Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011 Wildcat Wildfire Pentathlon

The wildcat pentathlon is the little brother of the more prestigious pentathlon, Tuckerman's Inferno. As such, we have  sarcastically dubbed the wildcat, wildkitten ( my Irish friend and rival Joe would mock). Yet, this race is still no day in the park.

The wildcat race begins with a 6 mile road race, which transitions to an 8 mile downriver kayak with class 2 rapids, followed with a 20 mile 2000ft elevation gain bike up towards Mt Washington, continued with another 2 mile hike and another 1500 ft elevation gain up Wildcat Mountain, and finished with a usually not so smooth downhill ski to the lodge. This is a classic solo style adventure race.

I came up Friday to test run the river. There was much debate over if the river was running high or low. I found it to be just right! My west side boat exceed, with a whole cut out of the right butt check pad to prevent dead leg, cut through the rapids beautifully.. I even, not quite on purpose, performed quite a boof on a spillover rock with all of my boats 19 feet getting somewhat air born .

Saturday morning was bustling with energy. Crystal and I left the condo by 6:00 to get all the gear set up. We squeezed the kayak between a little evergreen and another kayak at the put in, laying out my paddle, skirt, helmet, a jacket, and some booties. Over to the take out we set up the bike and left a bin with packets of gu, my cleats, a towel, and gloves. Finally we headed to the start to begin the run. It was 27degres. Brrrr.

I ran next to Joe most of the race. Joe was pushing the pace early. Knowing I had a long race ahead, I tried to relax and have some small talk with my Irish friend. Joe, breathing heavy, was not so amused, and politely told me that he doesn’t talk while racing. Later, over a beer, I know that what he meant to say was “shut the hell up John, I’m running”!!!

I pulled away in the kayak leg. This is where having the right boat can pay off big time dividends in the race. My West Side Exceed is perfect for these conditions. Straight forward whitewater with lots of flatwater sections in-between. Good secondary stability, closed cockpit, and super long. This boat takes skill to keep up, but if you can handle it, its one of the fastest in these conditions. Over 20 people dumped in the river that day, but I stayed up with one of the fastest times.

I have three words to explain the cycling; cold, wet, and cramped. I couldn’t quite get my legs at full speed, as my left hamstring kept on pulling. Yet that didn’t matter as I got to about mile 14, and I saw my wife in the car sitting in the middle of the road. Next to her, a large, beautiful, brown moose!

My apparent natural expression as i noticed the size of the Moose

I couldn’t decide if I should ride between the car and the moose to get a closer look or around to the other side of the car. My decision was made as I got closer to the animal and she looked up and we exchanged glances. Her eye seemed as big as my hand. She was large and there was no barrier between us. I was going around the car!

On the way up to Pinkham Notch

As i pulled into the hike transition, my heart dropped...there was no one there. Where was Crystal??? Than from the corner of my eye, i see her running toward me with my all my ski gear. I do have the best support crew.

On my way up, a competitor tossed me a few cliff shots....a good reminder of the sportsmanship in such an event!  

The rest of the race seems now in reflection quite uneventful. I hiked, I cramped, I skied, I finished. I still cant quite fathom skiing down Left Gully with the amount of cramping that went through the legs during the hike and ski portion of wildcat.

 The wildkitten is a fantastic race, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go. My sights are now set on the oldest brother, the tuckermans inferno! 

What makes this race really special are the friends that come together to live, breath, challenge each other and themselves...and to have a beer with after the race!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2010 Josh Billings Triathlon

This is not your standard triathlon. No swim, bike, run, but a bike(peloton style), kayak, run. .

This tri has a big time race feel. For several weeks before hand, cyclists where out training on the bike route, kayakers and canoers practicing their strokes on the Stockbridge bowl, and runners, well, running. I drove down to do like the rest, train on the course. What i found was a town full of energy. Great Barringon, Stockbridge, and the neighboring communities gave an impression of a North Conway,NH or Lake Placid. Roof racks, fit people, and talk about the upcoming race filled the air. 1200 people where expected to show for the country's second oldest triathlon of this kind.

I did a decent job preparing for the race. I knew it would come to the bike ride and getting into the pack early on. The bike race hits a hill early on, mile 1 or 2, and many experience cyclists know, that hill will determine the rest of your bike race. Hit the hill hard, get into a group, and you find yourself in a good paceline for the rest of the race. Bonk on the first hill, miss the paceline, and you will either lose 10 minutes as you fall into the second peloton, or exert all your energy riding by yourself.

I missed the first major group as i had a hard time positioning myself at the front of the start (note to self next year), but kept to a group not too far behind. All in all, i only lost five minutes from the first group.

The kayak is where i was able to pull away. Though I have been suffering from "Dead Leg" , temporary paralysis of my leg from sitting on a nerve the wrong way, big blue was good to me and my leg was fine. I finished with one of the fastest kayak times of all racers, including teams.

The run the other hand was brutal. Possibly the slowest run in quite some time. The run course is a hilly 6.2 mile course. At mile 3, i was plagued with muscle cramps. I had to stop and message my legs. Running is generally my strongest leg, but on that race day, i was humbled. What could have i done different, more electrolytes, more gu, ...i found myself very frustrated as i jogged forward.

In spite of the challenging run, i still finished well, placing second in the ironman kayak division. I won a nice Josh Billings Mug that was filled with a tasty Oktoberfest later that night.

....and i could not have done so well in the race without my champion support crew. Notice the "helper" race number