Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New York Times coverage

I don't have much of my own content to add today, but I wanted to post a link to this great New York Times article about the Iditarod Trail Invitational. There's an embedded video on the Web site that is probably my favorite piece of reporting I have ever found about this race. The video follows race organizers Bill and Kathi Merchant as they conduct a winter training camp for those who plan to attempt the race this March. It captures so well the transition - well, it's more of a startling realization - between the expectations about the Iditarod Trail and the realities of it. The two men at the winter camp, George Azarias and Aidan Harding, start out with the usual "easy explanation" Iditarod banter: "Oh yeah, we're crazy, we don't know why we're here. The guys go out on the trail, eat some nasty yellow glop, push their bikes for a while, and, suddenly, you can see that moment of truth in the face of George - the moment that I think every rookie experiences - the "holy cow, this is real" moment: "People think, OK, this race takes seven days. 350 divided by seven, that's 50 miles a day. On a road bike, easy, you do that in three, four hours, max," George says. His eyes widen. Cut to pushing a bike up a steep snow berm. "It's (voice becomes quieter) ... it's so hard. You need to struggle to survive."

Perfect. Great video reporting from the New York Times. Go watch it!


  1. Where is Santa?
    Happy Holidays Jill!

    kb peace out

  2. Sweet! I actually can't wait for this. Are you getting butterflied in your stomach yet? :)


  3. That's a very good article. I must say that you watch that video with a completely different perspective than all of us having finished he race last year and knowing Kathi and Bill. Must make you feel some pride about that accomplishment.

  4. Watched it twice, but I didn't get the idea that either of them changed their perception of the race or its challenges from the camp. I am sure they will be changed by the race, but I just didn't see the realization that you are talking about in the video. Just my take on it...

  5. js ...

    Maybe I'm seeing what I want to see. But I will say that these guys came out to the Sustina River Valley from New York and the U.K. If their perception of the race didn't shift during the training camp, then Bill and Kathi didn't do their job. But I know Bill and Kathi, and I'm betting they did their job very well. :-)

  6. I don't know Bill or Kathi, and I do believe they provide quite a service through the camp. Surely the two featured in the video are more prepared for what to expect and will have a safer race because of it. More importantly the other attendees of the camp, the couple, had the opportunity to discover that the race really wasn't for them while there was a tent, stove, snowmachine, and knowledgeable guides at the ready. Probably the lack of that type of support is the kind of thing that will make the experience and perception of the race different from the camp.

    All speculation on my part, you are the one who would know...

    Happy holidays!

    ps How long before you go for the full 1100 to Nome?

  7. Js,

    Yeah, only speculation on my part as well. What I thought I was seeing in the video was the expression on George's face as he pushed his bike up that snow berm, panting and heaving. To me, that's the expression of someone who has a brand new understanding of 350 miles. I saw in him my own moment of truth from last year's race (keeping in mind that I had finished the Susitna 100 before, twice): I was pushing my bike somewhere between Finger Lake and Puntilla thinking: "Wow. The cold isn't so bad. The wilderness isn't so bad. But holy &@%$ this is A LOT of physical work."

    Yeah, that training camp is a great idea for rookies. I wouldn't mind hitting it up myself just to learn some of Bill and Kathi's secrets of the trade. :-)

    Oh, and Nome ... do you realize HOW FAR AWAY Nome is? That's not just 1,100 miles. That's 1,100MILES. Ouch.

    Merry Christmas!

  8. I saw this yesterday, Jill, and was going to send you the link. I see now that your sleuth-like reporting doesn't need me :) Have a great holiday - we're under a ton of snow down here which is kinda fun.

  9. Jill, I just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas!

  10. Hey Jill! Just getting caught up on your blog... I was about a month behind: funny how life can really interfere with blog reading! :)

    I posted a blog entry today based on this post: thanks for being a continuing source of bicycle and blogging inspiration for me. The article is HERE. Just bought a copy of your book: can't wait to read it!

  11. This Ididabike seems quite a lot like Joe Frank's "Ascent to K2" Certainly a shared unconventional approach.

    Book preview seems interesting. Perhaps email a copy?

    good luck


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