Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grand Targhee is first ski resort to promote snow biking

Cross-post from the Blog

Grand Targhee Resort has become the first ski resort in the country to promote snow biking. Beginning this ski season, Grand Targhee will allow snow bikes on their groomed Nordic Trails as long as riders purchase a Nordic ticket for $10 per day or a Nordic season pass for $115. Grand Targhee is also hosting their first snow bike race on Sunday, January 15th to coincide with Teton Valley’s Winter Festival.

I have to admit that for the past two years I have considered donning a black ninja suit and poaching Targhee’s Nordic track at night just to experience the undulating terrain that we enjoy all summer on our mountain bikes…but I resisted the temptation. Now it is perfectly legal thanks to Grand Targhee’s Andy Williams.

Grand Targhee’s 2011/2012 winter season opened on Friday, Nov 25th so we rallied a posse of snow bike enthusiasts and headed up to Targhee to experience the Nordic trails on fat tires. The first thing that popped into my head as we left the parking lot and jumped onto the freshly groomed Nordic Connector Trail was that I felt guilty for riding on such pristine corduroy. That guilt quickly faded and turned into perma-grin as we climbed up to Rick’s Basin under bluebird skies and mild temps.

Melissa Davidson on the Snowdrift Loop

What is the riding like? My face is still sore from smiling so much. There are 6.15 miles of Nordic trails with 700’ of elevation gain available to snow bikers at Grand Targhee and the loop took us just under an hour to ride at a moderate pace. The trails are almost never flat and wind through numerous Aspen groves. The views do not suck either.

Check out the little snow bikes on the trail map

I applaud Grand Targhee Resort for their forward thinking and willingness to try something new. As long as snow bikers follow the rules and respect the trails when conditions are soft, I feel as if snow bikers and the Nordic skiers can coexist peacefully on the trails. When I head to the “Ghee” to ride the snow bike, I plan to also take a pair of skate skis with me just in case the trails are too soft to ride. It never hurts to have a “Plan B”.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Revisiting the Togwotee Winter Classic 100-Mile Route

When I started organizing the Togwotee Winter Classic races back in 2007, I envisioned a 25-mile race and a 100-mile race. As I prepared maps, scouted the trails, and rode the entire 100-mile route on a snowmobile, I feared that I had created a monster that couldn't be tamed. Was it simply too difficult?

As race day approached, my stress level increased as I worried about racers biting off more than they could chew. Mother Nature made it a mute point and dropped so much snow in the days before the race that nobody attempted the 100-mile route that year and it took most racers over six hours to complete the 25-mile loop. I have not offered the 100-mile race option ever since.

To complete the 100-mile loop would take a strong rider with winter camping/survival skills, careful gear selection, and a good (cold, calm, & dry) weather window. No other snow bike race in the world has this kind of terrain and this amount of climbing. This route scares the crap out of me but I can't stop thinking about it. Is it time to reinstate the 100-mile option again? Maybe...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

5th Annual Togwotee Winter Classic Date Announcement

The 5th Annual Togwotee Winter Classic will be March 3rd, 2012. Save the date and book your cool log cabin at Togwotee Mountain Lodge.

Can you believe we are on year number five of the Togwotee Winter Classic? How cool is that? Let's blow the lid off of this thing and fill it up this year! Maybe Chris "The Viking" Erickson will come out of retirement. Maybe we entice some of the snow bikers from the great state of Montana to come down for this one. (I am limited to 50 racers or less per the Forest Service's definition of an "endurance event")

We will only offer one snow bike race at Togwotee this year so please make plans to join us. I will be helping Andy Williams put on a new snow bike race at Grand Targhee on Sunday, January 15th. (More info coming soon on this new race) The Grand Targhee snow bike race will be held on the Rick's Basin Nordic trails with plenty of climbing and descending each lap. In addition to the snow bike race, there will be snow bike demos happening around Teton Valley as part of the TVF Winter Festival.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Snow Bike Etiquette

Cross-post from the Blog

The 2011/2012 snow bike season is just ramping up here in the Tetons and therefore it seems like the perfect time discuss snow bike etiquette. Why is etiquette a topic for snow biking? Anytime more than one user group share the same trails it is a good idea to have etiquette in place to keep all parties safe and smiling while enjoying the trails.

The two types of trails I ride frequently are groomed Nordic trails and groomed snowmobile trails within the National Forest. With both types of trails, there is a primary user group that pays for the grooming of that trail. In Idaho, the state oversees a snowmobile trail grooming program that is funded by the sales of annual snowmobile stickers. Our local Nordic grooming program is funded by a non-profit organization, Teton Valley Trails & Pathways, which raises money through memberships, donations, and special events. As snow bikers, we reap the benefits of these grooming programs and have a symbiotic relationship with snowmobilers and/or Nordic skiers. Without the established grooming programs we would be relegated to snow packed roads for our winter riding fix.

Recommended snow bike etiquette for snowmobile trails
- Flashing white light on handlebar, day and night
- Flashing red tail light, day and night
- Always yield to snowmobiles
- Pull over and stop to let snowmobiles pass
- Call your local grooming district and ask whether you can make donation equal to the amount of the annual snowmobile sticker as a gesture of goodwill

Having a flashing light on the bars and a flashing red taillight is cheap insurance when sharing the trail with loud machines that can go 70+ MPH. A snow biker can hear snowmobiles coming from a long way off but they cannot hear us. My two favorite lights for making myself visible while snow biking are the Princeton Tec Push and the Princeton Tec Swerve. Both lights are easy to mount, run on AAA batteries, and are visible day & night.

Recommended snow bike etiquette for Nordic trails
- Do not ride if the Nordic track is posted for skiing only
- Do not ride if the snow is too soft
- Give skate skiers a wide berth
- Do not ride in the classic ski tracks
- Make a donation to the club or organization who grooms your local Nordic trail

This pic shows groomed snow that is firm enough to support snowmobiles, snow bikes, and Nordic skiers

How soft is too soft to ride? As a general rule, if you have to get off and push your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely shouldn’t be on the Nordic trails. If you are leaving a trough deeper than an inch or are having a hard time riding in a straight line, it is probably too soft to be on the Nordic trails.

The act of making a donation to a grooming program does not give a snowmobiler or Nordic skier the right of exclusivity. However, it is important that snow bikers take a “let’s get along” attitude and be respectful of the established grooming programs. Making a small donation to your local Nordic club or purchasing an annual snowmobile sticker can go a long way towards establishing goodwill.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

25 Hours of Frog Hollow Race Report

I was nervous prior to the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow and I am not just referring to the hours before the start. I had pre-race jitters starting the Tuesday before this race. WTF? Maybe it was because my last 24 Hour Solo didn’t go so well. Maybe it was because the weather forecast was looking a little ominous. Maybe it was because I had high expectations for my performance. It was probably all of the above.

My pit location was excellent and right on the course. As an added bonus, I was setup next to friends Jonathan Davis & Eszter Horyani who were racing Duo-Coed. Pitting next to friendly faces is always nice and can provide little bursts of stoke throughout a 24 hour race.

The two hours before the race were anxious with last-minute pit setup, organization, and trying to guess what the weather was going to do. We had rain turn to light snow 30 minutes before the start and it looked as if the race could turn really epic…and then it cleared up. Literally minutes before the start, the skies cleared and a cold north wind began to blow.

I had a two-part strategy for this race because I knew I would have great support later in the race. Dave & Lynda offered to support me from sunset Saturday through the finish Sunday morning so I needed to be self-sufficient from 10 AM until about 6 PM. I pre-mixed eight bottles of Carbo Rocket, made a thermos of hot tea, and left plenty of snacks & gels within easy reach to minimize my time in the pits.

Eszter and I discussing the lovely weather

The Early Laps
I am not a fast starter and I intentionally settled into a conservative pace and governed my HR during the opening laps. I know that if I go too hard early, even for short bursts, I will pay dearly for it later. However, even with my conservative pacing, the “warning light” came on very early as my lower back tightened up and I immediately had flashbacks to February’s Old Pueblo DNF. Lower back pain in endurance races continues to be my “crux” and a mystery I have yet to solve.

The moisture just before the start of the race left the JEM Trail in super-hero condition and I was “en fuego” every time I began the JEM descent. In fact, I was pretty confident that I was the “best mountain bike racer on the planet” every time down the JEM. Euphoria does funny things to the brain. Ha!

Out of the saddle, trying to stretch the lower back out early in the race. Photo by Miller Perspectives

The Transition
After completing Lap #7, I rolled into the pit and Dave & Lynda were there and ready to rock. It was about 6:30 PM and it was time to add lights. Their stoke level was high but I was in a bit of a funk at the time. I was getting cold, my hands were numb, and I was kind of down on myself for my performance up to that point in the race. Basically, I was calling for the “Whaaaaaa-mbulance” for no good reason. I am not sure of my standing but it was nowhere near the top. Seeing Dave & Lynda definitely picked up my spirits and I let them to know that I was absolutely committed to seeing this thing through. This particular pit stop was the worst of my race and I fumbled around trying to decide what layers to put on and how to warm up my hands. When you look at my splits, Lap #8 is the worst and includes this sloppy 16’ pit stop.

Every minute counts

Own The Night
I love the night laps. My Lupine Betty lights turn the darkness into daylight and I simply enjoy riding at night. My pre-race planning was also paying off as I had changed into my Lake winter mtb shoes and installed Moose Mitts on my handlebars which allowed me to wear regular mountain bike gloves under them and have full dexterity despite the below-freezing temps. I was able to keep it rolling through the night with minimal stops in between laps to sip hot tea and eat one or two of Michelle’s homemade peanut butter chocolate chip bars. Three things absolutely kicked ass all night long:
1)My pit crew
2)Moose Mitts
3)Michelle’s peanut butter bars

Actually, there was a fourth thing that kicked ass during the night: The Fire Jump. Team Honey Stinger built a little kicker on course next to their campsite and lit a small fire on the backside of the jump. I hit that jump every lap throughout the night and there was usually an appreciative crowd on hand armed with cowbells. Nice!

By the early morning hours it was evident that the cold was taking its toll on some racers. I saw racers walking their bikes because they were too cold to ride and I saw many dark camps where it had been festive earlier in the night. These early morning hours were when I made my biggest gains in the standings and I had moved into 3rd place by 5:00 AM. It might have actually been earlier but the results being displayed in the timing tent were not always accurate during the event.

The Fire Jump

Sunrise to the Finish
My last three laps were the best of my entire race from a mental standpoint. I was proud to have overcome my early race funk and self-doubt, I was stoked to reward my rock-star crew with a big effort, and it was looking really good for a podium. Sure, a lot of body parts hurt at this point but I was riding on adrenaline and it was easy to push the pain to side and smile. Plus, I was still feeling like the “best mountain biker on the planet” every time down the JEM Trail. Ha!

I should be stoked with 2nd place right? Normally the answer would be "Hell yeah!" There is a part of me that is disappointed with 2nd place this time. I have never won a bicycle race of any distance or discipline. I have finished 2nd or 3rd many times. To lose a 25+ hour mountain bike race by three minutes stings more than a little. Let’s just say that I won’t have to look far for motivation this winter while riding the trainer in the basement.

Coming into the pit prior to my last lap

Dave Harris gives the bike some love one final time

My Raynaud's was a challenge throughout the entire race and I had to warm my hands by the fire at times in order to shift & brake

Men's Solo Podium; Me, Bill Martin, Tim Lutz

Coach Lynda and her athletes; Jonathan Davis & Eszter Horyani (1st Duo-Coed w/25 Laps), Me

Sunday, November 6, 2011

25 Hours of Frog Hollow Quick Report

Wow, that was an emotional and physical roller coaster of a race. This could potentially be a long race report.

Quick Stats
Place: 2nd Solo Male
Time Riding: 25 hours, 15 minutes
Miles: 256
Climbing: 18,600'

I could not have finished this race without the incredible race support from two good friends and mentors, Dave Harris & Lynda Wallenfels. We had snow 30 minutes before the race started, a soul-crushing north wind for the first 6+ hours, and then bitter cold from sunset through the finish. There was a lot that "could" go wrong in this race.

A quick warmup next to the fire with hot tea before heading out for my last lap

Full report to come...