Thursday, March 20, 2014

Iditarod Race Recap, in pictures.

First off, I want to thank those that made this race possible for me, my wife Becky, my parents, and 9:ZERO:7 fatbikes.  Becky understood when I had to leave for roughly 2 weeks while her and the kids suffered from pneumonia.  My parents would watch my children everyday as Becky would go to work, tiring them out as well in the process.  And lastly, 9:ZERO:7 makes the best damn fatbikes out there and made my trip a reality.  If it was not for the help from these people I would have poured over pictures on the Internet like I have for many years instead of taking them myself.  I was also riding gear that made the race easier including Wolftooth's GC 42 tooth cog on the cassette and the Cold Avenger mask for my asthma.  I appreciate their support immensely.

I took all of these pictures.  The far majority of pictures on the trail were taken while I was riding.

One word would sum up my feelings in the start area, surreal.  I have dreamed about this race, studied it, drooled over it, and been scared crapless by it.  And there I was, ready to ride/push 350 miles into remote Alaskan wilderness.  The tough veterans were traveling the full 1,100 miles to Nome, though the 350 seems to get the most attention.

Bill and I at the start.  Bill is co owner of 9:ZERO:7 and a great guy that let me stay at his place. 

They had this stand at the start, the drive out was a decent distance, so hell yeah I had a reindeer sausage before the start.

Official start line.

And we're off.

Only course rule is you need to check in at different points.  The fastest way to CP #1 would be to hop on this gravel road for a bit.

Then onto pavement.  Where we were going though, you are not able to drive.  Only fly or travel on the trail.  We were quickly down to 8 or so riders on the front.
We had groupies following us as we headed out.  Jamie (other co-owner of 9:ZERO:7), Will (1st loser behind Ned Overend at the Fat Bike Nationals), and Dilly.

I was told this was the "pipeline" trail.  I only assumed there was an oil pipeline under us, just one of many firsts for myself. 

Coming across Flathorn lake, roughly 30 miles in.  Made's pic of the day.

Hitting Yetna river it was down to Kevin Breitenbach, Tim Bernstom, Alec Petro, Todd McFadden, and Myself  on the front.

Leaving Yetna station after having some really good chicken noodle soup and being creeped out by the kid in a side room playing Nintendo 64.

Leaving Yetna at 59 miles in I backed my pace down as my asthma flaired up.  I would get into Skwentna after the other 4 at 90 miles and see Kevin casually sipping coffee with his feet up.  I was confused at this point.

I followed everyone's lead and set out my clothes to dry.  Meanwhile I ate and put my legs up.  10 hours in and I was starting to feel it.
We were in the middle of nowhere, watching piped in motocross.  More confusion.

They had a dog.

I left Skwentna, got a tad lost, froze my camelbak, got dehydrated, slept at Shell Lake Lodge breifly along with a bunch of other riders, and left there in the dark with Todd (fellow MN'n) to head down the trail.  As the sun came up there was a discussion about the trail kicking our butts more than we expected.  It dipped down to -10F

After my front wheel sunk into the snow causing me to hit the ground hard and shaking me up, and then a clumsily fixed broken chain, I rolled on to Finger Lake well behind Todd.  This is home of Winterlake Lodge (in the distance) at mile 130.  Winterlake Lodge is by far our nicest checkpoint and location or #1 of 2 dropbags.

Todd and I would leave together once again.  He would soon leave me as I struggled to breath in the now hilly terrain.  My asthma seemed to take 15-30 minutes to settle after each stop.

Looking down part of the Happy River Steps.  This was a big struggle just to push up as they were quite steep.

I am not sure what lake this is, the pilots here called it Helicopter Lake as there was a downed helicopter there.  I spoke with them a bit as one of their sons came over with the treasure he found in the wreckage.

Looking back at Helicopter Lake.

I don't think this was a normal tree.

Puntilla lake, home of Rainy Pass lodge about 165 miles in.

The sun was setting on Rainy Pass.  As I came in to this stop, I was thinking a 1-2 hour break and continuing with plans to sleep at the top of the pass or in Rohn, out next stop.  Pete Basinger was leaving and Francis Lambert was getting ready to leave.  Todd was set to go into touring mode, sleeping till early morning as to see the pass in the light.  After a few minutes I agreed, and we were joined by Eric Peterson (also of MN).
The cabin was used for hunting and quite old.  I slept under Pumba.

At roughly 3am Todd would wake us.  We would fine dine on cans of soup heated over the stove before departing.

The outside.  Leaving the cabin my asthma suffered along with my butt as the skin was worn away.  Both got better after 30 minutes, both would be problems after each checkpoint.

The trip over the pass went more up then down, but this guy walked almost all of it.  We would pass him, making sure he was alright. 

Damn you Todd, you said we would see the pass in the light!  Eric and I would enjoy the top together as Todd had moved ahead.

The downhill was awesome for the most part.  Some flat, some sketchiness, some bushwacking, and lots of all out 2 wheel drifting downhill radness.  There was lots of hooting and hollering from both of us.

Eric in part of Dalzell Gorge.

Just one of many stream crossings that would make me think.

We came out onto this frozen river.  Whole thing was glaze ice except where the trail had packed down snow.

There were plenty of moose tracks, but no moose.
Pulling into Rohn I was asked, "brat or reindeer sausage?"  Well, I already consumed reindeer at the start, so brat it was.  I wish I remember the 2 volunteers there because they were awesome!  Coolest checkpint I have to say.  Felt the need to do a duckface selfie as a joke.
There is a cabin, but it was being prepped for the dog sleds to come.  We got a nice heated tent.

Last year someone whipped out a satellite phone and updated Facebook.  Seriously.

There were lots of people here and I was grew annoyed as I wanted to be further ahead in the field.  I set out ahead of everyone else, certain Todd and Eric would catch me as my lungs warmed up.  Kevin and Tim left about 12 hours before us (I left at 10:40am), Pete Basinger (6 time winner) about 11 hours, and Francis Lambert about 2 1/2 hours.  There would be numerous riders leaving right after me.

Just crossing more glare ice.  There was a reason almost everyone had studded tires this year.
Looking down the steepest part of the Post River Glacier.  It took me a long time as my studded boots were not working at all.

I rode most of the rest.

In the Farewell Burn, a million acre area decimated by fire years ago.  This picture is looking back at what we had just gone through.

This section was free of almost all snow.  Warm temps with a strong tail wind made it super fast and fun.  It was about here that I decided to go all the way to McGrath without another significant stop; race mode reengaged.  Doing the math, I thought I might be able to get in under 3 days, maybe.

Just one of many lakes we crossed.

This was possibly the biggest lake we crossed after Flathorn.  The trail was way off in the distance and I just followed the few tracks I could find all the way across.

The rolling hills of the burn would give way to flat, straight, and snow.

This is Bob going out to hunt Moose.  He would tell me Francis was 2 miles up.  Can you say motivation?  At this point we were going into a headwind and lots of open area.  It hurt some.

I think this was "fish cabin"  I could be wrong and someone will probably correct me in the comments.
Rolling into Nicolai after 300 miles, having not seen anyone else since Rohn except for Francis whom I passed about 5 miles back.  Surprisingly, Pete was still at the checkpoint getting ready to leave.  Knowing I had made 11 hours up on him in 100 miles he now was firmly in my sights.  I first met Pete at Skwentna, and he proved over and over to be a really nice guy, willing to share info from his experience.  Todd would roll into Nickolai 15 minutes after me, Francis about 20.  I would stay for about 30 minutes, leaving before Todd and Francis, running into Eric on the way out.

Can you see the one and only moose I saw all race?  Todd would soon pass me on the way to McGrath and we would exchange words as we both knew it was almost done and our times to McGrath were going to be faster than anyone had in a previous year.  I would catch Pete about halfway trying to tell a joke that I don't think landed.  The last 20 miles was really rough.  I wanted to eat more, I wanted to drink more, I desperately wanted to lay down and rest, but overwhelmingly I wanted to keep up my pace so that I would not see Pete or Francis until the finish as I was wanting the top 5 finish.  It was the hardest time I have ever had on the bike. I ended up not following the fastest route, but still held on to 5th!  I went from top 5 to 15th or so and back to top 5!  I rode the last 170 miles in about 23 hours with no sleep and 2 stops that totaled about 90 minutes.  I was ready to lay down.  Finished in just under 2 1/2 days.  About 7 hours behind Kevin and Tim, roughly 10 hours ahead of Jay Petervary's record set the previous year.  Yeah, it was fast out there.

The finish is great as there is a ton of food and friendly conversation.  Kevin would not only win the race in record time, but as I walked in the door at 2am, he was there with a hug and a congratulations.  On my way out he, like most people I meet, wanted a selfie.

The finish, complete with bikes.

The only way back is to fly or turn around and take the trail.  Despite the tiny airline check in, we still had to check in 2 hours early.  Funny.
Eric, Todd, Francis, and I would eat at the Iditarod Trail Cafe where they have a autographed picture of Ron Jeremy and bacon cheese burgers for $18.  Food is expensive when it all has to be flown in.

The guy in the truck stopped and asked us if we "smoked marijuna."  He assumed to do the raced we had to be stoned and proceed to tell us how he had been high for the last 20 years.  I believed him.  For the record, no I do not despite my face here.
Eric got yelled at as he rode his bike because they assumed he was a terrorist.

From Anchorage we would go our separate ways.  What an amazing trip with amazing people.  I have never met a finer group of people at a race.


Kid Riemer said...

Nice work sir. Really enjoyed the photos as they are different from many I've seen before. Again, congrats?

Death Rider said...

damn that's awesome, thanks for the pics. looks like it was a ton of fun being able to ride and not push. Great job DR

Ron Pearson said...

Don't bike and am an Armchair Musher but just wanted to give you a high five for completing your dream. Do do so with a breathing problem is doubly great ... I have COPD and know how hard it is sometimes to just do basic things. Great ride, great pictures and thanks for an inside look at the race

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