13 March 2017

If in doubt, let it out!

11th March 2017 saw the 5th running of the Trio Fat Bike World Championship. The race is put on by Backcountry Bike & Ski and Speedway Cycles. This is one of the last fatbike races of the season (the last in south central Alaska) and has a great atmosphere and after party.
This year was my 3rd time riding the event. The last time I did this event it was -17F at the start line. This year it was a pleasant 19F and quickly warmed up to over 30F once the race started. For my riding pleasure I decided it would be great idea to ride the 60mile version (three laps).

The course description

The race starts in downtown Talkeetna. It follows the road out of town for around 2 miles before joining a snow machine trail. The road section is a false flat but after joining the trails we almost immediately start to climb. After around 2 miles we rejoin the road network for a short period before taking a snow machine trail that parallels the road. This trail undulates with a climbing trend and we eventually pass a communication tower where the trail widens and continues to undulate (with a climbing trend) until the powerline trail. Here we drop down on a narrow trail (1 snow machine wide) to the river and the roughly halfway aid station at around 11.8 miles into the lap.
After the aid station we continue on a narrow trail up a couple of killer climbs but mostly enjoying an undulating trail (feels like more down than up) through the woods with great views of Denali. The final 3.5miles of this trail  have a definite descending trend back to the only two way section of the course. This is only around 200 yards though. We cross a road to enjoy around 1.5miles of singletrack before rejoining the road network at around mile 19.5. Here we complete the loop back into town and either finish our race or go out to complete more laps.

My race

I lined up on the front row along with a couple of my teammates. 
Rolling out from the start.
The pace to the first trail was relaxed, I even took the time to take a few photos. 
Behind me

Looking ahead

As we joined the snow machine trail the pace picked up a little and before long, as we started up the first climb the pace was definitely hot for me.
On the second climb I saw one of the lead riders (David Arteaga) was stopped and appeared to be struggling with a mechanical. I pulled over and assisted him in freeing his chain which had jammed between his crank arm and chainring. Soon we were back riding and it wasn't long (around 5 miles according to Strava flybys) before I caught back up with Matt and Laura who I was riding near before I stopped to help David. Unfortunately Owen, James, Nico, David, John and Jason had escaped me here and I wouldn't see them again all race.

Trail conditions can and often do vary when racing a multi lap format race. For myself and everyone the conditions did change drastically especially for the final lap. This years deterioration was due to the low temperature at which the snow fell, this meant that in spite of multiple grooming efforts the snow didn't consolidate well on certain sections of the trail.

Lap 1: The course was good however a few of the steeper climbs were not rideable but everything else was pretty solid.

Lap 2: The course was still in pretty good shape however as the temperature increased the snow became a little greasy. Airing down helped and once again the majority of the course was rideable.

Lap 3: Errrmmmm... It got significantly worse for around 3 miles. I had aired down to around 4psi by this point and even that wasn't getting me through. However once we passed the communication station the trail improved for the next 5 miles it was only my tired legs holding me back really. Into the aid station the trail was soft and it was just a case of being patient whilst passing the 20mile racers, that theme would continue to the end of the race.

Me, Laura and Matt riding on lap 2
- Photo Credit Tim Berntson

Same section of trail lap 3
The best thing about the Trio though, is how relaxed the event is. The aid station is getting to be legendary. As I was well out of the running for the top places I figured it would be rude not to stop and partake in the festivities on my final lap. I was only there for 10min but that was enough time to grab a beer and soak in the atmosphere.

Aid station, just a few bikes - Photo Credit Ryan Greeff


Floating Unicorn and fat bikes in overflow....
Photo Credit Ryan Greeff

Cheers Jordy!
After leaving the aid station I completed the course not forgetting to stop for a Denali selfie.
Huge mountain.
I finished the race in 7hrs 5min (Unofficial time and 8th place overall, 7th Man) 
Lap 1 took 1:55:14
Lap 2 took 2:15:43
Lap 3 took 2:53:26
And I am totally stoked with that.
Could I have ridden any faster? possibly.
I am still working on nutrition on these longer rides especially at higher pace. The good news is no cramps this time though I did feel a few twinges. I am sure I didn't eat enough on lap one to let me maintain my speed on lap two but this is all work in progress. Lap three could have definitely been faster on a couple of sections. Not stopping for a beer would have also cut around 10 min from my lap but I wouldn't have had as much fun out there with that attitude. One thing is for sure I am glad I stopped for a beer and chat with my friends who were working at the aid station.

Once again a huge thanks to Amanda for taking care of Fiona and Mort so that I could race. I couldn't do these silly races without your support. You are one in a million baby! 

05 March 2017

Alaska Fat Bike State Champs 2017

Saturday 4th March saw the final round of the 2016/17 ASS (Abominable Snow Series).The turnout was a little lower than I was expecting however. I am guessing this was due to some riders being out of town for a race down in Homer, some racers preparing for the Tour of Anchorage (5th March ski race) and other racers recovering from the Iditarod Trail Invitational which took 3+ days for all the riders.

The course

The course was made up of around 1.4 miles of multiuse before a right turn onto some ripping singletrack for around 3.4 miles before re-joining the multiuse trail where the lap started again. The passing opportunities are limited on the singletrack. You are basically relying on the good will of the person in front of you to let you pass at the ski trail intersections. 

My Race

I lined up at the start along with the front pack again and we were off. Knowing the course and how positioning would be very important I ensured I pushed my pace on the first time down the multiuse trail to gain a better position going into the singletrack. As we entered the singletrack I was sitting in 6th place, following Tom who I have been riding (aka "training) a lot with.
Tom with me following him - PC Nathaniel Bannish

Taking things seriously as ever - PC Nathaniel Bannish.
We continued on the singletrack and I was feeling good. Tom ran slightly wide on one of the corners and his front wheel slid out, fortunately I was able to brake in time and not hit him. This slight delay meant that we had been dropped by Jamie and John who were running in 3rd and 4th place. Tom is a quick descender and singletrack rider and we were quickly back up to warp speed and chasing after Jamie and John. A little further along the trail Tom managed to wack his head on a low hanging branch which took him off trail. At this point I passed him and continued the chase to Jamie and John. Much to my surprise I caught them up as we rejoined the multiuse trail.

End of lap 1 singletrack - PC Robb Christenson

Then disaster for me, reaching into my frame bag I pulled out my bottle to get a drink, at the same time I managed to pull out my buff and it dropped into my lap first then to the right and into my derailleur.  I had no option but to stop and remove it whilst Jamie and John pulled away from me,  along with Tom and Owen, well shit that wasn't in the plan.
This is where one of my other riding (aka "training") buddies, Andy, saved my race. He was a little behind us coming off the singletrack but rode with me and dragged me back up to Tom and Owen who had passed me whilst I was fixing my bike. 
We entered the singletrack and continued our chase of the two 9:zero:7 riders in 3rd and 4th place.
Back on the tail of the 9:zero:7 riders end of lap 2, yet again I'm waving to a camera
- PC Robb Christenson

As we rejoined the multiuse trail we had caught them up again but Jamie and John are very quick on the multiuse trail and promptly dropped me, again! Once again Andy saved me and helped me bridge back up to Tom and Owen, between the four of us we bridged back onto John and Jamie. I knew my only chance to beat these guys was to get ahead in the singletrack and hope it stuck but I had given it 100% on the mulituse and was wasted. 
As we entered the singletrack I lunged and managed to pull in behind John and Tom. I got to recover a little on the first singletrack climb, I guess everyone was working just as hard as me. Before we crossed the third ski trail I asked Tom if I could go past him, thankfully he said yes, now I was on John's tail. I made the same request before the next singletrack trail and John also let me past. After passing John I was going a little faster than before and on a slightly different line and almost hit some trees. I was now sitting in 3rd place.... 
Given how Tom, Owen, Andy and I had caught up with Jamie and John on previous laps I was confident I would be able get a little time on John on the singletrack, I needed this though as he is very fast on the multiuse trails.
At the bottom of L-train I had put some time into John and Tom, I managed to slightly extend this on by the bottom of Good Greeff, to around 10 seconds - well until the climbing started. That is where my legs decided no Nick, you have used your allotted power for today. As we came off Good Greeff, there was no time difference..... great I am thinking its going to be a sprint finish. My only choice was to ride as fast as I could and hope something happened. I channelled my inner Jens Voigt and pedalled my arse off. 
By the end of the singletrack I had put in around 2 seconds though I didn't know this (strava fly by is a great tool). I pedalled as hard as I could to the finish where I reached my maximum heart rate on the race. Looking at the replay I finished around 5 seconds ahead of John who had not had the best exit from the singletrack.  I held on for 3rd place my best placing in an ASS race expert category. 
Sprinting for 3rd place - PC Robb Christenson

Podium picture - PC Robb Christenson


Analysis 

I had a great race there is no doubt about it, 3rd place is more due to some of the faster riders not being there however, I have improved my speed and I am closer to the top riders now I think. 
I wouldn't have done nearly as well at this race without the assistance (drafting and encouragement) from Tom and Andy you both saved my race and I can't thank you enough for that. 
Note to self, put items you are not going to use (gloves and buff) in a different place to the stuff you are going to use like a bottle. Racecraft 101 failure. 
I have been riding, ok "training" with a bunch of really fast riders to try and improve my speed on these short course races. Clearly its paying off. Thank you Andy, Tom, Megan and all the other riders in that group who push me to my limits and beyond sometimes, (yes hitting that tree really hurt). 
Team rides with Revolution are also starting to pay off, getting to ride with my teammates is always fun, hopefully we will continue this throughout the season. 

Strava or it didn't happen?


Finally

Thanks to Chain Reaction Cycles for putting on a great series. I know it must be a hassle with all the permits and working on the courses especially given the course conditions can change so rapidly due to weather. Once again the ASS races have been fun to participate in. 

01 March 2017

State 13

The 50 states of running continued with me picking up another state on our last holiday to California.

See previous states here
8 states of running

The 9th state

States 10,11 and a throwback to 12

I did a couple of runs whilst we were down in San Diego.

For my state run I picked this one, out along the pavement and back via the beach.

13 down 37 to go