As could have been (and effectively was) predicted when the Iditarod Dog Sled Race announced it would reroute the 2015 race away from 500 miles of the original course, the abandoned remnants of broken trail were obliterated by a major snow and wind storm. Between Takotna and Ruby are nearly 200 miles of trail rarely used, by anyone, and the dog race trailbreakers aren't coming.
This is effectively what Beat and several others who are my friends — Tim and Loreen Hewitt, and Steve Ansell — are facing right now as they all chose to leave McGrath and press forward. I'll go on record now and admit I do not have a "Go Beat Go" attitude about Beat taking on 200 miles of breaking trail. This is not as simple as one foot in front of the other. A cold snap descended on the Interior, and where he's spending the night, in the ghost town of Ophir, it's currently 30 below. The going has been okay so far, but if drifts become deeper it could deteriorate into a 1 mph slog — 15- to 20-mile days at that rate. Tim Hewitt is currently about 50 miles ahead of Beat, with a bike, moving at about this pace. Beat purchased extra food and fuel in McGrath, and claims he has 10 days worth, plus an air-dropped food bag at a midway point in Cripple, if that's what it comes to. The thought of Beat spending the next ten days battling through this bleak place fills me with bleak emotions, but this is what he goes seeking, for his own reasons.
Ah. Well. Nothing like a hard effort to clear the head. After nearly a foot of new snow fell on Fairbanks, I headed out Sunday afternoon for a run. All of my training runs for the White Mountains 100 haven't included the actual terrain I'll be running on, so a long snow run seemed like a crucial gauge of conditioning. I should have taken into account that crushed confidence would be the most likely outcome.
Today I biked out the Tanana River to spectate the start of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. For as much Iditarod Trail enthusiasm as I've perpetuated over the years, I've never actually seen the dogs. I had a bad night of sleep and was sore from my "run," and almost didn't go. But I'm glad I rallied. It was fun to see these mushers and their dogs in their element. I have lots of respect for mushers (seriously. I have a hard enough time taking care of my own feet and cannot fathom dealing with 64), and lots of envy for the dogs. They possess so many endurance abilities I would like to have. Plus, they have one job to do, and they seem to love it.