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.


MrDaveyGie said...

Good report. And btw. It was three years ago when I saw your blog, and it's links, I thought I should start winter riding "again" Now two winter bikes later, a bunch of equipment, I now ride 12 months a year, and called crazy by all co-workers. :-)

Bill G said...

Holy Cow Lance - you are going to be hard to catch at TI come April! Great month of racing you have had!

See you in Grinnell!

rideonpurpose said...

nice work!

Jill said...

Great race report Lance! Thanks so much for the shout out. I feel unworthy. I haven't done a darn thing with snowbiking this year, but hope to change that in the White Mountains 100. It's full this year but next year you should consider that race, which takes place March 21 in Fairbanks. Might be a nice change to the tropical Susitna Valley. :-)

Congrats again! Next year, ITI, right?

karen said...

Congrats on a great race. Sounds like you had a great time.

Anonymous said...

It was great to see you again! Glad you enjoyed the race--and congrats on a very good finish! SuperAl is heading out tomorrow to WATCH the start of the ITI. Conditions don't sound so good this year but we did get some snowfall this week. Give us a call when you come up next year :)