Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Smoke and Fire 2015, Boise’s Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Event @ 444miles – A Review.

Reflecting on my completion of this second annual event I am left thinking about two things:  Gratitudes and Goals. 

It takes a lot to plan a route through rugged Idaho terrain.  There are thousands of forest service roads, area highlights and single track worth riding at least once when passing through an area (although maybe not on a fully loaded bike J ).

My hat goes off to Norb DeKerchove and Tyson Fahrenbruck for their efforts to create a local route of this nature, for this I am grateful. 


To the friends, family, team sponsors and strangers who lent us GPS units, tracked us online, met us at restaurants, met us on Fisher Creek to take photos, waited hours for the last decent into town and at the finish, offered to rescue us on route whenever, to the local business sharing our excitement for the event and all of the racers on course – you truly made this event exciting while pushing our mental and physical limits, thank you.

I certainly had challenges – from exposed, hot, long, asphalt climbs to moon dusted backraods full of large semis and locals cruising somewhere leaving heavy, green snot to hack up in the evenings and mornings from day one till days after the race.  But my body held on.  For that – I am grateful.


I set off on this event with very loose goals.  Finish, and don’t waste too much time.  I had lofty thoughts of where in the pack my ‘goals’ would land me, but I was ready to let the trip unfold and adjust accordingly.  This last point is becoming very important to me and other racers out there that must adjust goals.  Several friends this year were unable to finish and had to adjust their goals and/or forfeit them altogether.  This is a very mature thing to do, by that I mean; Difficult, Calculated and Smart.  You have to be true to yourself; your body, mind and ego.  You see it all too often:  The stubborn, the perpetually injured.  And of course, the unlucky.  But to be able to adjust and make the best call is really what an event like this draws out of people.  Gear and bodies fail, decisions forced and injuries can occur.  What you do with these unplanned failings is a big mix of mental and physical monsters that can leave you in despair.

A top racer this year sat in a Fairfield bar awaiting a ride from Boise as his rear wheel and frame contact was to the point that the wrong decision may leave him stranded in an isolated area with minimal gear.  A calculated risk leading to a scratch.  And he got to drink beer for near two hours as the rest of us calculated what it would take to leave the bar at all… 

An experience gal, passing faster riders at night, spent 3 hours icing, stretching, fueling and contemplating the decision to scratch over a knee injury at Galena.  She knew it would be a bad decision to continue but still struggled over the forgone conclusion as she chatted up all the racers catching up to her.

A 2014 S&F420 finisher scratched just out of Ketchum with swollen knees, certainly a hard decision, but one that didn’t leave him further injured. 

Similarly, a strong teammate suffered some Achilles pain that forced the decision to safely scratch just 50 miles shy of the finish.

These decisions did not come easy, nor were they ‘black and white’.  We all intended to finish.  We all had things crop up.  Some were manageable or fixable and we were able to continue.  Others had harder decisions.  Would continuing be safe?  Would I do permanent damage?   Will the pain subside?  Will I be stranded?  I’m grateful in all of these scenarios everyone wound up safe and not further injured.  Well done.

Trackleaders & Stats

What a wonderful tool.  Making an event like this even more exciting for family and friends.  You could track us real time on a map, on an elevation profile and in table form, continually calculating our statistics. 

Here you can see Josh Krattiger didn’t turn off his tracker post race – I heard he was a bit mentally taxed at the top of the last decent – maybe there’s a story here?  (Josh crushed the last 20 miles – taking back two positions just before the finish – finishing strong)

Would sleeping longer make me ride ultimately faster?  Or should I sleep less and keep moving?  Well, you can compare racer statistics:

Lets compare our top finishers: 1st place, calling himself “The Buffet” and 2nd place Rebecca Rush:


Both ride times were about the same, but Rebecca stopped just under a hour longer than The Buffet, thus coming in second.  In this case, the sleep deprived wins! (Different level of racing).  Let’s compare more local teams:  Eastside vs. Meridian Cycles….

Here you have racer #1 who rode 1day, 16hrs, 49minutes and racer #2 1day 21hrs and 25 minutes…did racer #1 beat racer #2 by 4 ½ hours?  Well, how long did racer #1 stop?  1day, 1hour and 29 minutes!  Wow, that seems like a long time…. Racer #2?  19hours, 36minutes!  (6 hours less stop time).  So did racer #2 beat racer #1 by (6hrs-4½ hrs = 1½ hours?)  Only if they averaged the same speed…. Racer #1 is faster. :-)  But….came in just over an hour behind racer #2.  Nice Job Jeremy Whitman!

I personally like to view the Race Flow part of trackleaders.  You can really see how sleeping/stopping effects your placements – or where and when people pass eachother – sneaky night  moves!


Here is the overview of the Male racers this year.  You can see at the bottom of all the traces three pretty distinctive flat areas.  People are sleeping (well, some of them anyway).  The first long flat area at the bottom of the graph are, at that time, the last place racers (myself included) sleeping just below Dollarhyde Mountain.

Here is a close up:
I was 13 ½ hrs in at mile 143 with 3 other riders.  Stopping so early (about 7:30pm) allowed 6 people to pass – only one of which I would later pass back.
Here is another good example of stopping too long, or waiting for and or eating food at an establishment.

Rolling into Fairfield I was in 9th place overall.  By the time I left: 14th place. Of course moving into 20th+ place by the time I woke up the next morning…  However, this allowed me ample rest for a big climb and energy to make it to an 1hr 20min breakfast in Ketchum!

Things to consider if considering this race

I packed about 5 power/protein bars 444miles that I couldn’t manage an appetite for.  Know what you’d want to eat.  Many of us suggest ‘real’ food.  This can be a challenge if you are in a hurry (racing for a top spot and wanting to minimize stop time as ordering and eating food averaged me about 1 ½ hours per stop – Fairfield, Ketchum, Galena and Redfish ~ 6hrs to order and eat somewhere on route).
What to wear and when.  Warm clothes for camping or cycling?  Cycling at night?  Enough battery for lights and warm gloves and booties?  Staying in Stanley basin?  Warm bag/thermal layers?
Bringing your own food to avoid the 6+ hours of food waiting/eating?  Room for stove, food and fuel?  Are you going to have a night away from a population center or push through a 112mile stretch?
These things demand some time to think about and pack for.  If you wing it or have to adjust your plan, it hopefully will only cost you time.  Adjust and get what you need before and during the event.
I’d say training for this thing is only a mental comfort and almost a mute point – a potential to set you up for a mental failure based on training expectations.
My suggestion if interested?  Determine you minimum comfort gear and riding conditions and - Just Do it.  Keep a positive attitude and be realistically smart.  This will allow you to eat/drink regularly and turn the cranks to complete the loop.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Smoke and Fire 420


Next week will be a first for me.  The longest ride I have ever done.  Call it a race, call it a ride.  Either way, call it an adventure.
Elevation Plot

This is the second annual Smoke and Fire 420 departing and ending in our downtown Hyde Park in Boise, Idaho.

A local bikepacking event highlighting some beautiful Idaho backroads, towns and climbs.  Images and more information from: https://smokenfire420.wordpress.com/

Feel free to follow the brave 56 or so registered riders real-time next week from 6am Wednesday morning, September 9th departing from Hyde park in Boise, Idaho till when we cross the finish – back where we started.  Likely we’ll be a bit worse for wear, low on calories but full on memories.

Elk Meadows, Bogus Basin towards the end of the route
Check back mid September for what I hope to be some great stories and reported finish.