Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Event Report: Route 300

It's been awhile since I participated in a road cycling event. As part of my training, I decided to ride the longest road event in Finland, Route 300, on 17th of August. It's based on the Mylly Cycling's old Scandinavian Mylly, which was about 240 km long. The new route is 312 km long. The organizer is also basically the same, Turun Urheiluliitto, but it has a very active road enthusiast division as part of their organization.

This kind of event (as not being a race) is probably most enjoyable in sunny summer weather. But for me, everything is fine. Actually, if the weather is bad, it's just better training. Indeed, the weather forecast was looking for some rain. The only question was just that how much rain.

My original plan was to ride the transition sections from home to event center and back, with some additional riding to break the 400 km barrier. But my morning schedule was tight, so I just rode 9 km to catch a bus to Turku. Yes, the event center is in the middle of Turku, at the so called "Spider Site", alongside the Aura River, and the route goes out of the city also by visiting Turku Castle. This is a brilliant move by organizers, and makes the route even more spectacular.

I made it in time to the start, at 7AM. The concept of Route 300 is to ride in groups, and each group has a target average speed. This is a similar concept to the excellent Marathon Cycling event in Northern Finland. The fastest group is 34+ km/h. I joined 30+ km/h group, to make sure that I would have some power and energy left for the 400 km barrier.

It was overcast, somewhat windy and the temperature at the +15°C range. We rode the first two hours in dry conditions. After that the rain started. And so started some problems. Now, the rain itself was not a problem. My only problem was my eyes. My vision is slightly nearsighted, and I wear old Briko Klip double-glass eyewear. They are simply horrible in bad weather, as the drop accumulation makes a poor vision. But if that wasn't enough, the salty sweat from my head infiltrated into my eyes. For a moment, I didn't see much. After the salt attack was over, the vision was still poor from rain. Alone this wouldn't be a big problem, but in a group it is, when the road surfaces are in fairly bad condition. I had to really concentrate hard for riding safely.

There were five service points along the route, at 75, 140, 204, 254 and 292 km. We kept our stops short. The rain was also persistent, so no photos this time. The servings at the service points were good. The 204 km point at Vahto had warm meat soup, coffee and buns.

The only slightly bad moment was between the 254 km and 292 km service points, when I was a little low in energy. I recovered quickly by eating a bar.

As we arrived back to Turku, we rode over the cobblestones of Turku Cathedral, and the feeling was high. And it was still raining!

After 312 km in 10 hours, 23 minutes and 25 seconds of actual riding time with 30.3 km/h average speed, it was easy to smile in the finish:

A good pasta buffet was serviced in the finish.

I decided to not try to break the 400 km barrier because of the rainy conditions. Instead, my great mother drove me back to home. Thanks mom!

All in all, Route 300 is definitely a great motion cycling event, on par with Pirkka Cycling and although being a one-day event, getting closer to two-day Marathon Cycling. It's also part of the Scandinavian Loppet series. If you are a road cycling enthusiast and want to spend a long day on the saddle, I can warmly recommend this event for you.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Race Report: Merida MTB Finlandia 70 km 2013

Curiously, it's one of my favourite MTB races in Finland, Merida MTB Finlandia. At 70 km (two 35 km laps), it really isn't my kind of race, being way too short, but I have always loved the race course. I have participated from 2003 without any interruptions, so this year marked 11th time in the race for me.

Last year I did it with my fatbike and 29er wheels, in horrendous, epic conditions. This year, I decided to ride with the normal fat setup, like in 2011. Slightly unsure about my form, my time goal was the same as in 2011. But most importantly, my goal was to have good high intensity training, in part of my preparation for Rovaniemi 150.

This time I was joined by my big brother Tatu, who took care of the logistics. This was going to be his first Finlandia and also first participation in any cycling event.

After arriving the race center, we picked up our numbers, and there was a little funny suprise.

My number was 42, "the meaning of life". :)

The weather forecast looked promising. Overcast and +20°C, which would mean quite optimal conditions.

100 riders had lined up for the 70 km race. The start went well, but as usual, the first 30 minutes was pretty much about warming up. After that I found my own rhythm and riding started to feel gradually better. The first hour felt clearly faster than last year, so things looked good for the 4.5 hour target. This was also the first time that I was racing with the 45NRTH Hüsker Dü tires. It's really outstanding how fast they are for a fat tire, and still provide critical amount of grip.

The last 15 km of the 35 km lap is the most difficult and slowest as the all four big climbs are in there. I checked my heart rate a couple of times and was pleased that it was running high and I was still feeling good.

After the first big climb, the front tire hit the rim on one of the descents. I was worried that it was punctured, because it had lost some of the air. I pumped more air at the 2nd service point, at the bottom of the next climb. Next accident happened on the muddy section to the climb. One rider fell against my front tire and fork, and as a result, twisting my drinking bottle and bottle cage. I straightened them right away, and marched on.

The climb went fairly well and my heart rate hit 184 bpm on the top. But the front tire was losing air again, and after the descent, it was almost empty. I wanted to get the first lap done before changing the inner tube, so I pumped again more air. After that, it also started to rain heavily. This race was turning to really demanding! But I didn't let all of this to bother me, and I was determined to ride hard and have a good exercise. Surprisingly, the air held to the end of the first lap, which I did in 2:09:52. Without the problems I would have done it closer to 2 hour mark.

I pumped more air to both tires, ate and drank a little and went for the second lap. Despite the rain, my riding felt really good, and interestingly the front tire was ok again. At the 3 hour mark my feeling was actually great. I had that adrenaline rush going on that I've had many times during 24-hour solo racing. It was a blast!

The rain started also to slowly fade. The race course was as messy as ever, but it didn't bother me at all. The toughest part of the lap went well again, and I was on course for the 4.5 hour target. I gave all I got on the last climb, as the finish line was on top of it. My finish time was 4:28:25! My brother came also to congratulate me. Amazing feeling, because I didn't feel tired. I could have continued for another lap easily. 

My average heart rate was 157 bpm, and according to RunKeeper, my net riding time was 4:07:02. I was so happy with my performance, because it was a clear indication that I still have the guts to ride hard, not only long distances.

Thanks Tatu for the logistics and company, and congratulations to him for his first race, in hardcore fashion. He did it with a 15 kg full rigid bike and with platform pedals and sneakers!

Thanks also to TWD for putting again a great race and event. My long tradition and love for this race will most likely continue, so next year again!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer overnighter in Rovaniemi

In the last part of my summer vacation, it was time for another family holiday trip, this time to Rovaniemi, the arctic city that I really love. I had visited there briefly in 2007 and 2009 (on the LEVI24 trips) and of course last winter for the Rovaniemi 150 race.

The plan was also to do a short overnighter with Mark aka Backpacking North. He knows pretty much all the possibilities for excursions in Rovaniemi, so he planned our route and destination for the camp. Mark would start walking earlier and I would follow with my fatbike later. To make sure that I would not get completely lost in the woods, he borrowed his Garmin GPS device so that I could follow the route easily.

After a great day at Ounasvaara (more about that later in another blog post), I started my adventure to Mellalampi, our destination, around 7PM in the evening. After getting out of the city, the nice route was about to start.

The first of the many duckboards.

The route was diverse with mixed terrain.

And the weather was perfect, which provided a great evening for photography.

More duckboards. Many of them were actually easy to ride, but worse was to come. Every photography break was also slightly painful, as the midges and blackflies were there in great numbers.

Really rocky section where I didn't try to ride. But this was indeed a great route!

Mark warned me about the dodgy boards via Twitter. They were indeed in bad shape, but we have even worse boards here in Southern Finland, in Kuhankuono and Marttila.

Then I arrived at Mellalampi. Look what was waiting for me! A magnificent sunset! The clouds were perfectly positioned in the sky to shatter that light into beautiful array of colors.

I continued the very nice trail along the small lake, and Mark was there with his dog Rufus, with a campfire and tent.


Mark is not only a great route planner, he is also an outdoor chef. He was experimenting with the campfire and muffin baking. The experiment worked really well as the muffin was delicious!

We also enjoyed "the new hit of the microadventure", the Brovernighter™ part, in the form of Kuohu Valioluokka Stout. A new beer for me, which was very nice! Thanks Mark!

The evening was so calm and silent. But not completely silent. As the sunset progressed, both Mark's Nikon D800 and my Nikon D5100 shutters performed a little musical performance...

Mark had his packraft with him too.

I tried it as well, the very first time for me. I had Alpacka packraft in my mind at one point but haven't got one yet. Rafting is definitely great fun!

Mark making hot water for a tee with his stove.

...and the sunset. Yeah, it was long and awesome.

The evening couldn't be much better. It was time to get some sleep. Mark's new big tent provided space for all of us, Rufus included.

It rained in the night, which was a little surprise. The morning view.

The rain paused occasionally in the morning.

We made some coffee and Mark made also a morning porridge. My plan was to get in time to the hotel for the breakfast, so I didn't eat at all.

Packed and ready to go.

We took a shortcut to the gravel road.

I thanked Mark for the great outing, and continued riding the gravel road that provided fast return route for me. But quite soon I had to stop, for a good reason.

A perfect ending for the excellent outing, an encounter with wildlife!

The last view before the city.

Although this was a short overnighter, it was a great one. Thanks Mark for planning the route and great company! I will be in Rovaniemi again in February 2014 for the next Rovaniemi 150 race, but if I have a chance to go sooner, I will.

Check out Mark's report here. His photography is simply outstanding.
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