29 July 2015

MountainMan Swiss Ultra Run Race Report

MOUNTAINMAN Swiss Alps Ultra

25 July 2014

I discovered this race because someone gave me a coffee table book that was all about the great races in the world that required human endurance to the maximum. 
When I put together my training plan for 2016 there were three objectives:
1.  Do an ultra run
2.  Do one of these races in the book
3.  Compete in an expedition multi day adventure race at the World Series level.

MountainMan fit nicely in the schedule and allowed me to knock off the first 2 objectives.
It also allowed me to get in a nice LONG trek/run in the train up to the Raid in France….

So here’s how it unrolled.  On the Thursday before I flew from Oslo to Lyon and made my way to Chamonix to spend the night in the mountains.  I had a hotel reservation at the race start that began on Friday so I began wandering over to StockAlp Switzerland Friday morning.  The race start and small ski village is basically not accessible by vehicle so the plan was to take the gondola up when I got there and get to race registration before it closed and then to the hotel. 

Then the shit hit the fan….  I got to the Gondola station at 1800hrs and learned the last lift up was at 1730…..  so what the fuck do I do?  The guy told me they allow vehicles to pass up the service road on the hour and then the next hour they allow vehicles back down!! 

So I got in line with about 30 other vehicles and waited for it to hit 1900 and we could go up….  Damn I wish I had made the gondola!  The road was a one lane cow path that wound it’s way up and up and up and up and up…..  hairpin after hairpin….  Then it started raining cats and dogs….  Holy shit I got the heebee jeebees driving up there.  It took about 20 minutes and covered about 6 miles I think. 

Once up I stopped to ask someone where my hotel was.  I got a terrified look and they replied that I should have received an email stating the owners had shut down the hotel basically overnight and that I was shit out of luck. 

Well, there was one thing for sure.  I was NOT DRIVING BACK DOWN THAT ROAD IN THE DARK AND RAIN…..  I made plans to sleep in the car but then the kind lady made a call and it appears there was a room in a hotel (dormitory style) and I said YES!! 

Add this on top of the fact that I had been dealing with a huge calf/Achilles tendon problem for about two weeks that had me even contemplating taking the start line and I was a mess.  I went to the hotel restaurant and had a schnitzel and 3 weiss beers.  Fuck it……

The next morning dawned bright but the clouds and fog were expected.  I did a big stretching session and applied heat to my calf and prayed…

There were only about 40 people or so doing this.  The race started almost funny with the guy basically counting down in German from 10 to 0 and “Schnell”!!

I’m not going to go into all the details kilometer by kilometer but basically there were two different loops.  After about 25k or so you circled back by the start area and started a different loop.

The scenery was amazing.  Early on in the race the sun was out and you basically could see thousands of feet down into these valleys.  The fog really rolled in and quite frankly it was a bit scary only seeing about 20 feet in front of you knowing there were cliffs on either side that meant death. 




I ran most of the race by myself.  Other than the start and until people spread out (you could see people on the ridgelines ahead) I got with a group on the big descent on Loop 1 and we all got lost in the fog.  Soon we figured it out and I didn’t want to do that again so I quit following people and made sure I verified the turns and trails.  The dew point with the fog was so high water was literally dripping off me and my visor was soaked.  With every step another pint of water would roll off the brim of the hat. 









Another thing that was cool was the constant (and I mean constant) sound of cowbells jingling and jangling.  The cows grazed in these summer pastures and they would look at you like you were a fool running by.  In the fog you couldn't see them but knew they were out there.  spooky!

The course was marked pretty well.  Of course this is Switzerland and everything is orderly.  Every trail in the world is marked out there with beautiful sign posts and we also just kept following the red and white painting on the rocks.


On the second loop out of the aid station I ran a bit with a girl from Switzerland.  I soon left her behind and then in the fog ran into another girl that was a bit lost.  We then stayed together until the big, big climb up to Joch pass when I started to fade a bit and she pulled ahead. 

During the course there were small little aid stations staffed by families that lived in these mountains.  The offerings were modest (generally some bananas and some sausage and beer and water)  I ate sausage and drank beer mostly!  They would try out their English on me and we had fun.





The big climb on Loop 2 to Joch pass did take it out of me.  The long descent I was still able to run on the single track but when it hit the road I alternated between running and walking.  At the finish they gave you a sticker and a mug of beer………..  I am a MountainMan!!!!

TCOPE

03 June 2015

Summit Adventure Racing and Team Commie Bar on both coasts

Never thought I'd ever say this but this weekend (6-7 June 2015) Team Commie Bar is racing in California at the High Sierra All Out 24hour adventure race (with Scott Mead and Jon Gamm)


 and also racing at the Jersey Inferno 12 hour race (solo with Chris Farrell).  Team Commie Bar on both coasts on the same weekend.....


Coast to Coast we race all  night.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!









27 May 2015

CycleBeam Bicycle Light Review



Subject:  Product Review & Field Test of the CycleBeam 930Z bicycle light and the Proton 700 bicycle light
Field Test Situation:  The Equinox Traverse 48 hour Adventure Race

Background:  From 23 -25 May 2015, Summit Adventure Racing and Team Commie Bar competed in the elite coed division at the Equinox Traverse 48hour Adventure Race in Ohiopyle, PA.  Two of the athletes (Todd Copley and Jon Gamm) used and field tested the CycleBeam bicycle lights listed above.  Here are the comments and report.

930Z-1
Charging
The 930Z-1 uses a 18650 lithium battery that is charged using the included charger that comes with the light.  I like the fact the charger comes with an AC120 power cord as part of the charger and not a USB cord.  The batteries do take a good long time to full charge.  I don’t really like the blue color to green color combination to indicate charging status because I always mix them up.  A red to green combo would be better.  I have a spare charger that I bought online and it has 2 battery capacity so I used this as well.  I’m glad I started charging all my batteries a day or so in advance because it does take a while.  Another comment is that the light is not compatible with other 18650 batteries. 

Mounting
Could not be easier.  The mount goes on the bars and you can snug it down with the included rubber tie downs.  I do recommend using some bar tape or even regular duct tape on the bars so the mount doesn’t wobble.  Jon had some problems with wobble but the two lights I used didn’t have a problem. 

Ease of Operation
Easy enough!  One comment however is that it takes two button pushes to accomplish a move thru the settings.  One to turn the light off and the next push to advance the setting.  A one button push would make this simpler.  These lights are so light it’s incredible.  I mounted two of them on my bars  underneath my map board.  I had planned on using one light for Night 1 and the other light (already mounted) for night 2.  In the future I’m just going to go with one light and just have extra batteries that I’ll carry in my saddlebag
  

Brightness
The light is advertised at 930 lumens and it’s crazy bright.  I’ve had and used another light that advertises at 1200 lumen and it is just about the same as the CycleBeam.  Generally speaking I ran my light on low setting the entire night and had plenty of light.  Granted a lot of the riding was on roads but I felt that during the single track phases I could still see very well.  Since I was the navigator I did need to crank up the brightness setting to medium or high on occasion when I was seeking to find a CP in the woods. 

Longevity
My light lasted all night (and more).  The light was switched on to low setting as soon as it became dark (about 8:45pm) and was on until when the sun came up at 0555am.  That is approximately 9 hours.  I did turn the light off from time to time when we had to dismount and go on foot to seek a point.  That was mixed with hitting the high settings from time to time as well.  On night #2 the light were only used for a period of 40 minutes on the last segment of the race.  During those 40 minutes I continued to use the initial light/battery from the night before and it got me to the finish line however by that time the light level had reduced greatly.  Jon reported still having a high light level the entire time on night #2 but that was probably due to the fact that he was not using the medium or high setting as much as I was since I was navigating.


Proton 700 Helmet Light
Charging
The Proton 700 uses a 18650 x 2 battery pack that is charged using a USB cord.  I added an USB to AC Adaptor so I could plug directly into the wall.  Like the 930 it takes a long time to charge.  One of the batteries was perpetually blinking green indicating not fully charged for something like 8 hours.  After leaving it plugged in all night the green stopped blinking.  One other comment is that the connection from the battery cable to the charger is not as solid as I’ve seen.  The cord can basically disconnect fairly easy.

Mounting
Helmet mounting is easy and conventional using a helmet mount and straps with locking clips.  The mount is secure and stayed secure for the 2 day race without bouncing around.  The light weight of both the light and the battery was appreciated.  One comment I do have is that I would create a supplemental cord (or simply make the existing one longer) so the battery could be stored in the top part of a back pack or somewhere else other than the helmet.  Even with the light weight, carrying this load on your head can stress your neck out over 2 days.

Ease of Operation
Great operation.  Single button that’s easily accessible right on top.  Cycles through with one push of the button and turns off quickly.  This is important as a navigator because I’m using the light to spot check points in the distance in the woods and also to swing back to viewing my map that is only 12 inches away from my face.  Again the low and medium settings worked great in this respect.  Sometimes the light level is too high to read the maps as a close distance.
For multi day racing, I kept a spare battery in my saddlebag.

Brightness
The website doesn’t list the lumen for this light but suffice it to say we operated this at primarily a low setting the entire night and it was more than adequate. 

Longevity
My light lasted all night (and more).  The light was switched on to low setting as soon as it became dark (about 8:45pm) and was on until when the sun came up at 0555am.  That is approximately 9 hours.  I did turn the light off from time to time when we had to dismount and go on foot to seek a point.  That was mixed with hitting the high settings from time to time as well.  On night #2 the light were only used for a period of 40 minutes on the last segment of the race.  During those 40 minutes I continued to use the initial light/battery from the night before and it got me to the finish line strong.
  
Overall:
I think this light is a great value.  Are there probably some better light systems out there.  Maybe.  But NONE at this price point.  I’d like to see the 930Z in a model that could be mounted on the helmet.  That way I’d go exclusively with the 930 for multi day racing because I can always carry more batteries since they are lightweight.  All in all a solid, solid light.  This will be on the bike during the World Series Raid in France. 




26 May 2015

2015 The Equinox Traverse 48Hour Race

Equinox Traverse
48 hour Adventure Race
Start:  Ohiopyle, PA
Finish:  Ohiopyle, PA
Team:  Todd Copley, Kim Owens, Jon Gamm, Scott Mead

In hour 42 around 2am of the Equinox Traverse the bottom of my feet were causing me so much pain. We were doing a 2,000 foot decent after a foot orienteering section to pick up our bikes for the ride back to the finish. In the darkness walking ahead of my teammates, I clenched my fists and prayed that God would give me the strength to endure the pain and just get me to the finish. For the first time In my life I experienced a hallucination where my friends in this picture and others were walking behind me cheering me on and saying over and over "I will help you, you can do this!" It was the most mysterious thing I have ever experienced. A moment where I saw God's face in some of my beautiful friends!
Kim Owens
Team Commie Bar



Start Kilometer
End Km
Total Cumulative
Discipline
From
To
0
33.15
33.15
Bike
Ohiopyle
Mill Run Junction/TA1
33.15
24.48
57.63
Trek
Mill Run Junction TA1
State Game Lands 51
57.63
53.07
110.7
Bike
Mill Run Junction TA2
TA3 - COGOs/Bakersville
110.7
51
161.7
Bike
TA3 - COGOs/Bakersville
TA4 - Bear Run
161.7
30.45
192.15
Bike
TA5 - Bear Run
Ram Cat Paddle Put In
192.15
14.93
207.08
Paddle
Ram Cat Paddle Put In
Ohiopyle Take Out
207.08
19.5
226.58
Trek
Ohiopyle Take Out
Ram Cat Paddle Put In
226.58
14.35
240.93
Bike
Ram Cat Paddle Put In
Ohiopyle/Race Finish
Km
Miles
Total Race
240.93
149.3766
Bike
182.02
112.8524
Trek
43.98
27.2676
Paddle
14.93
9.2566



The Equinox Traverse was a delve back into multi day expedition style racing for Team Commie Bar.  We were using this race as a training race for Raid in France and to see how the team did with multi day races.  Guillaume Calais was unable to come to the U.S. for this race and Scott Mead, who is the 1st alternate for Raid in France, filled in for him in grand style!

The team drove/flew into Deep Creek on Thursday and that evening we had a BBQ at my house and had good fun.  Friday was dedicated to race prep and bike building.  We spent the good part of the day getting our gear (and with adventure racing there is a ton!)  We prepped climbing gear and our paddling equipment.  Our packs were stuffed with extra clothes, mandatory gear, and enough food for 48 hours.  Our bikes were tuned up and loaded down with bike lights, spare batteries, repair gear, map boards and tow ropes to help tow tired teammates. 
 



That evening (Friday) we went to Mt State Brewing and had pizza and some beers.  Then back to get the last bit of sleep we would have until Monday afternoon.

Saturday morning we met up at 0500 and made the trek to Ohiopyle and race start.  It would be an absolute frenetic pace of race prep since we weren’t getting the maps until 0700 and race brief was at 0830.  1.5 hours to readjust packing lists, distribute gear and food bags and plan an over 150 mile race course!! 


When we got the maps we transposed the Checkpoints and moved back to the vehicles to get the gear ready.  The start to the race had been changed because of air temperature and the fact that originally we would start in the kayaks and paddle the Class IV lower Yough.  It was simply just too cold at 38 degrees to start that epic paddle that would certainly have us very, very, very wet going into a 2 day race. 

Now the race would start on bike.  They led us out of town and at the turn onto a gravel road going uphill for close to 2 miles the race began and the elite teams moved out quick. 

Team Commie Bar knew it would be a long haul and we settled into a steady pace.  We screamed thru Checkpoint 1 and then another long downhill into CP2.  The move from CP2 to CP3 leveled out and we crossed the river at Roger’s Mill and picked up a semi-rail trail that took us into the first transition area.  This race would be unique in that the entire race would be on bike with trekking and paddling section sprinkled in.  We were in for a very long time in the saddle.


At Transition Area 1, we transitioned to foot and planned for an attack on at least 2 or maybe up to 4 Optional points in the wilderness north of the Yough river.  We shuffle ran with our pack down another abandoned rail line to a bridge over the Yough and the confluence of Indian Creek.  We crossed the abandoned rail bridge which was scary.  Stepping on the ties and looking thru the gaps down 60 feet or so to the river.  Kim was really nervous about this and quite frankly I wasn’t too enthused either! 









We got across the bridge and picked a drainage taking us up to the mountain top.  Sometimes gentle sometimes steep we followed a ravine up and nailed optional point 13.  From there we made our way thru a saddle and picked up OP 7.  We then made a decision to go for OP4 which would lead  us out a ridge line and then down a very, very steep section.  We underestimated the steepness and also how far down the point would be.  After we got that point, we had a difficult navigation decision to make.  Should we parallel the contour lines of this straight up and down mountain and hope it comes out somewhere or simply retreat the way we came back UP, UP, UP.  We chose to parallel the mountain but eventually after trekking sideways on this steep monster we buckled and headed straight back up to hit the trail.  We jogged back down the fireroad to the bridge and crossed a second time then walked back to our bikes at the transition knowing there was a cut off at 6pm. 

At the bikes we prepared for a long all night bike segment that would take us north east and into the Laurel Highlands.  We saddled up and retraced the route back to Roger’s mill then plotted a course that stretched west to east up to Seven Springs resort.  We picked up CP EOO and then dealt with the only true navigational error that was made during this segment.  Instead of paralleling down into Laurel Hill State Park we missed the turnoff and instead wound up actually in Seven Springs resort.  We passed a restaurant and the smells were very tempting as we tried to figure out where we were.  We soon got back on track and made our way to CP CC and then turned north to get SE1 and even further to TR1.  We tried to attack TR1 from the road via an azimuth bearing but were unsuccessful and retried on bike and got it that time.  All of us were now beginning to experience fatigue as we had been on the bikes (despite a 5hour trekking section) since 9am and now it was midnight on Saturday.  From TR1 it was clear that the best way to go was to continue up to CP NC1 and make our way to NC5 and start a very long downhill to Transition Area 3 which was a 24 hour convenience store that served hot food!!.
When we got there we were ravenous.  The store looked like a looter’s prison as the 16 teams racing had either already been there or were camped out in the aisles sleeping or with maps spread out planning the next segments!  It was hilarious.  I ordered two strombolis, two pieces of pizza, a ham and cheese bagel and a quart of chocolate milk and a coke…..  wish they had beer….  We pondered over the map and how to get to the Transition Area 4.  To be honest it looked like retracing a lot of our previous route would be the easiest.  We set out and left the comfort of the store at 3:30am and it was very cold.  We bundled up and I was burping Stromboli….  The epic bike ride began.  At this point we had been on the bikes for 18plus hours… 

The bike segment to TA4 was uneventful in the night other than it was cold and now I was vomiting Stromboli and pizza.  We moved pretty strong all the way thru to a massive uphill between BP2 and the entrance to Bear Creek that would lead us down to the transition area.  We ended up pushing the bikes for around 2 miles up the road and to the trails of Bear Creek. 
In  Bear Creek a devious plot from the race organizer was played out.  The trail down to the TA was marked with construction tape at the onset of the entrance into the area.  We violated rule #1 of adventure racing which is always know where you are on the map.  We lapsed into the security of having a trail mapped out with flags leading us down.  Then………………………………….  The flags/construction tape ended…..  which way to go?  Right or left?  We had no idea where we were on the map as we had been following the generous markings from the organizers….  Well, it took a while to get our bearings but we eventually found our way down to the Transition. 

At the transition we were given optional points to seek but it was now almost 10am on Sunday and we knew we still had a lot of racing to do.  We took the time to regroup, change clothes and eat before pushing our bikes back UP the entrance to Bear Creek.  It was a painful decision to blow off some points on the Optional Orienteering course and even more painful to know we were just getting back on the bikes for what we knew would be an epic hike a bike back up to the road. 
That said we took the challenge and after the misery of the push we hit the road and then plotted our descent back to Ohiopyle.

In Ohiopyle we knew what we had to do.  We still had an 8 mile bike segment to get to Confluence for the paddle put in.  Despite being on the bikes for 27 hours we hammered out the rail trail to Ram Cat put in.  Kim and I piloted one kayak and Scott and Jon the other.  The water was running low and we got hung up several times on the Middle Yough but at about 2 hours hit our take out back in Ohiopyle. 

We were soaked.  It was almost dark and the sun was going down.  We dropped the kayaks off and made our way on foot back to the transition area where we had our gear and changed clothes and got ready for night #2. 


At the transition we were given our options.  It included 4 optional check points high in Ohiopyle State Park.  Since I have been familiar with the park we elected to go after 2 CPs and then begin a excruciating long descent down a fire tower road back to the bikes at the paddle put in. 
I led the trek up the Baughman trail which is merciless in gaining elevation and length.  All of us began suffering and we made it up and down to the first OP at a spring.  From there it seemed like forever to make our way over the Sugarloaf mountain and cross the road to the Firetower. 

We slowly advanced up Firetower road and got a final optional point before the murderous descent.
The plan had been to jog and run the 5 mile descent back to the bikes but that plan evaporated in a cloud of fatigue and feet that were hurting.  The team performed brilliantly but we were all falling asleep as we walked down this steep, rocky corridor.  We took several rest stops to stop the burning of the feet and the burning of the muscles.  The night sounds only broken up by our slippery feet on the rocks.  Not many words were spoken.  We knew what we had to do. 



Back at the bikes we had sufficient time to make the peddle from Ram Cat back to Ohiopyle.  In the dark at 2:30 or so am the bike path looked like it was going uphill.  That said we hammered the 8 miles.  Jon and I created a draft line and Scott had a tow rope hooked up to Kim that allowed us to average almost 16 miles per hour on mountain bikes at the end of a 48 hour race…..  We cruised back into the finish at 3:38am…  We had covered 150 miles. 
This was Team Commie Bar’s first foray into the coed elite division.  If we had had Scott and Jon race as 2 person all male and me and Kim race as 2 person coed we would have won both divisions.  


We’re psyched to be racing together and can’t wait till Raid in France….
TCOPE