Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Daylight savings time coincided with my return from Alaska making my time adjustment just a wee bit more difficult. However, with the time shift comes later sunset making after-work trail running an option once again. It's been over a week since I finished the 350 miles on foot and my legs seemed to finally shake that "dead" feeling that had settled into them. I figured getting out on the trail for a little shake down would be good and it was about time to assess how my body was recovering. For most of us, long distance sled-dragging is not a running sport. In fact, other than on a few of the downhills and part of the final road, I hadn't run a step. I had images in my head of bounding easily over dirt, unfettered by harness and heavy gear. Still, I would take it easy.

I had planned just a short stint through Huddart Park to Phleger and back. In the first mile my legs felt tired, the bottom of my feet hurt, my left ankle winged, my right knee ached, my hip nagged and, despite being at my lowest weight since PTL, I felt like a lumbering oaf plodding down the trail. It was amazing how unnatural and gimpy I felt. Eventually, I eased into it. The aching dulled and I stopped feeling like I was going to roll my ankle. It was almost 70 degrees out. The trail was soft, the ferns lush and the creek bubbling beneath the tall redwoods. I reminded myself that my slow pace was still probably twice as fast as I ever moved during the race. However, it did mean that the daylight which had driven me out there was waning on my return. Combined with running beneath the canopy, this turned my final couple miles int a shuffle in the dark back to my car.

All in all, it was a good run.


I have actually started on my ITI race report. In order to keep it from becoming the epic to end all epics and taking two years to complete, I have decided to distill it down to just the storied highlights (and a few lowlights). I am actually trying something new and I already have an outline in draft format. I just have to conjure up the prose to fill in the details and intersperse pictures here and there.

On that note, I have my pictures uploaded to Picasa and publicly view-able. If you want to look at the raw, and sometimes ugly, unfiltered photos the album is here:

ITI 2013

Also, I have uploaded my full GPX track from the race captured via the Garmin eTrex 30. I edited out some a few failures of backtracking and wandering on the trail (i.e. Nikolai in the morning). I also cleared up all the most gross cases of GPS bounce that occurred while I was stopped. Other than that, it is pretty much the course as I followed it even though I was off the main trail a few times. Given that the Iditarod trail exists only in winter and covers many rivers, lakes and swamps this is pretty much as accurate as anything you will find. You will notice that the full track is almost exactly 300 miles long (i.e. not 350). Take that for what it is. Again, the Iditarod is not a "real" trail, and races that "follow" it take the shortest route feasible to cover the particular distance.

The full thing is quite large with almost 20,000 track points. I also made a simplified version with 10% of the points in it. The waypoints I had for checkpoints and other significant trail locations are in a separate file also linked below. However, I haven't gone in and corrected some of those so some of the places are not quite correct such as the Shell Lake Lodge and the Skwentna Roadhouse. They are however, exactly what I had to work with while doing the race :-).


Friday, March 08, 2013


Despite the pithy tone of my last post, the true reasons for tackling something like the Iditarod Trail Invitational are a bit more elusive and much more personal. Without diving into some sort of psychological self-analysis, it's difficult to discuss the forces that drive me to take on such things. However, I can try to explain some of the feelings that come out of the undertaking, the lingering effects or "what I get out of it" -- so to speak.

When hearing of these types of races, I think that all most people see is the difficulty. Certainly, the raw physical and mental challenge is an important aspect, but it has to offer more to me than that. I tend to be turned off by events that are mainly just about a specific difficult challenge (i.e. timed events). Also, if a race feels like it has been made hard just for the sake of being hard, I find it detracts from the experience. For me, something intrinsic about the event itself has to capture my imagination in some way, to provide an experience that is both unique and compelling. It has to offer the possibility for a sense of fulfillment. 350 miles on the Iditarod trail seems to have done just that.

I will write more about the race itself. I've stories in my head to sort through and many photos to upload and organize. Right now, though, I am still engulfed in absorbing the experience. Going from running 100-mile trail races to 200-mile treks through The Alps to, now, a 350-mile "sludge" across frozen Alaska, may seem like the unending pursuit of ever longer and harder events, but that's not the perspective I have.  For me, the specific events themselves are self-contained experiences that leave a lasting impression on my psyche. Each one, a place to which I can return again and again as a source of inspiration.

I'm sure even some of my closest friends may find it hard to believe when I say I've always believed that, at some point, one of these experience will turn out to be "enough". That's not to say, I'd be done with trail running or give up long, multi-day treks. It just means that I won't be driven to find something bigger, harder or "more" than what I've already accomplished. It seem to me that the unbounded pursuit of ever more difficult challenges can only end in a breaking point and I'm not really interested in finding where that is. I respect, admire and even, to an extent, understand those who are compelled to such a path. But, personally, I like the feeling of satisfaction that comes at the completion of an event with nothing more on the horizon than rest, recovery and reflection. If I can make that sense of completeness last, I'll embrace it as long as possible.

So, to the inevitable question that's been asked as to whether I'll go on to Nome "next time", I have to say, right now, the answer is "not any time soon." Though I think it unlikely that I won't want to, at least, return and repeat this event some time in the future. For the time being, walking the 350 miles to McGrath, the time spent alone on the trail, the hospitality of the lodges, the sanctuary of the checkpoints and people opening up their homes in the Alaskan bush, have all provided so much fuel for thought and imagination that I don't find myself wanting more. The part of me that needs these things is presently fulfilled.

It is enough.