Monday, September 17, 2018

Metallak Race 2018

"Up and Down"
"High Gear/Low Gear"
"Burning Quads or Burning Brakes"
"1.7 million bumps"

I was coming up with a lot of names for this ride while I was on it.  But the real name was "Metallak: A North Country Endurance Adventure".  This blog is a little wordy but 6 hours in the woods mostly along is a long time to think of stories.

The biggest challenge for me in this race was picking the right bike. And not because I have 11 bikes and just couldn't choose.  I just didn't have the right bike for this race.  In fact, there is no right bike for this race.  Which although frustrating also makes it unique.  I had already come to terms with the fact that there are 5 miles of running and 3.5 miles of hiking in this race and even though I'm not a runner I could get through it.

First I ran some tests with the cross bike:

Then and then with the mountain bike:

And I determined that the mountain bike was faster...So I took the cross bike.  Hey, I had reasons.  The cross bike was 18lbs vs 32lbs and there was a lot of climbing/hike-a-bike and the cross bike would be faster on the gravel and tar.  I was thinking it was mostly gravel with a few miles of trails.  In actuality it was about 50% gravel "Roads" 40% jeep trails and 10% trail.  Rough Rough. I had my tires at about 80PSI because I am excellent at pinch flatting and I felt every one of the 1.7M bumps on the trail. I realized on the first downhill that a good part of my energy going uphill was being used to heat up my brake rotors.  The extra energy used to pedal a heavy bike uphill gets stored as kinetic energy but riding the brakes down a bumpy trail doesn't win races.  I've already started shopping for the non-existent right bike for this race.  That's all I'm going to say about bike choice because I know most of you are bored and have skipped ahead to the very limited number of pictures.

OK, Pre-race.  We planned on camping and making a long weekend of it which was nice.  The race venue was Mohawk Falls which was a  great space for the race festivities.  The owner was busying around greeting people.  The race organizers were no different, welcoming everybody and thanking them for coming.
Home Sweet Home Away from Home
The Namesake of Mohawk Falls
I attended the mandatory pre-race meeting to learn which right turn I was supposed to miss during the race.  It worked, it missed it.

The race start was the typical mix of nerves, excitement and optimism that: "This is going to be my day".  GO! We were off and I decided I would stick with the leaders as long as I could.  That was about 1.6 miles into the race when my seat pack ejected off the back from bump number 8.  Not a great start.  I retrieved the bag.. (OK, I'll pause here for a note: I came into possession of this seat bag during a triathlon I was spectating. Where?  In the middle of the f-ing road. Duh.  Don't put anything heavier than a tube in it or duct tape it in place) ..and shoved it into my jersey pocket.  I had worked hard to keep anything bike related attached to the bike so it would stay with the bike while I was running, oh well.  Luckily, I was able to catch back up with the leaders.  I held on to second right behind the leader until he started pulling away up the first 9 mile climbing section.  Not because of the bike but because he was friggin' strong.  Once the road tilted back down I got passed by some mountain bikes.

After some position jockeying I got to the first transition in 2nd place.  About 1/2 way into the first run I got passed LIKE I WAS STANDING STILL. That's what 32 miles total of run training for the entire year will get you and I totally expected it.  The gap between me and 2nd widened even further in the kayak and I knew I was racing for 3rd.  I never came close to 2nd place again.

The next section was one of the few times I was enjoying my light bike, when I was carrying it on my back. After that was a downhill on an ATV trail that was sketchy as hell.  I fully believe I could have gone twice as fast on a mountain bike. This is when I was so intent on not cracking my skull that I missed the well marked right turn.  No big deal, the course was marked well enough that I realized that the markers has stopped.  I only lost 3 minutes. The run around mud pond was uneventful.  I alternated trotting and walking.  I used walking as an excuse to get in as much nutrition and water as possible while my hands were free.

After an easy ride downhill I got to the second paddle.  The "Boats" were inflatable whitewater kayaks and handled like a queen sized air mattress. That was fine because "Everybody was in the same boat" so to speak.  At this point the "4 hour" racers had done about 20 miles of biking and the "8 hour" racers had done 32 miles of biking, 5.5 miles of running and 3 miles of paddling.  The next step it to climb up here:
It's steeper than it looks.
And then hike back down to a valley and then go back up to the top of Sanguinary (Translation: never ever ending) Ridge.  Actually I just looked that up and it really means: involving or causing much bloodshed. OK, that fits too.
The view from the top taken the next day - Yes, we really hiked it again. This is one of the lakes we paddled.
I got up the first steep climb in good shape but my legs have this uncanny ability to know when they are almost done and they give up just a little before that.  Like when you ignore the urge to pee for 2 hours on a road trip and almost piss your pants pulling into the driveway.  Bodies are weird.  Cramps were followed by cramps.  A guy from one of the relay teams bounded by me like a deer running through the woods but assured me it was because he was fresher.  Probably at least half true. At the top of never ending ridge I got passed and moved into 3rd place.  Dammit, 3rd for 7/8 of the race and passed; quickly, I might add.  I decided that 4th was a great place and podium was overrated.  Amazingly, he was still in transition when I got to the bottom and I had a much better bike for the mostly paved stretch to the finish.  I jumped on my bike ready to chase him down and BAM my legs cramped in a way that I have never seen before.  Both ankles were stuck and I was peddling with the sides of my feet.  OK, 4th place is fine. But things did loosen up and I was able to catch him going up the last climb.  Once again, it was my race to loose at this point.  So I was pushing hard down a very steep golf course trail and realized there is a hard left ahead.  And I'm not going to make it.  Wheels locked up and into the woods I went. Not a lot but  certainly enough for a story.  Long story short (not really) I managed to cross the line for 3rd!

The 4 hour race had started 4 hours later than the 8 hour course except I finished the 8 in 6 so I had quite a bit of time to wait for my wife to finish.  Oh, did I forget to mention she was racing too? My blog, my story, sorry honey.  I'm getting to your AWESOME finish.  I didn't' have to wait too long because she was the 3rd 4-hour racer over the line and the first woman!  Woot!  She was riding the polar opposite of my bike, a fatbike.
Team Edwards Takes a Podium Sweep

Overall the race was very well organized all thanks to a very hard working race director (and she baked us cookies). And for some strange reason I plan to do it again.  I'm fully expecting my legs to be almost back to normal by then.  I'm no spring chicken after all.  It will also give me a year to cultivate the perfect bike which will be both light and stable.  All of my mountain bike options are full squish and don't fall into the light category.

I obsessed over this race a lot.  What bike to use, was I going to stay on course, what would my time be.  I made a spreadsheet with all the legs and transitions and estimated my speed/time/pace for each.  I broke it down by on-road, off-road, climbing, running, hiking off-road, kayaking and transitions.

My estimated time was: 6:04:15.6.
My actual time was: 6:04:19
That is either some top notch estimating or some dumb luck. Probably more of the latter.

No adventure race ride blog would be complete without the relive flyover

Relive 'Morning Ride'

  We hiked back up the next day to actually enjoy the views we had earned.
That is as close to the edge as she would get.

Probably Smart

Prelude to Angles Landing Trail Next Month
Life Is Good (Camera Zoom, she was 1/4 mile away from the edge at this point)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Dempsey Challange...I'm late!

OK OK,  I should have done this a while ago but my tardiness will keep you from procrastinating.   The Dempsey challenge is in a little over two weeks and I've only raised a hundred bucks.  This year I have joined with Team Bilodeau which not only includes a group of riders I have joined the last few years but it is a positive tracks team which means that your donations get matched!  It's that simple.
This will be my 10th year doing the challenge.  It honestly seems like I've been doing it forever but checking back a few blogs. I see that I started doing it in 2009.  I've rallied my friends, family and co-workers to donate over $10,000 over that time period.  Thank You!

One big change is that the route is totally different this year.  I'm not sure why but I'll welcome the change.  So don't be looking for Patrick over in Raymond of Otisfield because he won't be there.

Since I'm late I'll leave it at that.  If you didn't like the link above you can use this more traditional one.

Since I'm a nice guy I'll give you a link to Donate To Kelly in case you wanted to donate to both of us. ;)

Photo ID
Team Edwards

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Camping 2018

I guess it is time for a post. I didn't get out on the bike as much as I usually do on our annual camping trip but I did get in a few good rides.

The first ride was a 40ish mile loop that was planned on some scenic back roads with some gravel grinding logging roads thrown in for fun.  That was the plan.  Most of the plan came to pass but some of the logging roads turned into skidder paths and snowmobile trails. There was some hiking.  I would have taken some pics of the rough terrain but the deer flys might have drained me.
This is a lot steeper than it looks

Who wouldn't want a sleigh in their front yard?

Route 153 in New Hampshire was spectacular with great views and new tar
Freedom New Hampshire, very cute town.
This was one of the more passable roads.

Relive 'Morning Ride'

I did get a short rip out into Brownfield Bog which includes lots more deer flys and one of my favorite sections of trail up to Walker's Ripps. The trail follows the river bank with a combination of light technical and flowy double-track.

Magical spot in the bog
Walker's Rips (Really low water this year)

Relive 'Afternoon Ride'

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mountain Biking in Cabarete with Maximo

The last time we were in Puerto Plata we did some mountain biking with Iguana Mama. It was good enough that I wanted to try it again so I contacted them to find out that they are not doing the tours anymore but they did give me the name of Maximo, one of their former guides.  I contacted him through email and after a few dozen emails we were set up to ride.

We were staying in Puerto Plata and needed to get to Cabarete.  Taxis were about $60 each way and the guagua (Chicken Bus) was $1.25 each. We decided that the chicken bus would be more adventurous as well as cheap.  Maximo initially gave us the Spanish phrase to show the driver but after a few emails he sensed my apprehension and said he would take the bus from Cabarete to Playa Dorata where we were staying and get us on the bus! This was the first example of what a great guide Maximo was.
Me and Maximo, sorry about the fuzzyness
We took the bus to his place to pick up the bikes.  He has about a dozen bikes in different sizes an configurations to lend out for his rides.  I was on  a brand I have never herd of (or remember).  But it was a decent full suspension bike in good working shape.  It had a pretty long wheelbase and climbed like a pig but was great on the descents.  My wife had the pick of the lot with a Santa Cruise Heckler.

We had a short ride through town to get to the national park.  Max paid our way in and we were in the jungle.  Well, a Jungle with cows and donkeys.  At one point we were riding through a whole herd of cattle.
Looking Back

At one point I heard our guide talking to the cows and caught the word Americans.  Yes, he was explaining to the cows that we weren't from around there and needed to get out of the way.
Looking Ahead

The trails ranged from dirt roads to rough jeep roads to bright red clay singletrack to craggy limestone and everything in-between. Overall they were about 95% rideable.
Just after a short walking section, picture opportunity
Kelly and Max

The temperature is a pretty constant 87 degrees with tolerable humidity.  Uphill was sweaty and hot and downhill was a nice relief.
Snack Break

The terrain varied from guava groves to ferns and Mango trees.
Stopping to eat some guava off the ground.

This bright green little snake was showing me that he didn't want to be picked up.
We rode a total of about 16 miles in around 4:00 hours.

Typical Trails
By the time we were done we were pretty hot, sweaty and covered in red clay.  There was a good solution for all of this.  A swim in a crystal clear cave.

Entrance To The Cave

The water was cool and beautiful
Looking Out
We rode the rest of the way back to town which was downhill and dropped the bikes at Maximo's place.  Then we got back on the guagua about 1/2 mile into town to eat at a very authentic Dominican restaurant.
That plate of food was two bucks

I thought it was interesting that you ordered how much food you wanted by price.  I wanted 100  pesos worth (about $2) of food which was plenty.  It was also tastier than the resort.
The restaurant had an ambiance that you can only find in the Caribbean
 Maximo got us onto the bus and paid for our trip back to the hotel.

The bus ride is part of the adventure.
It really doesn't show too well in this picture but there are about 25 people on a 12 person bus in this picture with 4 sitting across the front seat. 

We got back to the hotel in good shape, had some drinks and dinner and were done for the night.

At 8:42
 The bottom line: I would highly recommend Maximo (Max of the Mountain) if you like biking and are visiting around Cabarete.  He is an excellent guide and an excellent person.  He will customize the ride for the length and ability that you want.  Bikes helmets and gloves are included.  He has SPD, Time and flat pedals available. I used flats because I didn't want to pack another set of shoes.  We didn't settle on a price before the end of the ride (that I knew of).  When he told me how much I gave him 150% of what he wanted.  It was worth it.  He paid all our bus fares, entrance into the park, a little for the owner of the land the cave was on and for lunch with beers. The price is comparable to an excursion with 20 other people and 10 other busloads of people in the same area.  I highly recommend it. You can contact him HERE or search for him on the web, he was easy to find. 

Thank You Max, Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

To Cross The Lake Or To Not Cross The Lake

So far, so good.  Little Sebago lake and I have an agreement.  It doesn't dump me in and I don't complain when it is buried under a foot of snow... Who am I kidding, you can't bargain with a lake.  Anyway, understanding how the ice works and being observant seems to work too.   I thought my trips across the lake were going to be over in early March after a really warm spell and I was feeling the loss.  I thought this was my last trail commute.  Around 1:24 you can see plenty of open water around the shore.

March 7th, 2018
I was commuting around the lake by road for a few weeks.  I think it was only a few days but it felt like weeks.  A series of cold nights renewed the ice and froze in the shores again! I made it to the end of March and squeezed in a few more trips in April.  It's interesting to see how a few days can change the ice in the spring.
March 29th, 2018

April 2nd, 2018

April 3rd, 2018
No more commutes for me for a few days to this will have to be the end.  I'm going to miss it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Early Morning Cyclist Inspiration

Winter's icy grip is trying to hold on but spring's warm breath is slowly winning.
Morning Doves

Getting To Work

Perfect Morning

Did it land like that?

Not Alone

Thank You Lake

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I Don't Think I Need To Do That Again...

That's what I said last year after finishing the Fatbike to the Clouds race.  Well, some people never learn.  This year I got my wife to sign up too.
Loaded up and ready to go
 We got to the mountain about 1 hour before the race and found that we had missed registration.  That seemed a little early to shut down the process since from 9:00 to 10:10 would be spent milling around or out in the cold.  But they found somebody to get us checked in so all was well.

 We did a quick preview of the bottom of the course, to check the tire pressure and all that.  You can't do a fatbike race without checking conditions for tire pressure.  We left all 4 tires as-was, although maybe 1/8 PSI lower in my rear tire might have got me 1st.  Nah, probably it wouldn't have changed a thing.

After reading what I said to my future self in my blog from last year I started closer to the front of the pack.  It was a good choice.  By the start of the climb I was just about in the position I would finish the race in.  This is a funny race.  It starts with trying to get your best time and finishing as close to the front of the pack as possible.  And it ends with hoping you can make it the rest of the way up the hill without walking.
When I got to the top there were 7 bikes there.

 I actually did really well at both.  I really don't think I could have got to the top any faster so I'm calling it a good race.  I also beat last years time by over 3 minutes even though the overall field was a few minutes slower because of the soft snow near the top.

Obligatory finish shot on Washington

I hung around the top long enough to get a drink and try to gnaw off a chunk of a frozen energy bar (which I failed at, friggin hard) and started back down to find Kelly.  I was happy to see that she was only about 1/2 mile from the finish when I found her and still smiling.  This race is a lot of suffering so the smile was a bonus.

Smiling and grinding uphill
She was really worried about crashing and burning before making it up the mountain.  It turns out that she was ahead of a lot of people!
Plenty of people still left behind her.
I headed off down the mountain trying not to freeze.  I hit 29MPH on a straight section on the way down which was a hair faster than my max speed on the way up.
2nd Place
I pulled off 8th place in the fatbike division overall with a time of 58 minutes & change.  Kelly managed a podium with a time of 1 hour & 18 minutes. 2018 Results The race was well run as usual, thanks to the organizers for pulling it all together. 

Relive 'Morning Ride'

Here's an unsatisfying video of the event.  Why unsatisfying?  Because the battery died before I reached the finish line.  Don't worry, it isn't 58 minutes long thanks to the magic of 16x playback.

So what is my advice to my future self? Am I going to do this miserable suffering ride again? That is a definite maybe. I think my advice would be lose 12lbs if you want to climb it faster because you aren't getting any younger!  You hear that future self? Lay off the cookies and before bed snacks.  Or maybe 8th is good enough.