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  1. #1
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    Iditarod Trail Invitiational Race/Ride: Start to Flathorn Lake (pics)

    A few of us headed out to the start of the Ididarod bike race. The race goes from Knik Lake in hick-land, Ak to either McGrath or Nome, depending on how much hurt you are in for. Myself and Tim rode out to Flathorn lake from Knik in what ended up being pretty dismal slow trail conditions with soft soupy snow due to snow-machines and warm temps near freezing. We put quite the hurt on ourselves, but luckily a few more of us had ridden out to Flathorn Lake to set up an impromptu checkpoint where we offered the racers beer, cookies and encouragement. High res photos here.













    Yes. That is a foes. Wouldn't be my first choice, but not because it's a foes.




    Some of these were not crazy loaded down. Some of them were 80lbs more more and hard to get out of the truck (we helped).










    Racers/riders starting show up (after the bikes).


    Tim and I heading out. Our ride turned out to be closer to 40 miles, and about 25 was hard fought at around 5mph or less average speed due to soft snow. Speed appears to have picked up after our checkpoint at Flathorn Lake according to the trackers. Soon the racers were doing about twice that speed.






    Greg Matyas of fatback bikes (center) and Greg Sjoquist of QBP bicycle promotion on the right. Greg Sjoquist was kind of upset that we didn't have any "turns" in our "trails" like in Minnesota. There are plenty of turns in this race, but it's something like 350 miles and not a "weave through the forest" kind of ride. Hopefully he gets some time on our trails in Anchorage. Plenty of tight stuff to jam your bars on for days.








    Greg just making sure his pupils aren't dilated.






    We were told there was a bonfire happening. When we got there, no bonfire. We pretended. I brought cookies and peanut butter cups though...everyone brought beer.








    Foes guy


    Advertising


    One of the racers, Clint Hodges. His SO rode out with us to wish him luck.




    Me. Always bring a puffy jacket and mittens for winter drinking:






    On the way back, which sucked only slightly less as far as snow conditions. Flat light made it hard too ride in the tracks of previous riders.


    Few ITI racers headed opposite direction as we headed back to cars.
    Last edited by Jayem; 02-28-2017 at 09:12 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Thanks for bringing some interesting content, looks like fun was had, despite the slog!
    This is a Pugs not some carbon wannabee pretzel wagon!!

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  3. #3
    beer thief
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    The Foes guy is Dan Mutz, for whom the bike is named. He worked with Brent Foes to come up with the design or talked Brent into it, I'm not sure which. Dan is an LBS owner here in NH and specializes in fat bikes. Great guy having an adventure and promoting his brand. He's doing the 130 mile race and looks like 2nd place is his.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for sharing. Great pictures!

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    Good info...Thank you

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    Can you clarify the reason for the re-route after rainy pass.....where they are right now.
    Too much snow through the mountains?

  7. #7
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    It looks like it will be a sprint finish to McGrath! Neil, Tim, and Jay look to be fighting it out!
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  8. #8
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    How is the weather on the route?
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  9. #9
    is buachail foighneach me
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    Good to meet you out there, James. The conditions on the gasline and seismic line were gross. They were a lot better an hour after you and Tim rode out though. Just dark enough for a headlamp to help and temps dropping. I'm guessing the dropping temps are what increased the speeds through the night.

    Some interesting facts in this year's race:

    -There are two Black Sheep fat bikes this year. I've never seen two in one place before. Jim Ishman and Judd Rowher. Judd's bike is the singlespeed pictured above with the awesome flexplate ti 'soft' fork.

    -Also two Meriwether customs. One ridden by Jeny Jo Curiak and one ridden by Pete Basinger.

    -Other manufacturers represented in the field: Fatback*, Salsa*(these two had the most bikes by far), Borealis(probably next most represented brand thanks to Coreco), 9zero7, Specialized, Rocky Mountain, Norco, Framed, Eriksen, Carver, Foes, Muru, LaMere, ??.

    -Twins! Jennifer and Melissa Diedrich. I don't think there have ever been twins in the race before. Pretty sure the last sibling duo was Rocky and Steve Reifenstuhl. Roger and James Leavesly did it as father and son in the same year.

    -Multisport competitors: Pavl Richter has been a fixture in the bike division for several years, including a few top 3 finishes, but is walking this year. Kyle Durand and Lars Danner rode bikes to McGrath last year and have switched to foot this year. Moses Lovstad rode to McGrath last year, walked the year before and is skiing this year. I think Moses will be the first person to use all three modes if he finishes this year. John Logar is once again on bike(fourth last year) after posting some impressive top three finishes on foot in years past. Tim Hewitt, foot division legend and Nome record holder, is back again on bike. Pete Basinger, who has more wins in the bike division than anyone else and has also won the ski division is in the top 5 overall right now on bike.
    Last edited by sean salach; 02-28-2017 at 02:12 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by farleybob View Post
    How is the weather on the route?
    Craig Medred sums up the conditions as of last night pretty well here: https://craigmedred.news/2017/02/28/iditarod-grueling/

    You can visually check weather conditions in a few spots(Skwentna, Puntilla, Rohn, Nikolai, McGrath and beyond) along the route via FAA cams at remote air strips here: FAA Aviation Weather Cameras - Home

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailnimal View Post
    Can you clarify the reason for the re-route after rainy pass.....where they are right now.
    Too much snow through the mountains?
    First, there is no route/reroute. Racers are free to go any way they choose.

    Technically too little. That hasn't stopped Bill Merchant before though. With the dog sled race chickening out once again and moving to Fairbanks, there would be zero traffic through Rainy Pass before the race. Pushing a bike over Rainy Pass and down through the mile + of alders before dealing with finding ice bridges that may or may not support you through a canyon would be silly when you can mostly ride 30 extra miles on a 1 week old trail laid down by 50+ snowmobiles. The Iron Dog always takes the Hell's Gate route, and their tracks are always in, or under new snow as the case may be. Most years there is a trail over Rainy Pass, put in by a combination of Bill Merchant and the other members of Rohn Checkpoint Posse and the Iditarod dog sled race trail breakers.

    The walkers with snowshoes, and the two skiers, might decide that saving 30 miles by putting in their own trail over Rainy Pass is a worthwhile gamble. Danny Powers, the skier, is on narrow racing skis, so I'm guessing he'll opt for Hell's Gate unless runners have already put a trail in. Moses Lovstad is on wider touring/nordic backcountry skis that would be perfect for going over the pass, but his sled would be a hassle in the alders. A lot of the runners who have done the race before might choose Hell's Gate for the novelty of taking a new to them route and seeing a part of the Alaska Range they haven't seen before.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the explanation.

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    Sorry for the thread drift, but why wouldn't the dog race just use the Hell's Gate route as well?
    Latitude 61

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sryanak View Post
    Sorry for the thread drift, but why wouldn't the dog race just use the Hell's Gate route as well?
    Supposedly there's one really short section(about 200 yards long) that's really dangerous on a dog sled. Not sure why they couldn't just go around that, but I've never been there, let alone on the back of sled pulled by 16 amped up dogs. I do know that they normally build benchcut snow banks in sections of the Happy River Steps, trim a mile plus of alders above the Dalzell(and many miles throughout the course) and build snow/ice/branch/sapling bridges across open water in many sections every year. So, either that's not the real reason, or the section in question is really that tricky.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Greg Matyas of 9 Zero 7 bikes (center)
    Jay,
    Greg aka on mtbr "Thirstyworks" is the owner of Speedway and Fatback.
    ptarmigan hardcore

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Co-opski View Post
    Jay,
    Greg aka on mtbr "Thirstyworks" is the owner of Speedway and Fatback.
    Oops! Thanks.


    Now (Monday night), I've finally had time to change it. I always seem to get the two confused no matter how hard I try. Credit where credit is due. Greg is a great guy and supporter of the local scene.
    Last edited by Jayem; 02-28-2017 at 09:36 PM.
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  17. #17
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    The top three, Jay, Tim and Neil, have reached Rohn after 23(for Tim) and 24 hours(Jay and Neil) out in the open. They were facing a 13 knot headwind descending the Kuskokwim this morning, and it looks like the last few miles were unrideable. Pete and Clinton are about 3-4 hours out of Rohn right now. The going looks to be a little easier in Ptarmigan Valley for the ten riders currently in it, so most of them should reach Rohn tonight at some point. Tonight's forecast in Nikolai(@80 trail miles from Rohn, nearest village) is for lows of around -20, 25 mph winds and scattered snow showers. I would expect the valleys around Rohn to be colder, with higher winds. It's going to be a rough night for all of the riders in that stretch right now, and will definitely test their knowledge of how to stay safe and warm in very dangerous weather conditions, while fatigued and in the middle of an enormous, wild place.

  18. #18
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    Craig's update from this morning: https://craigmedred.news/2017/03/01/gang-of-three/

    Jay reached Nikolai first. Looks like Tim and Neil each bivied for an hour or so on the course and are about 6 miles out of the village now. Pete and Clinton are still a similar distance back. Pete rested longer in Rohn, Clinton bivied. They all still appear to be on ride a bit, push a bit conditions. If Jay rests till the other two arrive, it will be tough to keep up with him. If he takes off now, he's going to be tired, but so will they. Jay has a 1-2 hour lead right now, but if the trail is blown in between Nikolai and McGrath, which is appears to be, it's still anyone's race.

    The trail from Puntilla to Rohn appears to be in very difficult condition. Everyone that's made it through has taken 23+ hours to cover those 70 miles, and several racers, including veterans, have started that section and turned back, only to start again a few hours later or the next day. Fred West had a very tough go of it and backtracked to a hunting cabin at one point. His tracker has been stopped by where a member of a film crew is sitting with a plane. Either the tracker is malfunctioning or Fred's race is done. Hopefully he's not injured. Adam Erritzoe made it quite a ways up before turning back and returning to Puntilla. He's out of Rohn now after successfully making it over the pass with Phil Hofstetter and Kevin Breitenbach. John Lackey started that section and turned back twice. The second time with Kara Lackey, who now appears to be staying in Puntilla. Bartosz Skowronski made it all the way to the Pass Creek confluence last night before retreating to Puntilla, where he is probably sleeping right now. There's a pretty big pack of racers making their way through that section right now.

  19. #19
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    -Jay Petervary is on the final stretch from Nikolai to McGrath with about an 11 mile lead on Neil Beltchenko who is also on that stretch and building a gap over Tim Berntson, who is still in Nikolai.

    -Adam Erritzoe tried leaving Rohn and turned back. His tracker has been sitting there ever since.

    -Fred West is riding again! Nearly 16 hours of rest later.

    -Kara Lackey's tracker is still in Puntilla, which puts Jeny Curiak and Melissa Schwarz together at the front of the women's field.

    -John Lackey's tracker is stationary once again, this time in the pass area.

    -Batosz is back on the move for his second go at the pass.

    Hopefully the stomach bug that's been affecting folks further back in the field isn't what's causing issues with those further up.

  20. #20
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    JayP is down to the last 20 miles. He's been averaging over just over 100 miles a day. Freakin' impressive!
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    It looks like Amy Breen is the lead female with Jeny and Melissa sitting in the 2/3 spots. Fun stuff!


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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by farleybob View Post
    It looks like Amy Breen is the lead female with Jeny and Melissa sitting in the 2/3 spots. Fun stuff!


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    Oops! Missed her tracker up there. She's flying!

  23. #23
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    What route did JayP take at some point mid way between Nikolai and Mcgrath? I know there are no mandatory route. But I did not know there were actually any OTHER route to really choose from!

  24. #24
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    Sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't. It's much less commonly traveled, so even seeing a couple of snowmachine tracks headed that way is no guarantee that it will be better than the river. The distance is within a mile either route. The route Jay took leads to the road 9 miles earlier, but noone lives that far out, and the road isn't necessarily going to be plowed. The only other person I've spoken to who has taken that route, years ago, said the road was not plowed that time. It's a risk, but it appears to be one worth taking this year.

  25. #25
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    And Jay is in the House!
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  26. #26
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    Yeah Jay! Hometown hero...
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    And then we eat them."

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by farleybob View Post
    And Jay is in the House!
    Nice job!
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  28. #28
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    Really strong effort by Jay! Well done.

    Neil must've hit a mental or physiological(or both) wall pretty hard between Nikolai and McGrath. Tim managed to somehow get his tire situation rectified and get back on the trail. He came within eyesight of Neil on the second to last stretch of river, caught him at the beginning of the last long stretch of river, and proceeded to make it into McGrath more than an hour ahead of him. I know Neil is no rookie in ultra-endurance, multiday bikepacking, but that's still an impressive showing for a first time ITI competitor, especially one from out of state.

    Amy Breen is hitting the Farewell Burn solo and with a healthy lead in the women's division right now.

    Dave Johnson ran and power hiked the entire 70 mile section from Puntilla to Rohn essentially non-stop. He also did it faster than the lead bikers, who were able to ride maybe 1/3rd of that stretch.

    Philip Hofstetter has a healthy lead in the Nome race. Currently cruising into McGrath with Pete Basinger and Kevin Breitenbach. About 50 miles back, Jay Cable is sleeping in at the Bear Creek shelter cabin with McGrath racers Tom Moran and Dan Lockery. If he doesn't hurry up, Tim Hewitt is going to catch him.

    Currently 22 racers on the stretch between Puntilla and Rohn. Maybe 23. John Lackey's tracker has stopped working, but I'm pretty sure he's beyond Rohn by now.
    Last edited by sean salach; 03-02-2017 at 12:05 PM.

  29. #29
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    Thanks for the updates Sean.

  30. #30
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    Sean, Was the route following the river in to McGrath more difficult than the route Jay took? I was wondering as I watched Neil's progress if he had a tougher trail?
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  31. #31
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    I would say yes, this year. Sounds like the river was drifting in repeatedly. Tim still looked strong on that section, and he walked a bunch of the river miles. Jay appeared to have been able to ride almost all of the alternate route, covering Nikolai to McGrath about an hour faster than Tim. It's possible Tim was running higher that optimal pressure to keep from flatting again though, which would slow you down quite a bit on a marginal trail. The river would have also been a little bit colder.


    Most of the alternate routes available are in the first 35 miles. After that, the order of the checkpoints makes it unlikely to find a faster route. There are a couple of dangerous alternate options out of Rohn, on the river, but as far as I know, no one has successfully used them. In 2007, when everyone else went through Hell's Gate, several foot division racers snowshoed in their own trail over Rainy Pass. From the Susitna River to that area after Puntilla, the main trail already takes the most direct route possible in almost all circumstances. Only way you might be able to improve on that route is if there were a bomber crust on top of deep, alder burying snow the whole way, at which point you could straighten out a lot of it.

  32. #32
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    Great info, Thanks for the insight!


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  33. #33
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    Clinton Hodges is in! His second finish. 3rd last year, 4th this year.

  34. #34
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    John Lackey is confirmed out of Rohn.

    Pete and Kevin are taking the alternate route into McGrath, Phil is taking the river. They all got there at the same time. Pete used to live in McGrath and knows both routes well. Maybe they decided to split and see which one is faster? Maybe Pete and Kevin got there a few minutes ahead of Phil then their tracks were erased by a snowmobile, leaving only Tim's, Neil's and Clinton's tracks visible on the river route? Either way, the three of them have been traveling at a similar pace the whole race, so this should confirm how much slower the river is this year.

  35. #35
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    Pete and Kevin have both arrived in McGrath and Phil is at least 3 hours out. Safe to say the alternate route is much faster this year.

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    With only 5 hours to the cutoff, the Puntilla party is over.
    That only leaves 29 hours for them to complete Hells Gate, rest and leave Rohn.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailnimal View Post
    With only 5 hours to the cutoff, the Puntilla party is over.
    That only leaves 29 hours for them to complete Hells Gate, rest and leave Rohn.
    That might not be achievable at the pace the last group is setting. That said, missing the Rohn cutoff, specifically Rohn, does not mean a DQ. At least it didn't in year's past. I think missing the cutoff at all of the other checkpoints is a DQ. You'll still be allowed to continue, but you're on your own. In a usual year, it means you won't have shelter there as the dog sled race will be in full force and the shelter cabin will be packed to the brim. Your drop bag may or may not still be there. This year, with no other big events happening on the trail, they'll likely have the cabin to themselves.

  38. #38
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    John Lackey finished in McGrath last night.

    Amy Breen is on the home stretch and crushing it.

    Looks like Phil Hofstetter might not be continuing on to Nome. That puts Jay Cable in second place for Nome racers at this point. He'll likely be arriving in McGrath before his fellow Fairbanksianiter, and current Nome race leader, Kevin Breitenbach leaves McGrath.

    Dave Johnson has once again run straight through the night from Rohn and is approaching Nikolai. That's more than 70 miles, non stop, this late in the race. He's running in negative thirty farenheit temps. Dave is a beast.

    The scratches are stacking up. Cold temps and high wind have wreaked havoc on the field.

    The tail end of the race is in the pass area now and should be in Rohn some time tomorrow.

  39. #39
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    What happened with Kara Lackey? I think she was the first female in to Puntilla?


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  40. #40
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    Temps and wind. The pass includes about 30 miles with no trees. Best hope for a wind break is a cornice, which isn't the best wind break, since you often are getting sprinkled with wind driven snow the entire time. With extremely high winds and very cold temps, the pass area was a real test this year. Anyone that headed up there and made it through was extremely competent in that type of situation and/or dumb but lucky. The dumb but lucky ones will now be able to claim a degree of competence. I turned back in similar conditions in 2009. The wind died down two days later and I continued on with two other racers, sticking together through it. The wind was not showing any signs of abating this time.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean salach View Post
    .....
    Looks like Phil Hofstetter might not be continuing on to Nome. That puts Jay Cable in second place for Nome racers at this point. He'll likely be arriving in McGrath before his fellow Fairbanksianiter, and current Nome race leader, Kevin Breitenbach leaves McGrath. .....

    I was wrong. Kevin has depart McGrath on his way to Nome!

  42. #42
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    That sounds like a difficult test for the racers this year! There should be some good stories of everyone's experiences getting over the pass.


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    Two walkers, a skier and a fat biker at the tail of the race have turned around and are heading back to Puntilla. Probably safe to assume they're scratching. That will drive the scratch number up to 28.

  44. #44
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    Winds have been howling in the Alaska Range (and south) the last few days. Huge plumes of snow visible as the wind is scraping the mountain sides in the clear cold high pressure air. Flew up to Talkeetna and back yesterday and had a massive tailwind coming back.
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  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean salach View Post
    Two walkers, a skier and a fat biker at the tail of the race have turned around and are heading back to Puntilla. Probably safe to assume they're scratching. That will drive the scratch number up to 28.
    Yep, quoting myself....

    Marianne Heading, Mike Thomas and Moses Lovstad appear to be familiar with the mantra, "Don't scratch before sleeping!". 5 racers departed Puntilla pretty much together. 4 racers returned to Puntilla. One scratched, those three have not accepted scratching yet. Their trackers are still active. The one rider that left Puntilla with them, but continued after they turned back, is bivied right about where the trees start in the pass area. He made reasonably good time to that point. I can certainly understand scratching this year, as those are extreme conditions, but I'm holding out hope that they still have a little bit of fire burning in them to give it another shot. They won't make the Rohn 'cut off'. They might not make the McGrath cut off. But they showed up for the challenge and the experience. Meeting deadlines is secondary.

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    Craig Bullen...keeps going as everyone decides to head back. Now alone for an almost 50 mile stretch to Rohn...he has bivied up for over 10 Hours... that's not typical...I hope that means he is comfortable and getting good rest.

    and then the story about Cody falling in the water.....now if he employed the technique @Mikesee has to encapsulate the insulation of the boot....may have been better off....scary situation....hopeless of you loose it mentally.

  47. #47
    is buachail foighneach me
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    Craig Bullen's got gusto heading out into that section alone.

    Amy Breen cruised to victory in the women's race yesterday afternoon.

    Dave Johnson ran through the night again, from Nikolai, and is on the last couple of miles of road into McGrath right now.

    Plastic shopping bags can come in handy in a lot of situations out on the trail. Wet boots is one of them. Put the shopping bags on over your dry socks to keep the boots from soaking them. Not a long term solution, as you'll soak the socks with sweat, but enough to get you a few hours down the trail.

    Lot's of racers with frost bite this year, both before, in the pass section, and after.

  48. #48
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean salach View Post
    Craig Bullen's got gusto heading out into that section alone.

    Amy Breen cruised to victory in the women's race yesterday afternoon.

    Dave Johnson ran through the night again, from Nikolai, and is on the last couple of miles of road into McGrath right now.

    Plastic shopping bags can come in handy in a lot of situations out on the trail. Wet boots is one of them. Put the shopping bags on over your dry socks to keep the boots from soaking them. Not a long term solution, as you'll soak the socks with sweat, but enough to get you a few hours down the trail.

    Lot's of racers with frost bite this year, both before, in the pass section, and after.
    Do people bring (extra) dry socks? Keeping the feet and hand warm is my number one concern.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  49. #49
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    Rohn is empty...but now Craig is going to roll in. .....lets hope the volunteers have enough in themselves to rest him up!

  50. #50
    is buachail foighneach me
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Do people bring (extra) dry socks? Keeping the feet and hand warm is my number one concern.
    Most do. Especially after Jill's mishap in 2009. I used to bring two spare pairs of different weight warm socks and a couple of pairs of extra liner socks. Really minimal weight penalty for a lot of extra comfort and safety.

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