Monday, February 16, 2009

Spectating the Susitna 100

After coming back from Talkeenta it was full blown catch up sewing mode for almost 2 weeks. Finally Friday came and everyone that wanted gear for the Susitna 100 was taken care of. Two big snow races down, with the Ultra Sport to go and I'm looking pretty good for that one. Trying my best to get non-race orders out the door as well. Its a really good feeling having become the go-to person for frame bags for these events within a year's time.

Friday came and it was time to get out of town. I quickly sewed myself a proto version of the Handle bar Harness with 2 instead of 3 main straps and started packing. All my own bike gear was in dis-array. Everything was out, I had to scrounge through a box on the shelf to find one of my original gas tanks to take out. Most of my own gear was on loan or sold. I'm not complaining, but its kinda ironic in a way.

Left the Pt. Mac parking lot at around 4:30 and started slogging away. 3 days of food, a new solo tent to try out and some other knick nacks like a new GPS and camera. Really though the outing was going to be a test to see if the ole right knee was up to a bigger challenge in a little over 2 weeks.

At dusk I came across Bill and Kathi Merchant setting up their wall tent for a snow bike training weekend with Yair and Kevin. Both who I met the two days previously and had been corresponding with for a while about gear. After socializing I flipped on my headlamp and continued on to Flathorn.

It was quite soft out there and I kinda thought it was funny that I was breaking trail and not even in the race. The 4 mph pace got me bored and I scribbled some notes of encouragement in the snow to friends who would be coming through the next morning.

Slogged across the Dismal swamp to the Big Su, my goal for the night. Stomped out a nice spot and pitched my brand new Hilleberg Akto tent. I've never tried using a solo tent for anything, it was either nothing, bivy's, mids, or larger tents. I have a larger Nammatj 3 GT as a mountaineering tent and absolutely love it (survived 100mpg gusts at 17,000' on Denali for a week). I saw the Akto about 7 years ago in El Chalten in Patagonia. A German cyclist had one and I was drooling over it. My mid had been knocked down twice in the middle of the night during windy rainstorms and poor anchor choice and I was envious. The little Akto weights a hair over 3 lbs and like everything Hilleberg makes, is super duper high quality.

mmm nothing like a healthy breakfast.. left over food from the alaska range. Jimmy dean sausage egg&cheese crissant-witch's, bacon and pop tarts (organic of course!)

a quick pop through the woods and down to the Susitna River:

It had been a long time since I had been out here, since the 2005 Mcgrath race. Felt good to be back on the river, even though I was just a tourist and not racing anywhere.
My plan was to get up on the other side of the river and hang out for the front runners to come through. Hyper caffinated I started to gather wood for a fire, but it was in the mid-20's and not really necessary, it just gave me something to do. Soon enough a lone skier came along.

I immediately realized it was Cory Smith, he was out training for the 350 and to spectate as well. We both thought it was pretty funny to have camped out to come watch the race. I've known Cory on and off for a little while, we punished each other like 5 years ago in a Hammer adventure race, then I saw him go on to win the 05' Susitna 100 when I was doing the same thing training for Mcgrath. We talked gear and I was generally totally jelous of his skis given the soft conditions. Back to the fire building...

Finally Greg and Bill showed up chashing the lead skier, they were working it hard.

With no plan, I started riding out the trail to eaglesong. Generally poky and in no rush what so ever, letting racers / friends pass by. Mostly everyone was in good spirits, it was hard not to given the weather. Sunny and warm.. but that made for a really soft trail.

This is my favorite shot from the weekend:

The trail approaching Eagle song was really getting soft. Loaded fairly heavy and on a joy ride, so I decided to turn around when the fun meter started to dip.

Turning around meant it was social time, over the next few hours I ran into pretty much everyone on the way back to the big Su.

More photos of that Here

Back to the river, at dusk. I stopped on the east bank at the wall of death to brew up. Scores of walkers and still some bikers came on by. I grew a little tired of explaining that I was really just fine and out to spectate. I think in a racers eye the use of the stove - a piece of mandatory gear that is never really used, must dictate some sort of emergency. Nope just water & mashed potatoes with tons of butter.

keep an eye out for this guy in an upcoming movie:

I never really like riding at dusk with flat light, headlamps work much better when its totally dark. So with that taken care of I headed back across the dismal swamp. The trail had firmed up considerably from the day before, despite the thousands of perforations from the foot racers. You could actually cruise along quite well here:

Decision time - keep going all the way back? or spend another night out? no brainer... on to making fire and see if any of the leaders would come through.
Saving on fossil fuel:

The two lead skiers came through pretty soon looking good.
after that it was bivy time sans tent. However just about as soon as I sacked out I could feel snow falling on my face. sigh... I decided to try using the Akto without the inner tent and quickly pitched that as a tarp. Its a cool feature of Hilleberg's that normally the inner and fly are joined together and pitch as one - but you can easily unclip the inside and pitch just the fly. zzzzzz

Next morning woke up to women chatting, it was Theo and Shannon classic skiing on by. Guys would have long run out of things to say after skiing together for 24 hrs, but not these two! :)

a bit of fresh snow on pugs...

Properly caffinated and porked, I ran into Brij on Flathorn:

There was quickly some deja-vu. Four years ago I rode out to Flat horn on the trail from Knik to cheer Brij on his way back in this race. It was a rough year and Brij had pushed like 50 miles at that point, but was the lead cyclist and went on to win the bike division. Brij now has stopped "racing" and likes to take long naps in his events. Good choice Mr. Potnis!

Ran into Bill and Kathi out with Yair and Kevin and shot the breeze amidst falling snow.

snow snow snow..

That's about it. Good trip, but I learned / confirmed that my Knee isn't up to what I was planning for this year. Hard to swallow, but you never know until you try.


Marla said...

Thanks, I enjoyed that!

Kid Riemer said...

Nice pics Eric and fun to see some action from that event. It looks like a lot of folks with the right kind of attitude! Cheers!

Geoff said...

bummer about the knee. would have been nice to have another familar face out on the trail in "tour" mindset to help me keep from getting too much into "race" mindset.

Dave said...

Fkn knees. Glad all I had to do was retire from running to fix mine.