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!