Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jay's in the home stretch

It is now a race for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place...and beyond. Peter Basinger, of Anchorage, AK, arrived in McGrath at 7:40pm local time and broke the previous record by 20 minutes even though he had to ride an extra 33 miles through Hells Gate. A huge congrats to Peter for an incredible ride.

The three chasers, Jay, Jeff, and Rocky, were still together when they arrived in Nikolai at 9:45pm last night. Have they formed a pact and agreed to finish together or will someone attack on the last leg? That sounds so ridiculous. How in the hell could someone conciously attack after having ridden non-stop through interior Alaska for 3 and a half days? Think about the strength it would take to decide to leave the safety of the group and forge ahead alone when you suspect that first place has already been decided. At some point, even the strongest "racers" must switch to survival mode and simply want to finish right?

Depending on what time they leave Nikolai, Jay, Jeff, and Rocky might face some brutally cold temps on the way to McGrath. Wind chill values were -40F at 6am this morning.

I have a feeling that Jay has his head down right now turing the pedals over towards McGrath just focused on the finish. Good job man, almost there! I had huge respect for Jay before this race but he has blown the needle off of the respect meter with this one.

And let's not forget the rest of the racers still facing their personal demons out there. As of last night, female biker Lou Kobin is still on pace to beat the women's record to McGrath. Many racers still have 185 miles to go and the most difficult part of the trail ahead of them. I hope everyone makes it and accomplishes what they set out to do.

I also want to know the details. What are people wearing on their hands & feet in the -30F temps? How many times did they have to break out the stove and melt snow for water. Were they warm in their bivy when they were forced to sleep on the trail? Did a crowded checkpoint force them to leave early?

Thanks again for the updates Kathi! It has been great to feel so close to the race while being so far away.

EDIT 2/28: Jay, Jeff, and Rocky left Nikolai this morning at 7:30am local time to ride the final 50 miles into McGrath. I hope they have firm trail and can finish in the daylight and milder temps.

EDIT #2 2/28: Jay, Jeff, and Rocky arrived in McGrath in a three-way tie for 2nd place at 3:20pm local time. Incredible. 4 days, 1 hour, 20 minutes

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What a race!

This is better than Le' Tour by a longshot. If you haven't been following the Iditarod Trail Invitational its not too late. Jump onto the race website and read through the latest news page and then jump onto MTBR and read the ongoing thread about the race. Between the two sources you can quickly form a snapshot of the race to this point.

Pic of the trail heading into Rainy Pass on a good snow year - taken by Mike Curiak and borrowed from MTBR.

The suspense is killing me right now. Peter hasn't checked into Nikolai and the three chasers weren't giving an inch as of the Rohn checkpoint. Have they caught Peter? Did Peter sleep too long along the trail? Did the chasers' calculated rest stop at Puntilla pay off?

The magnitude of this effort hits home when I think about what has transpired since Saturday afternoon at 2pm. I went skiing, I showered, I slept in warm bed...three nights, I rode my FataBike a little, I grocery shopped, I ate, and I worked all day. This entire time our heroes have been pushing themselves non-stop and are still riding their bikes. Holy Sh!t.

I want details. I want to know how the leaders decided to take the trail through Hells Gate instead of Rainy Pass. Was the overflow an issue on the Tatina River? How are they dealing with the cold? For now I am happy to have any info and it is incredible that we can follow the race at all. Great job Kathi!

Lastly, JayP, I am sending some go-fast vibes your way my brotha'! Its not over til' its over and I know that you know this.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Go Jay!

My stone cold homie JayP is up in Alaska dropping the hammer as I type this. The Iditarod Trail Invitational began Saturday afternoon at 2pm and leaders haven't slept much since the gun went off. The race website is doing a great job so far with leaderboard updates and my man Jay has climbed from 7th at the first checkpoint to 4th at the third checkpoint. The three guys ahead of him are veterans of this race and have many wins between them. The current record to McGrath is 3 days, 6 hours set by Mike Curiak but that record could be in danger this year.

As of Sunday afternoon there is still a lot of racing to go. The leaders are riding on very little sleep and are about to head into the Alaska Range, at night, in below zero temps. I hope the trail over Rainy Pass is somewhat rideable for everyone unlike last year when it took racers 12 hours to push their bikes through deep snow over the pass. Lo temps at the finish line in McGrath have been averaging -33F over the past few days and it doesn't look like they will warm up much. The tradeoff to the cold temps is the firm conditions in the first 130 miles of the race. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone attempting this race and even more for anyone who finishes it. It takes a lot of inner strength to race alone, through several nights, in below zero temps with minimal support.

We are getting lots of snow right now so I wasn't sure a snow bike ride would happen but the Horseshoe trail was just firm enough to give it a go. It snowed another 1/2 - 1" during the ride which made the return trip even tougher but it felt great to be out on the bike after a fun ski day at the Ghee yesterday. The changing snow conditions make riding familiar trails interesting every time. I witnessed the huge advantage of having low body weight in soft conditions today. Michelle, at 120lbs, crushed me on every hill as I struggled to maintain float and traction. She is also getting stronger by the week and is really diggin' the Pugs so I better keep training. Days like today make me think we could use even wider rims and tires and I think the snow bikes will continue to evolve into lighter and more efficient designs.
After a somewhat easy week last week I am looking forward to ramping it up a bit this week and logging some hours in the saddle. With a chaotic work schedule I think many of those hours will be at night on the snow bike.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Good Vibes for Targhee

Targhee is our good friends Rick & Joanne's incomparable 11 year old Golden Retriever and he could use some positive vibes sent his way. Reading Rick's email yesterday about Targhee's sudden decline left me weeping at my desk in a big sappy heap and I am getting a lump in my throat while writing this.

I love Targhee the wonder dog like he is my own and have shared as many hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and skiing adventures with Targhee as almost anyone else, human or dog. This is a cycling blog, so I would like to share a quick story of my fondest Targhee memory:

Several sumers ago, four of us, and Targhee, went for an after-work mtn bike ride in the Big Holes. The days were still long so we had plenty of time to get a good ride in even though we started at 6:30pm. When I pulled into Rick & Joanne's driveway to meet them Targhee greeted me with his trademark "bounce". He would do the "bounce" in anticipation of any fun adventure and his front paws would rise 6" off the ground repeatedly as he playfully barked as if to say "let's go!". We were having a great ride and had completed 2/3rds of the planned ride when Rick suggested we try a new piece of trail that he was "pretty sure" would loop around and wind up back at the cars. At the time I was still learning the trail network so I was at the mercy of the group but was happy to explore a new route. The trail quickly turned into a primitive, overgrown, muddy, uphill hike-a-bike with creek crossings seemingly every 25 yards which was perfectly fine with Targhee. Targhee was also known for his love of creeks and his technique of laying down in the creek facing the current so he could drink while cooling off.

The four of us grunted and pushed our way up this bitch of a hill knowing that the payoff had to be a huge downhill back to the cars. When we finally reached the top our internal daylight calculators told us we would barely make it back with enough daylight. We had no lights. Off we go downhill with Targhee in his normal position right behind the leader. We hadn't gone 1/4 mile when I hear Rick's brother Mark yelling obscenities from the rear of the pack. Mark's rear was flat and it was very quickly getting dark. The group stopped and I changed Mark's flat as fast I could but the darkness came too fast. With no lights we had now had to push our bikes out in the dark.

We were on a technical trail, in dense forest, on a moonless night, and we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces. There was nervous chatter in the group as we inched our way along in the blackness but we could always hear the jingle of Targhee's collar ahead and that seemed to help. Rick would occasionally say "Targheee, find the trail" and off he would go, only to stop and wait for us to catch up. For the next couple of hours we blindly followed Targhee's jingling collar on what we hoped was the right trail and arrived back at the cars at 11:30pm. Targhee had negotiated trail intersections that are hard to see in the daylight and saved our unprepared sorry asses that night. Without Targhee we would have been reduced to crawling out on our hands and knees in an effort to stay on the trail in the blackness, or worse.

Please send some positive vibes Targhee's way in hopes that he can live comfortably, and happily, a while longer.

Edit 2/28: Targhee is a fighter and is not going to give up. He doing better!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More Mesa Falls Trail riding

There is no rest for the weary since Michelle now has snow biking fever as well. I probably could have used some rest today after Friday's big ride with JayP and then a short ride in soft conditions on Saturday but we had a good weather window before the next snow and I wanted to show Michelle the Mesa Falls Trail.

The Big Falls Inn at Upper Mesa Falls is open on the weekends for snowmobilers stop in and warm up so they were pretty surprised to see two bikes pull up. They had a fire going and hot tea for anyone who wanted some. Sweet!

Upper Mesa Falls on the Henry's Fork.

The Henry's Fork below the falls.

When we got home from our ride today I noticed this little problem. The bead has separated from the sidewall and the tube is bulging out next to the rim on my rear tire. I don't know how I made it back to the truck without a blowout and there would have been no fixing this on the trail. I actually added air about one hour into our 2 1/2 hour ride today and I know I would have noticed it then. I did notice my rear tire showing signs of wear on the sidewalls on Saturday's ride and I was a little concerned that they were wearing already. With the soft conditions this weekend I rode at 5 PSI a lot but I didn't think that would be low enough to cause this! I have seen the sidewalls "crinkle" a bit at their softest while pedaling but I have never felt like I was riding on the rim. I wonder if Surly will warranty this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Big Ride Friday with JayP

Jay leaves for Anchorage next Wed so we planned a final big shakedown ride for Friday into Friday night. Jay recently modified his bike packing and changed up his rear rack which lightened things up a bit and made critical items faster to access. Details of his final setup are top secret of course.

The ride was a huge success on many fronts. First and foremost, I survived it and actually felt pretty good riding for nearly 7 hours this early in the season. I wasn’t doing any rides of this length until early June in 2006! Jay’s bike packing mods worked out great for him and he is feeling good about being efficient out on the Iditarod Trail and having everything he needs to survive in temps from 40 to -40. Lastly, we rode a new-to-us trail called Mesa Falls paralleling the Henry’s Fork and it was sweet! Fremont County, ID has its own giant network of groomed snowmobile trails making it possible to ride from Ashton, ID to West Yellowstone.

I am not sure if I need to tweak my position on the FatBike or if it is simply early season soreness but I have some wrist and knee pain after the long rides lately. I think a quick fit session with Fitzy on the FatBike would be worthwhile.

On the gear front, I tried my new Delta Compact panniers and they rock. I ran them on the front rack and carried a down jacket on one side and wind layers plus a balaclava and clear goggles on the other side. Stuffing the down jacket loosely into one side of the pannier by itself makes it very easy to get to versus digging it out of a stuff sack every time I need it. Having panniers on the front rack did not seem to affect the handling at all. My plan is to run one on the rear drive side once I get loaded up for overnight trips since I will have a bag and sleeping pad on the front at that point.

I am still contemplating hydration options. I have been riding with an insulated 100oz Camelbak lately in temps down to 15F and it works great. I also know that this will probably not work at -20F unless I bury it beneath all of my layers and then I question whether it will be worth the trouble. I am going to work on a way to carry OR bottle insulators close to the handlebars so that I can drink without stopping.

There are two big endurance races going on this weekend and the conditions look ideal for each one. Check out racer’s progress for Susitna 100 or the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo on their respective pages.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

2007 Race Calendar (I think)

I haven't raced since the E100 back in late August and I am itchin' to race again. Racing gives me a focus and I enjoy the planning and execution of a long race. Many of my fellow Bloggers have had their race schedule layed out for months and for several of them their race season starts this Saturday up north or down south! Good luck to everyone who is gettin' their "go fast" on this weekend.

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to add or remove events on a whim or for more legitimate reasons such as death & taxes

The Kokopelli Trail Race - nothing like kicking the season off with a race that scares the poop right out of me

No races in June - I am hoping to find some smaller local races to jump into

Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge, CO - with lots of climbing this one will hurt a bit

E50 in Park City, UT - being one week before Laramie the trick is to go fast but not too fast

Laramie Enduro in Laramie, WY - I really want to break 7:00:00 this year!

E100 in Park City, UT - Joy and pain wrapped up in one convenient package. The E100 was the highlight of my season last year and it was the first and only 100 miler I have done. I will have almost a month after Laramie to get ready for the BIG ONE.

LOTOJA - I have never done a road race so 206 miles of road racing in one day should get me up to speed in a hurry!

Soul Ride in Oracle, AZ - I really hope this event happens in 2007 after a one year hiatus. Warm temps, good mexican food, and cactus = good times.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Warm Temps and Michelle’s New Pugsley

Michelle got an early birthday present this year in the form of a 16” Surly Pugsley and today was its maiden voyage. Fitzy got the frame & parts in quick and his main man Tim did a great job on the build. I love to build up my bikes but work has been crazy and having Tim build it got us riding faster. Thanks Tim!

We decided to scope out a new trail called North Leigh Creek that isn’t groomed but can get some snowmobile traffic and has awesome views of the Tetons. We unloaded, got geared up, and started riding the snowmobile tracks up the mellow grade. It was cool to ride an un-groomed trail and try to figure out where the traction was best. We were doing great and cruising along until the snowmobile tracks left the trail, headed straight uphill, and we were out of luck. Snow bike pushing was not on the agenda today so we flipped a u-turn and headed back to the truck. The mission was a success though because this trail has great potential.

Kenai is especially stoked about Michelle’s new hotness because he now has two snow biking buddies instead of one. He just doubled his chances for a ride.

We loaded the bikes back up and headed south about 20 minutes to the end of Horseshoe Canyon where we found a freshly groomed trail to go with the sunshine. This week has seen some daytime temps in the low 40s so we weren’t sure what to expect. The day was warming up fast but the trail was still firm and rideable so we shed some layers and got after it.

I love the corduroy! Riding the snow bike on freshly groomed, firm cord is almost as good as skiing pow. The trail at the end of Horseshoe is becoming my favorite trail and can easily be jumping-off point for bigger rides. In addition to our short N Leigh ride we rode another 2 1/2 hours on the Horseshoe trail had a blast. I am pretty psyched to learn that 40 degree temps does not mean you can't ride. The trail was soft in spots but overall was in great shape. More snow is supposed to hit tonight through Monday so we will have to see what happens.
I just received a new map of the Fremont County snowmobile trail network and it consists of hundreds of miles of groomed trails as well. They get more snow and colder temps so I am anxious to check some of them out soon.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Stealth Mission

I got out late yesterday for another training adventure with JayP over in the Big Holes. I say training adventure, and not training ride, because we didn’t actually ride the whole time. We got some wet, heavy snow yesterday morning along with some wind and it left a portion of the trail unrideable. So we pushed. Pushing a loaded down 50+ pound snow bike uphill in the snow qualifies as training in my book. We reasoned that it was very likely we would end up pushing some of the time during any of races held in Alaska so not only were we training, we were simulating race conditions. Sweet!

We planned the ride time so that we would get some night riding time in as well and ended up being out for four hours.

I love riding at night on the snow! My Lupine Wilma LED is almost too bright on the 12amp/1W setting. I can re-program the switch to only put out 10amps and a little less than 1W and the battery life jumps up to over 50 hours.

As always it was great to bounce gear ideas off of Jay and continue to tweak my clothing system. Jay is feeling prepared for the Iditarod Trail Invitational with his bike packing system and overall strategy.

On the training front, two Indoor Cycling Center sessions per week plus riding the FatBike have me feeling better than I ever have this early in the year. I actually hope it doesn’t snow too much this weekend so I can ride both days. I can’t believe I am hoping it doesn’t snow!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Snow biking in Yellowstone and GTNP...NOT!

What is wrong with this picture?

According to the current Temporary Winter Use Plan governing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, "...roads are maintained for touring and sightseeing, accessing trailheads, and park management. During the winter, all park roads are closed to wheeled vehicular traffic...".

So, I can ride a snowmobile, snowcoach, or cross-country ski on the many miles of existing groomed park roads in the winter but I can't ride my snow bike. I want to ride my bike from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful in the winter. I want to ride my bike on the groomed, closed-to-cars Grand Teton Park Road in the winter. Why should cyclists be treated any different than a cross-country skier or hiker?

Do I need to send Pugsley's to Dirk Kempthorne, Suzanne Lewis, and Mary Gibson Scott? Ok, maybe I will write letters instead and encourage my fellow snow bikers to do the same.

After a bit of digging I learned that the Final Environmental Impact Statement on winter use in the parks will be open for public comment in the winter/spring of 2007. The number of snowmobiles allowed each day is the hot topic so I don't know if my little crusade will even get a read. If I don't try I have nobody to blame but myself so I will post when the public comment period begins and when our letters will have the best chance of being read.

There is a lot of info regarding the Winter Use Planning on the Yellowstone National Park website.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Big Ride in the Big Holes

I met up with Scott Fitzgerald and Chris Erickson on Saturday for another exploratory ride in the Big Holes on the snowmobile trail network. Scott is the owner the best bike shop in the universe and Chris is the Brewmeister for Snake River Brewery which is conveniently located next store to Fitzgerald’s Bicycles in Jackson.

We didn’t really set out to do a big ride but once we got moving and found the trail conditions to be good we decided to try for the lollypop loop we had been eye-balling on the map. “Big” is relative this time of year. 20 mile mountain bike rides are not big in the summer but on the snow, with lots of climbing, I think they qualify as big. We were out for about 4 ½ hours.

We need to come up with a name for the route we did Saturday because it will definitely make the hit list. It has rolling terrain in the beginning, a long, grinding climb in the middle, a 3.8 mile twisting, fast-as-you-ever-want-to-go-on-snow descent, and then a bit more rolling terrain back to the truck for a total of 21 miles. Scott put on a display of mad downhill skills on every descent and Chris set the pace on the climbs and rode everything. I am continually amazed at what the Endomorph tires stick to. Even in the middle of the day, on a Saturday, we saw only a handful of snowmobiles and everyone was cool.

Riding for 4 ½ hours in Feb rocks! There is no way I would ever ride the trainer for more than 2 hours at stretch so I feel like I am getting a head start on the season and it feels good. I may be the only KTR racer to log all of my outside miles on the snow bike prior to the race depending on the winter we have.

On the gear testing front, I wore my new RBH Designs VprThrm socks for the first time and I had happy feet. My feet were damp inside the socks but never got cold and the moisture never seeped out into my insulating layers. I need to test them in really cold temps though but so far they are promising. Wind was big factor on Saturday's ride and once we crested the big climb we were exposed to 15-20mph winds and I immediately got cold hands and a cold head because I was sweaty. Once my hands get cold it takes me a while to get them warm again without using a chemical hand warmer.