Thursday, January 10, 2013

14 hours, 20 below.

The Iditabike (Iditarod Trail Invitational race/ ITI)  is a 1,000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, akin to the would famous Iditarod dog-sled race.  The ITI also has a "short course" 350 mile route from Anchorage to McGrath.  This is an awe-inspiring endeavor to undertake.

A few weeks back, I got a call late in the day Friday to tag along on an ITI training ride, so I raced home to frantically throw together my winter camping gear that had been packed away since last year.
I was excited to spend the night riding with some of these racers and hear about their past experiences on the Iditarod Trail, and see if I could keep up...


My impulsivity got the better of me and I made a game of packing as much gear as possible onto my bike; resulting in a rig weighing somewhere north of 65 pounds (because that's where my scale stops).  But I had an avalanche shovel, two sleeping pads, french press, hatchet, coconut water, spare batteries, extra headlamp, change of clothes, and flask of booze so I was well prepared for any apocalyptic eventuality.

The ride commenced in just after 10:00 PM out my back door onto the Chester Creek trail to rendezvous with the group.  We warmed up around town, following several of Anchorage's urban trails, then worked our way up into Chugach State Park and of the front range.  My riding companions were all on 27 pound Linsky welded titanium Fatbacks with minimalist gear, so I felt a little over prepared for the evening, and was cursing the weight of my hatchet and shovel during the extended climbs out of the Anchorage bowl.  

The lack of recent snowfall and sub-zero temps had left the trail conditions packed, frozen, and fast.  A surface well suited for their Fatbacks with the standard issue fast rolling Surly Larry Tires.  My Surly Moonlander  on the other hand, equipped with the fattest, knobbiest, tires available, had me spinning hard just to keep pace as the others coasted effortlessly through any section of trail with a moderate decline.  I won the prize for most calories burned.

There is something about biking in -20 degree weather that seems to suck the energy right out of you, so we paused frequently to adjust layers, snack, hydrate, and check one-another's faces for frostbite.  

Somewhere around 4:00 AM, we bed down just off the path to take an early morning nap; and after a bite of chocolate and a shot of syrupy vodka to take the edge off the caffeine infuse energy gels, my bivy never felt so inviting.

Emerging from our frozen cocoons a few hours later, we were greeted by first light, warm coffee, and a promise of a fast icy technical single-track decent back to town.  

Home by noon. Dehydrated, exhausted, frosty, happy, and thankful for a wild Friday night.
Covered about 50 miles with a taste of what the race pace for an ITI would be like.
Definitely not going to sign up this year.

1 comment:

  1. Love reading your blog! Can't wait to be in AK in just a few weeks..