For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

over and done with (arrowhead race report)

i'll write a longer 'race report' at some point, but for now just a few quick thoughts and details.  First of all, i feel pretty damn good about the race and how things went. Although i've no idea of the 'official results' (the race is actually still under way for some of the runners and skiers), from the looks of it i came in in 14th place, within minutes of 12th place (before that there was a couple hour gap).  My total time was somewhere around 26 and a half hours.

The first 37 miles to CP1 (gateway store) seemed to take forever - i felt like i should have been going much faster than i was.  I kept trying to keep up with people that passed me and by the time i got there my legs were quite sore, which worried me a little.  It'd taken me nearly 5 hours to get to the store - two hours longer than the longest training ride i'd had - pretty crazy.  I ate loads of food and did some stretching, but left the store after about 30-40 minutes wondering how i was going to ride another 100 miles, and quite honestly second guessing the seemingly quite absurd (at the time) notion that i could do this based on such limited training.

Then things got better.  The terrain transitioned mostly flat with some very minor rolling hills to almost constant undulation, with many bigger hills [keep in mind this is the midwest - the hills were rarely over one hundred feet in elevation gain, but did stack up back to back with high frequency] that were too steep to ride - or so i'd been told.  I'd been instructed by a number of people - "don't ride the hills!  it'll fry you - just get off and walk.."  The problem was that my bike and gear weighed nearly half as much as i did - pushing it up the hills was not only challenging (more so for me that someone who weighs, say 200 lbs...) but slow.  so i neglected the advice and just geared down and rode everything i could.  It was awesome, and this was my favorite part of the course. The downhills were steep, fast, and exciting where it was impossible not to think of how bad it would be to crash at the speeds attained.

The variety in the terrain was just what my legs needed and i got to CP2  (Melgorges resort) at elephant lake after about 11.5 hours total time.  I went in thinking i'd be out within an hour - i wanted to keep pushing with the goal of finishing in 24 hours.  But - similar to transition area dynamics in adventure racing - things never quite work out as you intend them too.  That being said - i didn't do too bad - making it out in just about 1:20 and being back on the trail in 1:30 after loading the bike.  When you come from 12 hours outside into warmth you just move slower anyway, so when you consider what is done during that time - peeling off the layers, sitting down for a minute, trying to think about what you need to do (ibuprofen, drink, eat, new socks, fix shoes, eat, drink, talk for a few minutes, use the toilet, more shammy butter, refill bottles, eat, drink, open drop bag, sort through to pick out new food - nothing looks good, look through the leftover 'up for grabs' food that the lead racers had left out, eat, drink, realize it's time to go, get start to put back on layers, boots, etc, collect food/bottles, back to bike, load and strap it all down...) and the lack of 'transition area' practice i've had, i'm not to unhappy.

I was riding on my own again, but roughly on pace with a guy named jeremy who was riding a 29 inch bike with skinny tires and making good time. we covered 15 miles in about 2.5 hours which was a decent pace for the section which was still very hilly.  Then he started to pull away.  I passed another rider stopped in the dark - Bill Shand.  He was getting sleepy, but pressing on slowly.  i got a few hills ahead of Bill before the sleepmonsters caught up with me.  within 5 minutes i could barely function.  i'd ride for a minute then get off and walk for five.  then ride, then walk.  I'd scream down the downhills in  state of lucid dreaming, then plod in delerium up the hills and over flats.  i'd try riding the flats occasionally but would weave so badly that it wasn't worth it - or ride off the trail and end up falling over sideways into the deep snow.  I was shoveling in food - crushed pringles, my candy mix (mike and ike's and red hots), cliff blocks, raw rev bars, and drinking coffee from my thermos, but nothing seemed to help.  i wasn't prepared for the suddenness and ferocity with which they had attacked and really by then i was too late.  I tried listening to my music, thinking about my family - but nothing worked - i just limped on, 9/10 asleep, covering maybe 1-2 miles per hour.  As my body moved towards this pseudo sleep, my core temp dropped and i got COLD.  In pieces i gradually added layers until i had most of my clothes on, and wore my full mittens inside my pogies.  the Mont-bell thermawrap jacket and pants did the trick (i'd worried about the jacket's worth in such extreme cold, but needn't have) and i was never cold again.

After a few hours of this, i was finally caught by Bill, who'd been fighting his own set of monsters in much the same way and amazingly keeping about the same pace.  but he'd recently gotten a second wind - and seeing him helped me get one (at least briefly) too.  for at least an hour, maybe more, i was awake again and we rode together - stopping together, waiting for each other, etc - both realizing that we were better off in the others company than alone [well, this is true for me at least].  After this, I succumbed to the sleepmonsters once again, but somehow managed to maintain a bit better pace - probably because i felt a desperate need to maintain contact with Bill - as without him i knew i'd become a total zombie again.  I don't know how i did it - but I largely credit Bill patience with me and his presence for keeping me going through the night.

We passed a group of 4 riders that had stopped at one of the trail shelters (little more than three walls and a roof) and had a big fire going.  most of them were laid out in sleeping bags, hoping to catch a few z's before continuing on.  Bill and i decided not to stop - although i was going far slower than i would have had i been fully awake and fresh, i knew that if my goal was to finish as soon as i could, then a constant but slow pace would (likley) serve that end better than fast, sporadic one.

We made the last CP (the tipi) at about 6:30 am.  There was no reason to stop for long.  we were 20+ miles from the finish but it was all flat.  Three hours of riding and we'd be done.  I rode with Bill for a while until i started having mechanical issues - chain suck would bind my chain between the chainring and the frame.  sometimes i'd just have to backpedal to free things up, but occasionally it would get so jammed i'd have to stop and fix it by hand.  I'd pedal hard to try to catch up, but the harder i pedaled, the more frequently it occurred.  so i decided to take it slow and steady - but then, alas, those damn sleepmonsters decided they weren't done with me yet (it was light again! i was supposed to get a second wind in the light!  but there was a nagging eye issue that seemed to intensify the sleepiness.... more on that some other time) and attacked again.  I'd doze off and come too just as my front tire would  angle into the berm of snow that marked the side of the trail.  my bike would stop tip sideways, dumping me into the powder.  this happened time ad time again.... I was passed by two riders (Don and Jason who'd been among the four resting at the shelter) and snapped out of my haze to try and keep up.  Chain suck again.  i finally had enough mental clarity to manually switch to the big chain ring in front which (for the most part) improved the situation.  In my fatigued state it was more torque than i wanted to provide, but i bucked up and started mashing hard, hoping to catch up to the riders in front of me.  I got within about 100 yds before the chain jumped back to the small chainring and got all twisted in the frame again and i ended up sprawled in the snow.

Finally the turnoff to the casino (finish line) appeared - but the casino itself remained elusive - still two miles away over rolling hills.  but it's proximity finally banished the sleepmonsters  and i gradually made up a bit of time on the last of the riders who had passed me (jason), crossing the finish line a few moments after him.  Don, incidentally, had missed the turn to the casino and went about a 1/4 mile out of his way before realizing his mistake - and so finished after me.

Alright, i guess this turned into a trip report of sorts after all.  so be it. All in all it was an awesome race.  if i did it again under similar conditions - i'd no doubt go under 24 hours (particularly if i was able to bank some sleep in the week before hand!).  But, i'm not going to do it again - i guess i'm a sucker for new challenges.  Although i have started thinking about skiing it next year.....

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I'm glad I was not the only one fighting the sleep monster. Mine jumped on my back after the last CP. What a bear. Great job! And thanks for taking the time to write!

    Jeremy Kershaw