of us and Jeff Oatley. Terry was having severe issues with numbness of his entire right arm. The three of us worked together until the Melgeorges CP at the halfway checkpoint. Upon setting my bike down I noticed that my headlight had turned itself on!! What a wonderful feature that some imbecile engineer thought would be a good idea – If you plug the light in, it turns itself on, and on HIGH. Estimated run time about 6 hours, it had most likely been on for about 6 hours based on looking at race photos… I believe the plug must have come loose on a rough section and then made contact again or I had pushed it back in (either way this will affect me as night approaches).
Here comes Rookie mistake number two, I had planned for a quick 10 minute in and out, but for a couple of reasons ended up putzing around and chatting at the Melgeorges CP too long and left the checkpoint 20 minutes after Oatley and Basinger, and 10+ minutes behind Pramann. I knew Pramann would attempt to and would most likely catch the Alaskans although the outcome would be for up for grabs at the finish. I thought I might be able to close the distance by the finish as I had paced myself much better than last year, but knew it would be difficult (making up 20+ minutes on those three would put me into a major pain factory! But, I did have much better bivy gear this year if I wouldn’t make it).

Picture of the three leaders comming across the lake (note my light was on...)

Back out on the trail things were still rolling good, and I was pushing the hill sections hard and fast and bombing the downhill’s at an absolute maximum speed knowing that earlier that’s where I was able to gap the group, also I knew my light (even on low), might not make it through the night, so I figured: run hard while there’s still some daylight left. Once dusk was over and I could no longer safely navigate the trail, I turned on my light on low and kept turning out a moderately fast pace.

My sprits improved as I saw the tail lights of the lead group of three ahead, about 5-10 minutes at the most. But within minutes of seeing them, and about an hour of successful night racing, the light went into SOS mode indicating that about 30 seconds of light remained. There I was 40 miles still to go and the only light was the stars. I fashioned my small LED work lights to my aerobars with some duct tape (never leave home without it) and off I went at about half the speed as before and the downhill’s at about 1/4 the speed. The two LED’s were just sufficient to see the trees about 10 feet ahead and could barely make out the leaders tracks immediately in front of me. One advantage of the slower speed was that the rest of the ride was enjoyable and gave me time to “enjoy the stars”. The only exception to the enjoyable finial run in was that the trail had hundreds of small trees that were hanging over the trail due to a recent ice storm and without a light I had about a half second to close my eyes and duck before hitting them, a couple were big enough the nearly knocked my off the bike. I waited at the crescent / teepee check point for about 30 minutes as the moon was going to rise soon and I knew at the pace I was riding that 1st-3rd was no longer attainable.

Unfortunately the additional moonlight didn’t help at all, ether because it was right in front of the trail (like driving into a sunrise) or was shaded by the plethora of pine trees that line the trail. I did catch a glimpse of #70 Dan Dittmer who at the point when I saw his headlight was only about 5 minutes behind, that was enough to kick me in the A$$ to get me moving at a respectable pace again light or no light.

Finished the race at 16 hours, 57 minutes and 23 seconds (just before midnight) – beating my PR by about 6 hours and obtaining my second highly coveted Arrowhead Trophy. Average speed was a whooping 7.9 mph, max speed was a 30.5 mph (may have trouble getting life insurance after that), and a total of 7150 calories burned. Total climbing of 7,012 feet over a distance of 133.99 miles, and an average HR of 151.