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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Kimito Island Brovernighter™

It's been awhile since doing an overnighter. Peter sent a message that he was planning one, as his summer vacation started. A few days earlier I also found a very nice place in Kimito Island with beautiful shores, so the plan was ready. After rather cold June, the weather was also co-operating nicely.

We started with roughly 30 km of road riding. There was a nice short forest road along the route too, and the last part was on gravel road.

In the forest of our destination.


Stunning rocky shores soon followed.




We rode along the shore and took plenty of photos.






A spruce growing on the ground.


The sun and the sea in perfect position.



Closing on our campsite.


Reached.


We set up our sleeping systems and then it was time for some food. Pancakes. A kitchen in a perfect place.



To go with the Kimito Island theme, we had local beer, Rousal Pils, with us.


The panckes and beer tasted great, meanwhile the beautiful sunset progressed.







The last view before sleep.


The morning was foggy.




We made coffee with my new pot.





Our campsite.



The fog started to disappear.




After very nice morning we packed our bikes and started riding again.






We rode back to Kimito and then some of the best trails of Långdalen.

I have long wanted to do an overnighter on a seashore, and now it finally happened. It was excellent, with great weather, sunset and spectacular views. Thanks Peter for the company. Check out Peter's report here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Race Report: Tahko MTB 240 2014

Tahko MTB. The Real Deal. The Final Frontier for Finnish mountain bikers. After the disappointment of last year's race, I really wanted to succeed this time. Succeeding here doesn't mean a good position in the results. I don't consider myself as a true mountain biker. I'm a snow biker, with a road background, and it's completely different ball game. Succeeding means here to get to the finish line without injuries, as I prepare and train for the biggest race of my life: Iditarod Trail Invitational.

After last year's race, and well before this year's race, I had also one other goal in my mind. I don't really 'like' the race course of Tahko. Don't get me wrong. It's great. It's the toughest course in Finland, period. So, this meant that if I succeed, I will not come back to Tahko ever again.

My form has been pretty good after Rovaniemi 150. Not as good as in R150, but I felt fairly confident that I really could finish Tahko this time. And things were looking good, because the weather forecast was absolutely perfect: no rain, night time temps +6...+8° and daytime max. about +16°C. Only one thing was unsure before the race: how wet or dry the course was, because June has been fairly rainy in some parts of Finland.

Final preparations went well with MTB-Turku group at our cabin. I felt good in the evening and was really looking forward to the start at 00.00.




First lap

I decided to go fairly fast for the first lap, because I knew that as the race progressed, I would not be 'fast' after the 1st lap anyway. The true test begins at Kinahmi 1, a steep rocky climb, followed by rocky trail on top of it and a technical descent. I went really well, and I was even surprised how easy my riding felt on the rocky trail. Surly Knard 29x3.0 tires with Bontrager Duster rims, set up as tubeless, worked really great. Also, riding in the night without any traffic jams was awesome too. As a bonus, there were even bats flying with me. The race course was very dry and fast. It was clear that all records would be broken.

Kinahmi 2: I felt great, and 'Stairway to Heaven', an ultra-steep pushing section, went well. After that it would be interesting because for me, it's difficult to find good rhythm and flow to Tuulivaara. Another surprise was followed. Riding felt again fairly good. Tuulivaara is the rockiest and craziest section, and I was slightly worried that I was too slow. My hands and arms were pretty beaten by the constant banging of the rocky descents and trails.

El Grande: now, I said that I don't like the race course of Tahko, but this final big climb is actually something that I like very much. I rode it really well.

Time for the first lap: 3h 51min 49sec! This was much better than I expected. This was my fastest lap in Tahko, and I rode very cautiously!

Second lap

I unplugged the batteries of my lights, ate, and continued. Although the first lap went so well, I couldn't think about the fourth lap. It felt already insane.

Fairly soon in the second lap, a young fatbiker, Antti, caught me and we chatted for awhile. I couldn't ride as well as I wanted, because a call of nature was clearly needed and I took care of it just before Kinahmi 1. 

I was riding somewhat slower than in the first lap, but it felt like things were under control. The only thing that worried me was my arms and hands. All the descents felt awful. My lower back was giving also the first signs of pain. It's no wonder that majority of riders rides with full-suspension bikes.

El Grande went fairly well again. Time after 2nd lap: 8h 30min 3sec, meaning that the 2nd lap took 4h 39min. I was well on my schedule. I refilled my hydration pack, ate properly and was really pumped for the third lap, because the mass start of 60 km and 120 km was behind me.

Third lap

The idea of doing all the damage to myself for the third time (and that 4th lap, what the hell?!) felt ridiculous. But I found it very important to not think too far ahead. I was thinking that just ride one lap and think after that what you can do next. It was the same thing inside the lap. It helped tremendously with the intermediate targets: Kinahmi 1, Kinahmi 2, Tuulivaara and El Grande.

I was hoping to get on top of Kinahmi 1 before the fast guys, but the going was tough and they came just before it. I gave space to them many times as I stopped next to the narrow trails. It wasn't problem for me, I had plenty of time for this lap, and this is part of Tahko spirit.

At the descent of Kinahmi 1, photo by Kosti Koistinen:


I started to feel tired too, but now I was entering my favourite part of endurance racing: the mind game. I started to give orders for my sore and tired body: "Don't give up". "Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever". "My wife hurts more with her never ending back problems, this is nothing". "Think Alaska, you need this before it". And yes, those orders were working!

The traffic jams were pretty much over after Kinahmi 2. Although my mind game was helping me, so were the other riders who were giving encouragement to me! Thanks guys!

There was one shorter, steep climb that I had to push, but I was again able to ride El Grande from start to top. But man, I was hurting really bad. It wasn't only my arms and hands. Lower back was really bad, and pretty much the whole body was hammered. The third lap took 5h 3min, 13h 33min 28 sec for the first three laps. Although I felt awful, it was clear that I would go for the final fourth lap. I was wondering that how I could do that, but like with the other laps, I went for the intermediate targets.

Peter and Jarkko came to the exchange area. They had DNFed as they figured out that they just didn't have enough time for the 3rd lap. They also gave encouragement and said that I could do it, no reason why not. 

Fourth and FINAL LAP

And this was indeed the final lap. No need to punish myself anymore after this lap. Every difficult place that I passed would not come ahead of me again.

The easy cruising before Kinahmi 1 didn't feel easy this time. I was hammered. I was tired. I was sleepy. Two slower 120 km riders came past me and I rode with them. We stopped at the first service point, and my plan was also to stop at every service point to eat, drink and slightly recover.

Kinahmi 1. Pushing felt hard but after that I got a small burst of energy and was able to ride fairly well the rocky section and downhill to the next service point. There was also third rider with us, who decided to DNF at the 2nd service point because of broken front derailleur. After the service point I called my wife that I was in the final lap and I would ride to finish, no matter what.

I was alone. Kinahmi 2 was really tough and slow, but I was in the mind game field. I kept saying to myself again: "Don't give up". "You have done it before, you can do it again". But it was really really hard. I was not only punishing myself. I was torturing myself.

Tuulivaara was absolute hell. Every bodypart hurt like never before as I hammered through the insane rock formations.

I was relieved after Tuulivaara but I was in serious pain. My lower back has never been so painful as it was now. I wanted to ride all the way to the top of El Grande. I took a short break, layed against the ground to give some relief for my back. It helped, just slightly. I was really gritting my teeth and gave all I got at El Grande. And yes, I rode it to the top! Amazing feeling, with all the pain I had in my body.

Now it was only the descent to the finish. I was in euphoria, I was going to do it!

Matti, Peter, Jarkko, Aki (and maybe some others) and also Jarmo Järvinen and Antti Sintonen were in the finish line cheering and congratulated me. Thanks everyone! It was unforgettable!

Official finishing time: 19 hours 38 minutes 11,9 seconds.




Photos by Peter Nylund. 

Aftermath




When I arrived to the cabin, I started to stiffen really hard, and I had real difficulties to stand up and I couldn't walk properly. I wasn't hungry at all. I just drank one recovery drink, one beer and water after that.

I think this effort was even harder than my first 24-hour solo at Kangasala in 2006. I'm very happy. Full results here.

Strava data is here. For some reason, embedding didn't work when writing this. Some key numbers:

Distance: 241.4 km
Moving Time: 17:33:51
Corrected Elevation: about 5200 meters
Calories: 14,341





The bike, 'Arctic Machine 2', older 9:ZERO:7 with 29+ wheelset worked flawlessly and was just the right tool for the job. 29+ tires were clearly much better than ordinary 29er tires that I ran last year.

Thanks again to all who have supported me, without you I could not have done this.

All in all, this was great training for the ITI next March. Trip to Nilsiä included, I was awake 39 hours straight.

So, was this my final Tahko MTB? On the return trip I toyed with the idea if 300 km race would be offered. At least I would consider it. :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Turku All Night Long

My friends Peter, Matti and Jarkko has had an idea for some years about riding the best trails in Turku area, in the night. This spring the idea materialized and we set a date for it, on 17-18 of May. Originally our group consisted five riders, but two of them, Matti and Tommi, had to cancel their participation. Matti's absence, due to overtraining issues, was a disappointment, as his knowledge of the trails is best of us, and riding with him is never boring.

'Turku All Night Long' ride would serve also as a good training session for the forthcoming Tahko MTB 240 km race.

We decided to meet and start from Kaarina at 20:00. I started from my home at 18:55.



I just rode via the fastest route to Kaarina. After chatting with Matti for a while we started riding. The weather was great and it was a beautiful evening.




The Troll forest of Piikkiö was a great place, first time for me.




This little tree knocked me down. Nothing serious this time.


Some amazing trails in Kaarina in the twilight.



Stunning moment at Vaarniemi.


At times, the trails were really rocky and rooty.


The Lumicycle Explorer lights were excellent again.


Katariinanlaakso.


As we rode through Luolavuori, Jarkko's freewheel partially broke, but he was still able to ride.


Aura river in the night.



We rode through the small forests of Suikkila and Mälikkälä as we headed to Raisio. At this point we started to feel slightly tired and we took a short break at the ABC station with coffee and sandwiches.

Next was the trails to Kullaanvuori. This section was very nice.

At Kullaanvuori.




Riding through the night has a special feeling to it, and the first moments of the morning are magical.



Pomponrahka mire.




Sunrise, somewhere near Runosmäki.


The trails near Runosmäki were nostalgic for me, as it was my playground when I was a child.

Heading to Halinen.


After Halinen it was the valley of Aura river. What a stunning place, and the morning light was just perfect!





Then to lake Littoinen, for a small breakfast.




The trails around the lake didn't feel too great, as they were more for a hybrid of goat and moose, at least when you are tired. After Littoinen I headed home and thanked Peter and Jarkko for a great ride.

Admittedly, I was tired, but it still felt good as I pushed home on the familiar commute roads.

Almost home.



It was 8.30 when I arrived home, so the gross time was about 13,5 hours. According to Strava, I rode 141.6 km in 9 hours 53 minutes and 16 seconds.

This was a very rare occassion and it's hard to imagine that I would do this kind of thing alone. Thanks Peter and Jarkko again, let's hope this won't be the last time for this kind of ride. Maybe next time in winter, in the depth of polar night? :)

Check out Peter's report with great photos here, and Jarkko's in Finnish here.


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