Wednesday, November 7, 2012

better late...

Nothing exciting to report on the riding front.  I rode to town and back yesterday - which is about a twenty mile trip.  Whoopee.  And it's all flat too - rail-trail.  Boring.  But it saved having to take the truck in and putting miles on it and burning up gas....

One thing I got when I went to town was a computer for my bike.  Although its far from fancy it is still the fanciest bike computer I have ever owned.  Current speed, average speed, max. speed, pacer (tells you whether your current speed is higher or lower than your average), clock, odometer, ride time and (the one that I haven't ever had before and could prove interesting) temperature.  Yipee, now I can quantify my suckiness.  

My plan is that since John and I are going to be doing it together and aren't going to be able to ride together (except at Christmas when we go for a visit) that it might be a good idea to compare riding times and distances.  This is so we can shoot reasonably similar paces and one of us (probably me considering how much John has been riding and how much I haven't) isn't way behind the whole time.  He might say that he's older and has pretty much no experience actually riding in a race like Arrowhead.  Bullroar.  He and I rode together this summer and he kept right up.  And plus I've been smoked both years that I've done it by the 60 something Lindsay Gauld.  (In case you don't remember who John is he's Jenny's dad, my future father-in-law who, by doing the race has obliged me to wear viking horns)

I was going through my old posts and my brother commented on the one where I posted my write-up of my experiences in the '09 Arrowhead.  He asked if I had written anything about my experiences in the '04 Susitna 100.  Well better late than never I guess.  I stumbled across it in the computer today, so, very belatedly, here's a reply to Jedd's comment:

Keep in mind that this was written while I was going out with someone else then.  Jenny is who I'm with now (and will be marrying in less than a year!).  Jess (my now-ex) and I did it together.  (though I should set aside my ego and tell you that, as you'll read below, she had to slow down a bit to let me keep up.  She's had a good race and finished second.)  BTW if you want to see the full results from this race go here.  Anyway, here's my writeup of the '04 Susitna 100:

We had rented a vehicle to take down to Anchorage
because we weren’t sure our car would make it. We’d
put so much time and energy into this race that we
wanted to get to the starting line! So Jess had
reserved a mini-van for us to take. Well, Jess called
to confirm our reservation and found out that they had
rented all the mini-vans out and we were stuck with a
Ford Excursion. Not cool. So we had to drive a
strange, very large vehicle all the way to Anchorage,
which had some very low points (one of which was at
the gas pump).

So we got to Anchorage and went to the pre-race
meeting (this was all happening thurs.) and gear
check. Gear check went smoothly except my headlamp
had somehow been switched on at some point. Since it
was impossible to tell how long it had been on (it was
on inside my duffle bag) I had to take an extra set of
batteries. Required gear: -20 sleeping bags, stove,
8oz. fuel, sleeping pad, tent or bivy sack, fire
starter (we took lighters), flashlight or headlamp,
3000 calories of food (we took butter and some sort of
breakfast grain stuff). We also took other food but
the rules state that you have to leave the last
checkpoint with 3000 calories of food and we found
that butter had a lot a calories and was light
(vegetable oil is lighter but can you imagine the mess
it could make?). Ditto with the grain stuff.

The forecast for the race was not good, especially for
us coming from Fairbanks where we had been riding in
below zero temps for three months. The forecast
called for highs in the 30’s and possibly some precip.
It didn’t call for temps dropping down to zero at
night (more on this later). Sure enough, we pulled up
the starting line and it was snowing hard. It was a
wet heavy snow too. We checked in and got our gear
ready (most of the gear readying had taken place the
previous day) and made use of the port-a-potty which
is all customary pre-race activity. The start was
very non-exciting. Everyone lined up willy-nilly and
they counted down and started. The reason it was so
boring (or would be for a spectator) was because
everyone knew they had 100 miles to go and were
starting slowly.

Big Lake to Flathorn Lake: 25 miles
The race started on an ice road going across a lake
(Big Lake). The ice was glare ice with a small amount
to wet snow on top of it so it was very slippery (and
I crashed 3 times before I decided that I didn’t care
if it was faster to ride on the ice, I was going to
ride off to the side in the packed down snow so I
didn’t fall and break my [insert any bone here] which
would finish my race almost before it started). The
race continued across Big Lake for a couple of miles
before moving onto another couple of lakes. Luckily
these lakes weren’t so damn slippery and I was able to
ride them with little fear of death. By now it was so
warm it was raining and I was overheating. Even worse
than me overheating were the trails overheating which
were soft and getting softer all the time which made
it hard to ride and at times riding was impossible.
Immeditely after riding across the lake we rode
through a swamp for a while and then twisted through
an upland wooded section then it was back into the
swamp the upland along a seismic line (long, wide,
straight path cut by a bulldozer) which were full of
moguls from snowmachines. This was a long haul to the
first checkpoint. At one point I had to push through
miles of trails in a swamp that were too soft to be
ridable. Obviously I would bore you if I tried to
recount the whole distance. Suffice it to say that
the transition from biking to running (or walking) was
VERY frustrating. It was here, also, that I had my
nearest near death experience. I almost choked on a
candy bar while running through a swamp. It took four
hours and 15 minutes to get to the first checkpoint.
I was expecting it to take a little more than two.

Flathorn Lake to EagleSong Lodge: 21 miles
More of the same. A lot of pushing through soft snow.
After we crossed the Susitna River the trail is along
the old Iditarod Trail (it’s so twisty and tight that
the mushers complained and their trail was diverted to
the Yentna River, which we would be on later) and
would have been a helluva lot of fun if we had been
able to ride our bikes for any appreciable amount to
time. But we couldn’t. It was here that skiers
started to pass the bikers (when you have to push a
bike through soft snow you become a lot slower than a
skier). I thought that I was never going to get to
the next checkpoint. When I finally got there I met
up with Jess (she was kicking ass and was 3 or 4
minutes ahead of me) and we decided to ride together
the rest of the race since we were going almost the
exact same speed. After staying there (Jess ate half
of a cheesecake that she had been carrying here, ha
ha, that was funny) for 15 or 20 minutes we left. As
it happened we were starting the worst part of the
trail and it was almost dark but we didn’t know that
yet. Actually we though it was going to be good since
the trails had been firming up since sunset (cooler
EagleSong Lodge to Luce’s Lodge: 9 miles
Except about ½ mile we had to push the whole way to
Luce’s. The snow was too soft to even think of
riding. It had been (and still was, at this point) so
warm that I would overheat even if I was just wearing
an earband so I was bareheaded. Along this stretch we
were passed by four skiers and one biker who was
pushing faster than us. Most of the time we pushed
with our headlamps off, which was lucky (more on this
later). At one point after we had been pushing for
well over 2 hours we met some snowmachiners that were
roving the course to make sure all the racers were all
right. We talked to them a bit and asked how far it
was to Luce’s. They said “four miles” we smiled and
nodded but were thinking “we’ve been out here for 2 ½
hours already and we’ve come barely halfway? This
sucks.” They were mistaken (in about an hour we were
sitting inside Luce’s; this was the first time we had
sat since 8:30 in the morning) but we had no way of
knowing that then. We couldn’t really do anything
except keep on keeping on (in the words of Joe Dirt).
Luce’s Lodge is on the Yentna River and we had to
cross the river to get to it. When we dropped into
the Yentna River valley the temp dropped about 20
degrees and my rear derailleur froze up from all the
wet snow that had gotten on it in the first 50 miles.
I didn’t think that it was really a big deal. Luce’s
was close and I had a can of de-icer along. I used up
the de-icer but didn’t get the derailleur moving which
was sort of a big deal since I now had a single speed
bike and almost 50 miles to go. I shrugged my
shoulders and we went in to the lodge and ate and
rested a bit. It was good to sit for a while because
our feet hurt quite a bit from walking (which we
weren’t expecting and weren’t prepared for) so did
most everything else by this point but just not as bad
as the feet. It was here while we were eating M&M’s
and sour worms that we got word that the first skier
had finished! Finished! and we had almost half of the
race to go!

Luce’s Lodge to Flathorn Lake: 21 miles
We had an uneventful trip down the Yentna River (we
were going to opposite way that the Iditarod mushers
would be going in about a week) though it was 9 miles
and we had a headwind at this point and the temp was
dropping which made Jess’s derailleur freeze too.
Then we intersected the Susitna River and biked for 3
more miles on it before turning left off of the river
and heading back to Big Lake. After we turned left
off of the river we were going the opposite way on the
trail were had used on the way out to EagleSong (are
you looking at a map of the course? I would recommend
it). Going through the “dismal swamp” (the name of
which you’ll only recognize if you’re familiar with
the course description) we saw an amazing display of
the aurora but by then the temp. had dropped and we
couldn’t stop to enjoy much because we’d get cold fast
(keep in mind that we were still dressed for 35
degrees and it was nearly 0 by this point). We could
ride virtually everything now that it had frozen but
we had only one gear and that the runners who were
behind us on this trail on their way out to EagleSong
this morning had left deep footprints in the then-soft
snow. Their footprints had then frozen and now we
were getting the crap pounded out of nearly
everything. But the points that were getting it the
worst were the points that contact the actual bike.
We got to Flathorn Lake soon enough. The checker
there was awesome she had soup ready for us and
cookies and chairs in her warm house to sit on. The
guy who had won the race last year was there and we
chatted with him (he’s from Fairbanks too). The guy
who got second place last year was zonked out on the
couch. It seems we weren’t the only ones who had the
wind taken out of our sails by all the hiking. While
we were there the first runner came through. He
checked in only long enough to fill his water and take
off. Kind of humbling. Here is a guy who had run 75
miles and still had 25 miles left and was still going,
still running, he wasn’t walking. We put on a few
more layers and pedaled away after 30 minutes or so.
Only 25 miles to go!

Flathorn Lake to Little Su: 12.5 miles
Not much exciting happened here. We continued to get
pounded by the trail when we could ride. Some of the
hills were steep and we could barely walk up them they
were so icy. Others weren’t so steep but we couldn’t
ride them because we didn’t have low enough gears. We
passed the “Nome, 1049” sign and two miles later
(distance was very relative to us at this point) we
came to the checkpoint to the Little Susitna River.
This checkpoint was a wall tent with a snow floor. We
stayed for a bit but didn’t warm up. We were both
shivering when we left.

Little Su to Big Lake finish: 12.5 miles
The frozen footprints in the trail continued. And so
we continued to get pounded. The trail here was
twisty and bumpy until we were spit back out onto the
chain of lakes that we started on and were about to
finish on. Now is when Jess’s headlamp went out with
mine to follow soon. But it was starting to get light
by this time and the trail was now wide and flat so we
didn’t need them. Good timing. Now, I had been
thinking about the finishing stretch for the last
couple of hours (remember how it was so slippery when
we started?) but luckily it was all rideable. By this
time a significant portion of my body was in pain but
my hands hurt the worst. All the pounding had pinched
a nerve in my wrist and my hands went numb. When
they were numb from the pinched nerve they got cold
and I had to get off and walk several times across the
lake in sight of the finishing line so I could get
feeling back in my hands. We were on a lake and could
see the finishing line from a long ways off. Think
desert oasis. It was a very long section to say the
least. We crossed the line in a tie at 23 hours and
38 minutes.

Hallucinations? I had a few very mild hallucinations.
I would think that I saw a snowmachine headlight out
of the corner of my eye and when I looked it would be
nothing. It was all stuff that I thought that I saw
out of the corner of my eye but really wasn’t there.

Fatigue? I was, of course, very tired by the end of
the race. My biking muscles weren’t really all that
tired though considering the situation. Things that
really slowed me down were the trail and how badly my
body hurt from being on the trail for so long.
Pulling an all nighter caught up with me several hours
after the finish when I crashed on the floor of Amy’s
(Jess’s sister) apartment.

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