I haven’t been so worried about a race in a long time. The Iditarod Trail Invitational freaks me out like few races before.
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It is an adventure. I am sitting in front of 40 lbs of gear, pondering what to bring, what to leave. My gear selection definitely errs on the safe side – there’s little point in shaving off even 5-10 lbs (and that’s not easy!) and take risks that could cost me the race or more. Given my limited experience in this climate, the decision is easy – the weight will make me a bit slower, but the lack of an essential item can really screw me up. I have to think back to Jill dragging her 70 lbs bike over rainy pass and my sled doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Fortunately I have at least some experience in what kinds of items I use and which I don’t, so at least I think the stuff I’m bringing is useful, and will also keep me warm to rather frigid temperatures. Still, it’s disconcerting to think about pulling this anchor for 350 miles – at least it looks like the trails will have decent glide.
Then again, the required speed – ~35 miles per day – seems quite doable without pushing hard (if the trail is not horrible, of course). Looking at it as a big expedition may seem the best approach – it is very beautiful out there after all. The first ~165 miles has actually a decent amount of support, with a few non-checkpoints where water and shelter is offered. Afterwards it gets pretty wild … but by then I will hopefully have all my stuff dialed in quite well. I think 50-55 miles a day for the first 3 days could be doable if the trail conditions are good . I think an 8 day finish would be pretty great. Actually a finish would be great!
There is NO GPS tracking allowed in this race, due to some problems in the past. It’s just as well, because it’s hard for anyone watching to really interpret properly what happens and probably would freak people unnecessarily out. Race updates will be posted on facebook and on the website’s Latest News page. Every checkpoint is very remote – and updates travel slowly. Do not be alarmed when there’s no news about me for a while. Especially the stretch between Rohn and Nikolai will take multiple days without any updates. If the weather is bad and I hunker down, it could be three days – and if the updates are a bit delayed, even longer! There’s no need to contact the race organizers – everything is under control.
However, I will have a locator beacon (or possibly Sat phone) with me, so if I am in trouble, I can call for help – and the coast guard or the army will come rescuin’. Needless to say, that’s only a last resort measure, but it’s there. The transmitter is built to much higher standards than the usual SPOT devices and are designed to work reliably even in the cold. Also there are plenty of runners on the trail this year, while doing this alone would be radical, honestly it’s not unlikely I’ll team up with someone, especially over rainy pass and through the farewell burn.
UPDATE: I should have a sat phone so I can occasionally call Jill or receive text messages, and should I take a long time I’ll try to keep her in the loop. I probably will still bring the beacon as well, it’s not that heavy. Also if I get even so much as a text message from my work I’m counting it as a work day! HA