Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race Report: Mammoth March Impossible 2013

The Mammoth March Impossible. The race of truth. The ultimate sufferfest. This fall, it was clear that everyone of our last year's team would participate again this year. Last year's race was a big monument in my racing career. I have never suffered so much as I did back then. Although in ultra endurance scene, it's certainly arguable if going through bad phases is suffering or just challenging.

The Mammoth March Impossible has potential to be most challenging and demanding ultra endurance race in Finland, specifically for runners. 170 km (closer 190-200 km for cyclists) distance is not that long for cyclists, but there are other elements that can make it really hard endeavour: start in the evening at 20.30 and consequently riding through the night in pitch darkness with sleep deprivation, orienteering that requires concentration, possibly adverse weather conditions of Finnish late fall. And that special swimming checkpoint in cold water. So, it's not just a long, long orienteering race. It's very much an adventure race.

This year, our team was smaller, as Matti decided to run the marathon distance (about 53 km) and Hannu decided to ride in other two-man team. This left us with Peter and Jarkko, and actually Peter registrated himself as solo participant in case of need to abort his race, because of his health issues.

Peter did the planning for our route and prepared the maps. He has lived his childhood and youth in the area of this year's race, Raasepori, formerly known as Tammisaari. This would definitely help our orienteering as Peter was familiar with the area, especially the early part.

Peter and Jarkko just before the start:

The weather was very nice. Clear skies, no wind and temperature around +2...+4°C. However, rain was forecasted for the morning.

The first checkpoints went well and we had good pace. Just before checkpoint 3 we had a short bike push section over a wet bog. Nothing too bad, but my feet got slightly wet (I was wearing summer mtb shoes and neoprene shoe covers). After that, Peter had lost most of his right pedal, but fortunately the axle was still there and he was able to ride. I had also lost my rear light that was too loosely attached to my dry bag.

Jarkko sending a SMS for checking the checkpoint.

Riding felt good and the following checkpoints before the swimming checkpoint went without problems. We arrived at the swimming checkpoint (no 7) around 00.30. Now, this was something that I really wanted to do. Last year I decided to run because of the cold conditions, but this year it was a lot warmer. The swimming task was very short and easy. The water was cold, but not insanely cold. I was very happy that I did it, and it was really refreshing and gave a nice energy boost for the next two hours.

Just before 03.00, I started to have first symptoms of sleep deprivation. I had prepared for this by taking one coffeinated Teho energy drink with me. It helped for an hour, but after that the sleepiness came back and hard. On one small gravel road section I saw strange things. On the side of the road, I saw flashes of big, blue road signs that you can see on big roads. I was hallucinating! I just shaked my head and blinked my eyes. My position on my bike is very comfortable, so I had to ride out of the saddle many times to stay properly awake.

The going was tough between 03.00 and 06.00. After a checkpoint and some eating, it was better. Slightly later, sleepiness followed briefly. I forced myself to ride out of the saddle many times and it helped. There was a good sign that I wasn't actually tired from riding. I was just sleepy. And I wasn't suffering, I just had to concentrate hard and play mind game with myself to go through it.

Throughout the route, there were some very wet sections and nasty, muddy places. After checkpoint 17 we faced a rather ridiculous section with the following result:

Amazingly, my bike worked really well, and the tires, Panaracer CometHardPack, survived this horrendous section surprisingly well.

I know from my previous 24-hour and other endurance races that if I get through the night and sleep deprivation, things will get better. And that exactly happened. In the morning I felt much better.

The rain started in the morning as forecasted, but it wasn't an issue. We put our shell jackets on and the last two hours of our race was a blast.

The last checkpoint on the beach:

After 13 hours and 50 minutes we arrived to the finish, with a total distance of 193.53 km. The feeling was great!

My bike in the finish (thanks Matti for holding it. :-))

The gear was spot on. The 9:ZERO:7 fatbike with 29er wheelset was flawless, and Panaracer CometHardPack tires rolled really well, but still providing some grip on wet trails. Trusty, powerful Lumicycle LED4 lights did their job without any problems. The energy department consisted pretty much from the usual, good crap food. Candies, chocolate bars, salted peanuts, chocolated raisins, flapjacks and a couple of rye sandwiches. And Pirkka rose hip soup was great. I drank surprisingly little, maybe 1,4 litres of water (CamelBak with 1,5 l reservoir and 1 l bottle on the fork) and that 0,3 l can of energy drink.

This was a great race, and for me, excellent training for the main event of the forthcoming winter, Rovaniemi 150. Thanks Peter and Jarkko for the company. Peter, your orienteering skills were excellent.

Thanks also to organizers of the event, great work. The route was really great, but there is no doubt that we cyclists need longer one for next year. :)

Check out Peter's report here.