10 October 2016

2016 Arctic Cross season - this one went really well

With the end of our Arctic Cross season, just as the lower 48 gears up for theirs I am glad to write that mine was a great success.
This years Arctic Cross courses have been really really great, if not the greatest. The last four races each adding on the previous race's greatness. Thanks Arctic Cross for all that you do, mini barriers are a great addition.

For me personally with the way the competition is up here I don't expect to win or even podium however I am glad to say I managed to make a few top tens this year and was battling for 7th place at more than one race. This is a huge improvement over the previous years.

To quote Greg LeMond - "It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster." which could sum up this seasons racing for me.
I am fitter than last year, my technique is better (although still has room for improvement), both of these factors mean I'm definitely faster than last year.  The thing is, so are guys I am racing against.

The battles each race between, Clint, Chris, Erik, Jared and Ryan have been fantastic fun and we have all been so close to each other all season.
Me, Ryan and Clint battling for 7th place at this time -
Photo Credit Patrick McGownd
A huge thanks at this point must go out to, Megan, Mara, Amber and Bria who enabled me to go out and race these events when Amanda was working. Thanks ladies for all the assistance, Amanda and I really appreciate it.  

Race positions 

Race #1 - 11th Place. Due to not checking tyre pressure I fought from the back of the field after stopping on lap one to put air into my tyre. - lesson learnt pump up tyres and have a pump in the pit.

Race #2 - 10th Place. Girdwood hill climb, this was my least favourite event and the only one where I was lapped.... I was lapped twice, much respect out to Will and Josh who lapped the whole field.

Race #3 - Didn't race as I was working, I did hear that this course was much better than the previous day's course though.

Race #4 - 10th place, my mountain biking skills got me through where some others were struggling the grass fields crushed me, there was a lot of grass fields :-)

Race #5 - 10th Place. I had a really good race here, battling with a strong group of guys for most of the race.  Probably went out a little to early but loved every minute of it.

Race #6 - 11th Place. Through lap one and two my legs felt great, I had nothing when Chris said to me we should pick up the pace and split the group.

Race #7 - 10th Place. Without a doubt my best race start ever, should have changed lines sooner on the sand and kicked harder to catch Clint who I thought would have faded on his last lap. Well done Clint, Jared and Chris who picked up the pace a little at the end.

So that was my season - I finished 12th overall
Full season points here (to be updated)

So what else?

Well even more important than me, is the fact that Fiona has finally started to enjoy riding again. She decided to ride the last four kiddo cross races. There may be a plus bike coming from Santa if she continues at this rate. 
Fiona crushing the last Cross course... 

And finally 

The Blades family Anchorage have added another member to the family. 
Everyone meet Mort. He is named after the Terry Pratchett character. At this early stage we can safely say he likes to sleep, almost gets on with the cat (they tolerate each other) and he likes to bark at other dogs.  We are all super excited to see what other character traits come out. I am really hoping I can train him to be an awesome trail dog :-)

Mort the little dog who thinks he is a big dog. 

22 August 2016

The lost ring of no power

On the 6th August 2016 when I was racing the Soggy Bottom I managed to lose my wedding ring.
This was immensely frustrating for me as I thought I remembered putting it on in the morning before I left the house. I was also pretty sure I'd taken it off before I started my ride. Normally I take it off before riding so I don't lose it. If I did take it off it was probably in Hope, AK. If I didn't take it off I had no idea where it could be.
On returning from my ride when getting changed I couldn't find my ring, never mind it's probably back at home I thought. At home I couldn't find it.  A huge thanks to Oscar for checking his vehicle for the lost ring. 
On Friday (19th August 2016) I ordered a replacement.  Saturday (20th August 2016) evening I found my ring grrrrrrr
Once was lost but now I'm back

I guess I took it off when changing into my riding shoes and put it in a "safe" place so I didn't lose it whilst riding.
Next thing to find is my riding glasses. 

19 August 2016

States 10, 11 and throwback to 12

Way back in 2012 when we did a bunch of travelling I realised that in that year I ran in 8 states and figured why not try and run in all 50.
See my previous posts
8 states of running

The 9th state

With our latest vacation I managed to pick up another two states and foolishly missed out on a third...

State 10 - Illinois

We were staying down town so my run took me out to Lake Michigan and along the water front.

State 11 - Indiania

Whilst driving back I persuaded the family to stop in Indiana at a State park so I could go for a run.
It was hot and I was running on soft sand.  A fun but hard run.

When I got home and started writing this up I realised that I had not run in Michigan since 2012 although I know I have previously.

So here it is a throwback run to 2011 when I ran in Michigan.

State 12 - Michigan

Looking back at the previous months running data around this time, clearly I had been running a lot more than I do at the moment, 6:55 min/mile. Although that was a flat run.

12 states down just 38 to go.... just don't ask me to name them right now :)

07 August 2016

Soggy Bottom 2016

Soggy Bottom race report

The Soggy Bottom is a race that has been happening for the last 13 years, this was the 14th edition of the race and we rode the same course as last year albeit in different conditions.  This years version of the race was preceded by a week of epic rain.   The soggy gets its reputation from having unpredictable some might say miserable trail conditions.  This was not going to be a problem for me though because a couple of weeks ago I ordered a mudhugger rear fender for my bike. Unfortunately due to a problem with shipping it was not going to arrive in time.  Fortunately my awesome wife called the post office and the lady she talked with actually got the parcel off the delivery truck so I could fit the fender to my bike on friday night.

pre fender install

Mudhugger rear fender installed
With all the rain, the talk at the start was guessing what the weather may have done to the trail and have install for us on the day. Luckily for us it wasn't actually raining when we started, we even saw blue sky before we started. For my ride I was sprinkled on going down devils pass (mile 60) but aside from that I didn't ride in the rain and it was hot and sunny whilst riding out of Cooper landing where we were riding on dry trails. Obviously we can learn from this. Never trust the weather people up here who had predicted 100% chance of rain all day for the race.

My race

Firstly I want to say a huge thanks to Amanda for looking after Fiona whilst she was working and arranging child care with some friends of ours. I would also like to thank my friend Oscar who gave me a ride down to Hope and stayed around to give me a ride back. Oscar was racing the team version of the event with Janice Tower and Pete Basinger, his team finished in 2nd place in 9hrs 55min and without their support with the drop bag I really don't think I would have finished.  

Hope to Coopers

The race starts in downtown Hope outside the seaview bar, we cruise up the road for around 4.5 miles before hitting the trail.  
Me joining the trail - photo credit Janice Tower

We then climb up to the top of resurrection pass (2600ft) at around mile 23.  For me this is where I knew I was struggling well actually at around mile 20. I think I went out a little to hard or didn't drink enough because I started cramping up in both of my legs.... This is not what you want to happen on a 100+ mile race when you haven't even reached the top of the first climb.  I took a salt tablet and drank some more water and hoped for the best. 

After cresting Resurrection pass we got our first taste of some peanut butter mud but it was short lived.  Next section is the descent down to the Devil's pass cabin and then onwards to Cooper landing.  Last year at this point in the course a couple friends started a new tradition of the Bacon station where they provide bacon to the racers.  This year the tradition continued and boy was it welcome. 
Ryan cooking bacon - photo credit Laura Fox
Bacon handup - photo credit Laura Fox
After some yummy bacon I descended down to Cooper landing, before I reached Juneau lake I passed a couple of racers who were repairing flat tyres.  Whilst riding past Juneau lake by far the wettest section of the trail, I was thinking back to this ride when Kevin and I rode across the lake, that was much a much dryer ride.  After Juneau lake I suffered my own tyre problem.  As it was not completely flat I either burped a little air or got a hole and Stans did it's job.  I added more air and it held to the end of the race.

The lighter effort on the descent seemed to help my legs though any incline involved me dropping into the small chain ring to stop my legs twinging.  I was also peeing what seemed like every 2 min (it wasn't) after all the extra fluid I had taken on.  

Before I started the race I was not planning on taking anything on at checkpoint 1 (Cooper Landing). Racing is all about adapting to the situation you are in. As I was sorting my gear out, Janice came over and asked if I needed anything from the bag I had with their team.  I truly think this saved my race.  I mixed myself an electrolyte drink for the first part of the next leg, swapped my gear and was off again. 

Coming into Cooper Landing - photo credit Janice Tower

Leaving Cooper Landing - Photo credit Janice Tower

Cooper to Devils

After jogging through the parking lot at Coopers I remounted my bike and headed back up to the Devils pass cabin. I mostly rode the trail up to the top, there is a section around Swan lake which although is potentially rideable in a race this long its better to save energy, walk and eat.  After this I got back into the alpine section before the devils' pass cabin.  This is where the trail is really nice. It was mostly dry or drying and there was a tail wind. When I reached the bacon station they had upped the game and whiskey was on offer.  It would have been rude not to partake so I did, I also had some more bacon.

Whiskey and Bacon - Photo credit Katie Torpy

Bacon station crew Laura, Ryan and Chuck
 - Photo Credit Chuck Mangold
Following the energy shot, I proceeded down the really fun part of the trail, we go through Devil's pass at 2400ft and head all the way down to the trail head.  The trail is fun especially the top alpine section although with this year's headwind was not as much fun. I stopped to put on arm warmers and where Will was time checking some of the lead group after the rock garden. 
Next checkpoint is Devils trailhead, though the ride in can be frustrating as it finishes on a climb and there is often a lot of stop start with riders leaving the checkpoint, riding coming uphill has the right of way. 

Arriving at Devils pass trailhead - Photo credit Oscar Lage
At the checkpoint I again sorted out my stuff and headed out as fast as I could. Two things I should have done: 
1. Lubed my chain. 
2. Applied more chamois butter.

Devils to Hope

This section of the trail starts with a short descent and then climbs back up to Resurrection pass. 
My legs were tired but I rode most of the trail which is much better than last year. The Alpine section was great, you have to love a tail wind. 
To the top of Res pass from the trail head took 1hr 50min this year, last year the same section took me 2hrs and 15min. It is an 11mile section of trail.   
At the top of the pass I had two hours and 20min to make a sub 12hr time. During my descent I lost a water bottle I have no idea where though I know it was with me at the top. Just after caribou creek I drank my last water out of my camel back, 8miles of mostly downhill trail this was not a problem and probably pretty good timing. 
Overall on this section the last part of the ride took me almost 1hr less than last year, part of this though is because I didn't run into any bears which I am very glad of but part of it was my legs didn't cramp. I arrived in Hope in 11hrs 28min and 41seconds (unofficial time). I am super happy I managed to get under 12hrs I really didn't think that was going to be possible at mile 20. 
Happy to be done :)
For my efforts what did I receive?  A cool stem cap which are given out to riders who finish under 12hrs. 
Proud of this one!

Strava of the route

Post race thoughts

The double front fender and massive rear fender kept me really clean.  

The fenders worked great
not so muddy backpack
very muddy drive train
very very muddy
Never trust weather people they don't know what they are talking about :-)
I really should have changed the rear cable and housing before this race, from the start of the ride the bike was ghost shifting. The front worked flawlessly throughout the race. 
Biggest smile I saw Ethan Greeff descending Devils Pass, he was having so much fun! 
Now its off to clean my bike and reinstall the brake pads on Amanda's bike which I took as spares. 

Once again a huge thanks to my family and friends who enabled me to complete this event. 
Finally thanks to all the other riders, organisers and supporters of this race, the smiling faces make this event a lot of fun even if you are suffering a on a wet 100mile race.  
To quote the late Jeff Dusenbury  "Why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot!"

17 July 2016

Xterra Hammerman Duathlon 2016

This was my second try at this event (2015 race report) and I came in much better prepared. I have completed a few more runs though not as many as I wanted to get in and a lot more mountain bike racing so I feel I have at least a little speed.

The Race

To be perfectly honest we almost missed the start as the air horn sounded then we all realised that was our signal to go.

off we go!
I came off the first run into the transition in the lead group, once again I need to work on my transitions but made it through just fine. I set off on the bike chasing a work colleague (Sam) and passed him pretty early on.

onto the bike leg

Aside from being passed by Will, Jason, James and Andy I didn't really see anyone on the course.  I was thinking I was in 3rd or 4th position but didn't really know, I pushed the pace as hard I could go though this is difficult to do when there is nobody around you. 
Whilst on the bike I had two lapses of concentration and almost ended over the bars on both occasions. The first one on Bolling Alley (sugar lumps I think) I was so far off the back of the bike trying to get the rear wheel back on the ground the tyre buzzed my thigh.  I honestly don't know how I managed to ride it out. 

onto the run leg
My run went pretty well, although I did forget my legs don't work that well after riding a bike and tripped on a root, last year I got away with it, this year I hit the deck.  About halfway around the run I could see Andy(doing the triathlon so not technically racing him) ahead of me and tried to catch him up.  Then my legs started cramping I managed to continue but had to reduce my pace.  The next thing I see is Simon (who I was racing) just ahead of Andy.  By this point on the run course we are about to enter the really steep uphill section, this didn't help my legs at all.
I continued on now having lost sight of Andy and Simon.  I passed James on the trail who had finished his race and he said Simon was just ahead I pushed on as hard as I could finally catching sight of Simon just before the last hill.  Unfortunately for me he was a little far ahead and he managed to maintain a 17second lead over the finish line to take the victory leaving me with second place.  On crossing the finish line my legs both cramped up and I ended up on the floor.  I don't think I have worked that hard for something for a long time. 


The comparison to 2015

Although the bike courses were a little different I was significantly faster this year.  

The thanks

Thanks to the organisers for another great event and thank for the awesome support Amanda and Fi your cheering makes all the difference.

11 July 2016

Fireweed 200 - the "quad" team edition

9th July 2016 was the date for this years Fireweed 200 event.  The current version of the race starts at Sheep Mountain Lodge and takes highway one to the Richardson highway where it takes a right turn and finishes in Valdez, 192miles and only two turns at junctions.

I was racing on a team called numbnutz as a stand in for a rider who was unable to race.  The team has competed in the event for a number of years and are a slick machine.  As the team all reside in different locations we decided to car pool from Palmer. On our way out we received a call from Bryan who had unfortunately been involved in a car collision, whilst driving on the old glen the car following him failed to see he had stopped due to traffic and barrelled into him at around 45mph. His bike and rack took the majority of the impact and although no real damage to him the bike and car were a write off it seems. 

not a great start to Bryan's weekend. 
Team numbnutz were down to three and one of them (Jim) had been sick or so he said :)
After getting dinner at Subway we headed up the road to set up camp at Sheep Mountain Lodge. 
After setting up camp we discussed team tactics a little, now that we were down a team member, possibly two if Jim really couldn't ride our rest periods got a lot shorter and although I have the capability to ride the distance I have never raced that far. 

training nutz

Looking towards the start area from the airstrip
 which is where we all camp.

morning on a beautiful day

Pete geared up and ready to roll
Pete took the first leg and was flying when he came past me as I stopped to get some photos.  
Pete chasing down a member of CPR who we played leapfrog and chase with all day.

Pete on leg one
The course heads out east from the start, after a little climbing descends into Glennallen where at around 75  miles we make a turn to the right and head towards Valdez.
The weather was hot and at Glenallen we picked up a relentless headwind all the way into Valdez around 120miles later.

Our plan was to ride for roughly 15-20min stints and then switch out however once we hit the headwind those stints got a little shorter.  
Pete was my incoming teammate and Jim my outgoing. My day pretty much went like this:
When I came in from my ride I would check the time, load bike my bike onto the vehicle (unload Pete's bike, load mine, load Pete's), after four min set off after team mate (Jim) in the support vehicles (one was being driven by Julie who is Jim's wife the other was driven by Pete and I), check on rider progress then try to find a good place to hand over which will be around 10 to 15min of total ride time, stop unload Pete's bike, watch the time for when he left, after 4 min set off after him, check how he is doing and then try to guess where we should be handing to give the 10 to 15min ride time, stop car, put keys on the dash, unload bike and get ready to ride when he comes in. This was a lot more tiring than I thought it was going to be as the riding was flat out but also the driving and guessing where to stop for the team mates was a real learning experience. To top all of this I had to find time to eat and drink.  
Pete heading up for a change over

looking for Jim

setting off

wow Jim was really flying

and we are off

full gas Jim
Our team swaps got a lot slicker by the end of the race.
Photo opportunity going up the pass

slick change over

Pete crossing the line

me rolling in way after him....

Numbnutz at the finish line. 

In total I completed 15 segments and raced around 72 miles. For me the whole race seemed to go really fast as we didn't stop at all. If I did the race again on a team I would probably do things a little different food wise, I didn't feel I had enough variety however I was happy with the race. My two teammates I rode with rocked the riding though even with Jim's "Sickness", I was glad I was able to join team numbnutz for a year and help them out.  Will I do this event again... who knows but the solo ride did look tempting....

How did we do?

We finished in 8th place overall (10hrs 31min 25sec) and 3rd in our age group.  We had a really good battle with another team called CPR.  Josh, Roger, Michael and Tony had the three of us on our toes all day and in the end finished just over 3 min ahead of us.

Full results

Team CPR who we battled with all day, well done gents
Picture of the race results - photo by David Henke

My buddy Brant

I want to put a special mention out to my friend and team mate Brant.  He rode the 200 event solo which is totally awesome. I have ridden a lot with him on longer events and he is great fun to ride with and always up beat. He can also set an incredible pace into a headwind unfortunately for this ride he got lots more practice, headwinds really do suck. 
On this ride he ran out of water, got a flat tyre and also sunburnt....... He was still super chipper at the finish line, it was great hanging out with you after the event.  
uphill and a headwind at least it wasn't raining. 

finished in seconds over 12hrs

All my stints

Stint 1 - my fastest average speed, fresh legs help. 

Stint 2 - 

Stint 3 -

Stint 4 -

Stint 5 - and into the headwind we went

Stint 6 - this was a really tough stint

Stint 7 - 

Stint 8

Stint 9 - I think this was my least favourite stint

Stint 10

Stint 11

Stint 12

Stint 13 - topping out the climb I really enjoyed this one

Stint 14 - this was one of my favourites as the wind had died down for a little bit of it.

Stint 15 - Pete and I rode together to finish the ride, well until he blew me away and I just struggled to the finish. 

03 July 2016

July already and we are in full summer mode

Late Spring and early Summer in 2016 has brought plenty of warm dry weather to south central Alaska. For me it has meant lots of riding and running and trying to get to bed at a sensible time with the seemingly everlasting light.

Anchorage Seward Anchorage

Once again I rode the Denali Randonneurs 400km event to Seward and back. This year the weather was not quite as nice as last years, it was sunny at times but we also had a fair amount of rain and headwinds in what felt like both directions.  Fortunately I was riding with a good buddy of mine Oscar, its always nice when you have someone to suffer with :)
We both would class the ride as type two fun, however the tail wind for the last 30 miles certainly made that part of the ride type one fun. Definition of types of fun
climbing to turnagain pass
kenai lake

The answer

soft peddling and 20mph I'll take it

almost home

Drinking like a hobo

24 hours of Kincaid

Returning for 2016 was the 24HOK. This year there was a pretty low turnout compared to last time it was run in 2014 however, the course was fantastic and a real credit to the ArcticMTB club who organised the event.
LeMans style start
This year I raced on a quad team for the 12hour event. Our team (Glenn and the bear pissers) came second in our class (aka last) however we did have a lot of fun.
The team I ride for, Revolution racing had a fantastic turnout and with the addition of margaritas (thanks Chuck) and some beer from our sponsor Anchorage Brewing Co we seemed to nail the ride and social side of the event IMHO.
We also tried camping as a family first time. It was really windy throughout the weekend and the tent barely stayed upright however, Fiona did manage to sleep eventually even with the tent flexing so much it was hitting her face.
Camping for one night only :-/

Finally asleep this was at 00:20 it didn't get much darker

Hiking flattop mountain

We have been in Anchorage a little over 3.5 years and have never hiked flattop mountain. This is partially because we are more cyclists than hikers and partially because when we tried we were turned around due to conditions.

Amanda's job had a complication which meant that we had the opportunity to have a bonus family day. We decided a short hike was in order and planned to do the blueberry loop and maybe up to the saddle. When we reached the saddle, we assessed the situation and threw caution to the wind and headed up to the top. From the saddle up to the top is where the hike becomes a little more strenuous however both Amanda and Fiona did great at the scramble section both up and down.  I believe part of this was due to the low visibility. Although we were not treated to the spectacular views for our hike equally for the scramble part we didn't have to deal with vertigo so swings and roundabouts really.
Not having grand vistas ensures you take notice of the littler things like the alpine flowers, the pretty rocks and of course the purple pinecones.
touching the clouds

at the top....

a brief view

tundra flower

heading back down

nearing the bottom of the scramble

one of the last switch backs

more flowers

and more 

and more


looking back at the top which had now cleared

even more flowers

purple pine cones 

still more flowers

When will this hike be over? Where has the summit gone?

As summer rolls on

That is most of what we have been up to this early summer, well aside from work, the wedding we went to some midweek races and Fiona at football.... how is the rest of our summer looking? Busy would be the best way to describe it with more racing and events and being away. It's good to be busy right?
There is also something called independance day to look forward to, although no fireworks here in Anchorage where we will be as they are not allowed, not that you can see them anyway as it's still light until way into the night...