Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000 announcement - 2016

I was chatting to a good mountain biking mate of mine the other day, he was wondering what my next big adventure was. I told him "the Iditarod to Nome - 1000 miles". He seemed surprised - not at the distance or the race - but moreso that I'd not formally announced it.

I know I'd hinted it in FB status updates. I've IG'd it. I've hashtagged it. He had a point though, I just presumed peeps would pick up my cues - but who takes notice of hashtags nowadays? Pfft.


So here it is.

In February 2016, I'll be racing the Iditarod Trail Invitational, the 1000 mile distance (that's 1600km to us metric folk) to Nome, in Alaska, in winter, on a fatbike. I even screenshot part of the 2016 roster, just to prove it:

I just didn't get my fill of cold, ice, danger, sleep debt and mystery this year on the 350, so I went on and signed up for the 1000. Crazy, huh?

I covered a little bit of the race in a previous post Iditarod Prologue, so I won't bore you with the same pics again, but I've got more in store - I'm still threatening to post up those daily race reports and gear list!

The map below could pretty much pass as a satellite image - Alaska in winter is just one big snowcone.

I'll be taking a Trace tracker this time, so you guys can enjoy watching the glacial pace I'll be making along the 1000 mile route. The riveting online discussions you can have about what I'm doing when stationary will be legendary and something that the internet will be proud of.

Sure, I've been training (commuting to work on a Cannondale fatbike is training, yes?) splashing around in the pool, savouring pleasant morning jogs in the bush and using one of those electronic muscle stimulators so I can crunch my abs while watching the telly and blogging. Core strength is crucial people!

I had a nasty knee issue in 2015 from falling on ice during the race, but thanks to the awesome hands and knowledge of my physio Howard Arbuthnot, that's been sorted.

I've changed my diet to low carb/high fat (many thanks to Brisbane Paleo) and refined my lean body mass (reduced 10kg). Carbs are so unfashionable these days, besides I've always wanted an excuse to just eat butter for breakfast and peanut butter M and M's all day long...and you think I'm joking right?

Ahh, please allow my jest.

But no, this is serious stuff. I've been doing all kinds of experiments to see what works for me. I like experiential evidence...and peanut butter cups.

Real food - Bonk Breaker bars from my nutrition sponsor FE Sports - will be there for me again for 2016. 250 calories roughly each, with roughly 50 from fat. Diesel power.

Skratch Labs have these neat portioned energy chews, nitrous oxide injection for this diesel.


I'll be riding my Muru Cycles Witjira titanium bike again, similar setup from 2015, only lighter. I've been drillin' holes in things and changin' out components for lighter options - yeah, I've gone full weight weenie.

Ride Mechanic race lubes kept me rolling smoothly through all kinds of conditions in 2015, why change from a good thing for 2016?

Follow the race updates on the official Iditarod Trail Invitational website and also on my facebook page. Nyree will be updating where possible.

Countdown is on - race day is 28th February, 2:00pm Anchorage time - about 7 weeks away from this post.

I can't wait!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Global Fat Bike Day 2015

Global Fat Bike Day - it's a worldwide phenomenon that draws fatbikers together to share the stoke of riding their local terrain with like minded folk.

In 2015 for us South East Queensland riders - the destination was the Sunshine Coast. Offering stunning beaches without the highrise view, a fabulous trail network and gravel road options for the return loop - something for everybody. Including a pub counter meal at the end!

My day started well before dawn, getting 20km in the legs to my rendezvous point - I then hitched a ride with Chris and his new Borealis Echo up the coast, our journey starts from the backtracks at Perigian beach...

As the Australian fatbike ambassador for Cannondale, I had my new Fat CAAD 1 to session. Minimalist approach today - just the bare essentials. Strapped to the bars I have my Zipshot tripod, my camera (Panasonic FT2) in the top tube bag, one water bottle (I didn't want anything on the huge downtube to spoil that Cannondale graphic, and nothing on my back), my Blackburn Outpost HV pump secreted on the seattube and my lights, spare tube and sunscreen in the seatbag.

It was quite a gathering on the path out front of the surf club, checking out each others bikes and setups. Carbon, alloy, titanium and steel all well represented.

A hot topic was chain lube (Ride Mechanic Bike Milk - nothing better) and of course tyre pressure!

Much frolicking! As usual, fatbikes bring out the big kids in all of us. Brenno on his Muru Witjira doing...something...in the background here - fatbikes are about fun!

'yes, the fork is more aero' 

'yes, I got the fork at half price'

We had a brisk tailwind up the beach, temps were mild at about 25 degrees C (okay, 77F).

20 riders showed this year - we had 5 in 2014, 2 in 2013 and solo mio in 2012. Much discussion went into the correct name of a 'collective' of fatbikers.

Everybody just found their groove, be it up higher on the beach or closer to the waterline, catching up with mates, having a race, or just chewing the fat.

As Russell Coight would say: "all too soon it was time to leave the beach and head for the hills, on some trails that skirted the national park. These trails are easy to see during the day, but hard to see at night, because it's dark."

Terry on his freshly built Salted Sandfly, and enjoying the smooth comfort of that Thudbuster. Chris with those blue hoops, and hardman Eric - a veteran of Fraser Island bike expeditions - on a Krampus.

We were headed for Laguna Lookout - overlooking Noosa township, the river and North shore.
Matt here showing us the correct way to descend tech trail obstacles, on his bright carbon Fatboy.

A quick smoko break - Bonk Breaker bars got me through some very tough times in Alaska on the Iditarod - Brenno reckons eating them has improved his riding and the health of his beard too. What a stud!

This little tike had the fattest tyres of all* as well as a disc wheel and aero frame. They breed them fast here - the home of the Noosa triathlon!

*to scale of width, volume, ground pressure, body weight

Nick (on the left of image) only picked up his new Fatboy at 4:30am that morning - the first ride was to be on the sand, while Paul and Leanne are no strangers to the fatbike genre on 2 heavily modified, full rigid Salted Sandflies (hint - only one bike had pink Nexties)

All too soon it was time to hit the road (another Coight meme). We bombed our way down the hill from Laguna lookout on some secret singletrack, to swan our way along the hoity-toity of Hastings St. Wayne on his Moonlander just cruising along, admiring the health of the trees and the integrated watering systems.

John (Salsa Mukluk) our local guide, found us a bit of double entendred 'North Shore' on our way to the marina for morning tea.

A quiver of fat!

 All too soon, it was time to quit the road, the fancy coffee shop and head for the trails of Tewantin. "Set amongst the tall eucalypts and cabbage tree palms, the singletrack here was sandy with a light covering of leaf litter, as well as branches with a sandy base underneath" (trail description taken directly from Russell Coights new book 'How I got this black eye and other injuries')

Chris - a veteran of several Tours de Roto - was eager to pin it on the Echo.

Paul has an efficient fast, flowy grace, with Nick hot on his heels.

My bike was patiently waiting for its turn...

 ...then boom!

We regrouped at the trailhead, to be greeted by a huge group of those skinny tyred mtbers - with lefties!

The party over, we began our journey South for the final leg to the pub on back roads...

...and fire trails. Neil leading us out with his extensive, encyclopedic knowledge of trails in the South East QLD region.

Erk! Both Jason and John got sticks in the tyres - Jason had to run out while Johns remained inflated enough with the stick in place, to ride out on.

Arrival at the pub with a sweet 66km loop on the Garmin - Nick reckoned that was equal to about 100km on the road. Some changed into their finest, while the rest of us were happy in our stinky, sweaty kit. Hey, chamois time is chamois time before Iditarod!

The beefburger was the choice for many. I'm on controlled diet for Iditarod, so was happy with my Bonk Breaker...

But the day of riding wasn't over for me. I got a lift with Wayne back to Northside Brisbane, I still had 40km to ride home. All totalled I ended up with a fantastic 125km of mixed terrain riding on the CAAD 1 for the day, 3500 calories burnt and 3 Bonk Breakers consumed. Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000 is 12 weeks away...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Moreton Island 3 day Wintersun bikepack - day 3

Hehe, frustrated mosquitoes hovered around my bugnet, searching for an entrance throughout the night. Sometime during the night, the wind turned offshore and the sound of surf dropped to a pleasant level, a quiet reminder of your location as the birdlife ratcheted up to 11:

I've lost count of the early mornings I'd drive to the coast for a dawn patrol surf. I don't get the chance as much anymore, but sure is nice to just be there for those first rays of sunrise. Maybe I need to bolt the boardrack to the bike more often, bring it along and catch an early peak - not let a quiet, solo lefthander go to waste.

Breakfast - you know the drill by know. At Rous there is a fresh water tank, sign suggests boiling before consumption. So many different ways to treat water, the correct method defined by many variables (my primary test is smell). In a 'State of Fear' world, some might think I take too may risks with simple things like this - I drank from the tap and topped off the bottles. In my opinion and experience, exposing my gut microbes to a variety of 'controlled digestive challenges' prepares it for travel and off-the-grid reliability. YMMV.

Another cracker of a day. We ride 3 or 4 km south, to the entrance of the Little Sandhills.

For my Iditarod family: 'the trail had blown in' :)

A short trail through the Casuarinas leads us to...

...that first view - a 'Lawrence of Arabia' moment. Confronted with a seemingly endless line of high dunes, but it's only a few km from east to west. The dune lines run roughly parallel to the beach, with vegetation down in the gullies. The western faces of the dunes can be quite steep and loose, with predominant south east winds blowing loose, aerated sand down the back (west side) of the dunes. Care must be taken of route choice - sand avalanches are not uncommon with poor route choices!

Yeah, was a bit windy. Strong south west winds approached 50km/hr in my estimation. Of course, we were...heading...west...against...the...wind. Sand blizzard - all I saw was crunchy snow!

But it's not all bad. The path I take is never point to point, and changes like the shifting sands. I like to zig-zag and flow with the dunes, identify imaginary topo contours, aim for visible firm patches and slowly gain elevation while savouring the constantly changing vista with each turn.

Descending can be a cautious affair, threading the needle on the more shallow angled dune backs. Finding safe descent points is more art than science, so invigorating to be following no path at all.

Follow me to braaaaap!

Midway up the highest dune, remains of an ancient forest that must have been perched high.

Nature finds a way - a stoic termite nest in the trunk with the essentials of food, moisture; and the luxuries of location, great views and solitude.

On the crest of the final dune the wind at full force. Bare skin was grit blasted. Loaded fatbikes were like huge sails, catching the wind and throwing you off bearing. Looking west, the whitecaps in the bay display the winds velocity.   

Down in the gully it's a different story. Heads down, buffs up and pushing to the summit.

It was sooo easy to turn my mind back to earlier in the year on the Iditarod, pushing through the blizzard on the Kuskokwim River and over the oxbow bend shortcuts.

Sand-strugi! Was fascinating to watch up close.

Dropped down to the beach track, high fives all round and head north on the west beach.

Adjacent Big Sandhills, there is a campground with a sand spear hand pump. The water here is fresh and clear, but best advised to pump it a few times to flush out the slightly rusty water that accumulates after a period of time.
The western entrance to the Big Sandhills. Visualise with me in monochrome...sand or snow?
At Shark Spit there are wrecked remnants of ancient steamers, run aground from big storms over 100 years ago.

Clear views of the Glasshouse mtns to the west.

Wrecks of another kind - had to admire the intelligence of the double entendre!

We rounded Tangalooma Point and suddenly the adventure felt over. We had the wind at our backs, and with the resort in view, we very casually made our way over the last few km - trying to wring out the last few drops of adventure. We had a bit of time until the Micat departed, so a hearty lunch at the resort rounded the trip, all smiles after an awesome trip like this. Yes, I'm smiling.

 Let's finish up with some packing tech. Each trip is different, what you take and how you carry it is more art than science, it's an evolution of past trips, the weather you expect, what gear you have at your disposal to pack it all with, blah blah - I think you've heard me mention this all before...

So, in the grey eVent drybag (small size) is my sleeping bag (Mountain Hardwear Ultralumina 32) first secured to the rack with 2 x Salsa anything cage straps, on top of that is a Revelate Pocket (large size) containing sleeping pad (Klymit X frame), silnylon footprint (Gram Counter), Sea to Summit 1 person bugnet, Integral Designs 2 person tarp and some small plastic sand pegs.  The pocket has it's own set of integrated straps that perfectly clip and cinch easily around the rack and drybag. The secondary reflective strap is for, well anything. The Revelate Spocket on the top holds the first aid kit, head torch and blinky taillight. Bungy cord attachment for the Spocket allow for quick stowing of stuff - like gloves.

The framebag has 3 compartments - the side facing the camera is the office - it has flat items stowed: phone, paper maps. The lower compartment is like a garage - spare tube, tools, spares and repair kit for just about anything. The top pocket holds the 4L MSR Dromedary water bladder - I prefer the durability and sturdy fabric of the heavier weight Dromedary bags, instead of the lighter Drom-lites. I have a long, insulated camelbak hose (with quick disconnect) clipped to the bars. The Revelate Jerry Can (near seatpost) holds the camera for quick and easy access. The front Revelate Gastank (near stem) holds my Bonk Breaker bars, spare camera battery and SD card, notepad and pencil, compass, Alpen 8x21 monocular.

Tech tip: I lubricate all the zips on the bags with Ride Mechanic Bike Milk OR Bike Butter (depending on the time available) This improves the slick one handed action during operation.

Front rollbag is a Revelate Sweetroll, in this was my foodbag (2L Sea to Summit cinch top drybag), stove stowed in the pot, , overflow clothes (Macpac pants and TNF poncho). On top of this is my Zipshot tripod and padded bag , then over the top of all this is a small Oveja Negra handlebar bag, from BikeBagDude - in this I put small overflow clothes like the buffs and spare straps. Didn't really need this storage on this trip, but was eager to field test this new product.  

Finally, I sling two Revelate Mountain Feedbags on either side of the stem. I run a moderately long stem reach, so these feedbags don't hit my knees when I climb out of the saddle. The left bag held the 500ml clear water bottle (I like clear bottles, to visually check for particulates when topping up from water sources), the right bag contained a bag of trail mix for quick random snacking.  The side mesh pockets of the feedbags are a great spot to quickly stash rubbish. The wide Arctic Gastank was a limited run bag - much wider than standard - for Iditarod.