Wednesday, March 7, 2012

part 2

After napping for a few hours, we got up and got going around 11 pm. We had some oatmeal for "breakfast" and another cinnamon roll before leaving the cozy cabin. On a funny side note: As we were preparing to leave, the phone rang. Cindy was outside helping another racer getting comfortable in the bunkhouse, so I answered the phone thinking it must be an emergency if someone was calling this late.... Oh no, it was just a friend calling to chat about Cindy and Allen's upcoming wedding the following Saturday. Allen was taking the snow machine to Willow "airport" to help his elderly relatives get on a bush-plane to fly out for the wedding. He then was turning around to drive the snow machine the 60 miles back- in horrible weather off course. They had planned on getting married on the frozen river, but with the storms and snow where going to have to change plans and get married inside. Surreal!!!! I hope they had a fabulous wedding!!!

Anyway, Eric and I got back on the bikes, happy to only have 12-14 miles to Skwentna. Part of the trail was ridable, but it was challenging with the "powdered sugar" snow and lots of tracks from walkers. My right leg was really starting to protest and I had to use my arms to lift it every time I got back on my bike. Eric's knee was also hurting from all the uneven walking... Sometimes the foot-steps in the snow were wide and sometimes it was like walking a tight rope and pushing your bike way out to the side!!

After a while I couldn't really put any pressure on my leg when getting started on the bike. Luckily, Eric is trained in high velocity, low amplitude SI joint mobilization (in addition to being a general contractor he is a great physical therapist :-) In the dark, I laid down on my stomach (since my camel bak was under several layers of clothing, and impossible to get off) in the snow and Eric popped my SI joint back in place by pulling on my leg. What a relief, I was able to walk and ride again!!!

We reached Skwentna roadhouse around 4 in the morning. After an enormous plate of biscuits and gravy we decided to sleep for a while before making up our minds on whether or not to continue on. After a few hours of sleep we got up and started chatting with Jeff, Heather, and Jay. The weather prognosis called for more snow and we found out it had taken Pete over 12 hours to get to Shell Lake, only 2o miles away. We were all tired of pushing our bikes though the snow and the thought of continuing to push for several days was not very appealing. We also knew that the further in to the race we got, the harder and more expensive it would be to fly out. Cindy at Skwentna called a bush-plane service but they weren't sure if there would be a window in the bad weather to come and get us. As we were having pancakes they called back and said they would be at the airstrip in 30 minutes. We quickly packed up our stuff and rode/walked to the airstrip!

Me and Jay in the back seat of the 4 seater plane

Packing up the bikes in the back of the plane

Not exactly the outcome we had hoped for, but it was still a memorable adventure, as always!! Congratulations to the 18 racers that did finish the Iditarod Invitational this year. Pete Bassinger won the race to McGrath for the 6th time, Anne ver Hoef won the women's division on foot, and Ausilia Vistarini was the only woman to finish on a bike this year!!! Geoff Roes (current record holder of the Western States 100) won the walking division!

Thanks Bill and Kathi Merchant for making this race possible and for all of your hard work before and during the event!! A big thank you to all of the volunteers, especially Cindy and Allen for opening up their home and taking care of all the racers!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Iditarod Trail Invitational 2012

Me and my fully loaded bike at the start

For those who don't know, Eric and I bailed out of the ITI after almost 3 days of pushing our bikes through the snow. This year, there was so much snow-and no trail to speak of- that we only got to Skwentna Roadhouse, the 2nd checkpoints at 90 miles in those 3 days. Amazing to think that we reached this checkpoint in only 14 hours last year. It is different each year, and always an adventure!!

Looking back, I know we made the right decision for us, even though it was pretty disappointing at the time.

We started out at Knik lake at 2 pm as usual with 46 other runners, skiers, and bikers. We were able to take a paved road for a few miles but when we reached the trail, the pushing began. We ended up post-holing with a group of about 10 "riders" and at 4 am we finally decided to stop and bivy in a spot with some trees. It was quite warm, so I was pretty cozy in my sleeping bag and was able to sleep for 3.5 hrs or so.

We packed up our gear in the morning and continued on towards Luce's, which is a little lodge right on the river. We reached Luce's some time in the afternoon and were pretty surprised to find all other riders who were in front of us, hanging out and eating. Pete B and a couple of other guys had just stopped to make some water where we bivvied, and then continued on breaking trail all night until they reached Luce's.

After a cheeseburger and fries, we rented one of the small rooms to get some sleep before the next section. We were hoping the snow would set up as it got colder at night and that we might be able to ride a little bit. It was about 100 degrees in the room and we kept the window wide open. I slept like a rock on my upper bunk, and didn't wake up until 2:30 am after 7 hrs of sleep! I had a Snickersbar and a cheese-cookie (thank you Janice!) before taking off for some more pushing toward the first checkpoint which is Yentna Station, another "lodge". Here, we stopped for breakfast with Jeff Oatley, Heather Best and Jay and had a plate of yummy pancakes and eggs as well as a couple of cups of coffee.

When we got back on our bikes, the sun was starting to come up, but the light was really flat so we had to keep our head-lamps on to try to find the track from the riders in front of us. We were able to ride short sections, but continued pushing for the majority of the time. Our pace averaged about 2 mph, not exactly flying.... We had been told that someone had their house open to all racers 10 miles or so from the Skwentna Roadhouse, the 2nd checkpoint. It was a long day of pushing along the river and we were very happy to finally see a handmade sign that said "Alaska Ultrasport". It was early evening when we reached Cindy and Allen's small home on the river. Allen told us to come in and make ourselves at home.

One of Cindy's cute dogs outside her house

Cindy's awesome cabin on Yentna River

Cindy and Allen were AMAZING! Several other riders were resting in the small cabin, and before we even sat down at the kitchen table Cindy had served us bowls of homemade chicken stew and bread. There were a giant jar of cookies as well as cinnamon rolls on the table as well, and it all tasted wonderful after a long day of pushing. Both Cindy and Allen were so welcoming and generous opening their home to all of us. Not only did they feed us, they also offered us to catch some sleep in one of their 2 guest-cabins. We found sleeping pads and blankets under the bed, where Jeff, Heather, and Jay were resting/sleeping, and got pretty comfy on the floor.
To be continued.....