Wednesday, 6 May 2015
There isn't a day that goes by, I don't think about the Iditarod trail.
It will never leave me.
Other people who've spent time on the trail know this feeling.
So I sit here in my kitchen eating instant noodles in a foam cup, not wanting to unpack my bike, as if to preserve that precious feeling of pre-departure - it becomes this speed bump of memories in my gear room, where I'm forced to slow down, forget what I went in there for and slump in the futon, to dream of the trail.
Dream with me for a moment.
It's quiet - no, it's absolutely silent. The air is cold, fresh and utterly pure. You are warm and dry. Surrounded by snow laden spruce and a pillowed carpet of the whitest and deepest marshmallow snow. The tall, white capped mountains have been at your side for many hours, you're aware of a path you've been following but the importance of exactly where you are on it has faded. Not lost, just lost in the moment and savouring the vista, wishing time would paradoxically slow, in contrast to speed.
Or, it's the deepest of dark nights. Light whisperings of the aurora borealis shimmer overhead, as you roll over a polished surface of onyx, with barely a mark to guide your wandering mind. Your motion is fluid, moves are calculated and precisely controlled, yet adrenaline is battling logic to drive you forward. You can hear the dark, yawning presence of open water to your right, the depth and speed of which seems to swallow the very light you shine towards it. The onyx beneath your tyre cracks, yet does not yield a chasm to engulf you, whilst your adrenal glands fire another round to pummel your stress ridden body.
Alaska is a rich depository of these beautiful and deadly contrasts, I am eager to return.
It has a profound effect on you, in many ways. A deeper understanding and respect for wild places; how complicated modern living can be; and forging lifelong friendships through shared hardship.
I covered a lot about my plans for the race in this article: Me, myself and Iditarod, so no need to rehash here. In short I went into the race with a primary focus to complete, to race solo and bivvy each night with no support, in any weather condition. What I discovered - in vivid contrast to my plan, was a camaraderie on the trail - an ITI family - and a constantly evolving path that forces you to adapt and remain flexible in your strategy to achieve your goal.
When I crossed that finish line in McGrath, I had achieved something not just for myself - it was also an inspirational and vicarious achievement for family and friends back home who supported me. I thought of my mate Russell Worthington, whose attempt to be the first Aussie finisher in this great race, was thwarted by severe weather and hub mechanicals in 2012, a heavy weather year where over half of the race field scratched. I deem Russell a far tougher and experienced adventurer than I. Respect.
I also received support from companies in the form of product to use on the trail. I chose these products long before sponsorship was offered - these products were chosen due to their high quality and suitability for this event. Those that know me, will know my pragmatic approach to gear and know that my approval has to be earned and not given lightly.
I hope you enjoy the race report and trail stories, the photos and the tech articles. The humour - oh the humour - things that only an ITI racer will understand. Things like 'Merchant Miles', going 'Full Throttle' at Rohn and how I'll never look at a plate of mashed potato and broccoli the same way again.
I also hope the tech articles will assist ITI rookies or anyone who may be planning a trip of their own - there is something there to inspire, educate and engage. I can't give you all the secrets - many of those you'll have to work out for yourself - that's where your adventure begins...