Friday, February 18, 2011
The Siamese twins of trepidation and anticipation finally made their appearance as they’re apt to do before the start of a new adventure. Staring at the array of equipment strewn across my living room floor–10,000 calories of food, a sleeping system sufficient to survive at 40-below, clothing comprising a dozen different layering options, satellite tracker, GPS watches, med kit, various tools, and supplies including those needed to attach it all to a sled that will be dragged across the snow for 100 miles–the realization was finally sinking in. Fear and excitement continued to grow as I busily stuffed the bulk of my gear into a duffel and then packed it all into an even larger duffel for the next morning’s flight. When I’d finally convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly need anything more for this race and, in truth, that I’d already packed far too much, I grab one last article of clothing and shove it into the bag. When all is done, I reflect on the reason those seemingly apposing emotions are sprung from the same seed: the feeling I’ve no idea what I’m doing.
A decade and a half ago I switched my main pass-time from mountain biking to running due, in part, to the greater simplicity and reduced gear required of the sport. Since I didn’t participate in really long-distance events at the time, that notion seems a bit silly right now. However, the idea of expedition-style rides had always held a an attraction. I remember reading about an event called the Iditabike and seeing pictures of the hardened men and women facing the Alaskan winter along the famed Iditarod Trail on specialized snow bikes equipped with double-wide tires and loaded to the hilt with gear. It seemed such a romantic idea and totally out of reach at the time. Years later as I’d gotten into trail and then ultra-distance running, I remember watching “Running on the Sun”, the documentary about the Badwater 135 race. I was fascinated by the idea of an extreme event made even more so by the very conditions in which its run, but the combination of running on roads and the excruciating heat just wasn’t my thing. I remember thinking, and perhaps even verbalizing, “I’d rather do that race up in Alaska.”
Susitna has been on my short list of “must do” 100-milers for a while, but one that I always kept as “in the future.” However, it took but a mere suggestion from Beat for me to sign up. I didn’t give it much more thought until winter rolled around. My running hit its normal seasonal low; more so this year due to a heavy work schedule and some hectic situations at home. I’ve tried to hit the snow as much as possible, but the weather hasn’t always contributed. I’ve done my homework on gear and tactics, but having no experience with sub-0 temperatures, how prepared can I really be? I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that a guy who’s grown up in the warm embrace of California’s temperate climate has no business attempting a winter race in Alaska. Then again, if I only attempted that which I knew I could complete then what would I be doing in this sport in the first place.
So, undertrained, unprepared and over-packed, standing on the verge of a new adventure, I head north.