Wednesday, March 31, 2010

White Mountains 100 (part II)

As I lay in Windy Gap cabin and tried to sleep, I suddenly heard familiar voices. Paul and Shonda had caught up with me. I couldn't have been happier. While I am not necessarily uncomfortable around unfamiliar people, I generally can't act like my full jackass self unless I am around friends. I think I was the one that finally dragged us out of the cabin. Shonda wasn't keen on the night time travel idea, but Paul had seen my light setup and reassured her it would be alright.

Beyond the light of the cabin we were greeted by more overflow and a wonderful rolling romp through the woods. As it turned out the section of trail between Windy Gap and Borealis was by far my favorite. I would have left much earlier if I had known how awesome it was going to be. There was one fairly steep hill, but the entire rest of the section was sloped downhill. I have no idea what the scenery was like, but the trail had plenty of rollers, creek bed drops and sharp turns to keep me entertained. Leaving earlier probably would have allowed us to skip the -20°F hovering on Beaver Creek, but it wasn't something and extra layer and walking couldn't fix. Although I did complain loudly to Paul several times that I was pushing my bike downhill, and that was just plain stupid (secretly my toes were thanking me). The worst part of the section by far was the hill up to the checkpoint cabin. It is probably only twenty feet high, but it is nearly vertical and I ended dragging my bike up it behind me because it was too steep to push.

The race volunteers there were totally on point. Apparently they had dealt with enough completely spent people that they had actually taken over the process of signing in and out of the checkpoint for the racers. Then they fed us and got us something to drink, after which I promptly passed out. I awoke to Shonda and Paul insisting that I get up so we could "get this over with". I believe I begged for five more minutes like a high school kid who just ended summer vacation. I finally sat up in a stupor and began getting dressed rather poorly. John (one of the race volunteers) informed me that I would probably want to finish putting on my pants before I started on my shoes. I looked down to see both shoes mostly on, but only one pant leg on. Shonda summed it up, "Great, they are signing in for you, feeding you, getting you fluids and now they are helping you get dressed." I looked over and spat back my feelings on the matter, "That's what it has come to, yes. And I'm fine with that."

The next morning we finished up the last section of trail at a leisurely pace. There were long downhill sections with overflow that made me a little sad, since they were basically non-shreddable, but it was still nice riding and the weather was clear and sunny if only a little windy. We stopped in at the last unofficial and non-required checkpoint rationalizing that we weren't really tired, but someone was nice enough to have come out, so we should stop in and check it out. It was actually a nice little rest before we tackled the feared Wickersham Wall, then jumped onto the last (and first) six miles of trail again.

Ed (one of the race directors) had warned us that even though we were doing the same section twice, it would seem totally different after ninety-five miles. Although that was sort of true, I had never descended that last hill into the parking lot in full light, and that was a real treat. The trail is closed in by spruce on both sides and in the half light that I was used to seeing it in, the rollers and bumps are hard to see, necessitating some caution. In the full light of day I was able to put together a nice run that bordered on stupid since I was so tired. But since I knew I was about to be completely done, I threw caution to the wind. I blew into the parking lot at high speed, rolled toward the race HQ, locked my rear wheel up and put a foot down as I whipped a one-eighty and set my bike down in a definitive fashion. I was done.

I finally feel like I can say I have been on an epic ride without feeling like the word is getting over used. It's a pretty sweet feeling. Although Paul and I schemed which checkpoint we were going to be running for the 2011 race while walking the Wall, it only took until the next day before I knew for sure I'd be doing it all again next year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

White Mountains 100 (part I)

In the days leading up to the race I began to feel woefully under prepared. This culminated the night before the race where I took the brand new Camelbak I had bought that very day and proceeded to cut half the straps off it and switch the bladder in it with the Platypus one I had been using in my other pack. What I ended up with was a pack that was significantly lighter than my old one, smaller, better suited to what I wanted to carry, and totally untested. I swore I wouldn't go out on the trail with something I hadn't used before on several rides, and that went right out the window. Additionally I opted to not bring my midrange sleeping bag (it was too heavy and not packing well I decided). Instead I brought my lightweight bag that wasn't as warm, but I figured would be alright. Again, here I went with an untested bivy system.
All in all I remember sitting in my truck waiting for the race to start and hoping that I wasn't going to puke that morning's Cheerios all over the trail, or the start line, or worse yet whomever was standing next to me at the start. And then, I was riding. I was riding the first part of a long trail, but it was comforting that I had ridden that first part a lot. Also comforting was the score of supporters from the Beav that had turned out to see me off. My smart ass jokes about having my own trail scouting crew may not have been that amusing to anyone else, but they made me feel better. The mass start went much better than many people had imagined. Everyone seemed to do a good job of getting onto the trail in a ridiculously long line that would change order countless times over the next day or so. I think most people realized it was a long race and that where you were in the start didn't matter, the pace you held for the whole race would sort everything out. I was not one of the people. I went off the line at a stupid fast pace and starting passing people when it was feasible. I managed a pretty good ride for the first forty miles, making it into the second checkpoint in a decent place and suddenly realizing I was having a good ride, but not sure how long it could last.

As I left the second checkpoint, the question was quickly answered. I encountered my first section of overflow, which was slushy to boot. I donned my Neos (purchased special for the race) and proceeded to muck through it with the excitement of a kid with rubber galoshes in a puddle. I rode for a bit after that, but pretty soon the climb up the Cache Mountain divide started. By then it was some time in the afternoon, the sun was shining, the trail was mushy, and I didn't seem to have enough energy to keep the bike upright. I got off and pushed for a good eight miles or so up and over the divide. I got passed by several people during this period, all of whom had kind words or observations on the beautiful section of trail. I really didn't notice, I wasn't riding and it was miserable. I was angry and I didn't care if I had to push forever, I was going to make it to the next checkpoint. I pushed all the way over the pass, where there was barely a trail and I completely stopped drinking and eating. I stopped just before the pass and managed to choke down some sour gummy rings because I knew I at least needed something. As I finally crested the divide the trail started to become defined again and I managed to shred a nice long downhill section before rolling onto the ice lakes. I busted the Neos back on and made great time across the ice, managing to even ride about half the way. There was a pretty nasty wind blowing up the canyon, but toward the end of the ice lakes it peaked and managed to freeze my mask against my face on the left side. I removed a heater pack from my poagie (where it had been uselessly making my hand sweat) and stuffed it down under my mask against my cheek, completely solving the only problem the vicious wind was able to give me.

After another sick downhill section and a rolling jaunt through the woods I pulled into Windy Gap cabin, the third checkpoint. I was making angry monkey noises that initially caught the attention of the volunteers stationed outside the cabin before I realized I was still doing it. I had made it sixty miles in just about twelve hours. Mentally I was doing pretty well as I figured I had passed through the most dangerous and difficult parts of the trail unscathed, but physically I felt shot (my knees were aching something fierce) and was totally convinced I needed to sleep and continue when it got light again in the morning. I was to soon find that sleep would be impossible for me in the roasting, tiny, packed cabin. More than anything my tired mind wouldn't stop obsessing over all the new people I was suddenly surrounded by. If I had known what the next section of trail was like, I would have grabbed a bowl of the meatball and rice soup and moved right along. Instead, I languished for nearly five hours chasing a nap that never came and uselessly taking up room in the already packed cabin.

I still consider it the worst mistake I made during the race, but it is also the greatest lesson I learned. I was capable of more. I never got any real rest and still managed to push through the next section of trail. If you had asked me if I had another twenty miles in me when I arrived, I would have laughed at you as I looked for a place to crash. I had never ridden more than sixty miles before and the time I did that had been four years previous on a road bike during the summer. I had myself mentally beat even though my body hadn't given out yet. be continued.....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

E.D. W.ooD. III

Having just finished the inaugural White Mountains 100, I have a lot to say about it. But, in all my preparations for it, I have missed talking about a lot of other things, including EDWD the third and my last big ride before the race with Kevin (who managed to finish an awesome fourth place at the WM100).

This year's EDWD took place on Sunday 14th March. Turn out was decidedly low turnout was probably owing to me forgetting about the event until the last minute (I sent a mass text the night before the event). Luckily I did get some takers. The Third Annual EDWooD was basically myself and the Christapoleon family. The trail was sketchy in the extreme. The trail appears to have seen very little traffic this winter, probably because of the lack of snow. Most notably the only traffic on the trail since the last snow had been someone who sledded (think this) the hill. The two inches of "fresh" (from a week ago, but mostly untouched) snow made the trail pretty challenging. I can say I relied heavily on my brakes, but since my rear wheel was completely locked up for a good portion of the ride, I'd say I relied on my balance more than anything. Which brings me to the "HTF did he pull that off?" part. Chris managed the whole hill with Niko on a trail-a-bike behind his Pugsley. I can't even imagine how that worked with some of the off camber sections that I just barely made it through. Heather managed just fine on her ride and everyone made it to the bottom in one piece.

The bottom was were we found they had rerouted the road out. Also, there was a huge lake of overflow (complete with midday slush) in the middle. Niko wasn't entirely stoked on the whole thing and although I was happy to take the thing as pre-WM100 practice, we jetted back to the vehicles pretty quickly. I have heard rumblings of an EDWD Part II for the year, but we'll see what happens. For now I am content that another EDWD happened with no injuries or broken equipment and a good time was had by all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Holy Race Sexy Batman!

My bags arrived today from Epic Designs (thanks Eric!). Beyond being just sexy, they add a lot of room to the rig with very little weight. I thought the box was empty when I picked it up off my porch. Seriously. The technical attention to detail is beautiful as well. With as light as they are you'd think there wasn't anything inside. The frame bag has a lot of thought put into it with a drop away compartment separator and mesh pockets to keep gear organized. The seat bag though is a real work of art. It has a tons of room, is still light, and has been epically designed so that the straps are doing double duty as both compression and support. It's one of those awesome things that makes you wish you had thought of it.
Disclosure: I don't have a special relationship with Epic Designs. All products have been purchased from them through normal channels.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Time Off

A lot can happen in a short period of time. Additionally even more can happen in a long period of time. Like the two weeks or so since I have gotten off my butt and posted. I spent a week of that time miserably sick and keeping ridiculous hours for a project at work that I didn’t have the option of ignoring. In the world of winter cycling, the ITI happened. And more apparent than ever is the fact that the White Mountains 100 is drawing close enough that there really isn’t much time left to prepare. I am not sure how I feel about that really. A week of struggling to breathe and hacking up copious amounts of lung butter generally doesn’t make you feel like you are in great shape. But then again, maybe many other racers aren’t feeling the awesomest as well. Paul and his wife rode the entire trail this weekend and promptly decided that they had done the race and were done. Later of course they realized that they wanted a t-shirt and would indeed be doing the race after all.

In the category of the rest of the world, a week off makes all the difference when it comes to light levels (in Fairbanks) necessary for commuting. Suddenly I am considering removing the flashies from my ride. While some folks will undoubtedly finish the WM100 in twelve hours (or maybe less), I plan to take a bit longer and will still need some personal lumens toward the end. I plan on doing the course this weekend as prep, but am still trying to find a companion for the trip.