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.....