11 September 2017

Arctic Cross Race 1 - 2017

The season opener for Arctic Cross was 9th September 2017. It was a new location for the cross crew to race at. The course was fast.

Course description 

The start was on ski trails with a downhill section into a fast right hand turn, followed by a short climb into a section of singletrack before returning to ski trails. Due to moose on the course during the womens race the course was shortened to avoid interactions with the moose. The course then had another fast downhill section into a slippery right hand hairpin turn before a long straight into barriers. This was fun as normally we don't approach barriers flat out, this time we did and they were scary. After the barriers it was a hairpin left then back onto a little singletrack before crossing a road and dropping onto second breakfast for a short section.  Second breakfast is a fun trail on a mountain bike but riding on a cross bike makes you realise how bumpy the trail is. Turning off second breakfast there was a ride/run up then a short gravel road section into a singletrack descent then a steep uphill run up. After the run up we rejoined the ski trails to cross over the start finish line and complete the lap.

How did my race go?

It went really well, just like last season myself, Clint, Chris and Jared were all battling it out for the first few laps, we also had the addition of Brad who got a cross bike this year. The race started off really fast and basically continued like this throughout the race. I spent a couple of laps being chased down by Chris and Brad then we worked hard to chase down Jack during the final four laps. 
Towards the end of the race we also started to catch up with Jamie who had a mechanical during the race. It was interesting to see how close we were to his speed. If the season continues like the first race it's going to be a lot of fun.   

Will won the race, he lapped me most of the rest of the field, he once again crushed us all of as he has been doing all season. I was fortunate that Josh who took second didn't pass me also at the then of the race. 
I finished in 9th Place which is a great way to start the season off and I also realised how close a season it is going to be when I look at the lap times. 

Lap analysis 

Lap Number
Race lap time
Strava Lap Times
Strava Back half of lap

A few things I take from my lap times. My laps were fairly consistent and I actually managed my fastest lap at the end of the race which is really unusual for me. 
The back half of the lap contained the barriers and two run ups. I think laps 8 - 10 were where Brad, Chris and I were chasing down Jack. As such we were really pushing the pace and had our lines figured out compared to earlier in the race. 
I really should have practiced lines a little more before I raced especially the first run/ride up off of second breakfast. 

Photos from the race

Photos were taken by Jana, Amber and Megan, thanks for capturing the mens race and all the heckling was fantastic too. 

Mens Start
Myself, Brad and Chris mid race

Water splash. 
Short run up

Top of the run up 

Fiona's race

 Arctic Cross does a great job of getting kids racing, they have a Junior race where the kids race the full course but for a shorter time and a kiddo race where younger kids race on a shortened course for 1 lap. All under 18 year olds race for free too, in whatever category they want! 
Fiona took part in the kiddo race and did amazing. She pedalled really strongly to finish in 3rd place overall and 1st girl. To say I am proud is an understatement. 
Kiddo start 
Kiddo race
Fiona finishing 

21 August 2017

A ride with Mr Mark Beaumont

I have been following Mark Beaumont for a number of years ever since I heard about his first record breaking trip around the world by bike.
A full list of adventures can be found on his wiki page here or on his website here.
He is currently attempting to set a new world record for riding around the world supported. His target is 80 days including travel which is an amazing feat and means he needs to average 240miles per day.

Mark has a fantastic team helping him achieve this goal and he arrived in Anchorage on the 19th August 2017 to start leg three of the challenge on the 20th August 2017.
Through a friend (Thomas) in Anchorage, he got me in touch with Mike who is in charge of this leg. It was all a little last minute but on the 19th during the day, before Mark arrived. I had a face to face discussion with Mike and we worked out a route to get Mark out of town and on down the road for leg three.

Where does the riding come into this?

Well, I was given the opportunity to ride with Mark out of town and guide him on the correct way. So at 03:00 on the 20th August I left my house and headed to the airport for the 04:00 start. Mark and the team arrived and finished setting up, he did his usual talk to the camera, they took a couple of pictures and Mark, David and I set off out of town.

David, Mark and I before the rollout -PC Mark's media team
The ride went well and we were treated to mostly dry roads until we hit the Highway at around mile 36 of the ride. David, Mark and I were joined by another rider Donovan as we rolled along the Glenn Highway bike path. Once we reached Eagle River we followed the old Glenn until we reached Settlers Dr.
Rolling the Old Glenn

This is where our party split with Mark and I continuing on along the highway and David and Donovan heading back to Anchorage.

I got to ride with Mark until we reached Palmer where I made the decision to turn around and retrace my route back to Anchorage.

Quick gas station stop

After a short (not by Mark's standards) stop at Vaga Bond blues it was a 20 min stop. Mark rides in 4 hour ish stints with a 10 min break every 4 hours. He does 4 stints a day and aims to average 15mph to achieve 240miles a day. I headed back into town.

coffee and cake

When riding into Palmer we had a pretty stiff headwind and it was raining pretty consistently, so much so there were no views. After my extended break the rain stopped, the views improved and I didn't need to put my rain jacket back on until I reached Eagle River.

Highway views

Mirror Lake

All in all it was a great day out on the bike. I managed a meager 109miles albeit at a moving speed of 15mph. Mark went on to put in 235miles. see strava
Mark's strava data can be found here
And there is a live tracker here (although at the time of writing this its not working.)

I want to take this time to thank Mark and his team for allowing people to ride with him, they are a very professional outfit and I had a lot of fun tagging along for almost 4 hours.  Good luck for the rest of your ride Mark. 

My Strava data

06 August 2017

Soggy Bottom 2017 - AKA Alaskan Hot and Sweaty Bottom

This was my third time riding the Soggy Bottom, 100+ mile MTB race on a mostly singletrack course on the Kenai Peninsula. This year was hot (Alaskan Hot so more than 70F)

The race started off great, I didn't try and keep up with the really fast guys up front, I rode my own race. I arrived in Cooper Landing (Checkpoint one) in just over 4 hours which is right around my target time for that leg, A quick turn around and back on the trail and headed for Devils Pass (checkpoint two). I was targeting around 3 hours for this leg, It took me around 3:15 however I was cramping up pretty badly from Juneau lake which was not ideal. I have cramped before and can recover but it would be tough.

I have been using a new electrolyte drink powder called Amino Energy, this stuff has been great at getting rid of cramps when they come. I initially planned to drink a bottle per leg, I should have done more for leg two and definitely for leg three.

I left the Devils checkpoint after drinking a bottle and taking one with me feeling not to bad, I actually rode up all the steep part of the trail, as the trail levelled off the cramps kicked in. How badly? Where I was unable to walk to try and shake them off, which muscles? all of my legs. At this point I was beginning to regret not scratching at Devils Pass, I was also beginning to wonder how I was going to finish, I still had around 30 miles to go.

I walked and soft pedalled my way to the top of Devils pass taking my time to cool off in the stream crossings and on to the junction with Resurrection pass. At this point I ran into my Team mate Chris who was sweeping from Cooper Landing to Devils. I had a little chat with him then headed on my way across the not flat top of Resurrection pass. By this point I was having to pee around every 4 miles, this is really annoying as I was still cramping up though less and less.

The descent from Resurrection is mostly down hill, the top section is really fast 20+ mph even when not pedalling. It drops down to the creeks then climbs back up before another descent. I was having to walk all of the climbs back out of the creeks which is annoying but my legs were now cramping a little less. I stopped to chat to people I saw on the trail and tried not to push the pace to much so I wouldn't cramp up again. I know at around 10 miles to go we cross the Resurrection river and the trail then really undulates before we cross back over the river. At mile 99 there is a little incline that seems to go on for ever, this year I actually managed to ride it all. We hit the end of the trail at mile 101miles then its just 4miles of mostly gravel back to the finish in front of the Seaview in Hope. I was all finished in 11:40

Thoughts on my race

When we rode into Cooper Landing I really thought this would be the year I went sub 11 hours, as I left Devils pass trail head and managed to ride all the steep sections I still thought it was a possibility once I started cramping up on the "easy" sections I was wondering how I was going to finish. I rolled across the line at 11:40 after giving it everything I had to get there. I am once again happy that I finished sub 12 hours but a little disappointed I didn't break 11 hours.
This year Amanda and Fiona supported me at the checkpoints, It was a great moral boost to see them there. I would love it if they could do it again, though maybe its time for me to have a stab at the team version of the race.

Crunching the numbers

Hope to Coopers moving
Hope to Coopers total
Coopers to Devils moving
Cooper to Devils total
Devils to Hope moving
Devils to Hope total
Total Moving

As can be seen, this year I am definitely faster well, until I cramped up. As always I will keep plugging away at my fitness and see what next year brings. The cramps in this race seemed different to previous cramping. 

Picture dump

Not being in the front group = smart move by me

The following pack. 

Climbing and feeling good

Chasing Clint

Catching up with the relay teams

Almost to the top and 1/2 way through leg one

Chasing James

Already cramping up 

Chasing Meredith 

Clint and I both suffering on the climb from Swan Lake

Regretting not scratching at devils trail head

Thanks for sweeping Chris

10 ish miles to go and feeling better

Made it up the final trail climb

Awesome sunset on the drive home. 

Strava data

18 July 2017

24 Hours of Kincaid 2017 - Top Gun edition

15th -16th July 2017 saw the running of this years 24 hours of Kincaid. This is the fourth time I have  taken part in the event and this year I was on a duo team for 24hours. My teammate for the event Nico is a friend and also teammate on Revolution Racing.

The event this year was a little quieter than it has been previously but still a lot of fun to take part in. We were based out of the Jodphur trail head which was new however the event definitely has room to expand at this location.  The self timing worked great and the wildlife encounters seemed lower than previous 24HOK that I have taken part in.

The course

The course was a mixture of ski trails, singletrack trails and social trails. The lap was around 9 miles long and took in some singletrack favourites including L-Train, Good Greeff, Change of pace, and kitchen sink. This year there was the addition of Bolling alley, this complicates things a little as it is a directional trail based on odd and even days. The solution was to reroute the course on Sunday morning before a lot of other traffic hit the trails. The other thing to note is the jungle trail has had a bunch of the roots cut down, although this makes it much easier to climb as the laps increase it does take away from the character of the trail.

The course was far and away my favourite 24HOK course I have ridden, mostly due to the lower wildlife interactions that occurred when riding. 

Odd day course

Even day course

How did it go?

Very well. Team Nick-Nico took both the win and last place :) Full results
I took the first lap, then Nico after this we switched to start doubling up on laps. I ran into a moose on my lap 5, we (Clint, Brad and I) backtracked almost 0.5 miles to hit a ski trail, only to ride down the trail and bump into the moose again. This cost me around 9 min of waiting and back tracking. The next lap I did, we (Danielle had caught up with me whilst I waited for a moose) bumped into a different moose and had to reroute onto a ski trail then we ran into a bear and cub further around the lap. Those were my only wildlife encounters during the race, if you ignore the billion mosquitos that thought I was clearly a good all you can eat buffet.
Nico and I took the executive decision to not really race through the dark part of the race 01:00 to 04:30, It was nice to hang out with people and get a little sleep watch a movie whilst some of the more hardcore teams pushed on through the wee hours. 
I woke at 5am headed out for my lap and took this opportunity to reflag the course so that we were riding the correct direction on bolling alley for the remainder of the race. This seemed to work out pretty well and actually made the race a little more interesting as the course changed part way through the race.

Stats from the ride

I completed 12 laps with a total riding distance of 108 miles, though only 11 laps counted towards team Nick-Nico as my final lap was with my teammate Nico and other revolution racing team mates (Clint, Laura and Ryan) to collect flags.

Final musing re the race and everything else

This years course was fantastic and I would quite happily race that course every year for the 24HOK, perhaps the addition of a 3 hour race Sunday morning from 9-12 could keep more people around on the Sunday. Self timing was great, as was the not finishing before the time was up like previous years.

I can't stress this enough but I really couldn't have done the race without all the help from Amanda, Fiona and friends. 

Fiona was a little superstar and kept herself occupied whilst I raced my laps. Later in the day friends turned up with their kids and Fiona had some company, aside from Harry Potter. 
hammock time
Playing in the sand, PC Stefanie
Amanda was on nights and looking after a sick dog (his own doing) yet she still managed to keep everything under control at home. Thanks a million baby.
All my teammates and friends at the event who helped entertain Fiona, or at least keep track of her when I was racing thank you so much. 

Post 24 hour photo

07 June 2017

XC race series is upon us

Wednesday 7th June 2017 is the first round of the XC race series in town. This is a 6 race series put on by the Arctic Bike Club MTB division.

As mentioned in previous blogs I have been "training" with a group of really quick riders and steadily seeing my speed increase which is nice. Although I haven't been out with them for the last couple of weeks due to scheduling conflicts, I think (hope), I will have enough carry through from the earlier training to perform better than last season.

Speaking of which. Today I did a little testing and I am still unsure of  the choice ahead of me.
My dilema is do I ride my trusty 5" travel 29er bike which is a little overkill for most of the XC races in all honesty but a lot of fun. Or do I ride my rigid fat bike with the 27.5+ wheels where I will get pretty beaten up by the end of the course especially through the rooty sections.

Using the wonderful Strava I was able to compare my times through a couple of rooty sections of the course. We did one hotter lap on Saturday when we had got to know the course and this was the times I was comparing to.

Both bikes came out around the same time for all the sections I compared to. Unfortunately I couldn't do a full lap test as one section of the course is one way on odd vs even days.

Oh well, I guess I will sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow. 

22 May 2017

Green Lake Grinder 2017 edition

The snow has all gone, well from around town at least. It's now light until way after 10pm and the mountain bike trails are deemed to be dry enough and have opened up. Before the mountain bike season kicks off into full swing, there are a number of other races that I have the option to attend. Once the dirt riding takes off though, I find myself less inclined to want to race on anything other than dirt.

One race that is quickly becoming a must do, is put on by one of the sponsors for the team I ride on.
Speedway Cycles is the primary sponsor for the only gravel race in town. The race takes place on base (JBER) which means it's in an area that I can't normally ride without a lot of preparation aka hassle.

This year the weather was definitely not as nice as for last years race. The forecast called for rain, and sure enough as we started the neutral roll out, there was a light precipitation in the air. By the time we were four miles in and the race started, the rain had ceased and the gravel was dry and dusty.
Neutral Roll out

Neutral Roll out

How did my race go... 

Very well actually, much better than last year where I bonked pretty badly around 30miles. This year I was a little better positioned once we got going after the neutral roll out which definitely helped. I was still dropped on the first climb but tried to ride smart and ending up working with a friend (Rob) from mile 9 to mile 11 to catch back onto the lead group. I was promptly dropped from this group at well before mile 14 and proceeded to ride solo until around mile 27.
Around mile 15.5 chasing the specks in the distance. 

The specks in the distance (Greg, David, Jason, Jack, Paul)

I'm all alone aside from the bears and moose.... 
This is where I did something smart for a change. I slowed down so that I could work together with a group who were following me. The group contained a few teammates (Oscar, Ryan and Brad), Rob was also in the group and a speedway rider.
Riding in a paceline again. 
Brad was pretty tired and unfortunately was dropped off the back of the paceline I think during one of my pulls on the front, sorry Brad. The remainder of the group worked well together and slowly started reeling in the group in front of us.

At around mile 34.5 Oscar took a big pull to try and get me up to the group in front who were tantalisingly close. I took my turn then Ryan took over, we were now on one of the final steep climbs and the group ahead had slowed. With the assistance from my team mates I managed to bridge the gap and actually get into the group. As we descended and made a right turn I pushed my way forward and as we started the next climb I was at the front. I pedalled steadily with Greg, Jack and Paul. Greg mentioned he didn't want the group to catch back up so we set a steady pace up the final climbs towards the finish.

Around 2/3's of the way up the bigger climb a guy in a vehicle coming the other way mentioned that there were three bears in the road up ahead. I'm sure they will be gone by the time we get there I was thinking. We rounded a couple of corners and there in the road were a mother and two baby bears. I quickly turned to Greg and questioned what we should do. "Shout and make noise lets see if we can get them off the roadway" he responded. It worked, that was a good call by Greg. We continued along the road, rounded a couple more corners and came face to face with another bear. We all started shouting at this bear and he too ran off the road, though no where near as far.

We pushed the pace up the remaining climb, descended down through the ski area and rejoined paved road. Greg was a little ahead of me by this point and I definitely didn't have the legs to catch him. Another rider in the group Jack who had silently caught onto my wheel proceeded to zip past me before the finish. All in all a great day on the bike.

I finished in 9th place which is an improvement on last years race where I finished 14th. More significantly for me I didn't have any huge debilitating cramps which I have been suffering from on many of these races. I also felt relatively fresh at the end which is a nice feeling.

Congratulations to the usual suspects for showing us what really fast people are like. Nice racing Will and Laura to take the wins.

Thanks to Greg, Tim and all who put this race on, I know it can't be easy but we all really appreciate it.

And last but not least a huge thanks to Amanda for taking care of the munchkin whilst I raced, I couldn't do it without you!

Full results

Strava file in case you were wondering.

14 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!