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Monday, March 7, 2016

Iditarod Trail Invitational 2016 Part 1

Loaded and ready for whatever comes!
My inspiration and best friend.  None other than Laura Fox.
My furry friends Palmer and Dot.  The guy that put up with my crap for years, my dad.

First, thank you to my family and friends for all the support.  Years of preparation and training were all possible because of you.  I thought of all of you and appreciated everything you've done for me.

Thank you to all the volunteers and the folks that hosted a bunch of stinky racers.  You all were so kind.

Congratulations to Tim Berntson and Heather Best!  You two had great races and really kicked butt.

Now that that's out of the way, on to the race report.  Here's a quick rundown of what I did.  Racers start at Knik Lake on the historical Iditarod Trail.  From there we have checkpoints that we are required to hit in Yentna Station, Skwentna Roadhouse, Winterlake Lodge, Rainy Pass Lodge, Rohn Tent, and Nikolai, and then we finish in McGrath.  There are no gear requirements and the racer can choose the route with the exception of Knik Goose Bay Road. 

We started on the lake and it was wet and muddy as soon as we hit the Iditarod Trail.  I put a fender on my bike and also wore goretex pants and coat.  (This turned out to be a good idea and I actually felt comfortable wearing this all the way till Rohn). We headed down Ayeshire Road where my goal for the first part of the race was to be in "the" picture.  Sure enough when I ran into Angie I was with the lead group!  

The Pack.  Jeff Oatley, Tim Berntson, Charly Tri, Adam Erritzoe, Tyson Flaharty and I think that's Jay and Dan at the back. Photo credit Angie Glover.

After seeing Angie we headed off onto the Gasline straightaway.  The pace was quick and I just tried to keep drinking water and eating.  I saw speeds into the low 20's on the road and into the high teens on the gasline and river later on.  We saw the Speedway crew for just a moment and they hopped on to follow for just a few moments.  Even they had a tough time holding on.  I have never been in a fatbike paceline like this one.  Maybe a Frosty Bottom but that race doesn't involve loaded bikes.  

Selfie time!

Dropping down onto the Susitna River.

We flew across Flathorn Lake were I saw the last of our spectators until Nikolai.  There the pace dropped as we lost the trail and got into soft snow.  We all slowed to a literal walking pace and made our way to the actual trail.  Once there I decided to stop and drop a layer.  It was warm and I was sweating up a storm.  I dropped down onto the Susitna River and saw the lead group in front of me and kept them there until we got a few miles up the Yentna River where I stopped again to check on Adam Erritzoe.  He had to adjust his slipping seatpost and that was the last I would see of the lead pack till Skwentna.    
More Selfie time!

 I checked in and out of Yentna Station and was amazed how quickly we had gotten there. We started at 2pm that day and had already made it to Yentna by about 6pm!

I got back on the river and it was pretty uneventful until Skwentna where I arrived to see Tim B, Tyson and Charly leaving as I was coming in.  Jay P had already checked out after getting some hot water (possibly to rehydrate some food up the trail.)  Jeff O was also in the checkpoint and left a little after those other guys.  I took in some chicken noodle soup, a Ginger Ale and a bicycle cupcake!

Skewentna Roadhouse had some sweets on hand for us!  How cool!

 I am a rookie.  I have ridden up to Shell Lake before but that's as far as I've ever gone.  I didn't really know what to expect going to Finger Lake.  I continued onto the trail thinking that we were going to run into a LOT of snow.  It turns out the trail wasn't as bad as I thought.  The Iron Dog teams' stories of feet and feet of snow were true but enough of them had passed through that we were able to just putt along at a reasonable pace all the way to Finger Lake.  I got up the Shell Hills and after getting to the lodge I noticed Charly with what looked to be a beer in his hand.  Mike at the lodge told me he was dropping out of the race because of his bum back.  Bummer.

I had a little bit of a boost knowing that I was now in fifth place!  I kept plugging along and found the rest of the trail to Finger Lake to be fairly mellow.  It was snowing but the accumulation wasn't too bad.  Just outside of the lake I caught Jeff O and we rode into the checkpoint.  There we found Tim, Tyson and Jay already there.  Jay P came in about an hour before me and was catching some solid snooze time on the floor.  We rounded up our first drop bags and the lodge owner made me a huge burrito with eggs, bacon, salsa, beans, rice and sour cream.  It went down great!  I had some coffee and was debating with myself whether or not I was going to head out to Rainy Pass Lodge.

This was a decision made fairly easy.  Again, as a rookie I had no idea what the heck I was doing. Tim left and Tyson wasn't too far behind him.  Heather, Jeff O. and the winners of the 130 mile race started to pour in.  It was getting pretty busy in the lodge and I figured if Tim and Tyson were leaving then maybe I should leave.  Jay P was still sleeping on the floor when I left, I assumed that he would be flying when he left and would probably catch me on the way to Rainy Pass but either way I was in third place now!

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