head lamp

Waking up in the morning and get ready to hit the trail in the wee hours. A great shot from Wilco van den Akker.

BEAN2
Refueling on the trail en route to Puntilla Lake and Rainy Pass. By Frank Jans

I would like to thank Bean Around the World coffee and Pete Boeda who without anything in return donated heaps of coffee and schwag in support of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Invitational race.

I put the beans in my trailmix and enjoyed some cowboy coffee on the trail but best of all, they shipped bags of coffee to the home of Peter & Tracy Schneiderheinze – hosts of the 350 mile finish line – for everyone to enjoy upon finishing. Thanks guys!

tripod flat cabin

Taking note of the history that has taken refuge here through the years. The Tripod Flats safety cabin is a living archive for past adventures and a memorial to decades of sweaty socks and dehydrated meals.

elim house
Nice views – Andy Heading taking a little shelter an abandoned home in “old” Elim en route to the new and improved Elim

sled dogs
An Iditarod sled dog team approaches the sea ice crossing at Norton Sound.

At times we looked like aliens on this terrain, contrasted with the mushers and their teams floating across the landscape.

nowhere
Out there, somewhere, in the middle of nowhere. — with Andy Heading.

Our memory crushes time and distance down like pop can underfoot. Many of the sections just become a blur.

doggie
A sled dog gets some well earned lovin’ from a fan at the finish line in Nome, Alaska.

In an era where its harder and harder to get up close and personal with sports stars, the Iditarod fans can still be hands on with the prized athletes.

bullwinkle
(The new) Old Woman’s Cabin along the portage between Kaltag and Unalakleet. One of the more iconic safety cabins on the trail.

Perhaps an adventure fat bike race is no place for romantics. I would argue that in particular, the Iditarod Trail Invitational is in fact an idyllic place for such sentimentalists. For me all of its nuances are what make this race special. Experiencing the history, written on the walls of the safety cabins and wafting in the air from the wood burning stoves was worth every mile pedaled.

The Check

pov

In moments of weakness I would break from my inner state of numb oblivion to the interstate of ice and snow in front of me. At times, this numb oblivion was an almost ideal condition, especially when traveling over long, unchanging sections of trail. This sort of reverse focus would blur the edges of time and distance. Like a drug induced stupor I could float innocuously along the frozen track. But like any high it would inevitably collapse into reality. Without mercy or cause, my mind would turn its attention to the situation at hand. At feet, at toes, at neck at back at legs and worst of all the ass. Only moments ago I was in a perfect symbiotic state of unconscious tranquility. Now I was inexplicably present and everything was suddenly wrong. The seat felt hard, clearly a design flaw. The tires deflated, were they flat? The bike was weighted. I must be carrying to much gear, too much food. My right knee clicked like an old and rusty hinge. My toes were cold. Where the hell was I? Why am I doing this? The flood gates of thought burst like a dam. In the deafening silence of the night in this remote place my mind was screaming irrationally.

Thankfully, my defense system was never completely compromised. Reason, will, determination or the shame of self-pity slapped me across the face. That, or a very real blast of cold wind. I regained my senses or at least temporarily pacified them like a hit of morphine. I did the check. What was actually wrong? Nothing really. I wasn’t dangerously cold. I had water. I had food. I was moving. I wasn’t sick or truly injured. The weather and trail conditions could be in worse shape. So could my situation. My life wasn’t threatened. I was here, doing what I needed to do and I was loving it. Or I would at least convince myself of that for the time being. I knew I would love it again, that I would make up with my present circumstances and return to cohabiting bliss. I was in the middle of Alaska, in the middle of winter, on a bike, on the Iditarod Trail. Fuck ya’. Nothing could possibly be wrong. I shifted my weight in the saddle, realigned my posture, loosened the shoulders and peacefully slipped back into my numb oblivion. At least, for now.

light streak
Floating through the night in a dreamlike state.

Sometimes moving along the trail felt like an out of body experience. So much of the time was spent in the mind. Especially in the darkness, when the world was reduced to a small illuminated globe – projected from the headlamp – orbiting in this giant universe of Alaska. Iditarod Trail Invitational