Rob, the long-time checker in Rohn is awesome. He takes a week of his vacation time to volunteer and help out with the Alaska Ultrasport. To get to Rohn, he has to drive a snow mobile for a couple of days, over the same mountain pass we crossed. Then he gets to sleep in a tent and take care of a bunch of smelly racers who haven't showered for several days. Talk about dedication!!!! Rob has a lot of experience with winter racing, so he know exactly what we all need when we get to Rohn after a 20 hr push!!
Rob fed us more raviolis and after we got rehydrated, we put our sleeping bags on the thick layer of twigs covering the ground. It was nice to be only 3 racers in the tent, plenty of space. Just as I had fallen asleep with the assistance of an ambien, a group of 11 riders came in all at once. We were quickly reassigned new sleeping spots, outside in the snow. Luckily it was really warm!! I was so tired, I didn't really care how long I slept, and we didn't get out of our sleeping bags until 7:30 the next morning. Many other racers were getting ready to leave, but we didn't get on our bikes until 10am due to some minor mechanical issues with my bike, having to dig through our drops for more food and replacement batteries, and me just moving really slowly!
Once on the trail, I felt good. Time seemed to go by really fast. We had to cross some more open water, but in general the riding was fun, fast, and fairly easy. We were making pretty good time.
It was getting dark when we hit the Farewell burn with its infamous tussocks. Some of it was ridable, but sometimes it was faster to get off your bike and walk. All of the sudden we spotted a tail light in the dark and after about an hour we finally ran in to Brij (the super funny guy who moved from India to FAIRBANKS about 10 years ago). We chatted with him for a couple of minutes while taking a little time to eat and drink. As we were getting closer to Nikolai, I was calculating in my head that we could probably just keep riding all the way to McGrath without stopping in Nikolai at all. I can EASILY do 24 hrs, I kept thinking, I feel GREAT!!!! NOOOO problem!! Somehow the low bloodsugar crept up on me. I looked at my GPS and noticed I was going slower and slower. Better eat a few Swedish Fish to get some energy, I thought.... Unfortunately, no combination of food seemed to work. I was getting the tunnel vision, feeling weak and dizzy, wanting to lay down in the snow and pass out. My brain was working in slow motion, and so was my body. The last 3 hrs were torture (especially for Eric) as I was pedaling at a snail's pace, trying not to fall of my bike.
When we finally reached Nick and Olene's house in Nikolai at 2 am, a big group of riders, including speedy Tracey Petervary were taking off. I could barely make it in the door. I'm not quite sure how I got my clothes off, but somehow I made it to the table and had some of Olene's delicious moose-stew and bread.
After refueling, we planned on sleeping for 2 hrs and then taking off to see if we could possibly catch the group in front of us. We got to share one of the bedrooms with Dave Prahmann who was also looking a little rough. I used the little cot, and Eric laid down on the floor to try to get a little bit of rest. As exhausted as I was, sleeping wasn't easy, and after a couple of hours of tossing and turning I got out of bed to see how I felt. Hoping my stomach would cooperate, we decided it was time to get going. Chris Plesko who had been sleeping on the couch got up and was taking off with us. Dave got up too, but as we were leaving, he decided to rest a little bit longer. We were definitely not in a hurry to leave, it was too hot to put our all of our clothes on inside of the house. Chris, Eric, and I were joking around, talking about the race, and taking our time getting out the door.
Once outside, the chilly air seemed to wake me up. I felt ok for the first few hours, but then I started having problems with my blood sugar and stomach again. None of the muffins, cookies, danishes, or candy bars seemed to do the trick. I felt nauseous, and had trouble keeping food down. I tried the last of the mini sausages I had brought and that seemed to work a little bit better. Chris generously shared some peanut butter and cut-up summer sausage, and that was definitely better than all the sweet junk food.
It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, warm enough I even had to take my hat and gloves off. With about 10 miles to go we spotted 2 riders coming toward us on the river! It was Peter Basinger and Jeff Oatley coming to meet us!! Peter who had been in front the entire race, ended up winning over Jeff by only 33 minutes. We rode together, talking, but with 7 miles to go, I decided I was tired of eating cookie dough and was ready for some man-cakes, so I picked it up for a little bit. After a couple of miles I couldn't see the guys anymore, so I decided to take a nap on the side of the road. They finally showed up 20 minutes later, Eric had gotten a flat tire!!
Peter and Tracy's house was as great as I remembered. Peter was serving man-cakes, coffee, and omelets. The table was covered with home made cookies, brownies, cakes, and bread. We spent a 2 nights there and had a great time. Tracey (who finished about 6 hrs ahead of me AND set a new course record for the women), Jay, Phil, and walker Tom Jarding took off the next day to continue their trip to Nome. Tim Hewitt is also on his way on foot to Nome.
One of the highlights of the trip was when Dara and Kevin, next door neighbors, took us dog-mushing, and show machining. Dara and Kevin have 2 sled-dogs. Together with 2 of Peter's dogs as well as the indoor Chocolate Lab Leo we had a 5 dogs pulling the sled. It was so much fun!! Maybe next year I will just do the Iditarod sled-dog race instead..
Thanks to everyone who made this incredible trip possible.
Bill and Kathi and all the Ultrasport volunteers for putting on a great event.
Rob and Neeraj at Physical Therapy of Los Gatos, for fixing me up before the race.
Matty (Eric's mom) for modifying our pogies to keep our hands warm.
Peter and Tracy for opening their home to all the racers and feeding all of us.
Dara and Kevin for showing us such a good time while in McGrath.
Peter, Rose, and Jon for your hospitality and help before and after the race.
Eric; Thanks for being the best "team-mate" anyone could ask for!!!!