Friday, February 18, 2011

Over the cliff

Last night was the pre-race meeting and gear check. If there was any residual question that Susitna requires a significant more preparation than your standard 100-miler, they were answered there. Giving a credit card to cover potential evacuation costs, showing your sleeping bag was rated for at least 20-below, having your 3000 emergency calories examined and then weighing your minimal gear to assure it was over 15-lbs, went well beyond the standard "sign your name and pick up your bib" requirement of most pre-race check-ins.

Gear check
Once the laborious registration process was complete, it was time for the RD presentation. A self-described pessimist, his deliver of the weather forecast was somewhat ominous. Apparently, a storm was moving in and expected to dump a large load of snow that night and all day Friday. His expectations of what this meant for the race were presented quite dryly in his initial slide.

  While most people took this omen with a grain of salt, the weather turned out to live up to expectations.

At least 4" dropped overnight and it snowed throughout the day

I had initially thought the race began on Friday. Luckily, this was wrong and, in retrospect, it couldn't have been otherwise. Friday before Susitna is reserved for all the necessary last-minute activities including shopping for important necessities such as better gaiters, vacillating back and forth on whether to bring the snowshoes or not (they're coming), experiencing all of the varying shades and subtleties of the stages of panic, and, most important of all, making all of the final preparations to your sled and gear set-up. This last, took most of the afternoon.

In the end, our sleds could not possibly have looked more distinct from one another. Each one expressing, perhaps not so much our individual personalities, but certainly our approach to preparing for this race.

Beat's Sled: The Craftsman
Beat experimented with a number of different designs for his sled coming up with his own unique ideas on what constituted a good approach and building it himself by hand. His final version was tweaked based on his training. It rides a bit high, but he assures that it is both stable and low friction. It certainly demonstrates the care he put into both the conception and construction.
Bike handlebars and kids skiis - who'd of thought?

Jill's Sled: The Pro
Jill's sled is not only race proven, but has actually won this race and still holds the course record in the foot division. It's only fitting that the one of us with the most experience both with racing in Alaska and with Susitna  specifically should be trailing this beauty. While this is Jill's first time tackling the race on foot, none would ever guess based on the slick cart that will be following her every move.
A sled built for speed

Danni's Sled: Psychedelic Snow Blower
While the design is one of the most common, consisting of the same kids toboggan and ropes-through-PVC poles that I will be utilizing, Danni put her own unique touch on this classic. A trip to the craft store and some creative use of Velcro took it from basic to beautiful. 1968 may have been the summer of love, but for Danni's sled, 2011 is the winter of love.
She called it The Clown design: it's certainly the most fun!

My Sled: Homebrew
While I purchased the standard kit from the race, I put the pieces together myself and experimented with a few different options. Yes its raw, sure it looks thrown together and held up by plastic and bungee cords, but, like a first experimental batch of beer, it will get the job done. I think.
Duffel, straps, some plastic, what more do you need?
Pimpin' that Brooks logo!

After admiring our handiwork, we took our loads out for test spins along the street.

Beat with a big grin
Danni strikes a pose
Jill going for broke

Finally, a last parting shot of all four of us. Next photo I take will be at the start.
Here we go!

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