Pugsley and I had a happy reunion at Speedway Cycles yesterday. He is in the best shape of his life ... a new freehub, fully winterized, a single speed hub and cog on the front wheel in case I have any trouble with the rear drivetrain, new crank, new cassette, new brake pads, new chain, new computer mount, all lovingly put together and adjusted by the great mechanics at Speedway. We went out for an eight-mile ride on the precariously icy bike paths of Anchorage. Everything felt amazing. I can only hope I'm in as good of shape for this ride after my long rest. I feel pretty good. I'm so nervous now that my hands shake a little when I think too much about it, but I am excited. The weather forecast looks promising to say the least. If the weather holds up even close to what they're predicting for the next week, the race to McGrath could see some of the most comfortable conditions it's had in years (a little cold along the Kuskokwim, but it nearly always is.) Trail conditions are a different story, but even the potential shape of the trail is holding a lot of measured optimism from the people who know what they're talking about. This may even be easy. Just kidding. It won't be even close to easy.
We were able to meet many of the racers at a party at Speedway Cycles last night and an official race meeting this afternoon. It was a lot of fun to put faces to names. There is one man from Japan who speaks very little English, knows nobody in Alaska, and just showed up to run the 350 miles to McGrath. A really cool guy. He smiled more than anyone else I've met this weekend. He never stopped smiling. We kept trying to tell him how brave he is, but he didn't understand brave.
I have most of my gear set up and am nearly ready. We're burning a little time at a coffee shop because the woman whose house we are staying at is throwing a Vietnamese New Year party tonight and is currently in the process of trying to make 1,000 pork dumplings. (Literally : One Thousand). She put Geoff to work building a big barbecue and chopping cabbage as I mounted my front rack and sorted my gear. The place is in chaos right now and we're just a little hesitant of the rager that awaits us when we return. Luckily, we will be able to carbo load on dumplings before heading up to the relative quiet of Palmer tonight to try to sleep before the race. Everything starts at 2 p.m. Sunday.
I'm hoping for time to type up final thoughts before the race start, but in case I don't, here are a few more race links:
Iditarod Trail Invitational message board
Wasilla weather forecast
Skwentna weather forecast
Puntilla Lake weather forecast
Nikolai weather forecast
McGrath weather forecast