November 2017 - ATHLETE PROFILE
By Dave Kraus
Lives: Lake Placid
Family: Wife, Keegan, and two dogs, Harkin and Simcoe
Occupation: Lab Manager, Mountain Orthotic and Prosthetic Services and Bike Mechanic, Placid Planet Bicycles
Primary Sports: Road, Mountain and Fat Biking
Secondary Sports: Cross Country Skiing and Snowboarding
“You gotta like a challenge,” says Shane Kramer, and that statement defines his fitness activities. It also explains his participation in The Adirondack Trail Ride (TATR), which started on September 8. Apparently he’s pretty good at meeting challenges, because he won this year’s race, completing the 585-mile course in a record time for the three-year-old event.
The website (theadirondacktrailride.com) for the race that circles the Adirondack Park calls the route, “a loop through a beautiful and diverse eastern wilderness on trail, pavement and dirt road.” But when Shane shows you photos from his ride this past September, it’s obvious that calling some sections “trails” is optimistic, at best.
The snapshots show handlebar-high grass mixing with underbrush-choked breaks in the forests that scarcely have room to squeeze a bike through. On the more open trail sections, large rocks litter the path ahead, and rain during the race turned some sections into muddy quagmires. Challenge, indeed.
But Shane conquered it all in three days, 12 hours, and 53 minutes in the rain, mud and darkness, on a single-speed 29’er mountain bike with standard width 2.35-inch tires.
Shane’s love for cycling began when he moved north after high school from his hometown of Cuddebackville, near the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania border junction. When he arrived at Paul Smith’s College, he brought with him a brand new Kestrel hardtail mountain bike, purchased with his graduation gift money.
He found kindred spirits with fellow mountain bikers in the area and he’s been riding every since. But after graduation in 1997 he left upstate New York and hopscotched around the country, living in Oregon, Colorado, Utah and Connecticut, and racing mountain bikes seriously in cross-country style events that usually lasted from one to two hours. But eventually he moved back to the Adirondacks.
“I just really like it up here,” he says. “I definitely like being outside and it’s very easy to do that up here.” It’s also very easy to find a challenge in the Adirondacks, and in 1999 he found a big one when he witnessed the first Ironman triathlon taking place in Lake Placid.
“I watched that and was just amazed. So I signed up for the next year, having never run or swam at all, just to see if I could do it.” He met the challenge, and finished the event in 2000 with a time of just under 11 hours, 30 minutes. After focusing his training, he did even better the next year, finishing in 10 hours, 35 minutes.
These days he chooses his events carefully after getting burned out on mountain bike racing. He picks only two or three races to do each year, and races only single-speed “so I don’t take myself too seriously.”
His training schedule reflects that, with 15 to 20 hours of riding per week, loosely divided between shorter road intervals and trail rides on weekdays, mixed in with longer endurance rides on weekends. His dog, Simcoe, will often run alongside on the shorter trail rides.
His wife, Keegan, is also a mountain biker, and they have a lot of fun riding together, says Shane. “She understands that pushing myself is part of me – these challenges that I present myself with.” Their complimentary work schedules mean he can dedicate time to solo training on weekdays, but for the longer, “more epic” weekend rides, he describes her as “very forgiving.”
Shane’s road to The Adirondack Trail Ride victory started in March of this year, when a friend mentioned the race to him. He checked out the website, then sent in a letter of intent to participate. The organizer asks participants to make donation to a charity in lieu of an entry fee, so he chose North Country Public Radio, and started training.
He knew he had the fitness base and proper equipment after completing the Arrowhead 135 ultra (bike or run or ski) race in International Falls, Minn., in February, where temperatures can fall to 40 degrees below and competitors are required to carry the emergency gear and food to handle those conditions. So he knew he could compete and at least survive TATR even if he didn’t win.
After building up to being able to do two 130-mile days in a row, he felt he was ready, but was not setting high expectations. “I never thought I was going to win. That was certainly a surprise to me. But with 22 years of biking, I feel as long as I’m going the right pace, I can ride all day.”
On the starting line in Northville the morning of September 8, he eyed the other 12 competitors for the first time and was surprised at the wide mix of ages and body types. After the start, they stayed together until the first road crossing, when the race began in earnest.
“I let them go. I didn’t even try. It’s a really long race and there was no reason to hang on right now. Once we got to dirt road I pretty much caught everybody, and Mike (race organizer Mike Intrabartola) and I rode together till the Sacandaga River crossing, where we got to the first trail section.”
Shane headed into the weekend ride on his Trek Superfly hardtail single-speed, loaded with bivy sack, and a food supply that would be supplemented – he hoped – with fresh supplies from stores in the small towns along the route.
The bike performed perfectly, but the course offered its share of surprises. Friday night around 1am, trying to get in a few more miles beyond Inlet (mile 155) before getting some sleep, he saw something ahead. Switching on his second headlight revealed a huge bull moose walking down the middle of the road.
“It just wouldn’t get out of the road, and it started snorting at me, so I decided that was a pretty good time to turn around and find someplace to get some sleep.”
The next morning he woke up to see fresh tire tracks passing his camping spot, and soon he caught up with Mike again. They spoke briefly, but then Shane pulled ahead. It was the last time he saw anyone else before cruising into the Northville finish on Monday night in the darkness.
The last 100 miles of the course were tough, with multiple sections that required hiking, and carrying his bike. He had been wearing wet bike shoes since Friday afternoon and his feet had swollen up, so with every footstep, the cleats pounded into his feet.
“That last day was the hardest I’ve ever had on a bike. I was severely uncomfortable,” he remembers. “Pulling into town, I was so happy to be done with it!”
Keegan was waiting with homemade chicken soup, and a local resident who had been following the race via a GPS app was there with a congratulatory beer, but that was it. No finish line, podium presentation or cheering crowds. But Shane considers the experience and achievement to be his prize.
“I just had a really amazing time seeing the backcountry roads and trails of the Adirondacks that I would never have seen otherwise. Coming up behind a moose in the middle of the night is something not everybody gets to do. Just being in the woods and fields of the Adirondacks and getting to ride my bike all day – I do enjoy it.”
Dave Kraus (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime area cyclist, photographer, and writer who has no plans whatsoever to participate in TATR. Visit his website at krausgrafik.com