I completed the Fireweed 400!!
It’s very difficult putting words to the amazing race I just participated in. I thought I was ready, but now when it’s all done I’m not so sure.
First of all I have to give all credit to my SagWagon team – you guys were AMAZING! I know for sure that I wouldn’t have made it without them, so again, from the bottom of my heart – Thank you for supporting me!
We drove up to Sheep Mountain Lodge on Thursday evening and made camp at the air strip. Sleeping in a camper is so nice. Warm and comfy. Had a good dinner and went to bed early. No beer. In fact, I had no beers or alcohol the past seven days prior to the race. The morning came, I got up and started to get ready. The start was pushed forward to 3.30 pm, which gave me plenty of time to prepare. By 2 pm the motorhome left the campsite and went towards Glenallen.
The rest of us, me and my 3 people SagWagon team went to the Lodge where the starting area was.
I rode my bike all the way up the first hill, oh man, that hill was a killer. I kept thinking, I’m going to love coming down this hill back to the finish line.
We listened to the race officials giving the latest updates about the course and socialized with the other 400 riders. There were nine of us riding all four hundred miles solo.
There was one guy from Italy, Alessandro Colo, who completed the race in 23hrs45min. I’m so impressed, what a performance. Great job!
At the wave, we all took of, climbing that first hill. My legs felt awesome, strong and fresh.
I made it up the hill with good speed and continued down the course. My SagWagon passed and stopped further down the road. They cheered me on while the race officials picked up my number.
I was certain that I read the instructions right, placing the number plate on my left shoulder facing the street. It should have been on my right.. Dang!
But they figured out who I was by my awesome looking jersey.
I thought it was mostly downhill going towards Glenallen, except for the awful climb to Eureka summit. But oh my, the view, no picture in the world can explain what goes thru your head climbing and descending those hills.
But I can tell you this, if you want to experience Alaska, do it on a bike.
The exchanges went smoothly and I kept my hydration schedule pretty good. Friday turned out to be a really hot day, blue skies and sun’s shining on all of us. Very nice!
During the first 100 miles I ate plenty of energy, kept myself fresh.
We had to load our bike in the SagWagon going through a road construction site, it wasn’t safe riding there.
I was thankful for that short break.
Passing Glenallen I was supposed to stop for my first real food break, but I felt so fresh so I just kept going – big mistake.
Rolling down this HUGE hill doing about 60 mph or 96.3km/h I said to myself. I’m hauling ass, I’m going to finish this race in a jiffy. So I kept thinking when the head wind hit me, just as I was about to climb the first part of the Thomson Pass.
Ouch, that hill wasn’t easy, it wore me down good. By now the SagWagon was right behind me, following my wheel tracks going no more than 5 mph. I was slow. At some point I actually got off my bike and walked. I was so tired. And the temperature dropped from 80 to 50 in a couple of hours. (Från 27 till 9 grader celcius)
But I finally reached the top, where the motorhome was parked. I think the time reached midnight, not sure. It was foggy, at some point we could see about 6 ft ahead.
I got some food, spaghetti and meat sauce.
Riding down the pass wasn’t as funny as I hope, probably since I was really tired and pretty worn out. But I got down and reached the turning point at mile zero minus 5. (Old Valdez town was five miles closer to the pass, new Valdez town is 5 miles closer to the ocean). I stopped for a while to warm up. Going down at 40 mph in 50 degrees is cold.
Going back up, I switched bike. But I still had to walk for a while.. I should have had triple cranksets and another type of cassette, then maybe I’d made it up without walking.
The road quality, going back from Valdez really wore me out. Every 30 ft or so, there was a crack in the road, sometimes as wide as 1 foot. My hands, elbows and shoulders grew numb and they hurt bad too. It pulled me back, I had to stop and rest every other mile.
Almost at Glenallen, I had to climb that darn step ass hill again, where I went 60 mph down going towards Valdez. I probably went at a slow pace of 1 mph up the hill, walking the last 350 ft.
The break at Glenallen, while riding the construction site, was most welcome and needed.
There was a point where I thought I’d make the race in 33 hrs, but I was about to ”hit the wall” again, 3rd time. I broke down in tears when climbing the Eureka Summit again. I felt like the mountain or Alaska itself mocked me.
But I did reach the top, and the motorhome where I could rest for a couple of minutes. I love that motorhome, it probably saved my race. Without it I wouldn’t have finished the race.
From the summit it was about 20 miles to the finish line. I got out and got on my bike. By now I had Jordan switch my pedals to flats, cause I couldn’t ride in my bike shoes anymore. I was now wearing hiker boots, riding my road bike.
The hills climbing the last mountain – Sheep Mountain, was hard. I don’t know how many times I stopped and thought I wouldn’t make it back. The headwind wasn’t helping either.
Then as I was rolling down a hill, I saw it.. the Lodge. I made it! The 400 miles was finally over.. I passed the finish line not realizing I passed it. I had to walk back to get my picture taken.
It took me 35 hours and 16 minutes to complete the 400 mile course.
I did it, and I’m damn proud of myself!
Now after the ceremony, I’ve got my prize and 15 minutes of fame too.
Pictures from the ceremony will be posted later.
Thanks everyone, who’s supported me thru this ultra event. Who knows, a part of me would like to come back and do it all over again. But then I’d like to do a relay ride. 🙂