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.