I am back home now after successfully completing the 2009 Iditarod Trail Invitational race to McGrath. It was an incredible race, and I am still in slight disbelief that it played out the way that it did. Somehow I managed to finish, despite broken equipment, faulty race strategy, nagging injuries, and the worst trail conditions the ITI has seen.
I am planning to write a detailed account of my race, but that might take a while. Hopefully I can start posting it in sections, starting next week.
In the meantime, let me answer the two questions I’ve been asked most often since I finished:
1) What happened on the last leg? You came into Nikolai in second place, but ended up in 6th, as the second skier?
I’ll go into more detail later, but basically up until that point I had not been racing. I had been playing it smart and safe and resisting any urge to be competitive. And that strategy was working great – after all, I was in second place! Plus, I was also dealing with a broken ski and pretty severe tendinitis in my Achilles. I was exhausted and I knew I couldn’t catch Jeff to win the thing. And honestly, I thought I had the ski division sewn up because Pete’s leg times has always been at least an hour or two slower than mine. So I played it smart and safe, and Pete skied an amazing last leg. Sure, now I wish I had left Nikolai with Pete instead of an hour and twenty minutes later, but I still think I made the smart and safe decision based on the information I had at the time. My hat is off to Pete for kicking into high gear when it counted. He’s the record-holder in this race for a reason.
2. Will you do it again?
I doubt it. There are too many other potential adventures on my list for me to continue focusing on this one. Plus, I was pretty disappointed in the skiing aspect of this race. The skiing was never very good. I understand that a race like this will have highs and lows. I don’t mind the lows. I can deal with miles of trail-breaking or skiing through crud if it means that eventually I’ll enjoy gliding down a packed snowmobile track. The problem was that even the good trail sections, the parts that should have been the ‘highs,’ were kind of miserable. The snow was cold, dry and windblown, and I couldn’t get an inch of glide while pulling a sled. I couldn’t skate, I couldn’t double-pole, I couldn’t even stride. I wasn’t skiing, I was shuffling. I signed up to ski 350 miles, not walk 350 miles with skis on my feet.
But having said all that, there were plenty of moments that made the trip worthwhile. I look forward to cataloging all of my thoughts and getting them down in written form. Check back soon.