Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Mammoth March

In the beginning of October Hannu mentioned something called Mammuttimarssi (literally Mammoth March, though mammoth is also used to refer to something big in Finnish). It has been arranged earlier for walkers and runners, with something for the really tough guys as well (try running 170 km in less than 24 hours in Finland at the end of October). New for this year was cycling. There were three distances to choose from and the longest, 170 km, was naturally the most interesting. The format of the event is to orienteer through a number of checkpoints, with some extras like swimming throwed in to keep it interesting.

It took only a few days to assemble the team MTB Turku All Night Long consisting of me, Hannu, Matti, Toni and Jarkko. Discussions followed about the gear and approach, but we got ready in good time. A few days before the event, the weather changed abruptly with snow and temperatures below freezing and forced us to rethink the gear a little.

We all decided on studded tires, which turned out to be a good decision. Studded tires increase the rolling resistance a lot, but it would have been risky with ordinary tires.
Bike test packed and ready. I rode without a backpack.
My new mapholder.


Five bikes and riders in one car.


Driving towards the event center. The weather promised an interesting night, but the amount of snow decreased as we left Turku.


Five minutes to the start at eight o'clock in the evening. The fullmoon is visible through the thin cloud cover.

And then we rode into the night.

Sending a SMS with the code from checkpoint 3. This far everything had gone pretty well, though Toni did suffer a bit.

After checkpoint 3 a very nice trail section followed. After checkpoint 5 a long and cold road section followed, making us really cold before checkpoint 6 and the midnight swim. Toni and Hannu could not force themselves into the cold water and took a 3.8 km run as a penalty. Me, Matti and Jarkko plunged into the cold water for a short swim. It was -9C (15F) in the air making it really cold to put the clothes back on. After having put the clothes on I could not feel my feet and the fingers were almost useless from the cold, but fortunately the arrangers had provided a heated tent with some hot juice and grilled sausage. We spent the time while Toni and Hannu did their penalty run in the heated tent and slowly got some life back into the fingers and toes. Without the heated tent, this could have been quite risky and the only way to get the warmth back would have been to go for a hard run.

Yours truly swimming. Photo courtesy of Veijo Grr.



After the swimming checkpoint we continued with the longest road section to the point farthest away.
We made a slight orienteering mistake, costing us about 15 minutes, going to checkpoint 10. At this point we took a real break (around 10 minutes) to consume some energy and hot drinks. All the liquid in the water bottles froze solid within a few hours, but I did have a 0.75 l thermos bottle with hot water and a 1.5 l Coke in the frame bag, so there was still no problems.

The Surly guys, Matti with a Crosscheck and Jarkko with a Troll.
Toni rode his 9:Zero:7 with a 29er wheelset.
After this it was a short ride to checkpoint 11, after which we again had a long section on road. This was sometime between three and four in the morning, and for some reason we felt very good now and rode this section with a very good speed.

Closing in on checkpoint 13 we made an incomprehensible orienteering error, which cost us one hour. Afterwards we could not understand how we could miss the turn, but the overview maps for coarse orienteering were not really good enough in the scale 1:80000. 1:50000 would have been a lot better. Sometime around six in the morning we finally arrived at checkpoint 13, which was at a very beatiful place. Despite still being 2.5 hours until sunrise, it was getting lighter in the clear and crisp weather.

It was now rather chilly and the coldest temperature was measured to -13C (8F) around this time by the car driving around picking up riders and runners quitting. I had big difficulties keeping the warmth in this temperature with the speed we now were capable of and decided to put my down jacket on. It turned out to be a good idea and the light summer down jacket (250 g in size XL) was just what I needed. I could also have put on a microfleece pullover which I still hadn't used, but the down jacket was just the easier solution. Underneath I had two undershirts, a fairly windproof microfibre jacket and a reflective vest with a wool Buff around the neck. On the lower body I had windproof boxers, wool longjohns and fairly warm tights. My feet were (barely) protected by good sized hiking boots (I had flat pedals) and wools socks. For a while I also used electric soles, but the battery didn't last long. On the head I had a thin balaclava with a Buff on top, but later replaced the Buff with a fleece beanie. The helmet also provided some wind protection for the head. Toni also put on a down jacket to keep warm.

Riding into the light. The pictures is fuzzy, but probably reflects our minds. The higher cognitive functions were at this point no longer that high.
A bike pushing section between checkpoint 14 and 15.


Photo by Toni Lund.

Nine o'clock at checkpoint 16.The sun has climbed over the horizon.

Matti

Hannu and Toni.

Me and Jarkko. Photo by Toni Lund.

Checkpoint 18 consisted of following written instructions to find the actual checkpoint.





The face of suffering. Hydration had been a real problem and I had probably drunk some four liters less than I would have liske to. We went into a store in Vihti to buy some water and Coke and after that the going was better again.



And on we went. Jarkko and Matti were still very strong and while I had no problems riding on, they were capable of better speed. Hannu was probably close to my level, but Toni was suffering very much during the last six hours.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, after 17 hours 50 minutes and 206 km, we arrived at the finish. We had succeeded in getting the whole team over the finish line and were quite satisfied with this. Sauna and food followed.

A snapshot from the car drive home.



According to the arrangers there had been a lot of people quitting the shorter cycling distances, but only four out of twenty in the 170 km series. The explanation for this is probably that one generally doesn't enter the longest distance without enough experience to handle difficult conditions as well.

A very big thanks to the arrangers of the event (you certainly provided suffering for the money) and to team MTB Turku All Night Long. A very memorable event and the longest nonstop endurance thing I've done, beating my previous one (paddling 100 km from Kaskinen to Vaasa) with one hour.

Toni's report in English and Jarkko's report in Finnish.

PS. Sorry for the picture quality. Taking pictures was not my first priority and due to fuzzy thinking I also had the wrong settings on the camera.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Out on an island

Still no bikepacking excursions, but I've managed to do some longish rides (> 5 hours) during the last weekends, which should give at least some training for the Mammoth March. I did manage to take a long weekend off from my currently quite hectic work and due to a lucky convergence in the space-time continuum had the opportunity to join my brother and mother for a trip out to an island in Kvarken.

We left on a rainy Friday afternoon. My mother took point.

After a 45 minute boat ride we arrived at the island.

The first thing after getting our stuff from the boat to the cabin was naturally coffee.

The old cabin was built by my grandfather, a fisherman, around 1936. It is currently being renovated by my brother.

After the coffee it was time for a little afternoon stroll. It still rained slightly.

An fall rowan.


Common sea-buckthorn, which for some reason isn't found in the Turku archipelago, despite being common on both Åland and the shore a bit to the north,



All sorts of things are washed up from the sea.

Fall color.



A surprisingly green plant.

It started to get dark quite early in the grey weather. The sunset was at 17:56. There is of course no electricity or water in the cabin.


The next morning I went out around 7:30, one hour before sunrise. We slept in the newer cabin owned by my uncle.

A clear and crisp morning. The temperature was a little below freezing.


Common sea-buckthorne again. Unfortunately the berries had fermented a little and were no longer edible.

Still no sun.
The sun is about to rise.




After some morning photography it was time for breakfast and coffee. And some reading before it was time to go out again.

My mother going out to pick "trinjon" (cranberries in the local Swedish dialect).


The lingonberries were also frozen and too old to eat.
Looking inwards to land, there were more clouds.


Alpine currant.
In some places the green color was very strong.

Strolling around the island.



My earliest clear memories from this island are about 35 years old. During that time the island has changed a whole lot, and one reason for that is that the land has risen almost 30 cm during that time. Below is a gloe lake, which still was connected to the sea when I was a kid.

One hundred years from now, this will be another small gloe lake.
A characteristic of this region are the shallow and stony waters. A paradise for kayaking, but very difficult for ordinary boats.


The loo.

This silhuette has remained the same for as long as I remember. Note the optical phenomenon that lifts the islands up. The other islands (barely) visible should actually be below the horizon.
The sunset wasn't particularly spectacular.


Back to the cabin.
The next morning was again nice.
A strange shadow.

Time to leave.

This was an excursion I enjoyed a lot. For once I had a lot of time to stroll around in an interesting place and to do some reading and generally no be in a hurry.