Saturday, March 01, 2008

Report from McGrath

I can't believe I'm actually here. It's going to take a few days to process the experience, but I spent some time reading up on all the race coverage. I followed the coverage religiously last year, and it's amazing to me how differently my race was interpreted from what was going on in my head. I set a solid pace in the beginning because the trail conditions were phenomenal and I was doing the sleep deprevation thing ... three hours the first night, four hours the next. But after Puntilla Lake, it became a very different race. Everyone had to do the slog over Rainy Pass ... the leaders broke trail; those of us behind had to negotiate the postholes. That's 45 miles at an average pace of 2 mph. My bike weighs more than half what I do and I struggled with the slog. I eventually bonked and had to bivy several miles below the pass in a kind of deep cold I have never before experienced for that long. I was well prepared for the possibility, but it's a different experience when you have run out of energy and you are nested in a snow bank, huddled in a sleeping bag and cuddling with your ice water. You know you're going to be OK, but it's hard to not be scared. Still I woke up several hours later fired up for more race. I just wanted to get to the Rohn checkpoint and pressed hard again. I came to an open stream crossing that was running knee deep, which at subzero temperatures is a big deal. But I was in a hurry so I wrapped my garbage bags around my legs and quickly duct taped the tops, then hoisted my bike and stepped right into the creek. But the bike's weight and rushing water were too much for me to handle, and I dropped the bike. In my panic to keep it from falling over I leaned into stream and water rushed down one of my legs. Luckily, I managed to only get the wheels wet. And he derailluer froze. But I had a soaked boot. Also luckily, I was only about 10 miles from the checkpoint and it was a hard walk the entire way, so I never had to deal with the potentially serious consequences of a wet foot. But that was a big mistake. A bad decision. I checked into Rohn and spent 17 hours drying my boots and thinking about the error of my ways. My decision to continue on was based in a resolve to set a more comfortable pace and make good decisions. And I did make good decisions. From there on out I was surrounded by the immensity and awe of Interior Alaska, apprehensive at times but never in danger. There will most definitely be a long and detailed trip report to come, with whatever pictures survived my camera's habit of cutting out in temps below 0. Thanks again to everyone who has followed along.