22 June 2015

I am a Super Randonneur

Super Randonneur   (rahn doe ner) - A special medal awarded to those randonneurs who successfully complete a challenging series of brevets (200, 300, 400, and 600-kilometers) in a year. A hard-earned honor unto itself and worthy of being any randonneur's goal for the cycling season, the Super Randonneur series of brevets is usually needed to enter a 1200-kilometer event.

To be perfectly honest this was never in my plans for 2015, I had planned to ride a 300km event and possibly even the 400km but never the full series.
Note this is a long post by my standards.... short version I did it with a great group of friends and lots of sunshine. 

200k event

My randonneuring season started with the 200k Palmer spring classic.  I didn't have the greatest of starts to that event, I over heated and was cramping up by mile 30.  Luckily I was riding with a great group of people and thanks to Oscar, Chuck, Chris and Ryan letting me wheel suck/draft I managed to complete the event well within the time frame.
Photo Album 

These guys let me draft a long way :D

Riding gravel, the guy on a cross bike gets a flat.... go figure

Almost there

300k event

Following on from the Spring Classic we were back riding again four weeks later for the Anchorage Palmer Anchorage event.  Last year this was the first time I rode an event with the Alaska Randonneurs (see here for the blog post) This year I upped the distance I was going to ride.  This time I was going to attempt the 300km event.  We couldn't have asked for a better day out, sunshine, great temperatures and again another fantastic group of people to ride with.   Photo album

The 300k was a lot of fun and surprising I felt really good after the event, I seem to be improving every event that I take part in.  I am managing to improve my hydration and fuelling for the events.
Sunshine riding

Fantastic views

Homeward bound

All done Tom, Tim and Narciso

400k event

Just two weeks later I was out on another event, this time it was a 400km event. In 2014 I did this event as a one way, ride to Seward and take the train back, (see blog here).  This time I was going to attempt my first 400k event.  The weather was significantly better this year.
First control Portage - 2014
Cold and wet climbing to Summit Lake - 2014
2014 pictures

First control Portage - 2015

Warm and sunny climbing to Summit Lake - 2015

2015 pictures

The ride went great.

The engines for our ride down to Seward

Brant and Oscar were (only)riding the 200k event and very kindly spent most of the way down to Seward on the front of the group pulling us along at a good pace.  

Almost caught back onto the peloton 
We were a big group riding out of Anchorage and aside from stopping to take off clothing early on and playing catch up for around 12miles down the Arm I was able to draft a fair amount when I needed.

First bit of sunshine on the ride
We arrived in Seward early in the day and after refuelling headed back to Anchorage.  It was really warm on the way back up to Summit lake and we had a head wind.
Turnagain Pass summit 

Almost there

Chasing the sunset

Stunning views

All finished no lights required

600k event

After the effects of the 400k had worn off  and I found out the 24 Hours of Kincaid was not going to be happening for 2015.  I started to seriously consider riding the 600k event.  I talked with Amanda and after calling in a lot of kitchen passes :-) I booked the time off work and committed to the event. 

The original plan for this event was to ride up to Talkeetna and back which was a change from the normal event they have previously ridden (ride report) normal route page here.  All this changed last week due to some serious wild fires closing the road we needed to ride.  

The Alaska Randonneurs managed to put two approved permanent routes together for the 600k event, this is very important for anyone using this as a qualifier for Paris Breast Paris (PBP).  For us this meant that we would be riding the 400k event we rode the 3 weeks ago then completing a 200k event afterwards, this is normally how the event is split but for us this would mean a lot of time on the Seward highway which although has a reasonable shoulder by Alaskan standards also has a lot of traffic. 

The route started at 6am, this is 2 hours later than we normally start to ride down to Seward and the traffic was noticeably higher.  The weather was definitely not as warm and sunny as three weeks ago which was actually a relief, firstly we wouldn't be so inclined to stop and take pictures and two it was a great riding temperature for the majority of the ride.

Photo album

Down to Girdwood we let Oscar do some of the pulling until he rode off the front and we didn't chase him down but we did appreciate the tow whilst it it lasted.  We also saw the bore tide.
Bore tide

After a quick stop at Tesoro in Girdwood we were down to four people (Jan, Tom, Narciso and I), we rode as a group all the way down to Seward and back to Tesoro, mostly together, I didn't take many photos on the way down, the light wasn't that great and I mostly forgot :D

Stocking up on the way out of Seward

Tail winds galore

I forgot my towel

Getting ready to roll again, we had some horrible headwinds after this.

A quite moment along the arm, didn't get much darker than this. 

Jan was taking part in the 400k event, I think he finished at 02:00 I finished got back home around 00:30 and was asleep by 01:30 to get up at 05:15 to complete the 600k event. 

6am and off we go again

Tom pulling along the arm towards the climb

Bottom of the climb

Top of the climb with Bernie resupplying 

Bake shop in Girdwood for lunch

Thanks Julie for the photo
Almost done

Buzz finishing the climb

Narciso finishing the climb
Narciso, Buzz and I finished the route at around 17:15.  Tom finished a little later and I know Andy finished at some point too.  Buzz, Andy, Bernie and Tom  are off to complete PBP this year and I wish them all the best of luck.

What have I learnt on these long rides. 

  • It doesn't matter what you do, your arse will hurt.
  • Chamois butter is fantastic I couldn't ride these distances without it. 
  • Brooks saddles are comfortable but I still need cycling shorts and chamois cream.
  • I don't really have any specific ideas of what to eat but I do know I eat lots when doing the rides, pretty much always eating and hydrating after getting it so wrong on the Palmer Classic.
  • Am I mad? Possibly or maybe just crazy.
  • I am lucky and haven't had any punctures in all the distance I rode.
  • I am very thankful that Amanda is so supporting and looks after Fiona whilst I do these events.
  • I mostly rode the events in sunshine :D
  • I plan to do a 1200k event one day, not this year though.
  • I want a cross bike.
  • Yes my legs get tired though not as badly as you would think, I more feel like I have no power left in them.  Oh and going up stairs is hard work for a couple of days afterwards. 
Thanks for reading all

15 February 2015

Susitna 100 - 2015

Hello all, 
I want to start off with a huge thank you to Amanda and Fiona.  For this ride I have been doing a lot of training (over 1300miles since October) which has eaten into our family time.  Thank you both for being so understanding, you are both so awesome!

The Susitna 100 is a "Hundred Mile" race using mushing trails and frozen rivers in the big lake area of Alaska. 

The race for me started a last year well the preparations did at least.  I have been trying out different pieces of gear for the last few months trying to figure out what works and what doesn't.  If it has been cold below 0F I have been out riding testing everything to ensure my layer system has been optimal. On top of this I have also been experimenting with food to see what can fuel me for longer races. 

The pre race meeting was on Thursday, all racers have to turn up to get their mandatory gear checked

  • Sleeping bag rated to -20F (see details below)
  • Closed cell foam sleeping pad-minimum size = 3/8" x 20" x 48"
  • Bivy sack or tent (NO space blankets)
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Rear flashing light to be used after sunset
  • Two-quart (64 oz) insulated water container
  • 1-day of food (3000 calories) may be consumed after the last checkpoint
  • 15 lbs of gear at ALL times-including the finish line
My gear weighed in around 18# including my 3000 cal so what did I take as the extras
Camera, extra hat, gloves, base layers, GPS, back up GPS yep I really wanted that ride to be recorded :) tools, spare tubes and that was pretty much it.

On the Friday I prepared the food I would be taking and packed up my gear.
These two pictures capture pretty much everything I would be eating whilst between checkpoints, I really wanted to try and be self sufficient for as much as possible since I know time not moving forward is not a good thing if you are trying to finish as quickly as possibly, it is a race afterall.

Tasty food around 4000 cals
Hunter Sticks
I loaded up the rental car on Friday night and headed out to the start on Saturday morning. This is my bike fully loaded and ready to go, it weighs around 52# in this picture as a comparison the same bike with no bags or extras on weighs around 25.5# and with just empty bags weighs around 29#.  After writing this blog I am going down to take all the extras off the bike so It will feel fast again, at least for the next couple of weeks :)

fully loaded and ready to go
As with all races they start off fast and its a good idea to get to towards the front of the field for a couple of reasons.  One stay out of the way of crashes and two to try and ensure you have good trail conditions as they can deteriorate quickly with softer snow. 
Su Start - Photo Credit Kevin Murphy
I'm on row two in that picture, which worked out pretty well for me, I got a reasonable start and the trails were pretty good for the early part of the course, the sun had just risen and we were treated to some spectacular views. 

Just me and my shadow
Stopping to let a little air out as the trails were starting to soften up.
Letting some air out

grove already forming

The pace was pretty high and by the first checkpoint I was over 0.5 hours back on the leaders, this did not bother me so much as they were flying.  However I could see what I had done not as well I as hoped.  By checkpoint one  I was too hot and should have adjusted my layers (Temperatures were in the high teens at the start and warmed up to the 30's fairly quickly), I hadn't aired down enough on the softer trails. I also missed leaving checkpoint one with Clint who was trying to catch Laura, I thought I would catch them later on but as it turns out they were riding at the same or a much faster pace than me all the way to the finish, they were not stopping to take photos ;-). 
I left checkpoint one just after Christina and followed her for a short while, until the trails started getting soft.  I think that the only reason I was able to pass her was due to the soft trails,  my tyres are about 0.6" wider than hers and in soft snow this makes all the difference. 

Christina riding towards the sleeping lady
towards the sleeping lady
more sleeping lady
sleeping lady and the lath we are following
Denali or Mckinley depending on what side of the fence you sit 

After following a long straight section of course we arrived at Flathorn lake, this was the first section of trail which was really soft, this is where I compounded my two earlier mistakes, I didn't let air out until I got to checkpoint 2 and still kept my layer on under my trousers, thinking it would be cooler on the river.

Checkpoint two bike park
Check point 2 Mile 34ish
After finally being sensible and airing down the trails became a little easier to ride. 

The next landmark we got to was the wall of death, this is an entry point onto the Susitna river, its steep and I am glad we didn't have to ride up it :)

Wall of death
What followed next was for me the slowest part of the course, I aired down a fraction more and rode what I could for the next 5 miles, it seemed to take forever! In reality it was only just over 1 hour until I reached Scary Tree, from what I have read, Scary Tree used to be a big cotton wood tree that stood on this spot, now.... well you make your mind up :-)
Scary Tree
After this the trail actually improved significantly as we rode to checkpoint 3 - Five Star Camp. I was actually worried I had missed the camp as I thought it was at mile 50 it was actually at mile 51.  At this checkpoint I finally decided to take off my base layer under my trousers, it was a good decision and I wish I had removed them sooner.
Five Star Tent Camp
Following five star tent camp we continued along the trail until we finally left the river (the hill off the river is a tough one).  The trail was pretty good, soft sections were kept to a minimum and I managed to see a dog sled team, a few of snow machines (Snow mobiles if you are not in Alaska) some of which passed me at about 9million miles per hour.

Dog Sled team

Checkpoint 4 is EagleQuest Lodge at 60 miles (really 62) where I got the surprise of the day.  Amanda, Fiona and Angie were there to cheer me on.

Daughter hugs
Daughter pacing
As can be seen in this photo I am already having to use my light, it was around 18:00 and just getting dark.  I had already planned not to stop at this checkpoint and it was really hard for me to stick with this plan (sorry Amanda, Fiona and Angie).  I received some go faster hugs had some photos taken then headed back onto the trail,

the awesome cheering squad!
a little Daddy time

It was hard to leave my family!

Given I hadn't stopped and refuelled I knew I was going to have to be extra careful with my fuelling over the next 17miles to Cow Lake, I surprised myself and actually got it right, within 10 min of eating I already felt my mood changing. 

Big swamp stop

trying to capture the glow of Anchorage
Once you have crossed the big swamp you are almost at Cow lake, then the hills started and they are tough.  Most hills I was walking up and some having to tripod down (one foot on the pedal the other being used as an outrigger)

At cow lake tent camp (You guys rocked) I had some soup which was really welcome and then I headed off for the next 12miles into Big hunter loop trail tent camp.  Note if you are thinking of doing the Su please be aware that this is the hilliest section of the course and the best way I could describe it is soul destroying!

I arrived at the last checkpoint, talked with the checkpoint workers about a friend I had met on the trail who was really struggling and then headed off for the final 9ish miles.  If you have got to this point don't worry the trail is flat and was the second fastest part of the course for me, even with tired legs.

Don't miss the last turn 
I finally finished at 00:26:47 and was delighted to get hugs from Amanda and Fiona as well as support and congratulations from Clint and Laura who smoked the trail.  Laura won first place for the women's 100 mile event and I think Clint was top 10.  I was top 20 I think which given how much I stopped to take photos (at least 1/2 hour going by the GPS timing) I am very happy with my performance.

What would I do differently if/when I race this one again, I would better control my temperature, I would eat more sooner and I would probably take fewer photos and treat it more as a race....

Here is a photo of the Revolution Racing team members who rode the event, we are all pretty relieved to have finished and I'm sure looking forward to our next ride... just not to soon.
Revolution Racing

I would like to thank all the people who have trained with me in particular Kevin who is a fountain of winter biking knowledge and all the other riders who have joined me on rides, If I missed your name I am sorry there have been a lot of you.  Chuck, Oscar, Margaret, Roger, Angie, Adam, Amanda, Fiona, Andrew, Kent, Sandy, Josh, Megan, Laura, Clint, Jordy, Brett, Susan, Brant, Curly, Scott and Will

Finally I would like to thank the Susitna 100 organisers and the checkpoint workers who with which we wouldn't have an event!

Here is the track of where I went.