Sunday, 28 February 2016

ITI 2016 - 1000 miles to Nome - GO TIME

Well friends, the time has come to put thoughts and words into action. Today is the beginning of my race - the race I've trained for, planned for - but also the one that many of you have helped me to begin.

To all who have contributed your support through MyCause or other financial means, I'm forever indebted to you to help me reach this goal - a goal that we can all draw inspiration from - Aussie represent!

To my corporate sponsors - FE Sports, Bonk Breaker, Skratch Labs, Muru Cycles, Ride Mechanic, Dawson Sports, HED wheels, Olympus Australia - many thanks for backing me. I'm about to punish your products in an extreme environment and prove my solid choice of them - I know they'll go the distance!

Over the next 3 weeks or so, my connection with the digital world will be very patchy, however I will be deeply connected with the real world - where every nuance of temperature change, weather pattern and visual intel will be some of the few important things that matter...and regularity. You've seen what's in my food drops.

I am carrying a trace unit, you'll be able to track me here:

Finishing the race is my goal. How I do that is variable and will change day to day. My aim is to perform efficiently - savouring and capturing the moment as I have in the past, but move forward with a physical grace, mechanical smoothness and fabulous fashion coordination (red and black is just so stylish this year on the trail, darlings)

If you get curious about the weather in some of the areas I travel through, there are weather cams at many of the airports. Here is a link to a clickable map and weather stations:

Race website:

A race/route map for your reference:


The friends I have here on the trail, other racers, I hope to share a joke and have a laugh with. If you're broken down, I'll try to help you. I'll be riding solo with a long haul mindset. I plan to spend as little time indoors as possible - I came here for Alaska and it's outdoor treasures.

I'll see all y'all soon.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

ITI 2016 - 1000 miles to Nome - Food prep

'Welcome to the show. Tonights guest is Troy, an Aussie who is racing the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska, 1000 miles to Nome.' and then Oprah and I chatted about family, her new book and her new diet.

Okay, that never really happened - we didn't discuss family - but diet, hmmm, lets talk about that some.

First off this isn't MKR, Biggest Loser or the Healthy Eating Channel.

This is food to get me through 1000 miles of cold, sleep deprived racing through the frozen winter wonderland of the Alaskan backcountry.

No microwaves, no bain maries, no fondue set. A pot, spoon, white gas stove is all I need to prepare and consume this stuff on the trail. No washing up either, out there I've got other things to worry about than this mornings apple cinnamon oatmeal tasting like last nights brown rice, quinoa and tuna hot pot...

I arrive in Anchorage a week or so prior to the race start, to acclimatise and to get my food drops prepared for sending up the trail. The food drops are my primary objective the first few days in town. The race organisers will ship 3 food caches for us, then I send another 6 up the trail for the more remote sections of the trail on the way to Nome. I stay at the Alaska European B and B, out in the nice suburbs on the east side of town. The location is perfect - short walking distance to grocery stores, gyms, bike trails and the outdoor equipment precinct for those extra bits of gear. Irene Green is the host at the B and B, a wonderful lady who takes ownership of guests and looks after us racers very well - just like Oma would - she is fluent in 7 languages! There is a garage with tools to build your bike, spacious rooms and home cooked meals. Staying here at the B and B is as close to home as you'll get. This is my third time here and simply would not stay anywhere else!

In Anchorage there are  so many food options available to the racer. Costco (bulk, but you have to be a member) Fred Meyer, Walmart etc. After a few hours shopping, this is my pile:

This blog article will be far from definitive, but this what works for me. I can't give you all the secrets, you gotta do some experiments and hard work yourself in the gaining of wisdom :)
I'm working on another blog post about the science of my low carb, high fat choices - far more technical and experiential evidence based, but let me summarise it quickly:
  • fat is denser in energy value than carbs or protein
  • fat is good, protein you need, carbs are sort of okay (but not really that great as an ultra-distance fuel, due to the volume of it required), sugar is bad, m'kay?
  • fat is like diesel - slow burning but goes the distance.
  • one does not simply eat fatty foods then use them as energy - one must go through a lengthy process of diet adjustment to become ketogenic, or 'fat optimised for energy requirements'
  • many fatty food choices have far less processing in them
  • some call it paleo, I call it low carb high fat (LCHF)
  • this diet is just part of the wholistic approach I've taken for this race
So, please read through this post and view the options with an open mind, be assured that there has been a lot of research on this, as well as a LOT of personal experimentation and experiential evidence to back it all up. Many hours of eating delicious morsels, with equal hours spent fasting with zero carbs and the brain-loopiness that comes with it. I needed to experience the highs and lows from these foods, to try and replicate what I may experience out on the trail. These are foods that are proven during previous events, or that have performed well during my testing AND also meet my budget.
Lets begin with a #1 proven food - Bonk Breaker bars. On average, they pack about 260 calories (varies with the ingredients and flavour), of which around 90 calories are from fat. They are compact, dimensionally even (in that they can pack very efficiently in storage bags etc) and were the only food that I used in 2015 that I didn't get tired of the flavours or the taste. Day, after day, after day I can eat these no input or output problems. Given the simple, recognisable ingredients, I know the processing involved is minimal. In this bag I have 8 random bars, on the bed I have 14 bags like this = 112 bars for 25 days, @ just under 4 and a half bars per day. You can start to see the importance of a food that I can tolerate (digestively and mentally) for that length of time. Diesel for my engine.
If Bonk Breakers are the diesel fuel, then Skratch Labs energy chews can be the nitrous oxide injection system to augment the burn. In 2015 I was on a carb and sugar diet - fats were there but I wasn't optimised to burn them. In preparation for 2015, I put on 5kg of body fat, however I didn't quite get the ketogenic side of things running properly (in the months during training leading up to the race) so I could utilise that fat on my body as fuel. It stayed there, and instead my body stayed on its carb optimised pathway for energy, and on a blood glucose rollercoaster with sugar highs and lows. Too much combined sugar in a broad range of my food choices. However, during my experiments, I found that on zero carb days, I could augment my fat foods with a small carb treat, to keep my brain happy and thinking clearly (zero carbs for days on end sent me loopy, irrational thought processes, poor focus etc). I needed a clean source of small portion carb treats, not just some random gel lolly in a crinkly packet. Energy chews fitted the requirements perfectly. 80 calories per packet, 1 packet per day, 10 chews per packet. The energy contribution to muscle performance is miniscule, but I believe there is a connection between the taste receptors in your mouth/throat and the brain, that has an effect on energy regulation and a heap of other functions related to sports performance. Simple experiments. The package size also lends itself to controlled portion consumption - a good mental reminder to consume less of these highly charged energy bombs, when you don't have much mental capacity left after 18+ hours of pushing through knee deep snow...

But let's not ignore the bad good stuff. Another Costco marvel, these half kilo bags of cooked bacon, shredded into crumbles that I'll blend with my mash potato, on it's own or in my morning oatmeal. I'm not that fussy and neither is my stomach. Salmon is a very popular option with Alaskan racers, however it's impossible for me to supplement my diet for months pre-race with wild Alaskan salmon (due to it's high oil content), so bacon is my best option, that I can train with, get my gut microbes optimised for it and feel the effects. A little bit goes a long way.

Another form of bacon is the precooked rasher. It doesn't freeze, it's cheap, pre-packed in a sealed ziplock, no refrigeration needed until opened (uh, yeah, no problem on the trail). A Fred Meyer special.

Strip it out of the box and ship it like this. 15 strips per pack. I eat it cold, it's delicious. I did warn you this wasn't MKR!

Thumbs up big fella. 1.5 kg bag - I thought there were laws against this, but apparently not. Costco, you rock. I split them down to small snack packs of about a handful per day.

I kid you not, these buttons of happiness shine brighter than Gandalfs staff, in an otherwise bleak environment. If you have chocolate, you know everything is gonna be alright. Chocolate is engineered perfectly for our bodies (it probably isn't). Chocolate has been found in the pyramids (I made that up, I think it was honey). Chocolate has been on every NASA mission to date (nobody at NASA would confirm or deny that for me - so it must be true). C'mon, who doesn't like chocolate?

Alright, it's not all junk and artery clogging marketing hype. These rice packs only need 2 tablespoons of water and to be warmed up for a minute or two (the contents are precooked and already fully hydrated) so a bit of water in the bottom of my 900ml eating pot and simmer for a minute or two. Done. I do enjoy the grainy, chewy nutty texture of wholegrain rices. I have tuna pouches to mix in with the rice for added protein.

These instant mash packs are a bit low in the calories, but they are very quick to re-hydrate, very filling and super compact to pack. I've spied them in the elite guys drop bags too - they're onto something!

My breakfast staple is instant, flavoured oatmeal - the 52 sachet box from Costco. I add some raisins for a bit more texture, or the bacon crumbles. Whatever, food is fuel. Instant oats are super convenient, compact to pack and re-hydrate simply. I budgeted for 2 sachets per day.

Freezies are a $$ luxury meal I enjoy - it's like that microwave meal you savour when you're single and alone on a Saturday night, but you're not really alone as you have your 12 cats for company. Okay, bad example.

This nutrition panel is from my favourite version of the freezie - the Breakfast Skillet. All the others were nowhere near the 400 calories and fat content of this freezie meal monster, but should I be concerned with all that cholesterol?

 This shredded coconut will remind me of warmer climes, just the smell alone will take me to a tropical beach. But the KO punch in coconut is the fat content. I add this to my instant oats, or just eat on it's own. It's quite fibrous, just the thing to help keep things moving along.

 Last year I took Reeses Peanut Butter Cups along with me, but grew sick of them after a day or two - just a bit too rich for me. However, I knew they were a proven fuel. I decided to make up my own 'roughnut' fuel. It's a mixture of Nutella, chunky peanut butter, shredded coconut, coconut oil and roasted sunflower seeds. I mix it, then spoon it into a ziplock. Good shelf life, and easy to consume when frozen - I make the roughnut about 5mm/ 1/4" thick so it's not a toothbreaker. The peanut and coconut make it easier to break apart - you gotta experiment with ratios to suit.

On special, a nice buttery option.

Lets move on to the dairy section now. One 'tool' I use during training, for helping my gut flora to adapt to new foods is greek yoghurt. The probiotics assist the production of healthy gut microbes and enzymes to digest foods and to maximise the digestion potential. I need to extract every little bit of goodness outta that food! I pack some Babybel cheeses, for those times when friends drop by at Bear Creek cabin with wine and crackers.

Smells like foot but tastes like powdered speed. I'll add this to anything I feel like, you're not the boss of me.

Yep, just raw. Won't freeze, just slice it and eat it, feel the delicious saltiness melt on the tongue.
 Fried banana chips, full of oil, micronutrients and nice to crunch on while enjoying a night under the stars and the aurora.  

Ah, these are my surprise milestone crisps. I forget already which drop they are in, but timed them so I'll have them when I first see the beach. Always have chips at the beach.

Of course, there are some items that don't get thanked enough - the hand warmers, the talc powder, the wet wipes, and the oddly juxtaposed batteries - for my headlamp of course.  

The wet wipes have something in common with this digestive blend - the taste is similar but they both help keep things clean - one's for the inside, the other for the outside, but the ingredients do hold their own on the calorie count, micronutrients and fibre. I bag it up into ziplocks, 3-4 teaspoons into the oatmeal.

All lined up, this is roughly 2 days with a few emergency items that will roll forward into my storage. Below is a regular drop for either Finger Lake, or Rohn. I bundle the components in daily ration form, into heavy ziplocks that I recycle from work, then the whole lot goes into shopping bags, then a heavy garbage bag, then wrapped in cling wrap and labelled.

Packaged up, ready as a food drop. When busted open, the contents will easily fit (along with emergency rations) into the large top pocket of my framebag. I stow it in a drybag, so at mealtimes or in a checkpoint I just grab the drybag and head for the hot water.

The smaller 2 day caches, with the larger 5 day Cripple/Poorman cache along the North route.

For the Cripple/Poorman cache, I bag it into a pillow case for mechanical protection - there have been times when crows and squirrels would get curious and dig at the bags at the drop points.

 The remainder of my drops get shipped by USPS, to post offices in villages I've selected. Most post offices are only open certain hours M-F, so if I arrive on a weekend, I've got to decide if I wait it out or if I have the supplies, leave the cache behind and push on.

So that's my food, I'm confident it will get me to Nome. In the end though, as complicated as our bodies are, generally speaking we have the ability to convert a wide range of foods into energy (I say generally, as I understand many people don't have that flexibility due to Coeliac or other issue) without much fuss, sometimes it's the mental or social norms that guide us with foods for specific meals. Food is fuel.  
'You can't JUST have M & Ms for breakfast!'
Why yes, yes I can.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Iditarod Trail Invitational 2015 - epilogue/montage

My last thing to share with you from ITI 2015 is a photo montage.

I did have a heap of photos of my setup pre-race for 2015 - these will still appear in future reference posts (there is a heap of proprietary tech in there that will help rookies) but I'll be focussing primarily on the setup now for 2016 and the 1000 miles to Nome.

I want these blog posts to help rookies in their quest to find success in their own winter racing dreams. It's not definitive, I'm not a seasoned expert and I can't give you all the secrets - but in saying that, I've put hundreds of quality hours into developing this intelligent, wholistic setup of bike, kit, body and food - there might be just one little piece of tech that may improve your setup and help you reach your goals that bit easier. Share the love, man.

To assist me with my Nome goal in 2016, I'm also running a fundraiser on MyCause to help me get over the line:

My goal is to raise $5000.00 to assist with the immense costs of this expedition race - entry fees, equipment, travel and accom.  The things I learn on this race, gives me the ability to pass on quality, field tested advice to many, many people through my job and social media. When prepping race bikes for clients, I've got unique experience and knowledge to provide the very best advantage for them. To product sponsors, I provide vital feedback and usage at the extreme end of the design parameters - these are my opportunities to give back to my supporters.

I must apologise though - I felt like I let a few people down last year by not carrying a GPS trace unit during the race. I had been so focussed on myself, getting my gear prepped and to Alaska, that it wasn't until the second day on the trail that I started to see the missed opportunity for my supporters back home to share the race with me, via Trackleaders and via social media pics and videos, in real time. My decision to not carry a unit was complex. In a world where we are on the grid all the time, I was aiming to 'go dark' off the matrix for a while - but this was a selfish thing to do and I underestimated the enjoyment that my supporters derived from 'blue dot racing'. Well, this year I wanna make that up, with more reporting in real time and on schedule, as well as GPS tracking - so you can enjoy my glacial pace along the famous Iditarod trail and also be informed about what goes into getting ready for the Iditarod Trail Invitational.  
I hope you've enjoyed the 2015 coverage. Over the next week I'll be covering my prep for 2016, 1000 miles to Nome, which starts 7 days from now (Sunday, 28th February at 2pm Anchorage time - Monday 29th February 9:00am Brisbane time). A very different setup, with lots of handmade gear.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Iditarod Trail Invitational 2015 - day 7 race report

Sleep - more like a short doze. At about the same time we got up, my mate Peter came into the checkpoint, looking just as spent as I'd seen him the previous night at Bear Creek. Man, this guy is just awesome and an inspiration to us rookies. He'd run out of food on the trail and totally committed to getting to Nikolai - and in reality that was his only option. There was no way I could depart that checkpoint without leaving him some food. I wasn't certain of his dietary requirements, but knew for certain that the Bonk Breakers would fulfil his needs without stomach issues. They were my prized food item, and they were my offering of deep respect to this legend of ultra-running.

I got my breakfast out of the way quickly and was ready to go, but Jim was intent on making a cooked breakfast. First though, we had to thoroughly clean all utensils in the kitchen as they, ahem, weren't quite up to food prep standard. This done, cooked breakfast of eggs, buttered toast and reindeer sausage was served. We left far later than we could have.

Don't ask, you had to be there. Aussie humour.

The trails out of Nikolai are a bit convoluted, I'm told the best time to leave is in the dark to see the trail markers better, as it routes on and off the river many times to avoid the river oxbows. I was riding in the white cone of tiredness.

This image below explains how I started to feel - I think I found my first ever food reaction. I won't say allergy, as I don't consider it to be an allergic reaction. The reindeer sausage was something I'd never eaten before, perhaps the meat or another ingredient was foreign to my digestive system, that it didn't really know how to process it. I didn't feel like throwing up, I just...felt...very off colour. Jim had a taillight on, and that taillight disappeared into the distance, my energy just vanished and I fell way behind. I had to get off and walk. By now, my right knee had stiffened up significantly and pedalling was difficult, painful at the top of the stroke.

But enough drama. Lets talk about food...
TECH: food and related. Classic rookie mistake - I took way too much food. I calc'd out the calorie requirement for each day and tried to match foods, but I just can't eat and process that much food in a day and turn it into useful energy. My food plan was quite complex and multilayered, with side options and redundant strategies should things go wrong. I stuck to simple foods though, nothing out of the ordinary and all things that my digestion was familiar with. I planned out meals in ration bags, then into daily bags which helped keep an eye on consumption. I had a breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, arvo snack then a dinner. Straightforward, but still too much food - always learning.
During training, I experiment with various foods and unhygienic food prep methods, to replicate field conditions - ie getting the body ready for just about any kind of food from anywhere. Not washing hands or utensils, food off the floor (what, there's a rule now?) and the occasional bindive exposes my body to a certain background level of contaminants for it to adapt to. So far so good. I augment it with unsweetened probiotic yoghurt to assist with healthy digestive flora, which then has many other health benefits. I try to take a holistic approach, where all systems benefit from efficiencies.
The foods I took were varied: I had bars (Bonk Breakers) chocolates, jelly type lollies, freeze drieds, gels - very high carb based, with protein and fats second and third priority. I'll go into a lot more detail on food (and my prep for 2016) in another post. In hindsight, I think the high carb approach didn't fully work. I had gained poundage  in bodyweight in prep for this race, but I barely touched it, as I didn't make the switch over to ketogenic energy sourcing - I was still burning carbs as they were in ready supply. But, the high carb approach also left me vulnerable to spikes in blood glucose (from the lollies, gels and simple carbs.) As I felt myself getting flatter and heading below the line, my response at the time was to ingest some more simple carbs (thinking that the exercise demand and temperature would moderate the spikes)  - which had that classic, insulin release, rebound effect on my blood glucose levels (I'm not diabetic) and compounded by the effects of low temperature demands. I was following a time honoured recipe of ultra-distance food options, field tested and written about in popular journals and sport diet publications for decades. The science in these publications was going through a metamorphosis at the time, because the current way wasn't working.
By this time in the race though, Bonk Breakers were the only foods I was putting in. I'd been having ups and downs for a few days now and I thought long and hard about the causes, constantly performing self diagnostics to determine causes and to find solutions. I'm always saying to the pet monkey 'if you don't change the constants in an experiment, the result will remain the same' or something like that (as well as pick up your shoes and be nice to your mother). I always knew fat was denser in energy, but in my prep I didn't force my body to optimise fat from my body stores as an energy source (and it was too late to start), however Bonk Breakers do have a fat content that is beneficial, so I was part way there with a food option at hand. I dumped the lollies and other simple carb options, my love affair with these bars just grew even stronger.  The bars gave me a complex carb source my system was familiar with, a taste that I never grew sick of, a portion size that never distended my stomach and a fat content that left me satiated for hours. People that know how meticulous I am with prep, will also know how hard it is to get my tick on a product - because it totally has to be earned. Bonk Breaker - thank you for being there for me and you get a five star tick!

Just before sunrise we rode through a short snowstorm, the trail vanished before us in a haze of swirling white anger, our headlamps only penetrating a metre or so in front of the bikes. I continued to move forward, while Jim and Paul stopped to wait it out. I was pushing by now anyways, so got out the compass and started to record bearings at 5 minute frequency. It was a howling headwind too, I'd layered up at the first sign of the storm. Here's the strange thing - I was loving it - really enjoying this partial ferocity and just an entrĂ©e portion of what Alaska could serve up in Winter. Suddenly the soap opera of knee and stomach issues didn't dominate my thoughts - it was this storm that captivated me. This was what I wanted and my body responded with renewed strength and vigour.

All too soon though, the storm abated and we were left with bikes dusted with snow, a blown in trail and gutting it out on a half foot of fresh powder.

So began another contrasting day in Alaska - bluebird conditions out on the river, punchy conditions, ride-push-ride-push-ride-fall off-push. You were happy when you could ride at 3 mile an hour pace.

The impact craters from fallen riders ahead were common. Falls like this can be serious - you don't really know what condition the ice is in under the snow, your impact could punch right through some ice and into the water, trapping you with a bike on top; people have broken ribs, wrists and collarbones - ending races right there. The issue lies in the compacted snow and chunked ice (like a freshly ploughed field) that then gets covered in a blanket of smooth looking snow. Your front tyre gets trapped in a deep, soft rut and your balance can't match the steering correction, you go down.

'Diamonds scattered out to sea, the sun keeps laughing down on me'

This was beautiful crust riding.

But oh ho, Alaska wasn't through with us, in another few hours we had to pay a toll. More push-ride-push.


Off the river every now and again to divert around an oxbow in the river (giant river bend that almost loops back to itself) and through refreshing Birch forest.

Getting off the Kuskokwim River for the last time, I left Jim and Paul so I could push on to McGrath, while they stayed in a small cabin by the river. With 10 miles to go, should only take me a few hours of pushing to complete. Like about 6.

TECH: identify yourself. My race plan was to complete this solo and not travel with other parties. I thoroughly enjoy solo travel and prefer it, but I discovered it can be fun to travel with others as well. A negative of this is that you can fall into step with other peoples routines, causing you to deviate from your plan and your outcomes. Also, a mechanical or health issue becomes a shared problem and how each party takes ownership of that depends on many factors. But a positive is when you can share an awesome moment, benefit from local intel or just have somebody laugh at your jokes. You really need to have a clear plan about what you want to do pre-race, and if you have mates racing or encounter another racer and you travel together, redefine limits in your plan if you continue solo or pair up. I enjoyed Jim and Pauls company, but I wanted to get back to my roots and solo on to complete.

Again, this was where I wanted to be - against the wind and pushing into the sunset to McGrath.  

I pushed and postholed my way along the river for hours. I zombied out for a while, I kept thinking I had a giant bridge over the top of me, that crossed the river. I eventually came right around the river to the other side of McGrath (the classic rookie route) and stumbled into some strangers house to ask for directions. As you'd expect, an Aussie on a fatbike asking for directions in the middle of the night seemed like the most natural thing to happen to any McGrath resident. Well, it was natural to me, but I walked out none the wiser.

McGrath is not that big, just a few streets in a grid layout. I didn't have an address, just a description of 'look for the Gingerbread house' so I methodically crisscrossed streets until the checkpoint came into view.

Peter and Tracey Schneiderheinze open their house up completely to ITI racers, to sleep, grab a meal, a shower etc. It is extremely generous of them, there is a jar on fridge for you to leave your appreciation. Their house is like an oasis, racers coming and going with a real buzz about it, as well as a chance to debrief with other racers - as only other racers can understand what you have just been through.

As you enter, you are greeted by Peter, sat down and food is immediately placed in front of you, which is great as by this time you are on auto pilot and happy to give the reins of thinking over to somebody else.

This is one of Peters famous mancakes, it's about an inch thick and filled with locally picked berries of all kinds. You finish, you get your mancake.

As I came in on the Saturday night, I had to wait until Monday for a flight back to Anchorage, so it was a day of lounging around and debriefing - which I must reiterate is very important to racers, for a successful re-introduction to non-ITI society. Fellow racers are like family now, regardless of placing, you've all ridden the same route and endured some form of hardship. More people have climbed Everest than completed the ITI, so you become part of a unique group of people. More racers arrived on Sunday and we shared stories from the trail.

My mate Jim arrived and he told me about the experience he had staying in the cabin with a local athabascan family, and what he learned about native hunting practices - he wanted to stay another few days with them! I found out months later that he had unknowingly broken his back during a fall in the Dalzell Gorge, but continued to McGrath as his only option. Sadly, his goal was Nome this year, and he had to finish at McGrath. That may have explained  his reluctance to share some vegemite with me a second time - it's just an acquired taste :)

Peter came in a few hours after me, we shared a big teary hug as he staggered through the door and talked for a while about the trail. The subtle lessons I learnt from this man will stay with me forever.

Kathi keeps track of all racers and stresses when they go off radar for a bit.

This cat is famous, he starred in the film 'A Thin White Line' which is like the 'Endless Summer' film for ITI racers.

...and little old me, I went into the history books as the first Aussie to complete the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 to McGrath. Almost immediately my thoughts turned to the next ITI race, I discussed this with other racers and their response was 'if you're coming back to race, you might as well shoot for the big one - 1000 miles to Nome'. The seed had been sown.

I flew back to Anchorage, first thing I did was shave that poor-excuse-for-a-beard off. It took a few days to sort out the stomach issue - I think it was part food poisoning and part digestive problem with a very unfamiliar food. My right knee took a lot of work to sort out, around 3 months until I deemed it back to 100%.

TECH: getting back to Anchorage: flying back is cake - buy your ticket at the McGrath airport, loosen your handlebar stem so the bars can be rotated in line with the frame and off you go. FAA rules state you must not fly with a fuel bottle and pump that has fuel vapours, hence you will need to leave these behind. I have heard stories of racers embedding their empty bottle and fuel pump deep inside their gearbags, but I can't confirm or deny knowledge of this happening ;) You fly over Denali and Foraker, arrive at the regular Anchorage airport, turn your bars around, wheel it through the terminal and ride back to your accomm.


This race is tough. But it was made easier by the generous support from friends and companies that assisted me with sponsorship.

Muru Cycles were there with me right from the beginning - I built the first Muru Witjira titanium bike in a garage in Alaska in 2013 - the same frame that will be racing 1000 miles to Nome with me in 2016. Over the years my bond with Muru has grown stronger, they've even included some of my nutty ideas into their current range of framesets and built some very custom gear to my specifications.

FE Sports are the Australian importer of Bonk Breaker and Skratch Labs products, the team at FE Sports backed me wholeheartedly with bars and electrolytes, and as you've read they became a crucial foodstuff for me. I will never forget the support you gave and the belief you had in me.

Ride Mechanic is a small company, with a very technical and passionate backbone of tech advisors and chemists to support the engineered products they make. I used Bike Butter on my gear and brake cables back in 2013 when I first built the Muru Witjira, that lube was still in service (unchanged) in 2015 for this race. I also used Bike Butter on all of my zippers on jackets, framebags and boots to minimise friction.  I used one of the first released batches of Bike Cream chain lube on this race. I'm quite finicky with my lubes, preferring to use the right lube for the job. With that in mind, Bike Milk has been my go-to lube for beach riding on the fatbikes, but for the snow, I needed a slightly oily base (along with the same solid lubricant) and the Bike Cream was perfect. It was quick and easy to apply, kept the drivetrain quiet and clean right down to -25C. Also, they designed a cologne for me that had a multitude of functions: skin cleanser, scented cologne/aftershave, stove fuel, degreaser - it truly was a multi-function fluid with many uses.

I ran a crowdsourcing fundraiser with the help of MyCause Australia - I managed to reach the goal of raising $2000 to help me get to Alaska, pay for special equipment, assist with entry fees and some travel expenses. My friends generously supported me with donations:

Owen M.
Grant R.
Mark W.
Wayne M.
Chris M.
Mark G.
Kedan G.
Will M.
Lars D.
Neil E.
Emma B.
Tony R.
Matt R.
Andrew D.
Bob C.
Eric D.
Justin B.
David F.
Graeme W.
Steve J.
Darren F.
Glenn B.
David H.
Gary T.
Most importantly, my wife and daughter deserve the biggest praise and thanks of all - these two chicks keep me going forward. They have endured my constant babbling about all things Iditarod, sponsored me, supported me in my decisions, allowed me to train without interference and followed me on some dodgy family outings masked as 'training experiments'. I love you both and I hope to inspire the pet monkey - one day she'll realise her parents did cool stuff that she can be proud of too.

I want to thank you - the reader - for your patience with these blog posts. I like to put a lot of time into each post, for it to be entertaining, truthful with tech and to be a reference document for future generations of adventurers. I truly hope you have enjoyed the adventure with me, perhaps you've been inspired by the posts and might have helped you break down some walls about where to start or how to do something. Hey, I'm no expert, but I learn by getting out there and experimenting.
So what's next? Dunno, but by staying fit and healthy (and keeping my nose and arse clean) I'll be ready for a wide variety of adventures. I've got some ideas floating about...
Amazing where riding a bike will take you!