Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Leeeavan, on a jet plane, going to race Iditarod again.

As you read this I will be getting ready to head out to Alaska, set to race the Iditarod Trail Invitational again.  This race is full of worry.  Two weeks ago I was wondering how I would handle endless miles of -40F temps.  Boy, was I wrong.  Right now it is very warm there, temps the last few days in Anchorage got up into the +40F's.  THAT is a difference!

A week before we set out is the Iron Dog race, a similar race held on snowmobiles (snowmachine if you are Alaskan).  They are encountering even less snow then last year, which doesn't worry us on bikes.  However, the amount of overflow and unfrozen river crossing could be crazy.  Here are some pics and video.  This is what worries me.  I would rather ride at -20F then ride at 35F and wet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another race recap FFF

The Fat Tire Frozen Forty (FFF) has been a race I have wanted to do as it looked so well organized and fun; 4 ten mile laps of singletrack in the winter.  This year it worked out and I smirked as the weather called for temps just below zero as I knew many would have a hard time riding for around 4 hours or more in those temps.  As I drove up taking an inventory in my mind of what I packed I realized I forgot a helmet and food.  A plea to on Facebook and a stop at Walgreens solved that problem. 
The start.  If you think you can see me than you are wrong.

Got to the venue without much time.  Snagged a helmet from Tom Morgan (THANKS, and I need to look at getting me one of those Lazer helmets) and my registration info and I set out to get a warm up in.  Time was short and I hit a section of singletrack.  It passed a road, knowing the start was approaching I took this "short cut" back which wasn't a short cut.  When I realized my mistake I thought surly the unplowed bike path would take me back to the start in a great feat of short cuttedness.  Well, that was a worse idea as I showed up to the start 5 minutes after everyone started; a first in my 20+ odd years of racing. 

Coming through lap 1, handing out high 5's.

So I set out to ride hard for 4 hours and see how well I could do; plans unchanged.  Only now I would sprint, slow, say "when there is a chance could I pass", ride by, say "Thanks!", repeat.  Well, that is unless I get behind Guse:)  My BB7 brakes started locking up in the rear (needed lube I guess) at the same time my hose kept pulling out of the lever (hose was getting caught on the stem when turning the bars).  A lap in and my right knee was bothering me with pain, not use to the short hard bursts I was putting it through.  Eventually after 2 laps the pain was more than I wanted to deal with as Iditarod looms 2 weeks away, DNF. 

I was a comedy of errors that day, probably should never had gotten out of bed.  On a side note, GREAT RACE.  Well done, and plenty of people having issues with the cold like I expected.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Iditarod stressing

So it is about 2 weeks to go to Iditarod.  This week I have been stressing it quit a bit for two reasons.

One, I am freaking out about possible super cold temps.  It took me awhile to figure why this was bothering me much more than last year, then it dawned on me that last year was the winter of polar vortexes.  It seemed like every other day I could go out in -20F weather with strong winds bringing the wind chill down to around -50F.  Riding and surviving that can boost a man's confidence.  This year I am not even sure have more than a couple of sub 0 degree rides, and they certainly weren't near the same tenacity.  So, after reflecting on our winter here last year I was able to relieve myself of some mental burden.  Except for when I was PM'ing with super nice guy Kevin Breitenbach and he put a little fear of death in me if the actual temps get down closer to -40 or -50.  Thanks Kevin.

The other stress for me has been getting the dropbags for the race done.  I gave myself a timeline of yesterday (Friday) to get my 2 drop bags in the mail to Anchorage in time for them to get flown out to miles 135 and 200 of the 350 mile race.  Packing these bags you need to figure out how many calories you may need for what could be very long periods of time out in the middle of nowhere with only your gear to survive on.  I set out around 10,000 calories per drop bag.  Then there is the matter of how to get those calories, in what form, and how many types of food as you can't mentally eat just one type of food for days on end.  Add in things like none food related items and figuring it all out can get tough all while making sure it is also under the maximum 10 pounds per drop bag (as these are getting flown out in small planes into remote Alaska wilderness and landing roughed in run ways.

I like to have everything as unpackaged as possible and in ziplock bags (with slides for easy open/close).  My food this year consists of Pringles, maple candied bacon, some snickers bars (cut into smaller pieces), summer sausage (cut into smaller pieces), Espresso gel packets (for caffeine and something different), Peanut M&M's, and a homemade mix consisting of peanut butter, oats, chia seeds, flax seeds, honey, dried cranberries, and cacao nibs.  I like to write the calories on each bag for keeping track during the packing phase.  During the rip open and shove it into spots on the bike during the race phase I really am not thinking calories in each individual bag.

Homemade goodies that look just like your typical bar....

My none food related items would be some hand warmer packs (which I never use, but figured might come in handy), batteries for my light (lithium works much better in the cold), packs of chamois cream , and some gum (never ride with it but figured it might help during the tired times).

The obligatory shot of what is in one of my dropbags dropbag.

All packed up.
So here is one part of the process that is pretty cool.  The post office has those "One Rate" boxes.  Unlimited weight, ship anywhere in the United States with a 2-3 day transit time and one set rate.  Now these one rate boxes are usually more expensive...unless you are shipping a heavy box to Alaska.  One large one rate box holds both dropbags, would have cost me 3x the amount and almost double the transit time had I used my own packaging.

Well, there you go, a bit more insight on the big race.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Arrowhead part 2.

Just some semi interesting notes I remember on the race.

-Jay ran into Gateway, maybe to get a roller dog or grab a pack of ciggs?
-I was having trouble with my BB7 rear brake leading up to the race (my fault), switched to my Hayes Prime (which I love in the summer) because temps weren't supposed to get very low.  Pads eventually stopped retracting about halfway through.  Finished with a decent amount of brake rub, good thing I only had a rear brake!  Reminded me why I use mechanicals in the winter.
-Did I mention that the grill cheese at Melgeorges was amazing!
-I saw no signs of wildlife, bummer.
-The fresh snow layered onto each limb of each tree was spectacular.
-We all were riding Dillenger tires.
-Jorden had the widest tire set up (clown shoes with Dillenger 5's).  This may have helped in the final sprint as there was a soft patch a tad before the line (Todd can be seen having to dismount through it in the video).
-Jorden was using bungee straps to hold his bag on his bars.  Over harder bumps we would hear buzz, buzz, buzz as his bag would make contact with the tire.  That is getting fixed for him soon;)
-Tim had the most narrow tire set up, Fatback 77mm rims, Dillenger 4 tires.
-I had 90mm rims, D4 tires, a good combo for the day.
-My instance at sitting on the back backfired some towards the end of the hills as the snow would get crunched down, soft, and unrideable when I would try to ride some of the hills.  I would catch back on without problem though...until I didn't.

During the race I started to give people in the front group yearbook labels, like "most likely to succeed":
-Charly Tri "Most likely to sit back and almost pass out":)
-Jorden Wakeley "Most likely to not stand" and  "Most likely to not say anything" 
-Tim Bernston   "Most chatty" "Nicest Guy"
-Jay Petervary  "Most likely to pull"  "Most likely to hoot and holler"
-Todd McFadden "Most likely to have too high of tire pressure"  "Best climber"  "Worst climber (because his high tire pressure would throw him off line or spin out)"
-Kevin Breitenbach  "Most likely to emulate Mark Seaburg and bring a Subway sub"

The 4 way finish for the win.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Arrowhead 135 recap (and 2 others), 2015

So before I recap this year's Arrowhead, let me give a quick recap of my 2 races prior.

Sostice Chase
It has been awhile now, but I did the race as a "tune up" race before Tuscobia.  Went something like this: piss poor start position, then stuck behind crash, rode really strong through the field, moved up to 5th with 4th place in sight halfway through after removing my mask, breathing got all messed up, faded hard, put mask on, rolled in for 8th or so.  Throat locked up for a few minutes after the finish, lungs messed up as a result.

Tuscobia 150
Jay Petervary would show up, lungs messed up still, legs felt great, after 3 hours my lungs revolted and I could barely ride on flat terrain.  DNF.  Big difference from winning the same race last year.

My uber fast Whiteout ready to race.

Before the start in my White Avenger costume.  Thanks Sveta for the pic!

Arrowhead 135
Last year I didn't finish this race as I was still having troubles from illness.  This year I was extremely confident I would have a good race.  At no time was not finishing a thought in my mind.  Lungs felt good, I felt good.  On the same note I picked 5 guys that, to me, anyone of them could win:

-Jay Petervary, previous Arrowhead, Tuscobia, Iditarod (350 and 1,100), and Great Divide winner.
-Kevin Breitenbach, previous Arrowhead and Iditarod winner.
-Todd McFadden, course record holder at Arrowhead, super fast mountian biker
-Tim Berntson, 2nd place (barely) at both Arrowhead and Iditarods
-Jorden Wakeley, Stupid fast XC mountain bike racer, the wildcard

My plan for the race was to shadow these gentleman, let them fight it out and beat each other up, and seize on opportunities.  With my asthma I didn't want to follow their surges stroke for stroke.  With an inch of fresh snow on the ground the start was anything but quick as no one wanted to set track for everyone else.  Temps were in the 10-20F range, so no one struggled with the cold.  The leadout was so low that the lead pack 8 miles in was long enough for me to stop and relieve myself without ever seeing the tail end of the group.

Following Steve Yore into the 1st checkpoint, he would pull over and have me go by as we left.  Thanks Tom Morgan for the pic!

So, I did what I intended; followed wheels.  Into Gateway (the first checkpoint at mile 35 miles in) the group was still fairly large, but breaking up.  A few miles out and it was 6 of us 'off the front' (me and the 5 people mentioned before).  I stayed with my game plan letting others set the pace.  For some reason I was battling some nausea and light headedness.  Nothing severe, but noticeable.  As we rolled into Melgeorge's I was feeling a little crappy, more nausea, but I was still with the lead group and had not been dropped on any of the hike a bike hills which was my biggest concern.  Legs and body felt completely in control.

Rolling across Elephant Lake towards the halfway point.  Thanks Chris Gibbs for such a great photo,

Walking into Melgeorge's I was calm and focused.  Mary Pramann (the Legend's wife) poured Coke into my bottle (to help the stomach) as I set out to the bathroom to fill the reservoir (there was a line at the kitchen sink).  With a freshly made grilled cheese and a bottle full of Coke I was second out the door behind Jay knowing others would join me and at least most of us would get back together.  That was the best dammed grilled cheese of my life and my stomach was incredibly happy with the meal.  Seriously, it was just some bread and cheese, but for some reason it just made everything in the world glorious at that moment.

We would all join forces once again.  Working our way through the trail the pace dropped some.  It was actually pretty funny how slow we went for awhile, almost like the calm before the storm.  I continued to hang at the back of the group, mentally I wanted them to count me out as a contender, which at that point was the exact opposite of how I felt. 

The sun had gone down and we were now in the 10 miles leading up to the last checkpoint: ski pulk.  My nausea had returned, but nothing severe.  I had been eating and was not worried about calories.  The terrain was a lot of steep up and down with a fair bit of pushing, and my legs felt GREAT.  Roughly 100 miles in and my legs were feeling almost the best all race.  I knew I was going to the finish with this group and couldn't help but relish the fact I can lay down a mean sprint.  Under my mask I was smiling, but I made sure not to hint this to the fellow racers.

Then it hit.  I am still not 100% what IT was, but every time I blinked my eyes were rolling back in my head.  Really quickly I became disoriented, dizzy, and using the bike to stand.  It felt like despite my body working on on cylinders, my brain had a lack of blood sugar.  With my asthma I have grown use to not carrying sugar laden food with me, so I slammed a 5 hour energy; the only thing I thought could help. A Red Bull (RED BULL!) would have been perfect in the situation as I think the sugar would have been the fix.  Soon, the brain would get out of its funk.

I rolled into that last checkpoint, grabbed a couple of cookies and drank a small bit of coke and set off right away.  I had a 15 minute deficit to try to make up, but I figured with how my legs felt there was a chance I could catch up.  But as I descended wakemup hill, my stomach started tightening up on me.  Then it completely locked up (I blame the 5 hour energy).  My body wanted to curl up in a ball from the pain, my mind wanted to try to snap my pedals off in power trying to catch up.  My body won out, I limped along, stopping frequently to eat a handful of the fallen snow in hopes it would help (they give ice chips it to women in labor for the same reason).  The snow helped a tad, and I rolled into the finish 51 minutes behind for 6th place.  The top four sprinted, with 1st and 2nd going to exactly who I thought it would go to when I unhitched from the group; Jorden and Tim.  Jay was third, Todd fourth, Kevin would come in 10 minutes back for 5th.  Steven Yore, a super strong rider whom I had not see since Gateway rolled in for 7th about 20 minutes behind me.

At the finish, feeling quite uncomfortable.  Thanks to the Arrowhead FB page for the pic!

As I laid on the ground in pain and discomfort with a small bit of water and broth in my tummy, Lynn Scotch would make the "I am finished and alive" call to the wife for me.  Soon, my stomach would open up and I felt great again, ready to get some food and hit the trail again if needed.  Oh well, too little too late.

My 9:Zero:7 Whiteout loaded up with Bike Bag Dude gear, Nextie Carbon Rims, and Wolftooth Components goodies all worked flawlessly.  The Coldavenger mask was on during the whole race and I had very little problems with my asthma.  Rochester Cycling continues to help me make my races happen, and is THE place to get your fatbike goodies in Southern MN.

Next up is Iditarod on March 1st, giddy up!