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  1. #1
    Beware of Doggerel
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    Iditarod thoughts and photos

    It's taken me a while to go through my photos and write this up.
    All I remember about this years Iditarod Trail Invitational is the 20hrs between Puntilla and Rohn. I remember the pass, with bits and pieces of memories before and after the pass.

    Here’s what happened before the pass:

    At the start we, the racers, had fresh snow. The cyclists pushed across Knik Lake but once we hit the trees everyone was off and pedaling. The trail was good, firm and fun. The trip up river to Luces was quick. At Luces I ate, put on some warm clothes, and then headed up river. The river felt unusually cold. Even though the drinking tube from my camelback was nestled in my clothes next to my body, it froze solid. This part of my ride was uneventful, but cold. I took a 4hr detour, but lots of folks took wrong turns in this part of the race so it all worked out. It just threw off my early rest cycle a bit.

    The next checkpoint was Skwentna roadhouse. I got to Skwentna, had breakfast with some snowmachiners, dried my gear, laid down for a little bit and then left as the next group of racers came into the checkpoint.

    Skwentna to Fingerlake was a highway. The Shell Hills rolled away. And the trail from Shell to finger was hard and fast. Last year I walked this section. It took forever. This year the good trail made me want to ride faster and faster. I don’t think I walked an inch this year. It wasn’t just good it was self perpetuating. Every bit I rode made me want to ride the next bit, every time I went a little faster, it made me want more. It was good. It was fast. I got to Fingerlake had a great meal, slept and then overslept.

    As I left Fingerlake, headed to the next checkpoint, Puntilla, the combination of oversleeping and wasting 4hrs in the beginning of the race started to get me down. I made up as much time as I could by riding hills that I would normally walk. Again the trail rolled away fast and easy. Eventually I realized that in a race like this there are far, far worse things than oversleeping. Was I really upset about getting too much rest? Is it even possible to get too much rest on the iditarod trail? I had make a conscious effort to put these thoughts out of my mind. It was a nice day, all sun shiny and hard trailed, so I enjoyed it. I didn’t want to ge bogged down in random mental detritus.

    Last year, between Finger and Puntilla, I found a fig newton, just lying in the trail. I picked it up, popped it in my mouth and ate it before I could think: “What’s a fig newton doing lying in the trail?” or even “Am I sure that’s a fig newton?”. The year before that I found an unopened can of beer and an unopened bottle of Yukon Jack on the side of the trail in the Susitna 100. I thought about that fig newton, and kept an eye out for other bits of trail food.

    I got to Rainy Pass Lodge, took a brief stop, which became progressively less brief after I gave in to the “temptation of the checkpoint”. That is I got chatting with other racers as they came in instead of heading out the door. I left for Rainy Pass at midnight, in a storm.

    Here’s what happened on the pass:

    The first bit of the approach to the pass is mindless. All you have to do is follow these huge tripod markers. Ya’ can’t miss it. Unless of course, there is cold wind blowing and the trail is drifted in, then anything can happen. The wind picked up and beat me like Ike beat Tina. I couldn’t always see the trail but I knew when I was off it because I would sink up to my thigh, or hips. I spent a good amount of time route finding, wallowing and wandering. The wind got harder and colder. When I stumbled it knocked me down. There was no where to stop. But, I felt good, so I didn’t need to stop and I didn’t want to stop. The cold was amazing. In fact the wind didn’t even feel cold it felt hot and would burn any exposed skin like fire.

    During the pass crossing I thought about Bill Bryson. In my first draft of this account I put a long section here about my thoughts. But, I think all that needs to be said is that Bill’s suicide hit me like a punch in the face and I think about him whenever I’m alone and things are quiet, which isn’t often. There were lots of quiet alone times on the pass. In the end, what I took from all this is to always enjoy everything, even if I have to stop and consciously think “What is good and fun here?”. Some people don’t enjoy much and the world has no mercy on these people, it just closes in and crushes them. Here is a web link to an ADN story about Bill, if your curious about who he was.
    http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story...-7264604c.html

    The actual pass went by quickly. I snapped a few pictures and started heading down the back side. I wanted to cover as much ground as I could before I lost the daylight.

    Once I started down I felt a little tired and I relaxed a bit, sorta like I’d just stepped off a roller coaster. Then I came to the spot where an avalanche swallowed Richard Strick on 2-14-06. The spot is marked with a moderately sized cross made of sticks lashed together with parachute chord. The arms of the cross have Strick’s name and dates written on the bare wood with a sharpie marker. The head of the cross reads “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. There’s a button with a picture of the Rohn Roadhouse in the middle. The cross is on the left edge of the trail. All around are avalanche debris and the obvious signs of a search. It was overwhelming.

    Eventually I made it down to the flat lands and started rolling the last miles toward Rohn. The sunset did its thing and the weather turned dark and cold. Coming into Rohn was relatively uneventful. I dunked my bike, feet and gear in a slushy creek crossing and froze the rear derailleur into my lowest gear. I noticed that the slushy water froze before soaking into my pants or shoes.

    I can’t really describe how special crossing rainy pass during a storm in the middle of the night was for me. It was magical. A few years ago when I started doing things like this, with the Soggy Bottom 100, I was describing the experience to some friends. Now, these friends are east coast artfuly types who “feel” things when they experience art, music or nature. They are good and special friends of mine, but over the years our lives have charted different courses. Back in the day I always had a unique capacity for making fart jokes during the most serious and serene of moments. I never quite “got it” when everyone else would “feel” stuff. In trying to describe being alone and exhusted in the wilderness to these guys I called the experience a “spiritual jackhammer”. In other words “I get it now” but it took a lot. Being out there alone in extreme conditions makes me take life, myself and my place in the world seriously. It quiets all the noise and lets me think, focus and relax. My mind wanders and thinks big thoughts out there. The kind of thoughts that could either be a gift or a burden if you thought them everyday. In fact if a person was in this mindset every day they would, move to the south of France and paint sunflowers, or move somewhere secluded in New England and write poetry about falling snow, or if all else failed they could go hang with my buddies in New York. It’s special out there and it’s magic and I can’t tell you about it because I’m not able to put the words together.

    And here’s what happened after the pass:

    After the pass I had done all my deep thinking for the year and I was now able to get back to focusing on making fart jokes.

    Two bicyclists Pierre Oster and Roc Kovac came in a few hours behind me, despite starting almost 8 hours after I did. I slept good and hard that night.

    Rohn was cold. The next morning I stayed in my bag and waited for it to “warm up” to 18 below before trying to move out. At Rohn I heard about all the racers dropping out, so I rode much more conservatively from there on. I made sure to sleep and eat as much as I needed to keep myself strong and motivated. I also picked up two traveling companions in Pierre and Roc. It was good to have a couple other folks to decompress with at the checkpoints and to chat with from time to time, on the trail.

    I spend most of my time training alone, riding the tail alone, camping alone, or just mindlessly riding the trainer in front of the TV (alone). I spend alone time in my cluttered garage, or “man cave” as my wife calls it, looking at tools and fiddling with gear. I think its this way for a lot of the racers. This year there were about 40 racers from 10 different countries. I imagine we all had similar experiences preparing for the race, and explaining why this stuff is fun to our friends and families, then POW on February 25 we find ourselves on a trail with 40 other folks who think this sort of fun is a good idea. You just can’t shut us up sometimes. All us solitary catipillers turn into social butterflies when the race starts. Racing butterflies.

    Anyway I don’t know what to say about the farewell burn. It’s flat, except for the hills and generally open except for the bits in the trees. It’s just there and we all moved through it. I let my mind wander during this stretch, then I started thinking about food. Then I got the song “Squeeze me Macaroni” by Mr. Bungle stuck in my head. Then “Egg” by the same band. I was hungry and for better or worse I had hit the “weird food songs” button on my mind’s jukebox.

    In Nikolai I had a big dinner a good nights sleep and a big breakfast, then I pushed my bike the last 50 miles to McGrath. In the last 10 miles I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. It was good.

    Below are a sampling from the 163 photos I took on the trip they are:
    1) Is about 6 or 7 miles from the start on day one
    2) Sunset on day one (I think)
    3) Happy valley between Finger Lake and Puntilla
    4)Self portrait taken sometime during my rainy pass crossing
    5)Avalanche debris on the trail approaching Rainy Pass
    6)Still going up toward the Pass
    7)My bike leaned up against where the marker for Rainy Pass should be
    8)The Rhon Iditarod checkpoint
    9)My bike on the bridge over sullivan creek in the farewell burn, you can get water here
    10)A birch forest in the burn
    11) I'm not sure if this is the burn or from the last day crossing swamps in the last 50 miles.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  2. #2
    Wood chips are stupid
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    Hey Adam

    Only two pics posted dude. Good read though.
    Ride tomorrow afternoon?

    akdeluxe
    "Trust me,you don't want a big baby."

    JT

  3. #3
    Beware of Doggerel
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    I only see one picture on the post above but the little thingy tells me five are attached. I'll try and post the pics tomorrow night. I'm going to bed.

    Adam
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  4. #4
    Beware of Doggerel
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    Photos

    Photos are here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/87914901@N00/

    I couldn't get the MTBR thing to work

    enjoy.

    Adam
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  5. #5
    No, that's not phonetic
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    Absolutely brilliant write-up. Thank you.
    My video techniques can be found in this thread.

  6. #6
    This place needs an enema
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    Thanks Adam--for telling it like it is, and for telling it like it was. Also for giving us an inkling of where you 'went' while out there.

    See ya in a few weeks.

    MC

  7. #7
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    Nice story Adam.It was cool to share a very small part of the trail with you.In 04 Alan Tilling and myself struggled to find the trail leading to the pass,going up the pass and pretty much going down.We kept sinking, hauling our bikes forward and generally hating Bill merchant....of course it was all his fault.

    Did you get any pics of the Mcgrath leper colony????

    Carl

  8. #8
    Beware of Doggerel
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    Correction

    Pierre Ostor's name is spelled Ostor NOT Oster as I spelled it above. Very sorry I hate it when I do stuff like that. I thought I could edit the post but haven't been able to bring up the "edit" button when I log on so this is the best I can do for now.

    TS:
    Glad you enjoyed it.

    MC:
    It took a little effort to put all this down. I don't think I could have last year, it seemed too big.

    Carl:
    Good times on the trail I forgot to put in the bit about my rear brake freezing and having to take the whole thing off my bike to thaw over the stove in puntilla. No leper shots from McGrath. How's your toe?

    Adam
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  9. #9
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    thank you

    Thank you for writing some thoughts down. Your adventure helps inspire the rest of us staring at gear in our "man caves".

  10. #10
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    Adam
    Toe is healing fine.After a week i could do most anything without to much hassle hence the glacier rides and i went snowboarding.
    Hope to see you next year.

  11. #11
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    There are also some images and notes on the UltraSport event at the Park Tool site.
    See http://www.parktool.com/whatsnew/rea...toolnews&id=35

  12. #12
    Caveman
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    Mr. Bungle

    Oh my god, Somebody else I know Listens to Mr. Bungle.
    I just had a similar incidence last week where I couldent get ¨my ass is on Fire¨ out of my head! Great write up Adam, really thanks for sharing man.
    See you soon
    Eric

  13. #13
    Beware of Doggerel
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    Bungleriffic

    Heck yeah, great band I've been listening the "Disco Volante" album lately (like on this morning's commute), that one took a bit to grown on me, still love the first Album too.

    Check out "secret chiefs 3" its the guys from bungle minus the vocals. Really interesting stuff, they even have an album ("Book M")of middle eastern music.

    How the hell did you get "My ass is on fire" stuck in your head? That song has no "sticky bits". It must be strange out there in the south land. If you like that song check out "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum", I stumbled onto SGM because I am a fan of some of the fiddle player's work (folksy jazzy classical stuff) so I checked out SGM and um.. well.. that band scares the crap out of me, not at all what I expected. I thought about the SGM tune "Sleep is Wrong" during the race but I can't really say that it was in my head (thank God).

    See ya when you get back in town

    Adam
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

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