Monday, April 13, 2015

PT- ITI 2015

It’s been a month since this year’s grueling Iditarod trail invitational experience.  Processing, 'debriefing' on the phone or email with Jeff, night sweats, 15 lb weight loss, energy fluctuations, body temperature fluctuations and staring into space make it seem more like PTSD than a post race recovery.  Physical recovery this year was actually much better than last year but it’s been hard to merge back into ‘the real world’.  I think I am finally ready to write about it and hopefully can do it in one sitting so I don’t abandon another write up. 

Last Year
It’s been a long time since I sat in front of my computer to write on this site.  I can hardly believe that I left last year’s ITI race hanging as well as the ironman write up and the Deering Trip.   

While last years ITI, a virtual speedway ice course, was my fastest time into Nome at 12 days and change I was plagued with physical ailments.  I had granulating oozing saddle sores that only let me ride standing up, my typical horrible edema, bad hand numbness and yes, I got ‘lost’ for a wee bit during the ocean ice crossing in a blizzard to Koyuk.  I would like to write that up in detail sometime because it was a good lesson.  I was complacent with the familiarity of the coast, a dangerous place to be comlacent and the experience humbled me.  I had retreated to the shelter cabin by reindeer cove 14 miles outside of Shaktoolik shattered, vision failing (thought I frost bit my eyes) and assured I would have to lay in my sleeping bag till someone found me.  Certain it was race-over. But I recovered and ended up in Koyuk- a 24+ hr ordeal that almost initiated a search party. 

That was last year. 

This Year
This year I wanted to recoup another trip to Nome. I wanted to place better than 3rd. I wanted to try the southern route. And I wanted to start in better physical shape. I ended up with 2 of the 4.  

I was healthier this year, had longer rides and felt in better shape, thanks to LW.  I also managed to get a new bike—a last minute decision based on finances BUT Greg at Speedway worked wonders and my new Corvus was ready to roll.  The bike was insane and rode like a dream.  Huge Thanks to Greg! Although in typical 'me' fashion I did not ride a mile on it before the race…. You’d think I’d learn. 

Eric the Great at Relevate Designs made me a frame bag and saddle bags from ultralight cuben fiber. They were unbelievable. Light and roomy. I was able to pack my bike to the point where I didn’t have to trim because of room but had to trim because I HAD room and wanted to reduce weight! AND I didn’t have one thing strapped to the handle bars. Thank you Eric!

The saddle bags were a dream to put food and bulk in and out easily during the course of the race.  My setup was so much better than last year, I was pleased.  The only decision I had to make was which saddle to take. I previously used the Adamo saddle with cutout but all my training rides were on a traditional road saddle.  I never made the switch because oddly I found that the road saddle caused no soreness.  When I did switch to my adamo it was uncomfortable.   So I kept the road saddle.  The best decision ever.  Along with Greg’s recommendation of bag-o-balm and the saddle I had NO problems.  I could ride all day seated if I wanted.  A first.

Good Decisions:
Other good decisions:
·      two different bike shorts.
·      a pair of light micro-puffy shorts made by LaSportiva.  I always find my light bibs give me a cold butt but I don’t want to add a base layer. The shorts have side zips too and between the bib zips and short zips I can ride in … lets say 40 degree heat of mid-winter (like outside of Rohn) down to -40 with only an additional base layer and zipped up  (like on the Yukon).  I only had to pull my puffy pants for bivies.
·      I also padded the heck out of my handlebars with pipe foam—5 layers instead of my usual 2 or 3.  BEST decision, no hand numbness at all. 

This winter in Nome was the best riding season I have seen because a couple of early storms in November dropped some snow cover, followed with cold snaps and then, basically, no snow.  The trails were hard packed, fast and allowed good rides.  Not as good as Fairbanks riding but still good for Nome.  About a month before the race the temps started rising and… uh-oh it was weeks of above freezing temps, rain, overflow galore. Iron dog was a glorified mess of open water and raw tundra and dirt. Iditarod moved their race to Fairbanks for the start and that left the ITI to assume the northern route following irondog.  The reassurance of a full battalion of dog mushers and trail breakers will not be there this year. A snow storm in the wrong spot during the ITI (pre-ruby) and one could really be snowed in.... which became a reality to a few.

Many ITI racers were talking about rain gear and wiggies up to the hip.  Luckily the temps started dropping, froze overflow and the trail.  The race lineup was heavy with fast fast fast racers.  Raceday was glorious and thank you Dave again for driving me to the start line and Mike for hosting me. 

The Race Start
Before I knew it the race started.  Per the usual, I fell on the ice before leaving knik lake, a tradition it seems for me.  I ended up riding the route of the old Iditarod trail with Jeff and Heather instead of the road and powerline trails to flathorn.  I have tried this trail a few times and always thought that on a hard packed year the shorter traditional route would be faster.  I can say with absolute certainty this is not true.  We came out on flathorn believing we were seeing leaders crossing the lake but it was actually mid pack.  Wow.  Bad move.  I was also having problems with my drive train at this point.  I didn’t know what it was but my freehub ‘froze’ in place and turned my bike into a fixie that dropped the chain if my legs didn’t keep up.  It was weird.  I arrived at Yentna at 8:10—2 hrs behind the lead group. I moved on to Skwentna in fixie mode and got there around midnight.  Just in time to see JP leave after he slept for 2 hrs.  I was concerned about the hub and thought I should call Greg and have a freehub sent to ...well I didn't really know where.  I would just have to ride fixie till then, at least it wasn't free spinning.  Fortunately, when I left Skwentna the problem resolved itself.  I shrugged my shoulders and said “cool”.  I’m no Pete Basinger mechanic btw.  (Over the course of the race it occurred intermittently and turned out it was a broken pawl in the hub that bound it up at times.  Eventually after Koyuk I ground the piece to a pulp and voila excellent operation.)  At shell hills it was late but I wasn’t tired and kept moving. I was risking a lack of rest (for Nome at least) to keep moving but it was warm enough to bivy anywhere quickly if I needed.  Moving towards Fingerlake I saw a light heading in the opposite direction directly at me.  That was interesting.  It was a bike and when he rode up he said he was Toni Lund and missed the turn on the lake following someone else’s tracks.  He made it up on the trail but headed in the wrong direction.  I kept moving toward Finger getting there around 6 or 7am.   A bad time to try to sleep but managed maybe an hour and left around 10:30.  I was not feeling particularly strong and my stomach was upset.  The happy steps went ok, Jeff and Heather caught me at Shirley lake when I had to unpack all my gear to get my bike up a super steep hill, really a cliff that has a lot more snow typically to at least push the bike up.  We helped each other up and then traveled to Rainy lodge around 3:30 in the afternoon.  
somewhere between Rohn and Nikolai.

Leaders were blazing fast leaving puntilla 6 hrs ago! I was glad, at least that I was running around 10th instead of 21st like the first checkpoint at Yentna.  Jeff, Heather and myself left Puntilla at 4:30-ish and  rolled into Rohn midnight or 1am maybe? I actually can't remember the run to Rohn, which is why I wrote a single sentence.  Huh, weird. Still a surprising fast run considering the sketchy conditions in the Dalzell.  I had 2 awesome brat dogs and slept really well for 4 hrs.  My stomach felt horrible though when I woke and was grateful Toni Lund was there to offer up some tums.  I left Rohn sometime in the early morning.  Daylight came and the weather changed to a snow and blow.  The temps were still warm (at one point we saw a mosquito) but I felt bad for anyone heading over the pass as I think the conditions up there deteriorated.  I joined up with the Heather and Jeff and we more or less rode to Nikolai together.  When we started hitting the tussoks after buffalo camp I finally started feeling better.  My stomach was improving and I was able to ride stronger.  We got into Nikolai in the early afternoon —super fast time in comparison to “normal” years and left with Charly Tri an hour later.  The group  dropped me easily and was only able to catch up at their breaks.  I had to check a couple of times how fast we were riding and they were hitting 12-13 mph the closer to McGrath we got, while I was lucky to hit 10 or 11.  Fast for me.  We all ended together but I was certainly the slowest of the bunch.  We finished McGrath at 10pm in 2 days 8 hrs…. whaaaat??  That’s my fastest time to McGrath. I was floored at the speed of the lead group at 1 day 18hrs…?!? faster than sled dogs… insane.  The temps were insane too, high 40’s.  Next up…. The race to Nome: -40/-50 temps, snow storm, grinding, edema galore and a doggy encounter…. I guess I couldn't do it in one sitting, my mind is fried. Hopefully I’ll keep writing this one…it gets good, meaning brutal.
overflow after Rohn 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

IM Canada (Swim)

3:00 am came too soon (does it ever come too late?) but I actually slept pretty good and was awake.  Kirk and friends were moving around and we ate breakfast, coffee and headed out to the shuttle to bring us over to the swim start.  The early morning was chilly (in the 50's) but very clear and felt like a great race day.   The shuttle ride, borrowing a pump to air up tires and a lot of nervous peeing in the wetsuit was the blur of how it went till the mass start.

At the 5 minute till race mark I swam out to the bouey and treaded water about the 3rd row back.  The water was chilly (66 degrees) but I had my earplugs in and extra head cap for warmth.  All of sudden the gun went off and it was a churning mess.  2000 or so swimmers full of arms and legs.  The first 200 meters were fine and I was out front a bit more than I should I have been.  It was 4 turns per lap and two laps.  A lot of bottlenecks.  My arms, as all previous times with a wetsuit, were tight and heavy.  I hate hate hate the feeling of swimming in a wetsuit.  If I slowed down I would get run over and if I sped up I would run people over.  I tried to feel a groove and actually started swimming ok, a bit slow but ok.  The last turn finally came and I swam to shore.  Wow the first leg was over and my watch showed 1:05 out of the water-- 1:07 according to timing chip.  Not great by any means and I really need to evaluate the wetsuit-- my out of shape 100m average is easily a 1:30 split and I can do that all day long (in a warm pool).  My race pace in "shape" (these days) for the 1600m is a 1:20 average per 100m.  I just don't see how with a wetsuit (which is supposed to be faster) puts me at a 1:44 per 100m. I know it's an open cold water swim but still I don't understand it and should look further (better fit?) if I do another one of these b/c I always feel much worse with a wetsuit than without.

In any case I was not very tired (or dizzy) and that was the most important. Someone came over and stripped my wetsuit off and I went into the changing tent.  I took my time and ate a bunch of gu's, powerbar fruit thingy's, drank a lot and then ran over to my bike.... and here comes one heck of a long ride.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ironman Canada

Exactly a year ago I signed up for the Ironman Canada after a good friend convinced me to enter the race.  I have always been interested in completing a full ironman event but the expense, time away and  frequent sell outs have been limiting factors.  In 2011 I did two half's a week apart while visiting family and completed both in 5hrs even.  Of course I was expecting to do around a 10:30 or thereof... seemed reasonable- I actually felt fitter than a few years ago and LW has helped me incredibly the past couple of ITI races.

Well, after this years ITI my body was trashed and had to recover for a month before I started swimming in the pool.  Almost exclusively I swam building to 9-10km a week in the pool and finally felt good swimming-- till our pool closed in early June.  Then I switched back to training on the bike for a month and even completed the training "ride" across the seward peninsula as well as lots of biking in Maui. I had been running a little bit interspersed but not a lot, albeit the foreshadowing to my downfall.  I completed runs but overall felt lethargic- not sure if left over from ITI. In either case I managed a 20 miler two weeks before the Ironman in about 3 hours very casually and slowly.   I felt like I could "easily" do at least 3:45 or 4:00.  Yep not so much.

Kirk and me-- I should probably wear a hat these days...
About a month before the race I was in Maui talking with a fellow Ride to the Sun racer. He was from Canada and I was talking about the Ironman race and somehow he mentioned "passport"... then it clicked...oops.  I haven't traveled international since the kids were born and knew the passport was expired.  When I returned I had almost 3 weeks till race day.... In Nome Alaska there is no passport agency, in Alaska there is no passport agency.  I had to risk an expedited mailing. As a result I had no idea if I would be going.  Additionally, I had no tri bike.  I was in the middle of transforming my road bike but as a result of previous rides in Nome the rear derailleur was broken as well as the whole drivetrain and brake / shifter cables. In Nome Ak there are no bikes shops so my Amazon ordering (months ago) resulted in wrong parts and delays.  Foreshadowing, part II.

Was I nervous about not making the race and not having a bike?  Eh not really it just seems so me and worse case I don't race and lose an AK miles ticket. Typical. Amazingly, at 5 days pre race departure I rec'd my passport! Whew! Then.... two days before departure I received the balance of my bike parts.... I frantically put it together and hoped for the best.  

That's a LOT of expensive bikes!
Departure day.  I hopped on the plane and 12 hours later was in Vancouver.  The next day I met my friend Kirk and we drove to Whistler.  The scenery was incredible, Whistler was simply beautiful. The temps were mild and even chilly at night.  Pre race events and spending were 'fun'. I put my bike together and it seemed to all work out.  The swim course was in a lake that was about 66 degrees and I could tell that I haven't swam in a while.  The wetsuit, as always, felt constricting.  The cold water stimulated my balance canals (i.e. dizzy) so I used earplugs which worked great.  Everything was looking good.

Race day:   Next Post.... if I get around to writing again!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Deering to Nome (1)

Every now and then I get it down just right, a perfect misadventure.  Some people ask why would one live in Nome, well this is why. It was perfect because I managed to convince a few friends this would be a worthwhile adventure and we had a blast. I couldn't ask for better company. I did not expect it to be as grueling but nonetheless it was fantastic.  In 2008 I did a trip with a friend, Tyler, to a place I was fascinated in and very difficult to get to called, Imuruk Lake.  We never made it-- as the conditions were brutal but I held on to the fact that I have heard there was a trail or even a "road" that was used in the gold rush days and up to the recent era to Deering and have been fascinated with the interior peninsula.  Since that trip in 2008 I have always wanted to get back into that country, a desolate, very unvisited place in Alaska that runs through the upper middle of Seward peninsula and through the National Bering Preserve (the foundation of the Beringia landbridge concept).  It was beautiful. And horrible. And not for the faint of heart.  I somehow thought that since Tyler and I ditched mountain bikes previously that a fat bike would work just fine.... at least some of the trail.... wrong again.

At first it was just me and my friend Chris, who was new to fatbiking but was experienced in hunting and back country Nomenclature.  He was always up for an adventure and has been teasing me that we haven't done anything since 2009 . Then I asked my wonderful friends in Fairbanks, Jeff Oatley and Heather Best if they would want to join us in this cool adventure.  What a great alignment of the stars because we all went, the logistics worked out for Bering Air to drop us in Deering and the weather was awesome...... After a bunch of back and forth emails, logistics, discussions we agreed to fly to Deering on Bering Air and just "ride" all the way back to Nome.  It was a good thing we flew to there because if we drove up the Kougarock road from Nome (original plan) we would have turned back. Yes it was bad trail and ended up all pushing.... almost all of it till the Kougarock.

Getting ready to leave from Nome

Landed in Deering
Bike packed in the caravan plane.
Imuruk lake from the air.

the road at first was great.....

then the "road" ran out and... well let's just say it was good ITI training for the pushing part of that race....

Monday, July 7, 2014

Oh shots

What can one say, ahhhh Maui.... You just don't have to write up much in such paradise.... some day we will live here...
GREAT Bike rides....

West Maui Loop (multiple times, it just doesn't get old)

Cane Spiders
Fighting Lizards
Date Night(s)


Pali Run

Beautiful wife

Hike into Haleakala crater

Exploring little know lava tube


Monday, June 30, 2014

Cycle to the Sun Race

I have had a couple of misadventures since the ITI staying true to the blog title but have not been able to write it up.  Heck I am still working on the best part of my ITI where I cut out my bike shorts so my saddle oozes wouldn't touch fabric... but that's another story.  My latest venture is the cycle to the sun race.  Yes I went roadie... for a second.  I happen to be in Maui with the family and while renting a road bike the worker at the shop said "hey there is the cycle to the sun race up Haleakela this weekend you should see if you can sign up".  So I did, thinking it would be the perfect training ride before Ironman Canada next month... yes another misadventure waiting to happen. 

What the heck, I did the ride a few years ago with a mountain bike it'll be way faster on a road bike.  It was but I started further down toward Paia a town on the ocean. Also there is just no way around suffering on a 36 mile uphill.... racing... with fast cyclists.  It was an awesome race with people, did I mention it already, that were really fast road cyclists. I only managed 63rd place at 4 hrs 7 min although my strava says 4 hrs 8 min, I don't think it makes much difference.  The winner did it in 2 hrs 47 min....I have no pictures, I was pretty wasted at the top as if the heat and altitude weren't enough there was no wind and these wild Alaska type swarming bugs were driving me batty. I wanted down ASAP.  The race org won't let you ride back down so I had to hitch a ride with someone. Let's just say I almost hurled on the way down... going up on a bike is way better than a car!!

What's the race detail?  I will say no more and just show the profile and highly recommend it:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

...and then what? Ophir to Nulato

When I glanced at my last post I couldn't help but over analyze the words.  So just for clarification the only reason I was bombing down the hills first was because I had a cool 700 watt kickass nite rider light. The following day Jeff dropped me like a bad date and the chivalrous guy he was he stuck with his bad date till the next evening before I said, "no you go ahead, I'll catch up to you later." Ha famous last words.   

Anywho, that next day waking up from the ophir landing strip I was amazed.  I was amazed that it was warm. Amazed at what felt like a good night sleep, though took a few hours of groggy riding to feel it. And amazed the conditions were basically perfect.  While we were going through what in past years had been a certifiable hell, Jeff turned and said "so where is this bad section you were talking about?" I was really at a loss, I just can't believe how different it felt. I swear it was bad in the past! It must have been the company for one.... and for another maybe the cabin(s) on the upcoming trail felt like added safety and the weather / trail were really awesome.  It had to be it because I started having conversations in my head analyzing those feelings-- I just can't get over how one year things could be so horrible and the same section undeniably fine.  Last time I went through here I fell in overflow over my knee at -30 and was pretty worried about frostbite.... this time was muuuuch better I fell in overflow on my back and the water came in my open side zips / pit zips but it was only 20 above so we're good.

Jeff (who made it just fine across overflow) Oatley

Innoko Cabin
As the day wore on conditions continued to be great but I started feeling, not so great.  On reflection I was eating non-stop when I left McGrath till about the first cabin at the Innoko crossing.  We ate great there, melted snow, felt good and then I decided to put butt butter on the ole tush.... and about fell over in pain.  I have never felt pain like that and just stood there cursing for about 5 minutes and knew something was deeply wrong with me.  The saddle sores would not get better over time. This was serious.  After we left I was worried and believe I stopped stuffing my face on the fly because I began riding more out of the saddle. The whole afternoon I was depleting.  I was fading on those big rollers before the second Innoko crossing and the second cabin.  If you did the northern route you know what I speak of...At that point I knew I was in a bit of trouble.  This is where Jeff and I parted, he was on fire and I wanted to sit next to one.. to dry out... at the cabin.

First Innoko Crossing
Jeff getting ready to depart Innoko cabin
I slathered neosporin on my nether regions hung my wet overflowed clothes and tried to sleep.  It didn't work and after 2 hrs most everything was dry and I just wanted to get out on the trail to catch up.  I ate a bunch and felt decent to wolf kill slough (drop point) and picked up my *only* planned drop till Unalakleet.  It felt good to have my own packed food and I just sat in the trail and ate and ate! I left, eventually, and there were a lot of sharp hills so stand-up riding did not feel awkward.   The hours flew by and around 3 am I passed Aiden sleeping in a bivy and moved on a few miles later I passed Jeff sleeping.  I called his name and shined a light but no answer, I knew I had to sleep and went to find the next patch of pine boughs about a mile up and lay down. It was around 4 or 5am.  I slept 2 hours and Jeff woke me and said I should get going.  I promptly fell asleep again.  An hour later I got up, packed and took off. It was a bit after Poorman and it was on this day that I struggled mightily with denial on my butt.  I stopped often to try to get a groove where I could sit... the pain just worsened.  I tried every possible seat position, used mole skin and all to no avail.

Poorman area (beautiful sunrise)

Poorman area

At exactly the Sulatna crossing I decided "that's it." I mentally made a decision not to sit on the seat from here on out and that's what I did.  The hills were brutal to Ruby and I stopped often but made pretty good time. I arrived in Ruby about an hour after Jeff.  I went to the school to try to get my drop but to no avail.  I didn't know what to do (heard Aiden and Jeff blew through Ruby which seemed impossible) and was led to a home, I decided to sleep for the night and make a big push along the whole Yukon.  I rested, showered and for the first time was able to take a look at my ass.  It was not an abscess (something to pop) it was something much worse.  I rested well, ate and left about 4 am a 10-11 hr stop!  My plan was a go for non-stop till Nulato or Kaltag or more!

On the Yukon
I felt good. Mostly because I simply decided not to sit and my knees stopped hurting. I made Galena by 10 or 11am went to the only store I could find (liquor store) and stocked up on food, ate and left by 1pm. No drop... again...- post office closed on Saturday. From here till Kaltag was a griiiiind.  Lots of snow machine traffic churning the trail... I lost time here, the stand up riding killed me and I was not eating and I kept stopping.  I kept going, lots of endos, punchy trail and I had no idea how far up Aiden or Jeff were.  By 1 or 2 am that night I was totally bonked and weaving badly... I would stop and glaze at the stars that looked like a planetarium-- weaving like a drunk and zoning out.... Here this is what it's like:

The weather was so mild I just wanted to sleep next to the trail.... and that's what I did.  I could see the lights of Nulato but I was toast. I crawled in my sleeping bag about 20 yards off trail---2 am on a friday night on the yukon with basketball tournaments could be dangerous with fast snow machines.  Then about 4am I heard the braaap of a super fast machine blow by me and then the unmistakable whine of fast braking.  This was followed by a the machine racing up to my sleeping bag.....

Endo on the Yukon