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Sunday, March 31, 2013


This is a screen shot of wild man Billy Koitzsch STILL riding his fatbike heading to Fairbanks, day 40-ish?.  He started a week or so before ITI this year at Knik or maybe Big Lake and then finished in Nome alongside Bob Ostrom (ITI bike finisher). 

I met up with Billy in Rohn and we were talking about the race, his frost bitten feet from last year and his intent to finish in Nome and then head back to Fairbanks.  I kind of thought, "that's cool..." but never thought he would be able to do it.  There is too much variability and to turn around in Nome would be a really difficult-- scratch that-- an impossible thing to do... He did it though and headed back down the coast to Kaltag on the Yukon made a left and is now past Ruby;. the reportely "iffy" section from Ruby to Tanana, where there is usually not a lot of travel.

That is pretty insane, go Billy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

ITI wrap

The 2013 ITI is a wrap- (though I still have to write up my last section into McGrath- I actually forgot..)  It was a wrap for me weeks ago in McGrath but for the hardcore folks going to Nome the race had just started at that time. Living at the finishing town of the ITI we try to at least welcome the finishers or let Nome know an approximate time they are visible.  We missed a few coming in late into the night but managed to see

Mike Curiak (though not part of the ITI this year)...  (he posted some of the best pictures I've ever seen and has me rethinking taking a camera... normally I thought, "how many pictures can one take of a trail, facial agony, fat bikes or scenery that may look nice post race but who cares during the race" but his pictures, just wow....)

...MC snoozing on the couch right before my kids started harassing him...

... Ausilia and Sebastian from Italy....

Of course Tim Hewitt, who I can't even begin to imagine what he did... self support the whole way... and he looked fine. His stories, as usual, were amazing-- wolf charge, overflow, dealing with rain while not being able to dry out inside (and no campfire either)....

...Beat and Marco

Jill Homer came to visit while waiting for Beat to come in to Nome.  I think it's so great to have Hahnah and Joe exposed to such really interesting and unique endurance folks. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

ITI 2013 (d)

As I rode up the valley to Rainy Pass I felt as if I were flying.  I reached landmarks rapidly that in previous years took hours upon hours: "did I really just pass that hill that took 10 hrs to reach one year....   Wow I remember these willows were so deep with snow I just wanted to curl up in a bivy ball...".  Unfortunately, after a few hours I started feeling nausea and my riding, although riding, was painful.  I turned around and could see a light in the distance making some ground on me-- I think this was Jason or Brian.  It kept me moving into the rainy approach but I was not feeling well here.  I rode all the way to the "bobsled" gulley (as I call it) and then pushed up to the plateau and kept riding through the willows to the top of the pass-- I can''t remember the time exactly but accoring to my GPS above it took about 6 hours to the top (10-11am).   On the other side I was running the bike down through the fluff and then saw a group of bikers up ahead.  Excellent, I thought! As I caught up I saw it was the Curiak Gang, darn! We chatted a bit then saw Jason or Brian coming up and I took off.  The trail turned bomber and I rode with glee at a break neck rate of speed.  After a couple of spectacular crashes into snow I thought I needed to just let off the brake and let it roll.   Eh, I think the glucose was absent from the brain because I happily thought the moose holes were an obstacle course.  I rode into Rohn a bit recharged and greeted Rob.  It's always a pleasure to see him and commended the Rohn group on spectacular ice bridges. Bill K and I were the only ones there, all the leaders already took off 3 hrs ago.  I was somewhat bummed and ate food.  I went through my drop 3/4 of which I left.  Amazing, considering that last year I ran out on all my drops and spent over $200 in candy, alone, at the checkpoints.

As I was prepping for the long run to Nikolai, the Curiak Gang rolled in and Jason and Pete were also into Rohn.   I packed up after due diligence in the outhouse- taking care of the worst most painful butt chafing rash I've ever had the pleasure to experience.  It hurt so bad, it was only alleviated by IBu. Jasper gave me a token Rohn pin and I was off. 

I wiped out huge on the ice last year and took the glare ice gingerly. Once in the buffalo tunnel trees I was not feeling good again.  I stopped to fiddle with my crap-- a sign of ride procrastination that is a massive time waster.   After a few miles of this I turned around and saw Pete motoring.  I was surprised and also rejuvenated to see him.  He looked strong and appeared to have the mojo back.  We spoke a few words of encouragement  and he was off!! Go Pete! This motivated me,  I realized my tires were too low and I aired up rock solid.  There we go, now I was riding but I was still sluggish and believe I bonked here....well till Nikolai. 

I was cold, my feet were cold as the evening wore on and I had to run a bunch.  I added my puffy coat. A bad sign of bonk-age because, while I know it was on the colder side of -20 ish from the farewell lakes till the Buffalo camp it shouldn't warrant all the clothes.  I bombed down the hills, no brakes.  Over and over-- it was fun but once I hit the flats after the last burn hill (other side of the buffalo camp) I was crashing.  The moon was spectacular.  I rode, crashed, slept, crashed, rode, crashed, stopped to procrastinate and then I was overtaken! It was Team Curiak.   I was surprised but we chatted, or at least they said stuff and I was speaking Breek (Bonk Greek).   They moved in front but I soon passed where they cruised into the BLM cabin.  I was tempted but moved on. 

I know know know this section is horrible and endless but I kind of like the place it takes me in the mind.  I actually thought I was getting good at snoozing on my bike while riding and then waking up before I crashed.  In reality I have no idea if that happened all I know is I was in a sleep deprived state where the law of diminishing return applies.  I find I like it.  I just keep moving.... the wind is blowing a bit through the tree sections as the trees thin out.... and then... I see a really nice welcoming group of trees.  I swear it calls out to me... before I know what I am doing I place a pile of pine boughs at the base of a tree, stomp off a small spot and sit down back against the tree.  I try to snooze, my snoring wakes me and the wind found its way into my back.  It is bone chilling.   Time to go.  10 minutes of snooze and 40 minutes wasted will have to do.  

I kept riding. Then comes the aspen tree sections, followed by the swamps and the swamps and the hunting cabin and then more swamps and then the tree islands.... on and on.  A little bit of wind, I put my goggles on.   I just ride.  The goggles and puffy coat make me feel like I am looking out of the window in a house at the weather.  Insulated. Poof!! What happened??  I was face down in a powder hole that was bottomless, bike on top, boots clipped in.... um I couldn't move.  I started losing it and laughing-- exactly like this guy .  I couldn't get out. Finally after a very comical 20 minutes or what seemed like 20 minutes I swam to the trail and laid there looking at the awesome stars.  The  wind blowing snow over me.  Ahhh just to lay there.   No wonder I lost 4 hours on this section. 

I rallied and mounted my bike.  IBu wearing off and I lost my thermos.  Dang.  It was my wife's thermos and I spent time digging in the powder.  I lost her nice leatherman in 2008 race so I know I was going to get a talking to.  Couldn't find it.  Moved on. 

The endless swamps finally plopped onto a river then the Nikolai road and on to the checkpoint at 7am! The house was empty-- leaders left from 1:45am to 3:45 am.  I was already 3-5 hrs behind.  I had to sleep.  I ate (the petruska's checkpoint was awesome!) and lay down and was out- my alarm after 20 min went off then it was 40 min.  I got up, dressed and was out the door by 9am.  I knew it was too late to catch anyone so it was just me and the trail.  Get there as fast as I can.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ITI 2013 (c)

I kind of overlapped the last section on this one,  this measurement has about 6 hrs of dead air where I wasn't recording GPS data.  I probably ran out of batteries and didn't replace or it was just turned off.  I can't remember.  What I do like is the last 4 hrs, this is more or less the steps, notice the heart rate still doesn't get above 120-ish. 

When I stumbled out of finger lake I vaguely recall a conversation with Eszter and Brian about the crazy leader pace and then I ran into Pete! I haven't seen Pete since before flathorn and it was just like dejavu all over again.  I know he was having some knee issues and wasn't feeling the best.  I was tempted to wait and ride with him but I moved on. At that point you never know, Pete's one of those guys that could just smoke everyone if his mojo is on no matter how far behind.  I wasn't feeling the greatest at this point and had some nausea.  I ate and drank some more then cruised.  The trail was good, a bit soft but completely good riding. I kept it moving, feeling better once I hit the hills. Seven hours later I was in Puntilla, I didn't make any ground on the lead group.  I pulled up to Puntilla and they were just leaving (again).  They arrived exactly 2 hrs earlier.  JP was still sticking around to keep eating and I heard Jason in the back snoozing away.  I was 100% sure someone on the rainy section would blow as it doesn't sound like anyone slept during the rest nor the whole race so far. I always bonk hard on this section and every time I hit Rohn I am edemic.  I laid down and slept 90 min on the dot, 1 REM cycle. Woke up ate some more & tried to get out of the checkpoint-- which is always hard. Brian rolled in while I was waking up and then Eszter came in right as I was leaving.   I felt good leaving Puntilla and excited to catch up.  The scenery was spectacular and above the treeline I could see for miles up the valley.  Rainy reminds me so much of Nome in its volatility and scenery that I enjoy this part a lot-- except it's always enjoyed by pushing not riding.  I was floored that I could ride and it was clear moonlit sky! No wind! I felt very rested and up to this point in the race have not bonked.  I felt I held back just enough to prep a solid ride / push over the pass and on to Nikolai.  This was going to be a great day!

ITI 2013 (b)

Since I didn't bring a camera I'll precede each of these posts with my garmin connect data.  Um, yes that's pretty geeky but I am clearly obsessed with physiology data especially after my years with edema.  I thought this was the coolest thing, it has HR, elevation, speed, etc...  The HR is what I really find most fascinating. Maybe because it's the only objective data to look at when I'm feeling like complete crap. Last year I had a generic HR monitor on my watch and what was curious was on the third day as Pete and I were climbing up the steps my heart felt like it was hammering through the roof.  When I looked at the HR monitor it was only 140.  That's super low.  Interesting.  This year you can actually see that the HR drops after about 8-10 hrs.  I only wish I had a power meter to see if it's completely related to power or some other cardio endurance phenomenon.  HR stayed down the rest of the race basically never going above 120-130 and averaging about 105. Quite a difference.

Nutritionally, I ate gu's for the first 12 hrs till I got sick of it and then switched to "real calories".  This is where LW helped a bunch to experiment on what were good foods for this race.  I found by eating mashed potato mix and oatmeal mix I didn't bonk hardly at all because the amount of calories I was able to take in by this method was a lot more than sugar, candy, etc... It's all about the calories, go figure. The food was great though, I had no blisters on the roof of my mouth nor large cravings for candy.  The downside, my stomach felt a bit nauseous and bloated a lot.  Apparently, this could be due to hydration-- still have to refine this.

At the race start I kind of lagged behind this year [last year I made the mistake of going the old traditional way where I was alone grinding or pushing through snow till flathorn]  I followed casually and then a whole gaggle of bikers shot out on the powerline to the point mac road.  A boring but fast ride till the trail and then more boredom.  The problem with repeating this race is knowing all the dull sections.  Personally, I think it's pretty blah till Skwentna.  By the time we hit Flathorn there was quite a bit of snow coming down and I was beginning to wonder if it would be a repetition of last year.  But a dismal dismal swamp ride that gradually improved on the river and by Yentna we were cruising.  I was hanging behind the lead pack a bit and arrived a few minutes after them into Yentna.  They were out quickly.  I ate a fast soup, sodas and then tried to move on.  This piece of river the trail became hard packed and I finally aired up the tires firm (note to self never wait if possible)-- brought a CO2 (along with 2 other small pumps) and although a pain was well worth airing up rapidly.  Temps dropped on the river probably hitting below zero but not terrible at all and actually nice riding.  After last year I felt like super man. I arrived into Skwentna around 4 ish, somehow losing an hour to the lead group.  I ate and left by 5am and caught up to everyone at Shell (who stopped) except for JP who moved right past the lodge.  I ate again at Shell and left about a half hour behind.  This section sometimes is fun if done in the dark but really  sucks in day especially in flat light. It was a grind and pretty soft but I shouldn't complain after pushing the whole section with Pete last year while walkers passed us. Fingerlake popped up and as I retrieved my drop I saw the lead guys packing up to leave.  A few of them seemed unsteady on their feet so I thought they were going to blow up. I'd give an hour sleep a try to really knock the steps section out maybe make a bit of ground.  It's a hard section to do tired. The sleep came for about 20 minutes and then I was restless.  I heard Brian and Eszter come in also trying to sleep.  My alarm went off and up I went stumbling a bit out the door.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

ITI 2013 writeup (a)


The ITI, as it usually does when I get around to writing a race report, is both starting to consciously fade and subconsciously build already for next year.  There are a couple of nice entries here and here written on the ITI recently that capture the way a race can get into your mind.  The ITI is one of those races for me. 
My thanks for this year’s race:  My wife Sarah & family for allowing and supporting me in my ridiculous addiction.  Mike Mraz for housing and always driving me to the race.....and LWcoaching!

Yes, I used Lynda Wallenfalls for her training and coaching advice since last August.  What happens when you use someone that knows how to coach? You become faster, you’re training time is efficient, you understand what your body is doing in these events, and yes for the first time there was no edema (more on that later)!! Thank you Lynda!

There were a couple of fascinating things about this year’s race (IMO): 

First, it was fast. Why? Because of Jeff Oately. If there is anyone to “blame” for the ridiculous pace and lack of sleep it was Jeff- he set the tone for the race and the top group that was following was astoundingly strong. Hats off to Jeff, John, Kevin, Tim and JP. 

Second, we weren’t pushing through 3 feet of snow but more importantly the trail could be ridden 99.5% (maybe 99.1%) of the time.  That’s never happened to me before.  There were definitely a couple of sections that without the current light setup of 100’s would not have been ridden in my previous bike versions.

Last,  the constant riding created tremendous momentum which allowed for less sleep; there was also a lack of mentally degrading things -like *significant* wind, pushing, or negative temps- .  I only slept 2.5 hrs total at the most, others in the lead were more in the <2 font="" hr="" range.="" style="mso-spacerun: yes;">  I thought for sure someone in the front would blow up, that didn't seem to happen. 


As for me-- I hung on to the lead pack (it was a pack too) through the first checkpoint and then I backed off so I wouldn’t blow up (they were going too fast for me not too). 

Overall, I am happy with my race and had some major breakthroughs (due to LW which I will write up a bit more).  It was my fastest time and I had a lot of fun riding by myself most of the race.... but 6th wasn't my goal.  Better training for next year!