February 2011

Three days out Iceman update

2011 iceman ski and run routes

Woo hoo!  The ski and run course are now flagged (thanks Max!).  If you're out pre-running anything and see sections where the surveyors tape has come down of think that we need to have more marking - please email me at endracing@gmail.com and let me know.  keep in mind however that in addition to course marking there will also be volunteers at key points on the course.  Here are a few things to keep in mind on race day -

If you're on an obvious trail (ie greenway bike path, groomed ski trail) there may not be flags/markers every 50 feet.  we tried to mark so that you could always see one additional flag when you arrived at one, but this may depend on how good your eyes are as well.

2011 iceman bike route

Anytime you see a 'chute' you always go through it.

Each leg has a lollipop at the furthest point from the transition. when you are on your way 'out' you will always continue straight beyond any fork where you see markers in two directions.  the markers that seem to lead off to the side are leading you back into the trail you're now on after the lollipop.  this means the ski and run lollipops are done counterclockwise and the bike one is done clockwise.

There is some ice on the run - on the dike, some patches on the bike path, and a few sections on the snow-mobile trail.

bamboo with orange tape
small neon flag
iceman orange flag

Course markings are primarily colored flags with ICEMAN written on them.  ORANGE indicates the ski course, RED the bike, and YELLOW the run.  For the ski two different types of orange (neon and regular) were used, as well as orange tape tied to bamboo sticks.  All three types of marking you'll see for the ski are shown below.  Flags are in several sizes.

Finally, we had our first complete running of the course today - Robert T. went out and gave it a good effort, coming in at just over 2 hours, including about 5 minutes of transition time.  He reports back that the snow-mobile trail is in top shape and reminds everyone that there is a reason that helmets are required during the 'official' running of the race....

Robert after his trial run - notice the strawberry on his head from his helmet-less spill on the bike.  Ouch.

Notes from the Iceman course

I was out on all sections of the course today and wanted to give folks an idea of what to expect, as it looks as though all legs are going to be slightly different than the initial maps show - updated maps should be up by monday.  

SKI - it looks like there is still enough snow to keep the ski course more or less intact, with only a few minor changes to the route to avoid bare spots.  it may be a bit icy if we don't get more snow, but the inch we received the last day or two helped just enough.  The one section that will likely be unskiable (or difficult enough not to warrant using skis) will be an approximately 100 meter section just after crossing Lincoln park drive and before getting to the groomed track that runs along the greenway bike path.  It is likely that we will create a 'ski free zone' here, a place where racers are allowed to proceed without their skis, so long as they put them back on before leaving the zone.  Racers will pass through this area on the way out and on the way back.   There is a slight chance we'll be able to find a way through this section with the help of a groomer, but based on what i saw today i just thought i'd give skiers the heads up so that if you find it difficult to remove and put on your skis, you have a chance to practice a bit before race day.

BIKE - There are significant changes to the bike course.  The bike path is now plowed and runs cleanly under the Demers bridge, so cyclists will simply follow it north cleanly without any need to jump off their bike and run under the bridge. You'll take the bike path all the way past gateway bridge  until you see the chute guiding you to the snowmobile trail.  the course will proceed as shown on the original map until you cross the pedestrian bridge where it will turn onto the snowmobile trail once again.  you will now take the snowmobile trail almost ALL the way Demers bridge, following the chute to rejoin the bike path just before the bridge.  Cross the bridge on the north side walk (you will never have to cross a street on the bike course!), turning right  immediately after leaving the bridge and heading down the stairs (walking or riding your bike as necessary - we had folks riding it easily during the preride today, but some may find it challenging - it's only about 100 feet however) to rejoin the bike path and proceed back to lincoln park the way you came.  The overall length is pretty much unchanged, but instead of three quarters of a mile of snowmobile trail, there is about 2.5.  The reason is two fold - 1) the trails are in ideal condition and so much fun- extremely hard - great riding for just regular old mountain bikes.  sure they're a bit more difficult than riding pavement, but the difference is similar to the difference between pavement and gravel road, rather than pavement and sand (which is how it can feel with softer snow); 2) the bike path has lots of ice patches.  some of these aren't bad - short sections on straight aways - but there are several longer sections.  The worst of these will be well marked with and/or have volunteers warning bikers to slow down and/or have flagged routes around them.  however there is still the possibility of falling.  by using the snowmobile trail  which is in great condition, we allow racers a longer section on which to push hard without having to worry about ice.  If it's anything like it was today, we're hopeful that the trail sections will be a highlight of the race.

RUN - the run is pretty much as shown on the run map as well with the following minor changes:  1) there will be a very short scramble up and down a 'snow mountain' just after crossing lincoln park drive and 2) the run on top of the dike continues south for about a sixth of a mile or so from where the initial map shows it rejoining the bike path.  the running on top of the dike is great - good footing, great view of the greenway!  we advise runners to use caution on the bike path portion of the run as there are several sections of sheet ice that offers NO traction. Running on the grass immediately adjacent to the bike path will be allowed and may offer better traction, or pick up some slip on traction aids from Due North by Sure Foot Corporation and the ice shouldn't be a problem.  The snow mobile portion is quite hard and fast, but has some uneven spots and feels alot like trail running.  The total run distance was measured via GPS today and comes in at just a hundredth or two over 3 miles.

cheers everyone!


Due North by Sure Foot corporation is one of our winter triathlon sponsors this year and in the lead-up to the race they sent me some of their stuff to try out and asked for some feedback.  I told them i'd oblige but wouldn't pull any punches.  Here's my take on the three products they provided a 'foot rubz' massage ball and two pair of their traction aids (Everyday and All Purpose).

Foot Rubz:  my kids liked these immediately - golfball sized green hard rubber balls with hundreds of little knobs on them.  They wanted to throw them around and did so immediately.  Luckily they didn't seem to mark the floors, though i'm not guaranteeing this.  Keegan was disappointed when they didn't bounce off of AJ and AJ was disappointed that they were so hard when they hit him before dropping straight to the floor.  I quickly classified the Rubz as 'hard things' and reminded the boys of our 'no throwing hard things in the house rule' and then confiscated the balls to see how they performed the function for which they were intended.  I'll have to admit i was skeptical - i've never had much success with the whole self massage industry - but ended up being pleasantly surprised.  Although later experimentation on tammy revealed that they aren't any better than a regular golf ball when it comes to massaging other parts of your body - they worked awesome on my feet.  I've taken to using them first thing in the morning - rolling them up and down my sole and under my toes - they feel great and seem to immediately increase the circulation to my feet - something that i've also notice to be effective when my feet are a bit chilly.  Have no idea on the retail price, so i won't comment on the value - but overall i liked the Rubz - simple, indestructible, and pretty effective at doing what they claim to.

Due North's everyday traction aid

Traction aids: Keegan liked these too and when he found out Due North had sent some in his size begged to go try them out.  Out he went into minus 10 degree weather to run up and down the sidewalk.  He came in to report that they were 'super' and that i should go try mine.  Although it was just after lunch time i was still in my pajamas and had no intention to go outside, so resorted to trying them on over my running shoes on our welcome mat.  They went on easily and seemed as though they'd stay put while jogging or running.  I didn't notice any pinching or pushing on my toes like i do in my yak trax, so that was cool - but not enough to inspire me to go out and test them. 

19 and a half seconds into my more 'surefooted' shuttle run

This weekend though i finally got the chance.  I was at my in-laws cabin in minnesota and the drive going to thier place was still covered with hard-packed glazed snow.  I decided to do a shuttle run time trial without and then with the spikes to see if there was a noticable difference.  To help ensure the results i decided to run without the aids first when i was freshest - reasoning that if my second time was faster i could chalk it up to the added traction. I grabbed my hiking boots and with my father in law timing, sprinted about 50 yards out and then back, clocking in at just over 25 seconds. then i put on the Everyday model (the only bummer was having to sit down in the snow to put them on - this was easy to do but not while standing up), and did it again - feeling out of breath but still coming across the line in just under 22 seconds.  Now this is hardly science, so i'm not making any claims, but there you go.  I was pushing hard and digging in, screeching to a halt at the far end of the run and the traction aids stayed put right where they should.  i didn't really notice them at all .  I'd be interested to try this same thing out on a variety of different surfaces but that will be left to another day - it's clear to me that they'd work as promised under the conditions that i'd be most likely to use them - on ice or super hard snow.

grand daddy

the grand daddy of adventure races is three days under way.  team gear junkie (yogaslackers plus stephen regenold) is in second place, and from the looks of it catching the leaders.  with a 58 km kayak and 191 km continuous trekking stage ahead tomorrow, anything can happen.  if you're keen on racing, check it out - it's pretty epic.

Young Adventurers

Jordan Romero, age 13, atop Everest

This post is going to possibly rub some people the wrong way.  Thats fine.  It is, after all, just my opinion (although, i'd argue, a reasoned one).

I think that as a society we are a bit risk averse.  modern middle class american life leaves little to no need to ever even begin to discover what we, as human beings are capable of.  And while i'm not about to argue that it's impossible to live a happy and fulfilling life without approaching (or even exploring) your true mental and physical limits, i will argue that there are benefits to doing so. 

EVERYONE is going to experience pain.  Loss. Everyone is going to suffer.  everyone is going to struggle against the odds and face difficulties.  These are facts of life.  For many folks one of the purposes of life is to try to avoid these moments through wishful thinking and ultimately futile practices of 'risk avoidance'. in fact, i think that we all adopt this strategy at least on some level.  but the issue here is two fold:  to start, excessive use of this tactic takes time and energy and can be consuming if overindulged (without actually being able to thwart very many calamities), and secondly it often prevents the use of 'risk management' in a meaninful way (which of course requires risks to be taken).

Risks - defined here as activities in which the outcome is unknown and for which there exists at least some possibility of a negative result - give us great opportunity.  it is through risk that we learn about our most true and fundamental selves.  how we behave when the chips are down speaks to who we are.  The things we cultivate when it matters are things that guide our growth. my belief is that approaching risk this way is tremendously rewarding and important.  This is why i love major endurance races and crazy adventures.  They teach me about myself.   And it's why i enjoy introducing youth to these big races and expeditions. 

This is where i feel people may disagree.  after all it may be fine for me, a 35 year old, to go out and accept risks for myself - but i'm experienced - an adult.  recommending this as a good idea for a 17 year old seems irresponsible to many.  I'll stick to my guns though with the caveat that it is of course not for everyone - it has been my experience that most teenagers don't have the passion for adventure, and for me that is the one thing that is required.  if the fire is there, then waiting to take managed risks until some 'magic' age of adulthood doesn't make any sense (i've got lots of thoughts on what i call the myth of adulthood, but we'll leave that alone for now).  of course it's important to accept risk as safely as possible - you learn as much as you can, etc etc.  17 year olds make stupid decisions all the time - ones that stand to have FAR less positive impacts on their adult lives than attempting some hairbrained ultra endurance race or self-styled wilderness adventure. Yeah, there are risks - but these are the good kinds.  They don't involve unnatural changes to body chemistry, possible juvenille detention, etc.  And the bottom for me is that if this is in someone- if this passion to push, to challenge, to discover the limits of themselves is waiting to get out - if i can see it there straining behind the eyes when i relate my own epic tales - and if they're even close to being physically ready - then damnit if i'm not going to invite that kid on my next sufferfest, or push them to pursue their own.

Good winter gear

I had an interesting opportunity in the recent arrowhead 135 race to put some of my gear through the wringer.  Because i loaned some of my own 'good stuff' to tom for the race and had to go with the back-up equipment, i also had the opportunity to compare a few things.  here are a handful of my thoughts:

  • Ibex clothing:  this stuff is amazing.  all but one or two pieces of my outfit were ibex and tom's entire ensemble was.  he wore ibex short sleeve baselayer, ibex arm warmers, medium weight long sleeve baselayer, ibex soft shell jacket, ibex bike shorts, leg warmers, and soft shell pants.  my wardrobe was similar except for the short sleeve baselayer (nike drifit compression top) and armwarmers (swiftwick), and the fact that my ibex long sleeve baselayer was the heavy weight version. amazingly, despite temperatures as cold as minus 35 without wind chill, i never felt the need to wear any of my insulating layers.  more amazingly, although i got damp, i never got wet from sweat as i have in the past. the outer softshell jacket was totally effective as a wind break but seemed to vent far better than any hard shell or even wind jacket that i've ever used, at least in extreme cold.


  • Louis Garneau 0 degree cycling shoes and Patagonia socks :  Lake makes a shoe that is touted as being the best for winter cycling but is quite expensive.  i bought these last year because i got a deal on them and am glad i did.  I wear the one pair of super socks in them and then neoprene shoe covers over them.  Yes, my feet were cold when it was 30 below and i had to walk once to stimulate circulation - but i was pretty psyched with the warmth the system provided.
  • Fenix HL20 headlamp:  Jason had these at abu dhabi and i snuck one back.   they're one battery LED lamps with three brightness settings and a flip down diffuser that allows for the user to go between a narrow 'spot' and more even, less focused light. the low light setting will run for 10 hours or so on one battery while the high power one will last 2-3.  i gave my fenix lamp to tom for the race and was envious the whole time - he enjoyed the night riding, especially the downhills, while i struggled with my headlamp which was bright but didn't allow much focus and lasted only slightly longer on four batteries.  And the fenix light weighs in at less than 50 grams.  awesome!
  • ColdAvenger face mask:  I got one of these for the arrowhead last year and loved it. During that race, however, my goggles froze and i had severe problems with the flash freezing of my eyes.  going into this years race i did extensive experimentation, thinking that the mask might not have effectively channeled my exhale far enough from my face.  I tried many arrangements (including a breathing tube that funnelled my breath far from my body) and was somewhat relieved to learn that it wasn't the masks fault, and figured my eyes and face just produce lots of moisture which causes the freezing.  i was glad that i was going to be wearing the mask again this year, but in the end gave it to tom since after all i wanted him to have the best chance to make it, and that means the best gear.  besides, i wasn't really sure how big of a difference it would make.  It makes a big difference.  my face and lips were frozen just riding the mile to the start line. I ended up making it to the finish with just a regular neoprene face mask and lots of vaseline and chapstick, but my face was always cold and i always wished i'd had two masks, one to lend and one to use myself.  Next year tom better have his own damn ColdAvenger.
Tom and his ColdAvenger at Wakemup hill, ~mi. 110