Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


How the...maybe I'll just start by running for awhile.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Because it is about the bike

It's that time of year again. Human Powered Vehicle racing at Hawkeye Downs Raceway in Cedar Rapids IA this weekend, Sept 19th and 20th. Come check it out if you can:

This week is also Human Powered Speed week at Battle Mountain, NV. Male and female top speed records will almost certainly be broken.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not dead yet

Blog posts have been lacking due to lack of free time and dwindling internet access.

Some of what I've been up to but likely won't get around to writing much about:

Bone bender 6 hour mtb race. Raced SS solo. It was gumbo muddy to the point of taking nearly all the geared riders out on the first lap, had to wash my freewheel out with heed nearly every lap to keep it going. Finished 2nd SS and 4th overall due to my outstanding walking skills.

Wilson Adventure Race.
The day after Bone Bender I headed over to Wilson for a super fun sprint adventure race with SK and Scott. No orienteering, but two "mystery events" one involving ropes and one with a blindfold, 3foot swells and whitecaps on the paddle section, and all the running and biking was on the Wilson trail system. I'm ready for another trip out there already.

Indy HPRA races.
Another breezy weekend, but otherwise good weather. Set a new streamliner course record on the velodrome and got my but handed to me by Sean again in stock.

Weather was mild, course was good, but I didn't keep track of my hydration well enough. Fried myself by the 2nd checkpoint, crawling along at 7mph on the flats, peeing brown. Dumbass.

Almanzo 100.
Brisk and breezy on great roads. I could see my breath when we started, wind felt like TransIA last year. 20mph winds with gusts to 30. Started this race on the winning end of a gnarly cold, so breathing wasn't going so well yet, but I didn't want to miss the race. The roads up there are super buff and the event organization is top notch, it was a good ride even though my results were were some what mediocre.

Memorial day weekend.
Sat: Cobble climb 3rd place. Guess I should train or something. Watched A damn near lap the field in the Womens open. Caught up with all the bike race people.
Sun: Forc trail Trifecta. Dirty good times with the FORC folks at Sylan Island, Sunderbruck, and Scott Co park. It's always good to ride new trail, even better when you riding with a super cool group of folks, and you add a picnic in the middle.

Odds and ends taking my time:
The microbus is back on the road. Still ironing out a couple details, but it should be fully roadtrip-able by the end of the week or so.

The WRX is re-assembled and running, but I've still got to get the turbo rebuilt and finish the gauge install before it's road ready.

I moved, am still moving. Two miles from my prior location. It was overdue. Unfortunately I've moved into a black hole, no tv(yay!), no internet access(maybe a good thing, too easy to lose time there), barely any cell reception.

Hobie. New hobby.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Random roundup

Lots of random thoughts and happenings as of late.

Explored Wildcat Den state park Friday night and Saturday morning. Another Mississippi river valley gem.

Nice sunrise.

It's a long fall from here.

Rode a 200k Saturday on the Bacchetta. First outing with the new wheels. A little faster and a little lighter. Thankfully no flats since I've yet to acquire an inflator to fit the disc or a spare tubular tire. Rode fairly strong, but my knees were giving me some trouble by mile 100, so I backed it way off. Even walked one of the longer hills. I need to take a closer look at my bike fit on that thing. One IT band injury is one IT band injury too many. Really don't want to go through that again, and I really want to be able to ride the Corsa a bit more this year.

All it's missing is a CinQo Saturn and a Garmin 705.

I think Im going to use my Karate Monkey as my official adventure race bike. Simple, dependable, fast enough. Maybe I'll swap the tires out for something a little faster. The Nevegals are overkill for the terrain most adventure races see. I'd use the Pugsley, but it's pretty much my full on touring bike at this point, and I'd prefer to be ready to roll out on tour at a moments notice.

I'm going to try to do a few Orienteering events to hone my navigation skills. And maybe try a thumb compass.
Kinda suprising just how competitive some these orienteering events sound. I suppose people think the same of cycling.

Our guest speaker at Adventure camp, Robyn Benincasa, was singing the praises for this ultralight set of "RAID trekking poles", which appear to have been updated to standard weight poles since hers were made. I'm pretty sure hers were made of four sections of Easton tent pole, a carbide tip, foam grip, and small accessory cord and lock to hold it all together. Sure sounds like a MYOG project to me.

The Subaru is coming together, very slowly. Hope to have it back on the road by the end of the month. I'll miss my cheap insurance, though.

Hoping to get back to bike commuting soon, but the weather's not cooperating. 30degrees, plus a 25mph wind chill, plus a good chance of rain, is not much of a fun commute.

The new streamliner is slowly starting to take form. Ideally it would be built already. I've got all the parts, Actiontec fork, Scalpel rear triangle, Rotor cranks, wheels. Front frame's built, just gotta connect the rear triangle, build the seat, and start the shell. Maybe a Zote shell.

Normal weekly training is starting. A little more overall fitness than normal. Race group/intensity training on Tuesdays, ride/run on Wednesdays, upriver paddle on Thursdays, long race/ride on weekends.

Race season is pretty much here. Bone Bender 6 hour mtb race this Saturday, Wilson Adventure race Sunday, Indy HPRA races next weekend, TransIA the weekend after that, Quad cities 300k brevet, Almanzo 100, Dirty Kanza.

Busy, busy, gotta go. Woo hoo!


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Adventure camp

I attended the High Profile Adventure Camp this past weekend. The goal was to try conquering my fear of heights(again), work on rope skills and climbing, get some more time practicing my UTM coordinate plotting/navigation/terrain contour reading, and gain some general adventure racing tips.

It was a two and a half day camp. Friday night was an introduction and navigation seminar. Saturday was a trip to Mississippi Palisades for navigation practice, back to camp benson for a ropes seminar and ropes practice (including 3 rappels, 2 accent's on accenders, 2 top roped climbs, 1 wire ladder, 1 travolian traverse, and 1 zip line). Then after dinner there were seminars on poisonous plants and treatment, Adventure race tips by Gerry Voellinger, Adventure race tips by Robyn Benincasa, and 8 essential elements of human synergy by Robyn Benincasa. Sunday included a seminar on cyclocross, a seminar on foot care, and concluded with a short adventure race. The adventure race included a really strange cyclocross race(~120people on a .4mile long course, most of which are not cyclist by nature), a bike navigation course on paved roads, and a trekking navigation course that included about 20 shallow river crossings, 1 rappel, 2 caves, 2 stair step waterfalls, one 80' tall zip line, and lots of really cool terrain.

This was a great experience. I came away feeling it was not my skills that needed improving, but more so, merely my confidence. Adventure racing feeds right into the positive/self starting mindset, exploring/adventure seeking, problem solving, total fitness ethos. Pretty cool group of people.

Deb and Shaun, my team mates for the adventure challenge.

The bigger cave. Getting in this one involved a waist deep river crossing, the deepest of the race.

The spring fed staircase waterfall, really cool.

I'm definitely looking forward to more of this.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009


That was fun. Next?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Last signs of winter

Things are in full on spring cleaning mode around here. I've been busy overhauling and optimizing every bike I own, finalizing my bikepacking/touring/multi-day race setup, analyzing and improving my snowbike setup for next year, revamping my commuter/hybrid Xtracycle, trying to get the Subaru back together before the Fox blows up, and training for the looming storm of gravel enduros that will be the month of May.

The gravel is primo, but the trails are on the edge of unrideable. I've still managed to find some gems hidden in the forest.

I can't even count the number of times I've ridden past this spot in the forest, but I'd never noticed the cool little rocky stream that drains out of it.

Welp, headin' for Ouachita a week from tomorrow for a camping/training/good times gettaway. Then its straight into race season, or what I consider race season anyways. Might have to ride to the races to afford them....anyways...

Woo Hoo!


Saturday, February 21, 2009


I learned a camera trick.

Naked eye.

Oakley VR50

Yay for snow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Follow the Bleater

So I'm way behind on posting up events. The Arrowhead post previous is complete. There will be another one reviewing what worked, what didn't, and what I'll do differently next year coming up.

Arrowhead was on Monday and Tuesday, Feb 2-3. I recovered on Wednesday, went to work Thursday and Friday till noon, and then met up with Deb Wood to head for the Bonk Hard Chill 12 hour adventure race that was on Saturday.

Adventure racing is completely new to me, sort of. It seems every ride I do ends up being an adventure race(breaking a frame in half 20 miles into the 60 mile Ouachita Challenge and tying it back together to finish, having a half dozen flats tires at 12miles of Hell and somehow having five random sized tubes in my pack but no patch kit, Having an equal number of flats and almost running out of patch glue at both the Dirty Kanza and Sylamos revenge and finishing, Breaking my bottom bracket in half halfway through the Porcupine Rim loop and riding the rest coaster bike style, fun with tubeless tires at -35deg F at Triple D, TransIowa in general, ect.) I've come to believe that I may be misusing my skillset, so I started seeking a race to test my theory and a partner to keep me from getting in too far over my head. All the beginner races and camps are all way off in April or May and that's just way too far out there, but I found this race down in the Ozarks. Trekking, paddling, and biking around Lake of the Ozarks in February. Heck it's gotta be a good ten degrees warmer down there right? Alright. I've never plotted a map, too antisocial for the boy scouts, so I better find someone with some experience there or I could be lost for days. The only person that I know that has done any adventure racing is Deb Wood, and she had expressed some interest in some of the other frigid and/or foolish things that I've been doing, maybe she'll be up for it. Turns out she's had her eye on this race for awhile, but never found anyone else willing and/or foolish enough to attempt it. Good deal, we've got a team!

The plan was hashed out to meet up for some training sometime before the event after New Years eve. I'd been busy since September trying to gear up for Arrowhead and somehow the team training just never happened, so I studied up on the UTM guidebook as much as I could and hoped for the best. The thought that it was three days after Arrowhead was maybe a little concerning, but I've pulled that sort of thing off before so I wasn't too worried. It's not like we were trying to win the thing, basically we were out to prove that we could both do this and learn for future events.

Friday came and Deb met me in Keokuk to reload the van and carpool down the rest of the way. She announced that she had poisoned herself and almost left her mountainbike behind to add some challenge to the event. Perfect. She had also recently spent a day walking in knee deep snow to properly adjust herself to the suffering mindset. We spent the drive catching up with goings ons and trying to recuperate from our respective tortures. Moods were generally positive, considering.

We made it to the race check in with a less than an hour to spare and headed for the gear check. After gearing up for Arrowhead, gearing up for this adventure race was a cakewalk, once again I was carrying way more than needed, except that I had forgotten my emergency blanket at home, doh! And we were informed that all the local stores had already sold out, as I was apparently not the first person to forget gear. Luckily Deb had loaded her emergency "everything I own" gear box in the van, and seconds later the issue was resolved. The race is called Bonk Hard Chill because it's in February and it's supposed to be cold, but it was 60 degrees outside, so we got to drop the mandatory heavy fleece jacket and gloves.

The race meeting felt strange as we were in a room full of athletes of which we knew not a one. After being part of the cycling community for a decade or so it's rare to go to a race without knowing someone. But this is a little different group. Maybe if I were more of a runner or paddle-er it would be different.
Thankfully maps and half of the coordinates were given out so we could plot them tonight. Neither of us are entirely confident in our navigation skills, but we double check each others work and work out a plan of attack. Race starts at 7am but we'll need to be up at 5am to get bikes dropped off at the checkpoint and get to the start on time.

Racing starts after the national anthem and the sun rises, then it's a mob of people running through the woods. My knees aren't too happy to be running quite yet, so we compromise with a brisk walk. The first few checkpoints really are more follow the leader than read the map, but soon enough people are of on different routes to the same locations. It seems you can run all you want but if you don't know where you're going or you end up sliding around at the bottom of a gully you're not going to beat anyone, so we take time to stay on route and read the terrain for easier routes to the checkpoints. Amazingly enough we do seem to be staying ahead of a few groups of runners.

All the checkpoints are found and we head off to the bikes. It's a short reunion, as we're only riding from the top or the hill down to the beach for the canoe section. I guess I should mention that I took my Pugsley as my race bike. It's really the only MTB I've got put together at the moment and I've really come to love the thing. Plus it'll float if it happens to fall out of the boat later during the crossing. I should also note that this race contains the biggest collection of vintage 90's MTBs I've ever seen, first edition Marzocchi forks, Girvin Proflexs, Softride MTBs, you name it. So we roll down to the canoes. Wow theres alot of folks out there already.
I should also mention I've never been in a canoe before. I've got plenty of time in kayaks, but thats different. Pretty hard to eskimo roll a canoe.

Anyways, we get out in the water, Deb's steering in back and I'm up front. It's a little tippy at first but soon enough we're moving. Slowly, but we're moving. It's kinda windy today, so we spend alot of time wondering if we're actually moving or not. That's the thing with canoes, the difference really isn't that much. Gives me a better appreciation for snowbike racing. At least when I'm walking next to my bike I can tell that I'm moving. The leaders are flying around using kayak paddles. Lesson learned. By the time we finish up the water checkpoints I'm starting to get the hang of the canoe paddling thing, but I can tell this is my biggest weakness. We are the second to last team back to shore.

Once we get to shore we have to load our bikes on the canoe and paddle about two miles over to the other shore. Now we have a tailwind, so no problem right? Turns out tailwinds are worse tha head winds. Every five or six strokes the boat gets blown sideways. There are already 8-10" swells in the water, being blown sideways in them gets to be a bit concerning a couple of times. My mindset is annoyed but I know that if you bang your head against a brick wall long enough, eventually it will fall down. Deb is a bit more than annoyed. It takes us 37minutes to go the 2miles to the other shore. I'm not sure I like canoes.

Finally the bike section, something we are somewhat accustomed to. We ride up the paved road and head for the first checkpoint. Ride, ride, ride. We find a volunteer and a bunch of bikes, but it's not the first checkpoint. Now we question our map reading skills, and roll on. Up and down a bunch of hills. Eventually we come to a T intersection. Crap. We missed the first checkpoint. Go back or skip it? Skip it. The bike section is all pavement and gravels. There are a few hills but for the most part it's pretty fast, so we have to stay alert not to miss checkpoints. You can tell that this group of athletes is primarily runners and paddlers as many of the gravel hills have footprints walking up them. At one point we are almost outrun by a beagle, but we nail all but one other checkpoint on the bike leg, and make decent time to the next trekking section.

In the middle of the bike section we recieved the second half of the checkpont coordinates and we spend some time plotting, checking, and routing the rest of our checkpoints. Theres a ton of checkpoints in the second treking section and we're running short on daylight when we arrive at it. We chose to just hit the close ones, which there is really only two of. The first checkpoint is no problem, but the second one is nowhere to be found. Dangit. Daylight's wasting and after the canoe crossing on the way over here we'd rather not have to tackle that in the dark, so we skip the rest and head back to the canoes.

Still alot of canoes on the shore, so there must be a bunch of people still out on the trekking section. The wind has died, the water is calm, and the sun is setting. A much nicer crossing on the way back. Not a curse word to be heard. Unload the bikes, cruise up the hill from the beach, and an easy cruise to the finish.

Food, awards, and damage accounts taken. We're not really all that tired, just out of time. Wasn't really too hard of an effort, but then again we weren't moving that fast either. We both learned that we can plot coordinates and read land features pretty well. I definitely have some paddling work to do and likely some run training to do.

The days following the event would reveal some tight muscles and unhappy joints from overdoing it between Arrowhead and Bonk Hard Chill. I've got a knee that's still not too happy. I think it was from jumping into riding platform pedals for two weeks and too much float. I need to simplify my race kit and work on cross training a bit more to prevent some of these funky aches. From what I'm seeing of these events, even though the specify that you need a MTB, you could darn near get by on a road bike. I'll prolly put together some sort of mutant road bike that looks like a mtb to lighten the load.

I've signed up for the High Profile adventure camp so I can hone my navigation skills and scare the crap out of myself with climbing. Hopefully I can do a couple more of these races this year. Maybe even try doing one quickly.

Many thanks to Deb for guiding me through this one and not throwing me out of the boat or anything. You know I've heard she's a violent person ;)


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Arrowhead 135

I borrowed these pics from MC. My camera was pretty much froze up from the start. Mike's got a real knack for capturing the experience both visually and in prose, so be sure to check out his writeup.

Thanks for all the comments. My effort was merely putting one foot in front of the other, powered by chocolate covered espresso beans and peanut butter. Much learned, yet much to learn.

This was my first attempt at a "self sufficient" race event. It's not a completely self sufficient event, as there are three checkpoints, two of them with restocking supplies and heat. The third was a simple ti pee with a fire, good for warming hands, but that's about it. There's a pretty big required gear list, you can see that here, a 15lb minimum limit on the mandatory gear. 133 miles of snowmobile trail in the coldest place in the lower 48, racing with an international gathering of endurance athletes, some with the knowledge and well honed skills to brave any condition, some not so much. The distance had been known to take as little as 16 hours or as much as 60 hours depending on conditions and method of travel.

I started thinking about and researching for this race right after Triple D last year. Spent a good 6 months collecting gear for it, of which, some was still showing up the week beforehand. But every bit of it was obsessed over, as is my nature. I didn't get anywhere near as much training time with the whole kit as I would have liked, one good ride on snow with the Pugs(Triple D), one -18deg bivy in the front yard, and one short ride with the whole kit loaded up. Every one of those experiences were priceless in the knowledge and confidence gained. I also had lots of time suffering through bitter cold and windy metrics and centuries thanks to the Cup O Dirt challenge. A fair amount of time spent practicing the biggest lesson learned from Triple D last year, walking next to my bike to keep circulation in my feet.

Weather coming into the event was unpredictable, but I've come to expect that lately. Cold spells and heavy snow, followed by heat waves and freezing rain, followed by sheer winds and another cold front. The drive up was windy, but the roads were clear. Trail conditions were good, hard pack. Ten minutes after checking into a mom and pop motel in Orr the power went out. Fell asleep listening to the wind roar in an unheated room. Slept well knowing there was nothing left to do but put all the preparation to use. The morning revealed powdered roads and calmed winds. We scouted out a couple of key bail out points should the need arise, and headed for the gear check in. The race headquarters was a melting pot of languages. Lots of new faces, a couple familiar, and few known though the blogosphere. Grilling by the Gear Nazi went well enough with a few pointers I hadn't thought of. Required gear weighed out to 19lbs without water, primary food, or prolly a third more weight in other random gear still on the bike. I knew I was carrying more than I needed, but the extra insurance was making up for my lack of proper test time.

A couple hours later we were all back in the meeting room for the prerace briefing. Symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite, course markings, checkpoints, question and answer. Mike gave an abbreviated insight to Iditarod(worth the trip in itself). Group photo. Back to the hotel for last minute tinkering and sleep. Already an inch of new snow on the ground. That's not gonna help.

Morning comes early, pack the bike in the van and head next door for breakfast. I take my time with breakfast and chat with a few other racers that come in. This race is staggered start in the manner that you can start any time between 7 and 8:30am. Show up early and you break trail for everyone else, show up late and you're losing daylight. I'm aiming for somewhere in the middle, hoping a few bikers will get out and set a track. I figure all the fasties will wait till later when its packed and fast, conserving energy for trail breaking and hills later in the race. I have no real intentions in the podium, only to finish and learn.

It's a ten mile drive South of town to the start. Temp is about -8 deg F or so. The race starts with an ~9mile out and back straight in to a mild wind. The trail is well packed by bikes, runners and skiers sleds. I take off at 7:30. Tempo effort is about all I plan on doing all day, but it seems that is enough to reel the earlier starters in pretty quick. I've definitely got the largest gear load of any of the bikers I see, but it handles ok, and it doesn't seem to matter at the moment. The tracks of skate skiers dragging sleds side to side seem horribly inefficient. Runners seem to be keeping up with the skiers pretty well. Matt Maxwell looks to be frosting up already. The trail clears out a bit into stands of little scrubby evergreens and the headwind hits a little more direct. I meet Pramaan and Charlie barrelling down the trail back at me. I wasn't expecting to see Dave out front breaking trail right off, seems strange. Mike is rolling pretty quick behind them, but rolls off the bike with camera in hand to take a shot of me spinning down the trail towards the turn around. He rides that Smoots like he's rolling down the street on bmx bike, totally smooth.

I meet a few more riders before reaching the turnaround, maybe five or six more, and then turn back to see who's following up behind me. I'm already ahead of all the skiers and runners. There's a pretty big gap between me and the next rider. Lance is passing people pretty fast going the other way. I manage to catch four or five more riders before crossing over the highway and heading for the much less traffic ed trail. No snowmobile traffic yet this morning. Down to following the Endomorph groove left by the leaders, switching from one side of the trail to the other every quarter mile or so, searching for faster snow. Must be four more to catch ahead of me, not that I think I have any chance of doing so, but Dave and Charlie must be working awfully hard breaking trail up there. Mike surely has caught up to them by now. I wonder who the fourth rider is? Twenty minutes later Lance catches up to me as I fumble a bridge crossing. He says he's "conserving energy" as he passes at +12mph. I try to keep pace for a little bit, but it's just faster than my load wants to roll. A couple snowmobiles go by. We both fumble a little on a rutted corner and stop to eat a little. A little further on we catch up with Lindsay. I exchange greetings and roll ahead. Lance hangs back and chats alittle, then he flies past again and off in the distance as I continue my tempo touring pace. I doubt I see him again, he should catch up with the lead group in no time.

Hours pass and hills get a little bigger. I'm off pushing hills as it's more effort than it's worth to ride them, and sometimes it's nice to walk a little. Temps are nice, around 5-10 degrees. Riding resumes. Another rider glides by at road bike speed breaking trail up the other side of the trail. Not sure who that was, but he sure looks packed light. The first checkpoint, the Gateway Store is just around the corner. I've still got plenty of food and water, no need to go inside. Check in and keep moving. More hills, a few trail shelters sparsely thrown in there, some of them pretty well hidden. This section of trail has had a decent amount of snowmobile traffic on it, but it's still easier to ride the untracked edges of the trail, and follow the leaders Endomorph prints. I top a hill to see Mike sitting along the trail eating a meal. It's tempting to stop and join him, but I simply great him and roll on. The forest is silent place other than the squeaking of one of my derailer pulleys, or maybe it's just the chain rubbing the cogs funny. It seems to change as I shift. Either way it's like my very own flock of birds following me down the trail. An hour or so later I pause to silence some hunger and find Mike catching up. I remount as he rolls up and he asks how its going, I state that I had to feed the engine. He asks if I have to eat alot, my brain seizes up and all I can say is "well, I have to eat". I must have had some crazed look like I could butcher him for food or something, cause he fell back and ten minutes later he was nowhere to be seen. It's either that or the flock of birds was screwing up his solitude.

Hours go by without a soul in sight. There should be one more trail shelter before turning toward the lake crossing. The sun is setting and I'm getting a little drowsy, so I spend some time picking the chocolate covered espresso beans out of the super g.o.r.p. mix. An hour or so later I finally see the trail shelter. I pass a sign stating four miles to the MelGeorges Lodge, the halfway checkpoint. I'm well into dusk at this point. I was kind of hoping to be at the lodge by sunset, at least I'm close. An eternity later I see another sign, two miles to MelGeorges. Oh good, only one more eternity till the halfway point. Time to turn the lights on. Finally the lake shore comes to me, theres a faint glow somewhere off in the distance. The lake is drifted and slow going. The markers seem to be in a big arc and eventually the resort lights show up bright in font of me. Cheryl and a couple other volunteers come out to great me and send me down the foot path to the checkpoint cabin.

I walk in the checkpoint cabin to find Josh Peterson already hanging out. I didn't even know he was ahead of me. He doesn't sound very enthused with going on tonight. The race volunteers whip up some chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese and I pull off my outer layers to dry in front of the fireplace. About the time I finish up my soup Lindsay walks in. Change base layer, and hey, they've got a washer and dryer in this cabin! I was wearing a polypro baselayer, Nike rain jacket as a vapor barrier, and my RBH NTS jacket as my outer layer. Somehow the RBH jacket was soaked. As far as I know the Nike jacket is not a waterproof/breathable fabric, so I'm not sure how my outer layer ended up soaked. Anyways, they're both going in the dryer cause there's no way I'm starting the second half with soaked layers. Temp was -8 at dusk, -15 before I came in the cabin. Browse for snacks, reload my food supply out of my drop bag. I only went through one bag of super G.O.R.P., one bag of peanut butter bars, and about a liter and a half of water. Looks like I brought enough food. I was carrying three bags of G.O.R.P one bag of peanut butter bars, one bag of grapes, one bag of peanut butter cups, one bag of chocolate covered raisins/junior mints/cookiedough balls, a flask of Hammer gel espresso, and two liters of water from the start. Somewhere in here Dave Gray and another rider come in, and Mike sticks his head in the door, checks in, and keeps moving on down the trail. Dave is feeling the lingering effects of the flu, and none of the riders here currently sound like their going back out tonight. Well, that should make things peaceful out there. 45minutes later my outer layers were dry, so I dressed, added another bag of peanut butter bars and filled all three 1 liter bottles I was carrying with water, and headed out the door.

The next ten or so miles of trail in the loop between the resort and road leading to the resort were filled with some of the steepest hills and most exhilarating roller coaster hills of the whole route. The snow had frozen just a little harder, the air was a little more brisk, the moon was out bright, and there were large canine tracks down both sides of the trail. My light, loaded bike handling, and bike pushing skills were all to be put to good use here. Thoughts of my headlight shutting off mid downhill and catching up with whatever canine was patrolling the trail wandered around in the back of my mind. Soon enough I reached the road crossing and started the endless climb. I'm still not sure if it was real, but it seemed like the trail after the road crossing was a good ten/fifteen miles of arrow straight gradual incline. I kept thinking, man there's gotta be a huge downhill after this. Eventually it turned back into small rollers, but no really huge downhill. Somewhere in here I saw Mike's Smoots stuck in the snowbank where he'd stopped to bivy for the night, and then shortly after that my primary headlight battery died.

Now I was down to my weak headlamp only. Navigation was accomplished by staring straight down to follow the Endomorph tracks, and watch for the right turn that would take me to the third checkpoint, the ti pee. I'd left the second checkpoint(the halfway point) at ~7:00pm, I wouldn't reach the ti pee till ~4:00am, and I wouldn't have seen a soul in 9 hours. For awhile I thought I'd missed the last checkpoint as I'd been wandering around in the dark for so long after the turn, the ti pee was supposed to be pretty close after the turn according to the map. I kept looking for this huge hill that was supposed to be before the ti pee, and it kept not coming. Finally I crested what seemed to be just another hill, popped out into a clearing, and there was a dim glow of the third check point and a pair of flashing tailights. As I got closer I could see it was Lance's Fatback and a Pugsley sitting next to the trail. I stumbled around to the door and almost fell under the bottom of the ti pee when I stepped on the plastic footprint they had under it. When I made it inside I found a smokey little fire and a full house. Lance and Pramaan were wrapped up in their sleeping bags by the door, and two volunteers were in their sleeping bags on the far side of the fire. Lance's frozen mushing suit was thawing by the fire. There was just about enough room to kneel and warm my hands on the fire. Inside the ti pee was not warm, as a matter of fact it might have been warmer outside, but it was enough to warm my numb fingers back to usefullness. Earlier on the trail my sweat soaked hands finally caught the chill and went numb. I had to open a set of hand warmers, warm them up enough to regain dexterity, get a dry set of gloves out, and swap gloves. Fifteen minutes of hard pedaling in dry gloves was enough to warm them back up as long as I was in my poagies, but as soon as I stopped at the tipee they started getting cold again. Before the ti pee I was thinking it would be nice to bivy there, as my pace was creeping with my good lights being dead. However, with the ti pee already at max capacity and the location being so exposed to the bitter winds, the last 25miles into the finish seemed a better alternative. So I warmed my hands by the fire, went outside and grabbed a baselayer, my down coat and pants, and my RBH mitts. My RBH jacket and Nike rain jacket were both soaked again, so I pulled them off, swapped base layers, and put all my down clothing on. One more hand warming on the fire, put on the mitts, grab my now frozen soaked clothing and head out the door. Kneeling in the ti pee had been cutting the circulation off to my feet, so now they were a little cold, a first on the ride so far thanks to my mukaluks. I packed everything back up on the bike, and walked briskly down the hill towards the finish to get the circulation back in my feet.

I think the hill after the ti pee may have been that huge downhill I was climbing up to twenty miles ago. And I walked it. After reaching the bottom the trail turned left a little and continued straight and flat nearly til daylight. One foot in front of the other, staring down, following the two pugsley tracks in front of me. Funny, I started this ride hoping to finish, and now I'm lost in third place. A T-intersection appears in front of me and the Endomorph tracks seem to have been drifted over, crap. Ride in circles a few times in the intersection looking for tracks. Nothing. Pull out the compass. Head East. The tracks reappear, whew. I keep half expecting Lance and Dave to go blowing by me as I'm creeping down the trail. The sun is coming up and thoughts of the approaching finish start tormenting me. I know there's another T-intersection and a turn that heads off to the finish. Every bend in the trail is a cruel joke. Maybe that's the intersection, ride alittle faster, only to round the bend and see another 2 mile straight to another bend. Maybe thats the intersection.....repeat a dozen times. My impatience suprises me. Watching the two sets of tracks ahead of me I can tell the leaders were riding together yet, and walking as much as they were riding, so it seems. I can relate, at times I'm off walking just to keep myself entertained, and it's nearly as fast.

The forest is starting to thin and I've passed a few logging roads to the left. The trail is getting wider and there are signs of snowmobile traffic. Soon enough I can hear a chainsaw in the distance. I've got to be getting close. The Sign for Bayview Lodge passes, only a few more miles before the turn towards the finish at Fortune Bay Casino. The trail now looks like a superhighway for snowmobiles. Puts me in mind of some of the pics I've seen of the Iditarod trail, sparce scrubby evergreen trees and expansive spaces.

Finally I see the turn for the Casino, up a nice steep hill naturally. But it's a nicely packed hill, almost like riding pavement. The next few miles roll by quick with a buzz of snowmobile traffic and fast hardpacked snow. One last grunt up off the trail into the parking lot of the casino. A finish banner hangs overhead, but the finish is upstairs in the casino. Just a little more route finding to do inside, two more sets of stairs, and finally into a mostly empty banquet room for the finish.

There was only one volunteer taking names and times and updating the other volunteers at the finish area. I never saw the winner after I got to the casino. 2nd place Charlie Farrow wandered in after awhile. Then I took a shower and went to get something to eat. Eventually half a dozen people (finishers and dropouts)showed up. Lindsay Gauld, Lance Andre, Dave Pramaan. Talking with fellow bike nerd Dave Grey of Surly Bicycles was interesting. And then I started to fall off the deep end of consciousness, so we loaded up and headed for home.
I started the race at 7:45am Monday and finished at 9:08am Tuesday, 25 hours and 23minutes total. 4 hours and 23 minutes behind the leader, Terry Brannick, and 3 hours and 25minutes behind second place Charlie Farrow. The rest of the results can be found here.

This race was everything I was hoping it would be and more. Truly a stepping stone for larger more self sustained multi-day events, whether it be racing or touring. Much was learned, yet there is much to learn.

Many thanks to my parents for "crewing" and not freaking out, Pierre and Cheryl Ostor for putting together such a great event, all the volunteers and fellow racers for helping make the event what it is, and to Lance Andre for providing the stepping stone of Triple D that got me into this frigid obcession in the first place.

I can't put my finger on what it is that makes this sort of event so appealing to me, all I can say is that this was the most enduring event I've ever done, and yet the most lucrative. The gear and knowledge required to finish this event is the most expensive and rewarding that I've ever strived for. Who knew racing at 8mph could be so addictive.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Time up

Well I'm out of test time. Heading for the Arrowhead today, mandatory gear check tomorrow, race starts Monday morning. Hoping this doesn't turn out to be another pushbike race. Hope to finish...and if that goes well, I hope to finish sometime early Tuesday morning.

A box of goodies from Epic Designs was on the counter when I got home from the Triple D. The frame bag here is going to be a year round fixture for all my adventures. 2 liters of water, spare tube, tire levers, patch kit, microtool, large pot and MSR Dragonfly for melting snow, 22oz of white gas, 4.8Ah LiPo battery stuffed in a beer coozie for my light system, super utility shears, a little room to spare, and a little pouch on the other side for small stuff. Really nice bag.

I also ordered a set of poagies, Super twinkie seat bag, gas tank, and handlebar harness. Pretty much kitted up.

The poagies are super deluxe, pouches top and bottom, anti sag staps inside, reflective stripes across the front, super duper warm. I've got my goggles stuffed in the bottom pocket on one side and my heavy fleece balaclava on the other side. Headlamp, sunscreen, and compass in the top pockets.
The gas tank is the logical place for food, behind the stem, easy one mitten operational double zip flap. I'm still fiddling with how exactly to organize food. I'm prolly carrying too much. I've also got my GPS backup battery in the gas tank, and a thermometer on the zip pull.
Super twinkie does indeed defy gravity, living up to its frameless seatbag claims. Super twinkie is the largest seatbag Eric makes, and yet it seemed a bit small compared to the original gear pile I had layed out. I've pared my pile down, simplified, and now still prolly have more than I need, but there is a little room in the bag. I've got three sets of ultralight polyester tops, three heavy weight microfleece bottoms, three sets of heavy fleece socks, and three sets of fleece hooded mitts in the main compartment bagged up in slide lock bags for easy base layer changes at the three checkpoints. I've got matches, small first aid supply, IB profin, four sets of toe warmers, fire tinder, zip ties, tp, and spare batteries all neatly packed in a ziplock and stuffed in the top pouch of the seat bag. Seat bag is 7lbs packed.
The handlebar harness was originally designed for summer roll use, but I had Eric make it with extra long straps for my winter roll. Unfortunately my huge sleep roll rubbed tire and there were too many buckles to mess with in the cold. I was also having issue with my headlight reflecting off the roll when mounted on bars.
The solution to all this was a superlight custom front rack/light mount/fender.

I also made a massive Tyvek rolltop duffel bag to tidy things up a little. Still looks huge, but it works really well. I've taken to throwing my down jacket and pants in there too so I don't have to fight stuffing them into the seat bag, and it simplifies my order of events and organization for bivying. Front roll contains a Stevens Warmlite bag in a Nemo GoGo 1person tent, down pillow, 2 peices of closed cell foam for hips and shoulders(if I'm in a hurry, if not I'll spend +20minutes airing up the down air mattress), Feather Friends down jacket, and Mountain Hardware compressor pants, all rolled up in a tyvek roll top duffel weighing in at 12.5lbs.

I'm using vapor barrior socks and a jacket, so my insulating layers won't get soaked, but I still wear a light baselayer as a rash gaurd on top. It'll be awfully nice to change out that baselayer during checkpoints. I'm using a lightweight waterproof shell pant over the heavyweight microfleece that should proove a little more versatile than my tights. I may keep the RBH insulated vapor barrior socks on for the duration of the event, but I wanted a backup with the fleece socks. My feet are my weak point, but I think I may have that solved with a two part solution:
A)Steger Mukeluks, 2 sizes big/doublewide(size 15 doublewide!), two 9mm felt insoles and a 9mm felt boot liner per boot. Inuit ninja boot these are.

B)MKS Grip king pedals with power grips. I've become accustomed to being able to spin and pull up on the pedals with clipless. It has become a big part of how I got started on barely rideable surfaces. Massive platform pedals allow me to keep my warm feet and Power Grips allow me to spin, brilliant.

These Inuit ninja boots have really soft soles, hence you start to feel the pedal profile after a few hours.
Solution to this was custom carbon insole. Still enough flex to keep circulation in my feet, with a little help spreading the pressure a bit. Old school meets new school.

Ok...there's more...there's always more, but I'm in International Falls now and I really should get some sleep. Testing resumes... for the next two-ish days.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Type 2 fun specialist

I guess that's it. Good at suffering. What a stupid skill.

This has been an interesting year already.
New years weekend I made the trip up to NE IA to pick up some vital Puglsey parts, visit friends, and play in the snow a bit. Ended up hiking all over Lee and Andrea's farm(s) looking for good boarding hills and just exploring.
They even have evidence:

That turned out to be the best run of the day. The problem with my current out of bounds boarding setup is twofold: A)not enough float in the nose of the board and B)local terrain is not deep enough to clear the saplings and brush. This leads to handstands without using my hands, hanging upside down from saplings unintentionally, excessive cursing, ect. And I managed to crack the step-in interface on my no-longer-supported-or-in-existence Burton step in boots.
Guess that means I'll be making the move to hardboots sooner than I thought. But that also ends this seasons boarding, as a hardboot setup is no small investment.
Other entertainment at the Venteicher house included watching a gamer addict horror movie that's gonna be hard to scrub from my mind, trying to burn their house down with my initial penny stove water boiling test, leaving the state for a fabulous dinner at Miami Springs, camping in their back yard in freezing rain, and drifting the pugsley to the Quick Trip for groceries.

This past weekend was the second running of the Triple D snowbike race. Last year was a real learning experience, working my ass off to go in a straight line while the Pugsleys floated away, and then freezing my feet in the dark of night to be one of four who finished. Sufferfests are so addictive. Lots of research and investment has gone into preparing for Triple D and Arrowhead this year. Lots of time out in the cold and wind on studded tires, cranking out miles. Learning how to stay warm in the coldest of conditions. A fair amount of time spent walking next to my bike, to be honest.

I stopped by the Heritage trail on the way home from Waukon the weekend before, and the trail was solid lumpy ice. Studded tires for sure. So I went home, did one hard ride on the Endomorphs just to get a feel for them(really fast for a big tire), then swapped the 2.4 Nokian studs onto the Large Marge rims. Went for a ride on the studs that Thursday, no way, studs on the Puglsey was just too damn slow. Hope for snow, swap the tires back.

I had decided to carpool with Tracy, and we were going to go preride some of the trail to help figure out the tire situation, so I was up at 4:30am to drive to Burlington. We figured this race should be a heck of alot faster than last year, no need to stay overnight. Driving conditions were slow with alot of fresh snow on the roads. We ended up in Dubuque without any preride time, just as well, lots of snow gives the advantage to fat tires anyways right?

Ride around the parking lot half a dozen times, letting air out of my tires till I think they're pretty low. Packed pretty light this year, maybe 12lbs of dry clothes, tools, spares on my back. Lots of food and 2 liters of water strapped to the frame and in the frame bag. Pretty soon its time for the race start. Lots of studded tires, lots of Pugsleys.

The neutral rollout through town is alot of hilarity as everyone tries to stay upright on the partially plowed streets. Then we hit the totally untouched pavetrail. Maybe 4-5inches of sugary powder snow, with patches of hidden ice. Following the narrow tracks of studded tires is less than entertaining on fat tires, throws me all over. Ice is hell, snow slipping on ice, cursing myself for leaving my YakTracks in the car, not the last time. Turn the corner up the long hill(1-2mile), Tracy powers by and I follow. We almost start the hike a bike directly after the climb, but end up riding the road till we start heading North out of town. Then the 2mph pushbike race starts.

The pack doesn't split up much when we're all pushing bikes, you can still hear everybody is basically still here. There's a few more rideable spots for the studded folks, so I have to run to keep up. I run myself up to second place. Cory is riding well in the lead. Good thing the pugs floats, at least it's easier to push. One last section of gravel, surf through 8" of fresh powder on the level B, and drop down onto the Heritage trail, which is unfortunately untracked and unrideable. Back to the hike a bike line. Hike through the frozen creekbeds at several washed out bridge sites, look over to see riders riding the gravel road next to the trail, crap, missed a re-route. Hike over to the gravel, ride 500ft, turn, hike back to the trail, fall on my face trying to get onto the trail bed.

Keep pushing, still not rideable. Finally we cross onto the open portion of trail where there has been maybe two snowmobiles down the trail since the new snow fell. Still can't ride. Pramann is walking right behind me, he says this shit would never happen in Minnesota. Drop the pressure till it sounds like the air stopped coming out. Try again, ride a little, break through, ride a little, break through. Stupid skinny tracks throwing me all over, and they're not even riding. Finally push ahead enough to get ahead of everyone. Try riding. Holy shit, it's working! I'm gong 4mph instead of 2, but it's working! 10 minutes later there's a paceline of three Pugsleys and one skinny tire rider and nobody else is in sight. Lance, Pramann, Tom, and myself. We take turns making a trail to follow, except Tom who pretty much has to follow to ride at all with the skinny tires.

It's brutal work trying to stay smooth, stay in a straight line, stay upright. Following is so much easier. We come to another bridge out and the snowmobile tracks go out through the field. Follow the possibly rideable tracks or hike a bike down the trail? Lance and I follow the tracks, Pramann and Tom hike on. We end up hiking up the mother of all hills for the day just to get back to the trail. Dave and Tom waited briefly, and then split as soon as they saw us coming down the hill. I manage to bend the seat rails on my saddle coming out of the ditch and twist my Ergons down when I about lose it on the icy gravel. Wrench the seat back up, good steel rails. Now Dave and Tom have a good gap on us. I manage to reel Tom in pretty fast, but Pramann is floating away.

We get to the crossroad for Farley and the sled tracks improve greatly, so I up the tempo. I seem to have lost my followers, but I'm gaining on Dave. The windswept plains give me a break with a couple of gravel patches peaking out for a boost in speed. I pass Dave a little less than halfway between Farley and Dyersville and keep hammering. Deflated Endomorphs feel terrible on hard surfaces. Make it to Dyersville at 6:21pm in time to snatch the only burger at the gas station. Wait around to see what the plan is, are we really gonna ride back through all that? Who's left anyways? Anyone? The pace is already slower than last year, at this rate I wouldn't make it back till after midnight! Not sure I have a ride home at that time. Dave pulls in and bags it. Lance shows up saying something about getting water out of the creek? Tom shows up and bags it. I've about had enough fun myself. Lance pulls out his dry socks which are wet, and puts them on. Crap, I'm not done yet. Put my dry stuff on. We agree to ride back to Farley. Anything past that is gonna suck. Cory shows up just as we're leaving. Hammer back to Farley, feeling pretty good. Discuss the options, more "fun" or ride into Farley and save it for another day. Ride into Farley. Call Tracy for retrieval, eat another burger, and drive home(after a stop at Dairy Queen). The end.

Congrats to Cory for playing the game well and beating me out of first by pushing that extra two miles. You earned it.

Thanks to Lance for putting together an event for nutcases to gather.

Thanks to Tracy for retrieving me.

Full results to be found here.