ITI 350 v2017. The Way IT WAS. The Way IT IS.
As I told Kathi a few hours after I finished, “In my wildest dreams I could never predict or rationalize what I just experienced on the Iditarod Trial.”
In other worlds, there is no way of knowing what your mind and body will go through until you are there… doing it, surviving.
And I had a few conversations with a few ‘finishers’, finishers this year and years past. We all kinda agree that there are experiences & emotions that just can’t be explained.
Yeah. That’s how crazy the ITI is. You hit mental & physical states that you didn’t know exist(ed). But you survive and keep going. Because there really isn’t an option. You just keep going.
Anyway. For those of you that have time, patience and motivation. Keep reading for all the crazy a$$ details. If not. No problem. This Set of ITI History is really for me, The Madre, The Padre, The Brother, The Family, The Ti-Machine and all the freaks that roll at the back of the pack, in one way or the other. (Although, most dudes in The Crew only read the little yellow books called Cliff Notes. Just the way it is.)
1st things 1st…. just because
Ludacracy? What the… ?
Ludacracy (noun)… a state of single speed chaos self-generated at the back of the pack and contained within The Alternate Reality. A close cousin of Ludicrous (not Ludacris) and a real-life alternative to Idiocracy… Got It!
And an Old Skool example of BPR Ludacracy…. check IT out , The BPR Brothers Roar
The Alternate Reality? What the… ?
The Alternate Reality (noun)… the extra dimensions of reality that are accessed via The Lifestyle at the back of the pack. Kinda like a parallel universe. This Reality, The Alternate Reality, is driven by a set of algorithms, algorithms derived by… Judd aka The JudderNaut aka The Philosofizer, aka… ME
And, as you might have guessed. Data is King. Ones and Zeros are the fuel. The Algorithm is primed with data. The Algorithm defines The Reality. So… it’s all about the data. (And if you ain’t a data geek… then you might want to close this window into the InterWeb and go on with your Amazon.com shopping.)
And The Answer to The Question…. Why a Single Speed?
I’ll give you a couple of answers, you pick the one(s) that makes you feel better
The Question: Why a Single Speed?
- Uh. Why Not
- There are 10 single speeds and one geared bike in my garage. And the geared bike has 10 years of dust on it, and is for sale.
- The Probability of Derailleur Failure = ZERO
- It’s a challenge, dude
- It’s just how I roll… it’s The Lifestyle at The Back of The Pack
Ok. Let’s GET ON WITH THIS!
So. Buckle Up. Ki$$ your Honey Good Night. Here We Go!
Disclaimer Before I Continue
The ITI was an unreal adventure, unreal set of experiences. My mind is still numb. This race review is not my usual humor laced work of pseudo-fiction. And the organization of the information is chaotic. To say the least. I intermix data, pics, stories, lessons learned, and a small amount of humor. Yeah, there is no flow. And for those that study & thrive in The Alternate Reality, I’m sorry. Just can’t ‘create’ all this info and make it flow. I don’t have the time, I have things to do, people to see and single speed machines to ride.
So… if you only want to see The Pics, go the The End. If you just want info on The Gear and the Lessons Learned, scroll down to the mid section. If you are interested in The Data, i.e., The GPS data processed BPR Style, check the sections near the front, look for the profile plots. If you want BPR Commentary on the trail… look for The Data. Dude
And for the lack of humor…. well, there is not much humor on the trail, the ITI is the real deal and I didn’t really mess around out there. Although there was plenty of funny s*^t prior to and after ‘the race’. (Well, there were 7 episodes of funny s*^t on the trail, keep reading for the info.)
Overview: The Iditarod Trail Invitational…. What Makes it Unique
So, what is unique about the ITI? The Elements, The Weather Variables, are not necessarily unique. The Arrowhead 135 provides a wicked cold weather challenge – in some years. The Elevation Profile is not exactly tough. Check out the elevation profile of the Colorado Trail Race or Arizona Trail Race. The combination of The Elements and The Elevation Profile and The Remoteness make the ITI unique. Yeah. When you (I) roll up to the start the standard emotion is “wow, I’m in this. no way out but to finish”. And that is the difference between the ITI and other big ultra endurance bikepacking races. The remote trail and the very limited options for ‘bailing’. And the pseudo-fact that you are ‘In It’ till the end drives a whole new level of stress, anxiety and thus forces an unreal Commitment to Preparedness.
Oh, and by the way, The Remoteness means unpredictable and difficult trail conditions. In other words, the trail ain’t groomed. Dude. And that adds a whole other dimension to The Single Speed Experience.
How about that for Diarrhea of The Mouth?
Ok. Ok. The ITI is a RACE. So Links to The Results
And The TrackLeaders Replay
Open the link, hit the replay button on the lower left of the map. WAY COOL!
Pre Race Thoughts. Pre Race Anxiety. Pre Race Chaos
Until you pack your bags, jump on a plane…. solo, you won’t understand these few paragraphs. Well, that’s what I’m predicting.
So. I jumped on a plane in Albuquerque NM. I was a bit nervous. As the plane flew over British Columbia, I looked out the window and saw massive mountains and glaciers, then I started to think ‘What The Hell’. That’s right, dude. I was thinking… ‘Why am I always doing all these crazy adventures solo?’ So it goes. The story of my life. Sorta.
Yeah. I live my life solo. The Palatial Palace, aka BPR Global Headquarters, is all about Peace, Love, Harmony AND complete silence, silence with Cheetos. I share my life with only ghosts and aliens. (No joke, jokester!) So I was a bit down thinking that I was going forward with a crazy a$$ adventure solo. But…
But that’s not exactly how it unfolded…. read on.
PreRace Chaos… The Mind, The Body, The Gear and The Unknowns
I flew into Anchorage with a bit of tension. Yeah, I’ll call it pre race Anxiety, single speed anxiety. Yeah, I’m man enough to admit that there is a element of life called Anxiety. Plus I was a bit worried about shack’n up in the local European Alaskan B&B. I’m not a social dude. So the social situation, the B&B recommended by BPR’s own Preacher, was something new to me. (Then again, I’m good in all social situations once an adequate number of empty calories are consumed. Just Say’n.)
So I rolled into Anchorage and the B&B and was immediately surrounded by a killer set of ITI freaks. Most were ITI veterans. Which meant that my rookie status and rookie mentality was on full display. Ha Ha.
But the dudes were real, real cool. And the environment promoted a sense of calm for me. Which I was (am) grateful for.
And then there was the Scottish Style Stress Reduction opportunities, thanks to Donald. So… Pre Race ITI life went from high anxiety to calm, cool and collected, with a few ‘morning after headaches’. Ok, I’m stretching The Truth. A bit. Just a bit
Before We Go Any Further…. Time to Jam Out… and Rage Against The Machine
The ITI Challenges… at the back of the pack
So. Just a few comments on The Challenges, The Challenges that I prepared for. Keep reading to see how I coped with these challenges. If you want.
The Conditions, The Gear, The Food: Wow. My entire preparation for the ITI was focused on The Conditions, The Conditions that drive decisions on gear and food. Yeah. As a rookie of the ITI I decided to play it conservative, way conservative, on gear selection and food. I spent months researching, purchasing, returning gear. (Thanks Backcountry.com!) I spent months thinking about calories and food products. (AND I HATE doing that stuff.) But, as it all turned out, I’m happy that I spent so much energy on gear and food. Cuz The Conditions were real… like All Time Real. And I survived, without a f*^k’n scratch. (Although I lost a few pounds… due to funny s*^t. Keep Reading.)
The Single Speed Setup: Gear’d freaks worry about… something. I wouldn’t know. Single Speed Freaks worry about The Ratio, The Gear, The Food (see above). Basically Single Speed Freaks worry about all things that contribute to Leg Trauma. And the goal is to manage Leg Trauma. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about… well, whatever.
The Anxiety, The Stress, The Pre-Race Stuff: Man, Woman. I don’t know what to say. Other than I put away so many bags of Cheetos. I lost so much sleep. (Drank a few too many high calorie beverages.) The ITI induced anxiety, stress was insane. Probably due to the ‘solo’ factor and the ‘single speed’ factor.
But now that I’m breathing Oxygen in New Mexico… I realize that crumbling under the anxiety / stress was just an artifact of being a ROOKIE. Ha Ha. So it goes.
The TIME: Sometimes I wonder if most of the ultra-endurance ‘racers’ are independently wealthy. (Hell, all my friends thing I’m loaded. So I get it.) But, geez. The ITI drained my vacation and is still draining my vacation… due to my liberal recovery. So… The Challenge of Time is crazy. It takes an unreal set of resources, time wise, to pull it off. Just my observation.
The Race Strategy(ies)
Prior to Race Day I had a few strategies, pre race strategies: 1) roll out with a consistent pace, ride through the night, take my 1st break around Winter Lake Lodge. (Don’t Judge me on this strategy. Keep Reading!) 2) roll out with a consistent pace, stop when needed, but focus on the forward velocity vector and then regroup at Rainy Pass and develop a real-time strategy for Hells Gate. 3) Show up Till You Blow Up!
How IT went DOWN…
RACE DAY. Holy Moses. The tension in all of Anchorage was sky high, like I could cut it with my Kukri Machete. I think everyone associated with the ITI was feeling the pressure of the upcoming adventure. (Or… maybe I just in my own little tension filled world.) Either way. We all new it was RACE DAY, ITI Style. And it was ON!
Donald and I cruised to the Race HQ, loaded our bikes into the transport, acquired some coffee and then… waited for the bus.
The Bus ride to Knik was crazy !. Just full on tension. Jim Ishman and I talked about bike stuff, Black Sheep stuff, race stuff, strategy stuff. We basically just tried to ignore the stress associated with the 350 miles.
Then we arrived in Knik. The entire bus load of humanoids piled into the local restaurant / bar for The Final Dinner.
Then it was on. Like Donkey Kong!
The Execution of The Strategy(ies)
So above I mentioned 3 pre race strategies. Pre Race Strategies are just a BIG A$$ WASTE of TIME. Cuz IT never goes down the way you want IT to go down. Just Say’n
Therefore once The Gun went off I ditched all pre race strategies. I decided that survival was priority #1 and finishing was priority… #1. Therefore I just put my mind to turning the cranks and managing Leg Trauma. Cuz managing Leg Trauma is the only strategy a single speeder should execute. Right MoFo?
So all strategies were put through the BPR Shredder. And, as it all turned out, the Race Strategy evolved into a very methodical process based on crank revolutions, smart decisions, and the ONLY GOAL of finishing. And I thank my riding buddy Chuck for leading the way, for ensuring that we followed a methodical process, a process for survival.
Yeah. Enough of The Philosofizer. Let’s Get Serious
The Days on The Trail…
The Days on Trial. I’ll break down The Days on the Trail, one by one.
But first… the data. Data is King. Data rules this Single Speed Freak. I dream of data. I dream of algorithms. I dream up algorithms. Yep. Data is King. So, check out this data. Check out the data plotted in Google Earth. Just check it out.
The Google Earth (GE) Visualization:
You can click on each image. Then, if required, go to the lower right and click on another button for a full res image. The GE stuff is kinda cool. Kinda.
The Processed Data:
If you are a Single Speed Freak, or just a data freak, you may find this data summary interesting. Check out the info. Pay attention to all fields. DistRide + DistWalk and Ride_MPH + Walk_MPH are super interesting. Next table is the summary. Dude.
Check out this summary table. Judd’s Algorithm shows that I walked 57.21 miles. Kinda Crazy. Not really though. I’ve put in 100+ miles of hike-a-bike on the 500 mile Colorado Trail. So 57 miles is… ok. But what is really crazy is that Kathi, at the pre race mtg, stated ‘be ready for a bunch of hike-a-bike, like 50 miles’. Yeah. Kathi predicted the hike-a-bike effort. Not bad.
The Race Profile. Interesting. Or Not. The details of interest are in each segment. Keep going, keep reading, keep studying. Dude.
Segment 1: Day 1
Knik -> Yentna
Day 1. Holy Hell. Talk about Pre Race STRESS! Then THE GUN went off. Wow. I’ll remember those 1st few minutes for the rest of my life. Just an EMPTY feeling. Like “WHAT THE F*^K did I just start“. Then… I got over it.
The first 4 miles were full on snowbiking. Like face plants left and right. The snow was soft and everyone was going down. Well, everyone at the back of the pack. I think I digger’d 2 times. Maybe. But not my fault. Cuz I only digger when forced too. Ha Ha. Just Joke’n. Jokester.
Then around mile 4 we hit a road. And cruised the road for about 12 miles. uneventful. Except it’s always interesting to watch gear’d freaks motor pass this single speed (32×23) dude. Kinda a bummer. Ok, after the road… more soft snow until Flat Horn Lake. Then hike-a-bike across the semi-frozen lake. Semi-frozen = kinda creepy.
So around dusk, like 7PM, I finished the transit of The Lake. And finally felt like I was IN THE RACE, ITI Style.
After the lake the trail winds around some ‘stuff’ and finally converges on The River. Wow. I hit The River probably around 8PM. And I had my 1st visit with The Demons. (Yeah, read the story below in The Demonology Section.) Anyway, around Mile 40 I detected that I was running low on water. So I started to watch The Miles, GPS style. Cuz that’s how I roll. I knew I was about 10 to 15 miles out of Yenta. And with successful rationing of water, aka Water Management Mode, I ran out about 2 miles before the checkpoint. Which was OK. Yeah, I rolled into Yentna a bit after midnight. I think. I felt fine. Not a bad Day 1. But I was done. I wanted some food, some ‘chill’ time. I just wanted to rest, regroup and… CHILL. 50 miles IN. 300 miles TO GO. BIG DAYS AHEAD.
At Yentna I had some fun conversations with racers. I reconnected with Lynn and Jim. Lynn went horizontal in The Shack. Jim and I decided to snooze outside in tropical 20F conditions.
The Profile. Pretty interesting Profile. Big climbs were out of the start, soft snow, and then on the road. The real challenge of Day 1 was the variable trail conditions, i.e., snow / ice conditions.
Segment 2, 3, 4: Day 2
Yentna -> Skwentna -> Shell Lake -> Finger Lake
Day 2 was a day of miles, miles, miles. Not much to say about Day 2. But I’ll create a bit of Fiction.
Yentna to Skwentna. All River. I passed a few freaks, like legendary foot racer Dave Johnston. (What a gracious, cool dude.) The ice fog was crazy. The snow machine traffic was interesting. I experienced my 1st overflow condition. It was all cool
Skwentna to Shell Lake. No problem. Some soft snow. Some hike-a-bike. No real issues. Just a nice 14 miles.
Then… the race dynamics took a turn, a turn for the better. When I rolled into Shell Lake I noticed a few familiar bikes. Yeah! I finally caught up with Jim and Chuck. Cool. So… the race dynamics changed… for the better. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like we’d hatch a plan to tackle the upcoming gnarly conditions together. I was psyched. I think. Maybe just happy for conversation. But for now, The Group of 3 moved out.
Shell Lake to Finger Lake (Winter Lake Lodge). Wow. Insanely Awesome Scenery. Well, insanely awesome until the wind cranked up. Then insanely awesome turned to just insane. The Group of 3 muscled through the tough wind for about 4 miles. Chuck and Jim led the way. I just did what I had to do to survive, forced to hike-a-bike, single speed style. Cuz that’s just how it is.
So we arrived at Winter Lake Lodge at 11:30 PM. Or something like that. Awesome awesome crew at the lodge. They prepared a wicked awesome burrito & beans. Wow. Such a great day on the trail. Such a great way to end the day… wicked awesome food at Winter Lake Lodge.
And then… what can I say about the ITI Race Tent. The Tent was PACKED at 50% capacity. Ha Ha. What do I mean by that statement? Packed at 50% capacity! S*^T dawg. Figure it out. Let’s just say ‘Snuggle Bunny’ is not a term or a behavior employed by ITI racers. And that missing Skill Set created a space situation for us late arrivers. But hey. It’s all cool.
The Profile. The Profile says… starting the big a$$ climb.
Segment 5: Day 3
Finger Lake -> Puntilla Lake (Winter Lake Lodge to Rainy Pass Lodge)
Damn MoFo. Can life get any better? Day 3 started out a bit rough. But, by far, Day 3 was unreal. Total Awesome. Totally Gnarly… TONAR. Day 3 was a day of of male bonding, The Group of 3 hammered out the miles, in a methodical process.
We arrive at Rainy Pass Lodge ~ 6pm. And, to my surprise, the bunkhouse was FULL! Damn! So, once again, us late arrivers were hosed. Not to worry though. The Rainy Pass Lodge folks were more than happy to provide a very nice cabin, for a price. Not a problem. Life goes on.
The Profile. More Climbing. MoFo!
Segment 6: Day 4 & 5
Puntilla Lake -> Rohn
I can’t really put words to Days 4 and 5. Chuck and I started out around 8AM. (Jim cruised out at 6AM. He likes the early AM experience.) Everything was A-OK for 2 miles. Then the wind hit us, hit us hard. And… the rest is pure survival, survival based on our methodical strategy, good decisions AND awesome luck. As history proves, luck is a major factor in finishing these ultra endurances races with zero issues.
So, the highlight of Rainy Pass to Rohn… The Northern Lights. Although it was approaching -40F. So we only ‘enjoyed’ the ‘northern romance’ for like 5 minutes.
I could go on and on about the challenges of this section. But you, the reader, won’t understand. But you the ITI Racer will. So no need to waste Ones and Zeros on the challenges. But, buy me a beer, and I’ll give you the details.
And for a glimpse into Mental (In)Stability. Read the next paragraph.
Yeah. For me. The Demon’s hit hard on the final miles of the Hell’s Gate Segment.
The unexplainable hit me on the final few hours before we made it to Rohn. I just can’t explain how deep, emotion-less, empty I felt as I traveled down the meandering South Fork of the Kuskokwim River towards Rohn. I was tired. My Single Speed legs were blown. The temps dropped below -20F. (But warmed up from the -40F the night before, the night up on Ptarmigan Pass.) Yeah. It was dark as we struggled down the river toward Rohn. It was too cold to eat or drink. Or that is what I told myself. The wind was gusting from many directions. The trail was blown over in many places. Seemed like riding was limited to 100 ft sections. A few times the ice cracked under our bikes. And then the snow drifts started to cover the track, in these conditions I couldn’t get the cranks turned over, I’d topple over into the snow, the snow on top of the ice’d over river, I just wanted to lay there and rest a minute, or two. But I had to keep going. There was no choice. There was no opportunities to rest. It was TOO COLD to rest. And there was no emotion. No emotion anywhere in my mind or soul. I was just surviving. Somehow I just had to get to Rohn to regroup. To get my single speed legs back under me. The miles were endless. Rohn seemed to never ‘get closer’. The damn meandering river. (Although the Google Earth satellite images don’t show much of a ‘meander’. Yeah. Psychosis.) I was in an emotionless state. And to throw some Alien-tology into the mix… if The Mothership came for me while I was on that frozen river, I wouldn’t have cared. I was just blown, mentally. Just like my single speed legs. BLOWN. That’s it. I was just BLOWN. Like BLOWN OUT.
But hey. After some food. Some sleep. The sun came up. My mind recovered. My legs recovered. And we were off on the next segment to Nikolai. That’s the Single Speed Lifestyle. Hit ROCK BOTTOM one day, rally THE NEXT DAY! Or something like that.
The Profile: Finishing the Climb. And a long descent. But you’ll never know that it’s a descent. Just Say’n.
Segment 7: Day 5 & 6
Rohn -> Nikolai
What a crazy segment. All my ‘research’ led me to believe that this segment was mostly flat. (Yeah. I had the gps data. But I didn’t do much analysis of it.)
Then prior to leaving Rohn my new buddy OE stated “It’s all flat after you get up the 1st hill”.
And then reality set in… All flat is about 35 miles from Rohn, 39 miles from Nikolai. So it goes.
The highlight of this segment was 1) the views, unreal, 2) Phil @ Pike Camp, 3) conversations with Joe Stiller, 4) wicked awesome trail riding with my buddy Chuck.
Day 5 ended with a rather hasty bivy option. But no problem. Day 6 started with fresh snow on the ground. Not fun. All in all, the stress, the tension of the ITI was on the downward slide, so I thought.
The Profile: Ha Ha. OE was right! it’s all downhill after the 1st climb. But it was not easy. The trail was a roller coaster until mile 35. As I remember.
Segment 7 & 8: Day 6
20 miles Prior to Nikolai, then Nikolai to McGrath
The Final Day: I can’t say much s*^t about the final day. Cuz I ‘left it’ all on the trail. Ha Ha. No Joke, Jokester.
Day 6+ was WILD. The Hell’s Gate Adventure, The River, was rough, as rough as it gets. But the final day was super tough, the final day was dominated by HIGHs and LOWs. It was an emotional roller coaster. And I ain’t good at the roller coaster stuff. Yeah, the final day was almost as challenging as Hell’s Gate. Almost.
Basically the AM started off BAD. I was cold, really cold. I couldn’t get moving. Then the new snow was not single speed friendly. Then the Nikolai Checkpoint was… entertaining. The Locals were watching the ceremonial start of the Iditarod, the sled dog race. Yeah, kinda entertaining.
Then… all hell broke loose around 22 miles past Nikolai. More on that later.
In the end. I cruised into McGrath, The Finish. I felt like $1,000,000. Kathi and Cindy met me on the street with cheers, Jim and Chuck greeted me with beers. Man. I felt like a $1,000,000. Unreal!
Can you see the two big moose (2 moose = mice?) in this pic. Probably not. But we had an uncomfortable stare down. Well, I was uncomfortable.The moose weren’t.
The Profile: Most of the climbing was on the ‘alternate route’. Full Disclosure.
The Trail marked by Sludge and Blood.. Back of the Pack Style
I can’t use the term Trail of Tears, due to historical significance. (And you should read up on The History of The Trail of Tears.) But I sure felt like leaving some tears with the sludge and blood that quickly and violently exited my body. That’s right. I’m confident that I was a victim of Food Poisoning late in the race. Yep. This wasn’t the Joe Stiller Flu… I didn’t have flu like symptoms. I just had massive, fast moving attacks. I felt fine physically, until the attacks. Yeah, like once the flood gates opened after attack #1 (which I held off for a few miles) I had ~ 30 seconds to 1 minute notice. Then massive explosion of sludge and blood. Ha Ha. Gross. Huh? But f*^k it. That’s what happened. And the last attack on the trail, attack #7, resulted in a frantic button rip’n set of motions. AND the lost button was for nothing. Get what I’m saying? Yeah. I should’ve taken my time, cuz I didn’t move fast enough. And I was left with….wool pants with no button and…. yeah, funny s*^t. Or not. (Good reason to take suspenders on the next ITI adventure. Huh.)
Anyway. Experiences like this add some wrinkles to the memories on the trail. This was another period in the race that’s hard to explain. It’s just hard to explain what was going through my mind as I dealt with insanely painful “gut pain“. It’s hard to explain what I was thinking as the sun set, the temps dropped. I couldn’t eat or drink. I was tired. But I had to keep going. That’s what it’s all about. Keep going. Keep the cranks turning. Keep the velocity vector going forward. So I think.
Next time. v2018 (?) I’m going to be very very careful on what I eat, how I operate. Just say’n.
so… more general info… just because
Packing My Fears… and Yours…and Your Cousin’s… and Your Mother’s
As wise man once said (via the rumor mills).. “You Pack Your Fears”
Well. I packed my fears, I packed your fears. I packed my mother’s fears. I packed your mother’s fears. I packed EVERYONE’s fears. That’s just how I roll. That’s who I am. And strategy worked for me on ITI v2017
How I Roll’d… the bike & the gear
Hell MoFo. I have a list of what is on my bike. I’ll send you the list. But I don’t want to document the gear, piece by piece, calorie by calorie. That’s a waste of Ones & Zeros in The Digital World.
Well. Maybe I’m not being honest. Maybe you should check the end of this race report for a list of gear and goods that I packed.
A few funny observations though:
- I packed about 22 sets of Lithium batteries. Mostly AA for the gps and my backup light. About 1/3 of my supply was AAA for my headlamp. So… how many batteries did I use? 3 AA sets for the gps. And I replaced the batteries during ‘warm’ conditions so I probably could’ve finished with consuming 2 spare AA sets. And I used three sets of AAAs in the head lamp. Yeah. That’s right. I packed 22 sets of batteries and used 6 sets. That’s a ton of Lithium weight that I hauled across Alaska.
- I packed 6 pairs of gloves and one set of mittens. And I used them all. No joke. And next time I may pack 7 pairs of gloves. Because I like options. I like options for gloves. I like to carry dry gloves for emergencies, and such.
But here is an ‘after’ shot. All this gear was pulled out of my bike bags.
What I Left Behind
As usual, the Day Before and the Day Of the race results in a frantic ditch’n of gear. Cuz The Racer finally realizes that gear weight is Enemy Number 1. I guess.
So, prior to The Race I ditched: a pint of Fire Ball, a s*^t ton of AA & AAA rechargeable batteries, a few power packs and my yoga mat.
Yeah. for the most part. I didn’t freak out prior to the race. I showed up with Packed Packs. I rolled with the Packed Packs. I didn’t do a whole lot of repacking due to second guessing. I kept the second guessing in my head. No Joke.
And… What I Forgot
Uh. Yeah. What I forget. Funny. Believe it or not. I only forgot ONE THING. I forgot my spare SIM card, the SIM card with the GPS track and waypoints. Yeah, you super freaks are saying ‘WHAT THE F… ‘. Well, believe me. If you are in the middle of nowhere and you feel lost, you want the GPS track, or you want maps… or you want to bivy. I want the GPS track. And I’ve had a SIM card fail on the CTR. So, I carry a spare SIM card. Usually.
The Questions I Must Answer….
I’ve received a few or more questions. I’ll answer a few. If I didn’t answer YOUR QUESTION, buy me a beer (or 10) and I’ll spill the beans.
Why 2 Baseball Hats? Uh. Dude. If I lose one hat then I have another hat. It’s called a ‘spare’ hat.
Why a Backpack? Uh. It’s all Donald’s fault. The ITI veteran (2x Nome finisher) was reviewing my setup on Race Day – 1. (That’s like T-1) Donald said “Why all that gear on the bag up front?” I said “It’ my cold weather gear”. Donald said “Don’t you have a backpack”. The rest is history. And, to honor the experience of my friend Donald, the backpack was A-OK. I’ll figure out a better setup for v2018. Maybe.
Why the Wool Pants? Uh. Wool is warm when wet. Right? Right!. End of story. But, I may go for something Alien-Based in 2018
The Lessons Learned
As stated previously (a number of times actually) I feel like I was well prepared. As prepared as any rookie could be. I learned a ton of lessons. A few documented below. Read on, if you care.
The River! Holy Hell. The River! The Lesson. Be careful on frozen rivers. Especially the South Fork of the Kuskokwim River, cuz you can fall through. I was lucky. But dumb a$$ lucky. Next time, I’ll totally navigate the frozen rivers with ‘all eyes open’. If you’ve been following the ITI you’ll be familiar with a few stories about the frozen rivers and people falling in. Yikes.
Overboots. I have overboots. But I rolled with Vasque winter hiking boots. Rated at -40F (which we know is a joke.) But I glued on Mountain Gaiters. I had ZERO issues with the Vasque boots and Mountain Gaiters. BUT, kinda hard to shove that assembly into a sleeping bag. And if you can’t fit the assembly in the sleeping bag, then… the assembly is -40F in the morning. (if it’s -40F that night). So… I’m gonna roll with std shoes, a nice vapor barrier setup on the feet, and overboots. Can you figure it all out? Buy me a beer and I will explain further, if needed.
Dry Suit, via a Vapor Barrier My buddy Chuck roll’d with a fully body Vapor Barrier. I think. Yeah. Good Choice. I’m all in. RBH Designs is where my research starts: https://www.rbhdesigns.com
Wet Clothes + Bivy = Wet Bag. Revisit the Vapor Barrier info above. My sleeping bag was a bit wet after the Ptarmigan Pass bivy experience. (As all adventure freaks know, the bivy traps moisture) So, the moisture turned to ice-cycles. The ice dropped on the bag, the bag got wet. And then there was the wet clothes. I did take off my wet jacket / pants and put on my lounge suit (down-like). But the clothes under the wet jackets / pants were… wet. So in the AM the lounge suite was wet, the inside of the bag was wet. Just wetness all the way around. And I dealt with the same issues in Rohn and the night after on the trail.
So, the solution. Vapor Barrier on The Body. A -60F bag. Maybe a Vapor Barrier insert for the bag. Problem of wetness solved. I think. (And this solution is based on discussions with the experienced. Yep, a number of experienced super freaks were rolling on the ITI with no bivy, just a ground pad and a bag rated around -60F.)
Everything in the Pants. Ha Ha. It’s the only way. But no joke, anything frozen, I shoved down my pants. Gloves, balaclavas, H2O lines / valves, food… if it was frozen, I shoved it down my pants. Yep. When in doubt, shove ‘it’ down your pants. And funny side note. Shove frozen food down your pants, when the food slides down your leg and to the boots, the food is ready to eat. Just my observation!
Spikes…. Waders. I was prepared for the overflow with a decent light weight set of waders. Yeah. Waders for a snowbike race. No joke. But I wasn’t exactly prepared to cross frozen overflow. Spikes on Boots. That’s the best solution. Many rolled out with Spikes on Boots. I navigated the frozen overflow with my studded tires, used my bike for support. So everything worked out. But next time… Spikes on Boots.
The Checkpoints…The Ca$h
I was lucky enough to have a pre race communication channel to a fellow racer… a veteran of 2016, Jim Ishman. Jim graciously answered a few questions. And one very important question was “How much Trail Ca$h do I need to stash in my Mone Belt?” Wow. Glad I asked.
So I rolled out with like $350. I dropped like $250 on the trail. So. Not really a lesson learned. But it would’ve been a brutal lesson to learn had I not asked the question prior to the race.
What I’ll Do Differently
So I learned some lessons. Clearly I’ll roll out with that knowledge next year. But even with The Lessons Learned there are still elements of the execution that can be improved based on logistics and equipment. So what would I do differently for the next ITI. Wow. I really don’t know. Maybe I’d drop a few ‘spares’ from my gear list. Maybe I’ll roll with fewer Lithium Batteries. Maybe. But I think fine turning the gear, the packing list is just the nature of The Evolution of a Bikepacker.
One thing I am debating is ‘Suspenders’. No joke. The body goes through some crazy changes during a long adventure like the ITI. I really needed some suspenders. Except for the ‘disaster’ that hit on the final day. (Yeah. Suspenders could be an issue during Uncontrollable Purges. Just thinking out loud.)
What I WON’T Do Differently
Yeah. Thinking back on the ITI Experience. There are a few things that I wouldn’t do differently. And believe it or not, these few things added significant volume and mass to my setup. But I can and will deal with the added volume and mass, just because.
Food. I carried a ton of food. Like 25+ ‘things’ at the start and then each drop bag contained close to 30 ‘things’. I rolled out of Knik with about 7000 calories. Each drop bag had ~ 10,000 calories. Yeah. I over did it. But I’ll over do it again.
Quantity of Clothes. I had a spare set of clothes, spare set of everything except the wool pants. (Although I did have a set of down pants.) The spare set was for either an emergency or ‘lounging’. Yep. I rolled with an entire set of lounge wear. And I’ll do it again.
There were a few “OH S*^T”episodes during the ITI. Yeah. OH S*^T. So keep reading.
The Stove. Holy Hell. I fired up The Gasoline Burning Stove in Albuquerque. No problems. I had boiling water in 2 min and 32 sec. Yep. I had the stopwatch running. Then in Anchorage I had a few issues. I couldn’t get ‘the blue flame’ after a the warm up time. Hell. I was afraid that the interface between fuel and stove was cracked. S*^T.
So up on Ptarmigan Pass I was able to boil a pot of water, but only able to dial in the blue flame at the lowest value setting. Which means… I was burning gas like a fool. And thus I burned all my fuel while Mess’nwith my stove. Needless-to-say. My stove, The Preacher’s stove, is busted. Yep, looks like I damaged the fuel line during the pack-up / transport of the stove.
Yeah. traveling the final 150 miles with no option for melting snow, creating water, was a major OH S*^T. And then factor in the ‘sludge and blood’ and I was f’n nervous. Yeah. Nervous = Anxiety = Stress. Or something like that.
The Wetness. With temps that dropped below -20F you’d never thing about wet clothes. But hell, all my wet clothes were… wet. I was warm, but wet. Just a factor of the conditions, the single speed lifestyle. If you are warm, you’ll sweat. If you are Red Line’n your heart, you’ll sweat. Just the way it is. And all of this can be controlled with a VAPOR BARRIER. I think. That’s my plan.
The Ludacracy of IT ALL
Ludacracy? What is this ‘BPR Ludacracy‘. Well, cycle back up to the top. Dawg. So, assuming you are with the concept of Ludacracy, I’ll continue.
Didn’t brush teeth for 8 days. Just think about this. Brushing The Teeth is a freedom, a privilege that we all just forget about. So… don’t brush your teeth for 8 days. Yeah. Wake up every day and say “I’m not brushing my teeth today”. Go to sleep every night and say “I’m not brushing my teeth tonight”. That’s full on Ludacracy… at the back of the pack. And once or twice I actually made a commitment to brush my teeth. Chuck talked me out it. Seriously. He did.
Still waking up in Mummy Bag Mode. Wow. For about 2 weeks after the ITI I would wake up in the prone paralyzed mummy position. Probably an artifact of 6 nights in the mummy sleeping bag. Yep. Full on Ludacracy.
The Kit Kats. You know what is crazy? You know what is Ludicrous? I was turning the cranks on the Iditarod Trail about 20 miles after Rohn. I came across a big a$$ bag of Kit Kats. Well. Being the Great Guy that I am. I didn’t open the bag. About a mile or so later I meet up with Chuck, (Chuck was waiting for me.) I said “Chuck, I have your bag of Kit Kats”. Chuck said “Not my Kit Kats”. So I rip’d open the bag of Kit Kats and fueled up my garbage gut. Just because. Later, after the finish in McGrath, I was telling the story to Jim Ishman. Turns out the Kit Kats were Jim’s. Ha Ha. Jim was all worried that he forgot the Kit Kats, didn’t pack the JUNK FOOD in Anchorage. But Jim was relieved when he heard that The Kit Kats were consumed by Judd. Yep. Junk Food found The Trail is not just JUNK, the junk food is reclassified as Tail Magic. Such a simple concept. But you probably won’t understand.
The UNINSULATED Water Bottle. So, believe it or not, I carried a standard water bottle. Who knows why. I figured it would be easy to use, drink from at checkpoints, or dip into running water to fill my bladder. Well, guess what… I filled up the water bottle at Yentna and then forgot about it. By later that day, Day 2, the bottle was FROZEN SOLID. Yeah. Kinda predictable. Well, I carried that water bottle with frozen water all the way to McGrath and then all the way back to Anchorage. Awesome. Full on Ludacracy.
Leaving comfort for misery, at every stop, and don’t even think about it. I’m not going to explain this. Full on Ludacracy, every morning during the ITI adventure. Think about it.
For some reason I don’t have a ton of funny quotes for this trip. I have many great memories. But not many quotes. But here are a few:
Joe. “Were you contemplating life?” Dave “No. I wasn’t contemplating life. I was hating life.”
Dave “At 10 miles I crack a beer. At 20 miles I crack another one to reward myself. Then I carry 2 tequila shots for when the shit hits the fan”
Joe to the McGrath Group. “Do you need insulated gaiters?” Response from Racer “No. I need an insulated therapist on the trail.”
Demonology… in My Head
Demonology. What the HELL is Demonology? Well, dawg, in 24 hour racing we talk about the 4AM demons. In bike packing we talk about The Demons. So… Demonology is just a discussion of how DEMONS f*^k with my (0ur) mind during these ultra endurance adventures. The DEMONS, the demonology, controls us, controls our inner thoughts, controls our behavior, whether you (I) like it or not. So… by studying Demonology I can study The Brain Muscle. I can study how I react to and address situations, situations controlled by DEMONS. No joke, jokester. Read on!
When You Reach a ‘Y’ in The Trail. My 1st encounter with The Demons was on Day 1, right after I entered The Yentna River. About 1 mile before the river there was a ‘Y’ in The Trail. I took the ‘left’ option, I was following a set of tracks and the gps track.. And just as I did I ran into Troy. Troy initially took the ‘right’ option. But then backtracked. Troy was convinced that the ‘left’ option was the correct route. So, we kept moving, moving forward. I pulled away from Troy. Probably was about 1/4 mile ahead after a few miles. Then I looked out over the snow covered river and saw lights up the river, but the lights were traveling in a parallel path at to my path. Geez. Was I lost? Did I take a wrong turn? So I did a 180, I figured I should find the turn that I missed. Well. Troy caught up and convinced me that we were on the correct track. Ok. But clearly there were others on a different trail. So a few miles later the two trails merged. Big relief. But the ‘left’ option turned out to be about 1 mile longer. No big deal. But Wow. I was super stressed out for a short period of time. Yep. Live and Learn Rookie. Live and Learn.
Click Click… Click Click… The Single Speed Solution… It’s no secret. I am a single speed dude. Back of the Pack Racing was founded on the single speed lifestyle. (Although we’ve believe in diversity, geared diversity, now. I think.) The single speed life was challenging out on the ITI. So when I was cruising behind my gear’d buddies and I heard the ‘click, click… click, click’. My heart sank. I went numb. Click Click. The sound of derailleurs. The sound that triggered a panic attack, a panic attack that said “Judd, get those cranks turning, get moving, your gear’d buddies are leaving your a$$!”
Yeah. The Single Speed Solution is a bit of a stress test.
Yeah. Click Click Boom.
Contacts and Frozen Eyes. I wear contacts. (People make fun of me when I wear glasses.) Contacts on the ITI created a new form of stress. I carried a significant supply of single day use contacts. But I quickly found out that it was impossible to put the contacts in . Don’t ask me why. Maybe because my hands were dirty, cold, whatever. So, at times, I was living in shear terror when I had to clean the ice off of my eye lids. Totally freaked out that I’d swipe a contact out and not be able to replace it. Sure, I carried glasses. But glasses would’ve fogged up / iced over. Yeah. Sure terror on the ITI due to ice on the eye lids and the real, but low, probability of losing a contact.
So, is there a solution? Yeah, that Eye Surgery thing. The laser thing. But that’s not going to happen.
Bivy before Nikolai. After the bivy experience on Ptarmigan Pass and then the tent experience at Rohn, I knew that my gear was too wet for another night on the trail. All my clothes were wet, my sleeping bag was wet. There was no rational way I could spend a night out in the elements with that gear. Well, to make a long story short. We stopped about 20 miles from Nikolai, around 12:30AM. That was a tough night for me. It started snowing around 3 or 4 AM. Chuck wanted to get moving. I couldn’t move. I was frozen. My brain was frozen. My thoughts were frozen. The Demons had me, had all of me. Eventually ~ 6AM Chuck stated that we were packing up and moving. Ok. My brain was thawing, so I could deal with that. But I struggled all the way to Nikolai. I could not get my body to move at any reasonable pace.
As I think back on this experience I realize that the best solution to a coldness, wetness is movement. I should’ve broke free of the Demons ~3AM, I should’ve jumped out of my bag and got my body moving. Yep. Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.
The Knife, the Wolves. As I roll’d towards McGrath, after the Great Purge(s), my mind was playing tricks on me. I was positive that I saw big wolf tracks on the road – about 10 miles from The 350 Finish Line. Yeah. BIG wolf tracks. So, I was tired. My mind was blown from the purges. So I decided to break out my 9″ hunting knife, secure it to my belt and prepare for battle with the pack of wolves that were watching me, following me. No joke, jokester. I was convinced that I heard a pack of something cruising through the woods, close to the road. And, to add to my mental state, the tracks were new, like newer than than tracks of Chuck and Missy. So. I may not survive a battle with the wolves, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. So I thought. Then again, I’m pretty sure I was just out of it.
The Future… ITI Style
People always wonder: “Did the experience change you? Do you see the world differently?” Blah Blah Blah. So… no. I’m still Judd. I still live in my own reality, The Alternate Reality.
But the ITI has motivated me to re-commit to the next 40 years of my life. The experiences on The ITI, along with the Arrowhead and Colorado Trail, proved that The S*^T is Just Getting Started. I’m 43, almost 44, and… it’s Game Time. So time to put away the Cheetos, time to give up Cheetos Burritos, time to stop hang’n in bars, time to stop cruise’n Tinder, time to FOCUS. FOCUS on any and all adventures that I can dream up. Dude.
Ok. Will I go for ITI v2018? What about the 1000 mile race to Nome?
Damn. Decisions Decisions. I have a few days to decide. I think.
What’s Next… The Next 10 Months
Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. May 27th. Home town race. Dawg!
Dirty Kanza 200. June 3rd. An assemble of BPR Hooligans for 200 MILES of fat and single fun!
Colorado Trail Race. July 23rd (Strong Maybe). Cuz I grew up in CO and love the Mtns!
… or Trans South Dakota. Cuz it’s a BPR Iowa Adventure… in South Dakota… Joe Stiller Style
Vapor Trail 125. Sept 9th / 10th. Hardest 1 day 100 mile race… on PLANET EARTH!
Zuni 100. Oct 21st…. BPR Global Summit and Underground SSNM
Arrowhead 135 (v2018). Jan 29th – 31st… of course
And 1,000,000 Thanks
So now that I created The Fiction, described The Ludacracy I must acknowledge a few… although there are many that deserve recognition.
Black Sheep James: James designed & fabricated my 1st Black Sheep around 2007. Since then James continues to feed my titanium addiction. And it ain’t easy building single speed machines, let alone single speed ITI (snowbikepacking) machines, for a 6′ 1″ and 220+ lbs (and I mean PLUS) Possessed Gorilla. But James has it all dialed. What an amazing dude with an amazing set of engineering skills, fabrication skills AND an unreal touch with the titanium and the ‘welding machine’. And I also must thank the entire Black Sheep Crew: Corbin, aka Sticky Buns, and Tarryn, aka Sheriff. Thanks Dudes for being all that Black Sheep is. And thanks for representing BPR and rolling with The Patches!
Kathi & Bill Merchant: Wow. Thanks for organizing such an awesome event. Thanks a million.
The Local Trapper: Thanks for the ‘uplift’, in many ways, by the chance meet-up between Nikolai and McGrath.
The Schneiderheinze of ITI McGrath Checkpoint / Finish / Hostel Fame: Thanks Tracy & Peter for the unreal hospitality at The Greatest Finish on Planet Earth!
OE and Adrian: Thanks for the EVERYTHING at the Rohn Checkpoint. You did A LOT for a lot of people. Hard manual labor and simple stuff like conversation to prepare me (us) for the final 120 miles.
Donald: There was a s*^t ton of FEAR CASTING (like Fly Casting) towards us rookies leading up to Race Day. Donald, The Dude from Scotland that now lives in Australia, spent a significant amount of time talking about his experiences and providing info that helped me focus on the ride and the challenge ahead. Plus Donald and I put a few back prior to and after the race. Good Times, all the way around.
Big Bad Joe Stiller. Many people know Joe Stiller. Prior to the ITI experience, I had a few of pre and post race conversations with the dude. But the ITI was the 1st time I had conversations on the trail. Yeah. Joe is one positive dude. Joe’s comments and encouragement, all along the ITI trail, made me smile and think, a bit. So thanks Joe. Thanks for adding your positive element to the adventure. You’re the real deal.
Chuck L and Jim I: Chuck and I traveled 210 miles over 4 1/2 days. It was great way for two ITI rookies to battle the conditions and finish with zero cold or trail induced issues. Jim shared the fun for about 1 1/2 days. Then Jim’s early morning itch to roll put him out in front of use by a number of hours. Anyway….Fun times on the trail. Sorry I slowed down your pace, at times. But fun times.
And of course, I need to thank Tracy aka Thelen Coaching. Thanks to Tracy I enter these crazy a$$ adventures knowing that my legs will survive the single speed trauma. Yeah. I may hit a wall from time to time. But I know that I will recover and I know that I will achieve my goals. That’s just the way it is.
And a Few Random Comments and Links
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race – Moved to Fairbanks
Grand Fork Herald (Minnesota) Article on Chuck Linder
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (Alaska) Article on the ITI
Pre Race, Prior to the Race, The Windup to The Race
Knik to Yenta
Yenta to Finger Lake (Winter Lake Lodge)
Finger Lake to Puntilla Lake (Winter Lake Lodge to Rainy Pass Lodge)
Hell’s Gate: Puntilla Lake to Rohn
Rohn to Nikolai
Nikolai to McGrath
Post Race – Chill’n in McGrath
Back to Anchorage… back in Anchorage
Pics Poached from Chuck… via Da Beard Sears, BPR ND Leader
The List of Food… for Historical, Archival Purposes
The Bike. The Body. The Basics
The Bike, The Bags
Black Sheep Snowroller
HED rims, 100 mm
45N D5 studded tires. Setup with Tubes. Couldn’t get the D5s to seal tubeless. And I waited till the night before the Bikeflight shipment to mount / seal the D5s. Dumb. So I rolled tubeless. No problems.
Complete bag set from Roque Panda Designs
Clark Bar bag from Oveja Negra
Expedition Pogies and Nano Panniers from Revelate Designs
Feet: wool sock liners, vapor barrier, thick wool socks
Wool shorts, not short shorts
Smart Wool long john things, the heavy(er) ones
Johnson Woolen Mills Wool Pants
Wool long sleeve shirt
Revelate WamPak Water Bladder Pack
Kuhl wool sweater: Zip
Patagonia Nano-Air Insulated Hooded Jacket
Patagonia Alpine Houdini wind shell – for extreme conditions
- for warmer conditions, like the start, I did not wear the will sweater and sumstituted the Nano Air w hood with a Nano-Air Light Hybrid
3 different wool hats
2 different balaclavas
2 baseball caps
Wore either wool gloves or handup gloves in the expedition poogies. No problems, even in the super cold conditions.
Patagonia Nano Puff pants
Patagonia Booties * excellent option, was able to pack the booties with foot warmers
Mountain Hardware Synthetic puffy. Big Puffy!
And What I Need for Next Year
Large chemical foot warmers that cover the entire foot… for the bivy experience. (not small ones that fit in boots, designed for just the toes.)
A Fur Ruff. Just because. (http://www.alaskafurexchange.com/ruffs.shtmlhttp://www.alaskafurexchange.com/ruffs.shtml)
The List of Gear, on The Bike…. Just Because
Just Another List…