21 February 2016

Fiona's skiing progression

At the start of 2016 Amanda and I paid for Fiona to take some skiing lessons (a block of 4 weeks of 2 hrs each), since we have a great beginner ski option in town (Hilltop ski area) and its on "real" snow (some is man made especially this year with the awful winter).  Fiona seemed to really like it and by lesson two was using a tow lift and even took one run down the big hill.

Roll on another few weeks and we again signed her up for another block of 4 lessons. Last night (Friday 19th February) was lesson number 7.

She has been having a blast and is loving cruising down from the top of the "mountain" (its a hill).  She is now at a level where I can go skiing with her too and with the progression she has made I am unsure as to how much longer I will be able to keep up before I have to start having lessons myself.

Amanda's unpredictable work schedule had me looking after Fiona for Saturday and since I am still not fully recovered I chose not to ride up in Talkeetna with some friends and instead took Fiona skiing.

This was an awesome decision!

She is able to make it down from the top without any guidance from me.... This is good because although I know how to ski and can make it to the bottom of the mountain more by luck than skill most times.  I have no idea what she is doing wrong if anything.  She does seem very fond of pizza postion (snow plow) and tends to keep her weight (what she has of it) too far back but aside from that she seems to rock it.

On the lift for the first time together 

Top of the hill before the first run

I told her to put her weight forward,
I should probably shut up.

playing catch up...

So here we have it 7 weeks of lessons and I can barely keep up :-) proud parent content.

My run from a couple of weeks ago when Fiona was learning.

14 February 2016

Su 100 my #2 - The fast edition race report

Due to the abysmal winter we have been having here in South Central Alaska and pretty much the rest of Alaska too, thanks El Nino.  This years Su100 course was fast, very fast.  Where as on last years course we ended up walking longer sections at the start and middle, this year there very few walking sections, I think in the whole course I may have walked maybe 1/2 a mile.

Lining up for the start

Me at the start, row 3 I think. - Photo credit Amanda Blades
From the book of faces about the above picture "Mmm? Game face, game face,did I leave the stove on face, do I have enough food face.... Oh there's Nick. Go get 'em, Tiger!" ~ Brianne Irons

The race started off fast on some well used trails out of Happy Trails Kennels (HTK). Martin Buser, owner of HTK, was unable to be there personally this year due to a tragic family situation.  He has been, and remains a huge supporter of the Su100 (happily letting hundreds of people overrun his property for days), and if you would be interested in helping his family out, everyone involved in this race would be very grateful (link to help).  Due to the low snow, the trails were a little bumpier than last year but had more ice in the make up of the trail surface and as such were even faster. 


more pace line 
Yes thats a helicopter with someone taking photos of us.

Me and the line ahead - Photo credit Ryan Greeff

And me with the line behind me

Ryan on one of the short pushing sections

Andrew pushing one of the hills, one off all off 

me looking ahead again one off all off

Due to the fast trail conditions after 20miles of racing we were all still in big groups when we arrived at the first checkpoint at Point Mackenzie Road, we actually had to que to get into the checkpoint, I really should plan my bathroom breaks better as I stopped pre checkpoint (Lesson #1).

After leaving the checkpoint ahead of some but behind a train of people I wanted to ride with and realising I may be on my own for a while (last year it was 80miles solo) I tried to put some music on, after attempting to do this whilst riding I eventually stopped and found my MP3 player, the player decided it didn't want to work grrrrrr, frustrated at the loss of time I jumped back on the bike and set off again only to realise I was hungry so I ended up stopping again a little further up the trail to get some food which was reluctant to come out of my bag.  I really should know better and have sorted this out whilst at the checkpoint (lesson number 2 learned). 

I continued along the trail and caught up with Andrew who had leap frogged me whilst I was messing around. 
flat and fast before the turn onto the seismic line

cruising with Andrew
Realising we were riding at different paces I chose to push on and let Andrew ride his own race.

On the seismic line, onto the next people see you later Andrew.
The next two people to catch
I arrived at Flathorn checkpoint just as Marc, Christina, Stephen and Andy Pohl were leaving, I planned to try and catch them up by the finish of the race. 
Me arriving at Flathorn lake checkpoint - Photo credit Oscar Lage
I was also pleasantly surprised to see Chuck and Oscar there who came to see some of the racers, after a quick stop Oscar and Chuck joined me for the ride to the Susitna. 

Chuck and Oscar, Flathorn lake

Chuck and Oscar following me
I caught up a couple of guys going across dismal swamp and then took a comfort break before dropping onto the Su.  Here the two guys I had passed overtook me again, then before I got going again a train of 5 people passed me.  I set off onto the Su river and was very thankful I was able to ride it all rather than like last year push most all the way to Scary tree, I worked really hard to catch the groups ahead of me. 
the seven people in sight
The group of two I caught fairly easily the group of five not so much. 
I seemed to be riding around the same speed then I saw another group ahead of them.  The group picked up the pace and caught up with the other group and their pace went up from around 12mph to over 13mph. I was sure I wouldn't catch them, then some of them took a comfort break after some soft snow, I seized my chance and made it up to them and actual ended up rolling into 5* checkpoint in second position in the group.  A quick refuel for me and I left most of the group chatting and refueling.

Andy and Marc who I rode the next 20miles with
Rolly Creek trail
Willow Swamp Marc setting the pace.
Willow Swamp following Marc

Willow Swamp

Next stop was Eagle Quest where I had my groupies waiting for me, thanks Amanda, Angie and Fiona.  It really lifts my spirits to have them waiting for me, even though I only see them for a couple of minutes. You girls rock.

Fiona coming to see me - Photo Credit Amanda

Kisses for Daddy - Photo Credit Amanda
Another quick stop and I was into the final 40miles, I rode with Andy Pohl and Marc for around 4 miles then were joined by Stephen, Christina and one other.  As we turned on the Big Swamp I took a much better line than everyone and continued my pace, looking back I realised I had dropped everyone.  I continued on to Cow Lake checkpoint at a lower pace thinking I people would catch up with me. Most did, although only as I was leaving the checkpoint. 

Big swamp riding
a steady 10+ mph
Whilst riding on the Su river on my own before I caught up with Christina, Marc and Andy P at 5star tent camp I had been doing some maths and realised if I really tried I could potentially break 10 hours for the ride, I chose not to push the pace too early and see what time I arrived at Cow Lake checkpoint. Just after the Cow lake checkpoint the 100mile route joins the 50km route and the first 4ish miles of the trail tends to get pretty chewed up, its hilly, not well used and then a lot of traffic of all abilities travel through during the 50km race, I had been warned this was the case this year.  Fortunately for me the rim and tyre choice and my light body weight allow me to ride where some others can't without airing down.  I set off at a steady pace and amazingly only had to walk one hill. Between Cow Lake checkpoint and the final checkpoint I passed four people, two of whom rode with me to the finish. 

playing chase the rider

on the way back before the last checkpoint. 

From the final checkpoint I pushed the pace as much as I could to ensure I would make sub 10 hours. The two people who joined me were Gary Baumgartner and Brian Waite, although I didn't learn their names until we finished, yes I was trying that hard.
Gary thanks for the kind words, 
"Nick, thank you for the support!!! You could have finished even faster, but you stopped to give me a salt tablet when I was helplessly cramping and then pulled me and Brian into the finish. You Rock!!! You are my pick for the sportsmanship award.. Thank you.”
I really hope if the situation was reversed you or someone else would do the same for me, what goes around comes around.
Hugs from Fiona, I love this :) - Photo Credit Amanda
That was my Su 100 for 2016 - I finished in 9hours 42min and 17seconds,  which is 5hrs 44min 30seconds faster than last year, I also finished two places higher overall. 
I am super happy with that time!

Could I have improved it?

By getting into and through checkpoint #1 a little smoother and perhaps linking up with some people instead of riding solo for a good chunk from checkpoint 1 to 5 Star tent camp I could have potentially shaved a little time from my overall time however I may also have blown up by riding too fast too early.
My food and water strategy this year seemed to work out really well, I planned to stop as little as possible at checkpoints and only really get water from them, for the time I did I had way too much food however if conditions had been like last year I think my food would have been about right. 

Congratulations and thanks

Firstly congratulations to all the winners your times were seriously fast.  Well done Tim, Megan, Cole, Jan, Dave and Teri.
Next well done also to all who completed the event, even though the conditions were favourable you all rode, skied or ran 100miles which is outstanding!
Finally for the event side, thanks to the organisers and volunteers who make this event what it is, see you all next year.

From a personal side I don't think I can ever thank my wife enough for all that she does to help me with the riding but she does way more than she realises. 
I also wouldn't be anywhere near as comfortable as I am riding these long distances without all the rides my friends join me on, so thank you all! 

Thanks for reading all, Cheers!

10 February 2016

Susitna 100 - 2016 edition - Training update II the pre race edition.....

With the race just around the corner (race is Saturday 13th February 2016) I thought I would give a little update.  Last time I wrote one of these training updates we were experiencing another chinook.... I have honestly lost count of how many have blown through this season but we have pretty much been riding on ice all season, at least in town.

I also managed to pick up cold after cold and unfortunately this turned into walking pneumonia which really was a frustration more than anything else.   I haven't really felt that bad just a big lack of energy and coughing lots with a reduced lung capacity. At the moment I am still recovering which means my plans for the race have been adjusted, now I am on a can I finish the race rather than as I had hoped to be can I improve on last year's position.

What am I taking on the "race"?

The Su100 has a couple of gear requirements 
  • 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
For me the minimum gear requirements takes me to 9.7#.  This means I need to take an extra 5.3# of gear to meet the minimum requirements.  
For me this means I take extra base layers, gloves, hat, socks, tools, possibly rain gear and my GPS to achieve my 15# minimum.  
Where the rules are a little ambiguous to me at least is whether bags and harness's count towards gear weight, all my bags and harness weigh in at 3.5# so technically with weight I am almost there! My interpretation of the rules says no however, others I am sure take a different view.  All in all I think I will have around 19# of gear including my bags then I have to add on my food so once again will be pedalling a heavy bike... at least my bike is pretty light to start with. 

Sven Eriksson 25Km tour

Last Sunday was an event in Willow called the Sven Eriksson 25K tour, this can be a ski, ride or a run.  I believe this year was the event's biggest ever with 14 Skiers, 4 runners and 24 bikers, well 24.5 if we include Fiona. 

We parked at a trail head and made our way 3 ish miles out to the start on a blue sky day.  
Fiona was not wanting to have her photo taken which is unusual for her but alas not the first time. 
Long shadows 

Fiona hiding behind me and Amanda following

at the start, Amanda with Erik and Angie

heading out from the start
The route took us along some of the Su100 course which means Amanda can now say she has at least ridden part of the course.  The markers for the Su 100 can be seen in the following picture, its the one next to the paper plate marker which we were following for the tour.

Willow Swamp

Willow swamp

more swamp riding

Fiona still not happy with me

snack stop on the swamp

long shadows and Denali

remnants of last summers wild fire
After we finished the ride we met up with Laura and Clint, who were out to get some more loaded miles in before the Su100 and ITI for Clint.
heading back to the car

lake riding

All in all it was a fantastic day on the bike, Amanda did awesome riding 22miles on trails which are much tougher than in town, I am very proud of her as last year I don't think that she would have been able to do this ride. Also Fiona was great, she was not happy at the start but trooped on and finished the ride whilst helping me whenever I asked. 


Balcao Bags

For the Su100 and really most of my longer rides I have asked a friend to make me a cool bag to store my tools in. 
After a few messages and a couple of really poor pictures.
not sure I could make something from these pictures.
here is where it will go.

Here is what he made.  

nice touches with the orange

a couple of pockets

a perfect fit.

It goes over and above my expectations and I am looking forward to using it on all of my bikes for longer events, it also means I can free up some space in my frame bag to make getting my pump out easier. 
I will be sure to ask him to make my next custom bag for my Cyclo Cross/road bike.  Thanks Stephen!

And Finally

I have a spot tracker, this means when I have it on people can follow where I am. 
If you fancy seeing how slow I am on the Su100 then this link (nicks tracker) should take you to my trace. 
I will be starting at 9am 13th February 2016 (Alaskan Time) It should update my location every 10min. 

I have also put a permanent link on my blog page, here