Iditarod Trail Invitational Post-Script

This is a collection of musing on the race that surprisingly didn’t fit into my tome of a race report.

Thank You!

First off, it’s time to finally thank the people that made this race possible for me:

My wife Linda – I know, I’ve thanked her a lot already, but I can’t say enough about all she did. Plus if I mention her again, this post will get a “Linda’ tag, helping her increase her lead in the ‘number of times tagged’ (see the tag cloud in the right hand column). This is apparently very important to her. I’d also like to thank our kiddo for holding his “Why did you leave us?” grudge for only three days after I returned.

My parents, and all of the friends and family who supported me and followed me during the race. It was great to come home and read all the messages afterwards. I’m fairly certain that none of them had any idea what I was getting into until it was too late to stop me.

Greg – for offering to fly out and get me from any checkpoint along the course. The offer was tempting many times. And thanks for coming to get me (and Alec Petro) once I got to McGrath. I was able to get home a day earlier, and we had a spectacular tour of the race course on the flight home. Although Alec’s view during the flight wasn’t quite as good as mine. Sorry Alec!

Cindy – for helping to design and then sew my sled cover, and modifying my pogies. And also for helping to keep Linda sane at work while I was away.

Jen and Ian – for their last minute modifications to the sled cover.

Tim – for sharing his sled design, and answering my questions about gear. And for all he has taught me over the years about “Performance backcountry skiing.

Mike – for sharing his suspension sled pole design.

Ed, Pete, Jay, Tracey, Jeff, Billy, and all the other racers who knowingly, or unknowingly, helped me along the trail. All the racers were amazing, friendly people. As I said before, I really enjoyed being around the other two skiers for the entire race. I was really psyched that all three skiers finished, when there had only been four skiers finish in the last four years combined.

Bill & Kathi Merchant for pouring their hearts into this race, and all of the checkpoint workers along the way for keeping me fed, rested, and motivated, especially Dan the Mountain Man, Nick and Olene Petruska and Peter and Tracy Schneiderheinze.

Jill Homer, Kathi Merchant, Mike Curiak and everyone else who has written about their experiences on the trail. I read them all as I prepared for the race.

 

Here are a few questions that people have asked me recently…

 

How did your gear work out?

GEAR THAT WORKED BETTER THAN EXPECTED:

My boot/insole/sock system – I had a lot of anxiety about this stuff prior to the race, but it couldn’t have performed any better. My feet were never cold the entire race. Never. I only got one small blister the entire way. I choose boots that were a size too big (so that I could put an extra insole in them), and this proved critically helpful as my feet swelled throughout the race. The vapor barrier socks were a revelation for me, and I plan to use them a lot more in the future.

Down booties – I almost didn’t bring these because they are bulky and heavy. But they were really handy at the checkpoints, when I needed to get my feet out of the ski boots for a little while.

My sled pole – I really liked the suspension. It was a huge help for classic skiing, although the elastic was getting worn out by the end.

My headlamp – I came very close to buying a new headlamp for the race, but I’m glad I didn’t. My headlamp was made by Nite-Hawk, which sadly went out of business. It was powerful enough to using skiing while on the ‘low’ setting, which gets over 100 hours of burn time. I used one set of lithium batteries for the entire race. I was kind of bummed to leave so many expensive Lithium batteries behind in my drop bags.

 

GEAR THAT DIDN”T WORK VERY WELL

My skis -To be fair, the skis worked as well as I could expect them to. The problem was that I chose the wrong pair. For months, I had been planning on using these skis. I did all my training on them. But at the start of the race, because of the new snow, I had a pair of classic racing skis in the car, just in case I thought the trail looked really bad. I spent the entire race wishing I had grabbed those skis instead.

My sled – Again, I feel bad putting the sled under “Didn’t Work” especially considering the hours I invested in building it. For 90% of the race it worked great. It was a great sled for a packed trail. But when it got caught on alders, or tipped over in deep snow, it was a real liability. It was a perfect sled for the Susitna 100, which has a better trail, but less perfect for the ITI.

 

How did your food work out?

I had a lot of different foods with me, and I enjoyed having the variety. I ate some of everything. I had way more than enough food. I think my favorites were Snickers, Buckeyes (peanut butter balls), Pop-Tarts ( a surprise to me), Oatmeal cookies, and Gu (caffinated Espresso flavor). The only thing I wish I had more of was Snickers bars. I had one Snickers and one Hershey bar for each leg of the trip, but I wish I had three Snickers bars instead. I packed way too much summer sausage. Usually I eat a lot of that during long adventures, but not this time. I planned for a one pound stick of sausage for each leg of the trip, and only ate one stick the entire race. Bummer, because that was a lot of weight.  Surprisingly (and unfortunately), when I got home I wasn’t sick of junk food. In fact, I think this trip only increased my addiction to junk food. Withdrawl sucks.

 

How much weight did you lose?

I weighed myself about 36 hours after I finished, and I had lost 4 pounds. At that point, I had already eaten about six big post-race meals, and my feet and ankles were still very swollen. At the finish, I was probably 6-8 ponds lighter than normal. For the first week afterwards, I was consistently eating 5-6 full meals a day. I weighed myself again a week later, and I was back to my normal weight. All in all, not a lot of fluxuation.

 

How would you rate your level of stink after wearing the same clothes for a week?

I was definitely foul. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ‘I just stepped out of the shower’ and 10 being ‘I just swam across town in the sewer system,’ I think I was a 6 when I finished.  Okay, maybe a 7.   I thought I would smell worse. Except for my feet. They were an 11. Those wool socks might get thrown out.

 

What does Linda get in return for letting you do this?

We’re not sure yet, but she definitely gets something. Maybe a vacation of her own, or maybe she gets to focus on training for her own event, or maybe she gets a new toy. Or maybe all of the above. At the very least, I think there is either a road bike or cyclocross bike in her future.

 

What’s your next adventure?

I cashed in a lot of chips at work and at home to do this race, so it will be a while before I do anything on this scale again. Actually, it might be a while before I do anything at all again, because of…

 

My Achilles Tendon injury

My feet and legs had been feeling steadily better for the past two weeks.  I went skiing (very mellow) twice this past weekend, and my feet were sore, but my Achilles tendon didn’t hurt at all. So I was optimistic as I went to the doctor’s office this morning.

The doctor killed that positive vibe pretty quickly. I have a partially ruptured (torn) Achilles tendon.

Its never a good sign when you take off your sock, and at first glance the doctor says, “Yep, there it is. It’s torn.”  He estimated that the tendon is about 50% torn, but I need to have an MRI to be sure.    So I am now in a walking cast and looking at about three months of recovery time if things go well. Or surgery and six months of recovery time if it goes not-so-well.

I’m pretty bummed.   So much for enjoying Alaska’s Better Half.  And just to be safe, its probably best if you  not make any mention of crust skiing to me for the foreseeable future.

But on the bright side, I guess I can be glad that it’s not completely torn, and that it didn’t give out in the middle of the Farewell Burn.  Knowing that the injury is kind of serious makes me feel better about my decision to play it safe towards the end of the race.  I have to admit that, as the pain and the satisfaction of finishing subsided over time, I had begun to wonder if I should have pushed through Nikolai and tried to hold my second place standing. I was starting to wish that I had been in race mode, just a little bit.  But now, knowing the full extend of the injury makes me realize that I did the right thing.  Well, the right thing might have been to scratch from the race when it first started hurting.  But I think I did the second-best thing.

The doctor seemed to have an understanding of the athletic stuff I am used to doing, so he knows the kind of shape I want to get back to. I guess he figured that out when he asked “How did this happen?” And I answered, “By skiing 350 miles.” He also knows how to deal with athletes who are not happy about being laid up. One of his main concerns was finding alternative ways for me to work out during the next few weeks. For the time-being though, I’m not in the mood to push it. I’ve got a lot of non-athletic things to catch up on, and I could use a little rest. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go mount this boot-thingy onto a skate ski.

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One Response to “Iditarod Trail Invitational Post-Script”

  1. Mark Strabel says:

    Cory-
    I had a custom light weight leg/ankle brace made for me when I tore my achilles, and it fit perfect in a bike shoe (road biking of course) and I could double pole/ rollerski with it also. You might want to look into something like that for some fun this summer, or just pick up sofa racing and channel surfing…
    Nice job though on your adventure through the wilds of Ak.

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