Thursday, October 4, 2012

No Secrets...

...on the gear I used and carried during my Individual Time Trial of the Tour Divide.

JayP's 2012 Tour Divide Bike/Gear from Jay Petervary on Vimeo.

Lets see here, I been a long distant athlete since college, for 18+ years. This gear has been and is figured out first hand for me. I like to learn for myself how things work, hold up, and perform. To me it is part of the fun. One might suspect I use gear of people who sponsor me. Yes, that is true but I bought, used, and tested these products before ever even having relationships with the folks I do. I only enter relationships with products I truly belive in and will always tell it how it is on something.

My kit will change slightly per event, weather, goals, and just plan old trying something new. Again, part of the fun. Sometimes a new product or idea might catch my fancy but I often go back to the basics and things I used originally. This reminds me that I must have thought about plenty prior.

I am pretty much a guy who takes a lot in stride and doesn't stress out to much over big challenges but I will say things are thought about pretty heavily (what do you think I do when I ride) espically when it comes to my mental preperation. The preperation of gear and riding is fun and all but it is my mind that I really like to prepare when it comes to ultra distant challenges. I spent more time this year thinking about my mental attitude, patience, toughness and how I was going to handle certain situations and push myself further then ever before. To tell you the truth I hardly spent any time riding or fussing with gear, other then building my new Fargo.

Typically they say don't try or change things right before a race, well sometimes, a lot of times, I am that guy. I am often doing things till midnight before any event and major things for some people. Like this time mounting a brand new wheelset before a 3000 mile ride or finally looking at a route thats going to be embarked...the list goes on...

Anyway, I blame any result on any adventure on my past experince and knowledge - positive and negative. I am not perfect by any means and everytime around I make mistakes. I will always be an amature and constantly leanring, which is something I love!

Hope this was helpful and have fun putting together your kit!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tour Divide - Memories by Pics

Closed due to bears! I seen one grizzly about 30 miles in from the start of my ride of the Tour Divide in Banff. I do not carry bear spray, just a whistle around my neck. When I smell, feel, or am entering blind corners I toot my whistle. Ironically enough I am entering my first feel and blind corner with whistle in mouth and I turn the corner to have a grizz give me a double take look. He was probably less then 10 yards away and gently walked off into the woods. I accepted this as a welcoming greeting to the trail and thought he spread the word to the other bears out there saying "it's OK, JayP is out here, he will do no harm, let's just leave him alone".
Not to much time later a eagle swooped down towards my head and flew in front of me for several seconds. The eagle is my stand for animal and it brought me great connection with the trail through these two instances.
Did not have any other bear encounters. I did have a cool viewing trail side with a badger as he hobbled down next to the road, stopped, lifted his front paws on a bottom rail fence and we stared at each other. I have heard the term "Jay Badger" and it is a super cool animal so I consider it another special sight.
Call me crazy but this is very connecting powerful stuff!

 An interesting first night. I had a great first day and make it to the Forest Service Butts Cabin some 210 miles from the start. I arrive there bout 11p.m. and was planning a 3 hour sleep. The cabin was empty of people but gear spread out. I contemplate the stay and ultimately nestle into the corner feeling like it is a public type safety cabin and if there is room, all are welcome. I set an alarm for 2:30 a.m. and pass out. All of sudden about 2 o'clock I awaken by headlights coming through the window. I scurry up stumbling for my shorts (i sleep naked to air my body out), turn on my headlamp and swing open the door to let the people know someone is in the cabin. Crawling back up in my bag I sit there as the door swings open with 2 headlamps shining in my eyes with someone yelling "who is in my cabin, what are you doing here". I quickly spill out "I am here by myself, I am a touring cyclist, my name is Jay, I thought this was a public cabin, I will leave right now, it's time for me to go, I just got here a couple hours ago". They disappear outside, I hide back in my bag and they come back in saying "it's OK, you don't have to leave". I explain what I am doing and was getting ready to leave anyway. It turns out they were actually working and they were out counting, looking for owls. Had a few minute conversation with them as we both found each others stories interesting for being out there epically at the time of morning. They thought I was pretty strange as I left at 2:30a.m. riding my bike into the dark in a heavily concentrated bear area, as they just said they ran into one. It was awesome as it gave me a boost of energy just to have conversation and it initially motivated me to get up and out. I can't blame those girls for being a bit apprehensive and I am glad it wasn't a redneck with a shot gun!
I came across more touring cyclist this year then ever before. It's awesome to stop for a few minutes to hear where they are from and how there journey is going. Lots of people on "holiday" from other countries. It seems as if they all knew what I was up too and were like you don't have to stop - blah, blah, aren't you after the record. Reality is I am not out there with my head pinned down. Part of the experience is experiencing others and I do look around, smell the flowers per say, take pictures and say hello to my fellow trail riders.

 I posted this to FB and I fully enjoy these types of moments. Lunch at Holland Lake in MT., 1 mile off course, a very special spot to enjoy a lunch in a very quiet tranquil setting. Could have easily taken a nap there...

                              Cresting the Montana/Idaho divide was memorable due to how the day started out and finished. Waking up in Lima at 3a.m. on the hotel's laundry floor (was planning on getting a room but they were full and the laundry room was cheap - free!) with it pouring rain had me turn over for a few more winks till it stopped. After the brutal head wind day prior my knees were killing me and my body was giving me the finger a bit. The road leading me through to Lakeview and to the border was soft, the sky was cloudy, and the slight head wind was just enough to feel like I was going slow, although also feeling like I was working hard. It was just one of those days where it takes a half day just to warm up, literally a half day. Crossing the border into Idaho certainly gave me a boost as it is very close to wear I live. Feeling better, getting resupplied and tummy full I had a great run on the Rail Trail. Thinking ahead with a goal to make it to Flagg Ranch before the store/restaurant closed was my task at hand. All while scanning the cloudy sky and distant storms I thought I would be safe. Not. While entering the gravel of Grassy Lake Road I was swallowed by a pretty intense, thunder filled rain storm. So, I got to enjoy a full on side ways type rain storm the entire time while crossing into Wyoming all night long. Unfortunately I did not arrive till midnight and the services were closed but fortunately the lobby was open. I loitered and hung out in front of the fireplace till things were dry. It all of a sudden stopped raining, cleared up and the full moon was a poppin'. I geared up and rode via. moonlight with no lights till 3a.m. It was an amazing night where I felt I connected with a good friend who passed on this past winter in the Tetons. The experience gives me the chills as I write this is it was another powerful moment of my ride. I truly felt like I was "tripping" as the timing of everything just took my mind and body to anther place.
 Doing the route multiple times gives great insight to what is coming, but it is not always good. This 8 mile section last year took me ALL night in the pouring rain as I carried/pushed my bike through the sage next to the road. The clay on route is no joke and will stop you in your tracks and there is plenty of it along the way. This particular day it was lightly raining on/off and all the long prior I could not help but think about entering this area and having to experience what I have before. Fortunately it was not the case but it was stressing me out all morning.

Seeing the route change and experiencing the road conditions differently each and every time is part of the fun for me. The impact through logging, beetle kill, climate and humans is all very noticeable from year to year. The road that really wasn't a road is now a road. The sweet buff section last year was a complete mess this year. The forest of last year may not exist this year. All things of change. No 2 Tour Divide runs will ever be the same.
3 cross country trips in the shoes...10,000+ miles and going strong!

To be continued...


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Here we go again...

So, thought I would throw down some quick thoughts before taking off on another journey down the Continental Divide Mountain Bike Route.

First off I never planned on doing this, this year, till 2 months ago when my record was broken. I don't think this is a surprise to anyone. My wife, Tracey, actually was in the race when this was taking place and already asking/knowing that I was going to have to give it another go. I also received multiple e-mails, calls, and texts nudging me "when are you going to try and regain the record?"

Well, like every passionate responsible/irresponsible bike racer I just had to get the clearance from my wife first and then try and convince the place of work, Fitzgeralds Bicycles. Fortunately enough both understand my drive, mentality and passion for the Tour Divide.

Why not wait till next year? Next year is a long ways from now and I want to channel my present drive while I have it. I also would not leave on the Grand Departure date anyway, which takes place in June, due to it's natural change of feel and progression, so no consideration there.

My current claim is "all or nothing" as well as "this is my last go". This will be my 4th time and it actually gets harder with each one. Physically I am starting to feel the effects of my lifestyle, although feeling very fit now, and mentally I think I can only handle one more deep focus for the amount of time it takes on this route. The mental end is very interesting to me and I know I have been to places in my head that most have never come close to. This time around I plan on pushing that even further, learning even more abut myself.

Shooting for the record takes a lot of focus and is no easy task. The current record of 16 days 3 hours is stout, but I have been saying for several years I think the ultimate is 15 and a few hours. Yip, that is what I am shooting for.

I actually just looked up the record today, I did not even know what it is or even what my previous time was. I don't make spreadsheets, study split times, look at graphs, or try and make plans. I ride my bike as fast and as efficient as I can and if it works out I will be on record pace. Although very hard to analyze till the last few days as departure times, sleep patterns and day/night travel differ from each others ride.

Super stoked a friend called me and said "hey Jay, you do not need to ride/hitchhike up to Banff, that is no way to start what you are trying to attempt, I will give you a ride." Nice, cause that is what I did last year and I stopped 9 hours into my departure to get a hotel and a good nights sleep.

FYI - I time trailed the same route last year but one week later.

Whats different this year? Salsa Ti Fargo baby!!! A Montbell 40* sleeping bag instead of a quilt, I froze last year. 2 - 200 lumen Princeton Tech lights, just another handicap for going in the Fall instead of June, way less day light. I never carried a GPS before but think I am going to do that so I don't make any mistakes. Tracey says to me, "your going for record right, you cannot make any mistakes." And I admit, every time, there are several nights I am sleep deprived and totally cannot figure out where I am at and what turn I am on. I end up frustrated in the middle of the night riding up and down trail wasting time till I figure it out which equals time wasted instead of miles down the trail.

I am excited and nervous on this attempt, more then ever before. I rode a 400 mile bike packing event last weekend as a shakedown and have guided a client some 160 miles. With over 600 miles this past week I hope it has reminded/prepped  my body for what I am about to do again.

When am I leaving? 8/25 we will start the drive, we will arrive on Sunday. I am planning on about a 4 a.m. Monday morning, 8/27, departure from Spray River Trailhead.

Where to follow and gain info -
SPOT Tracking - - JayP
Facebook - ,
MTB Cast call-ins -

-Peace out-

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stagecoach 400 Ramblings

Tracey, our dogz (Rippin and Chillin), and I just came back from a road trip where we incorporated an event, The Stagecoach 400. For us this IS a lifestyle, all of our time off is revolved around some kind of bike infused trip. This particular trip was something I been looking forward to for a few reasons. Tracey and I live pretty busy lives and it is nice just to hang out without all the other surrounding distractions. It was also the first time we took the boyz on a extended road trip and they did awesome. For Tracey it was a trip that was going to help her prepare as she is getting ready for the Tour Divide. And for me it was a trip to get through some withdraw I have been going through, craving alone time, in a bike packing  race, on a new trail, in a new place. So the trip to Cali was a blast and I am some what satisfied for a while, a little while... So, how did the race go?

The race went well. Sure, I was the first one to cross the finish line in just under 50 hours with no sleep but I don't really measure my success/experince by placement. I rather reflect and think about how I felt physically, mentally, how I actually played the game, and what can I learn from it. I look at this type of racing as a game because it is not the fittest person that is going to win, it's how you play and make decisions on every other aspect of multi day trail life. When, Where, What to eat? When, where to stop/rest? How to manage your sleep? Navigation? How and what to do to keep the maintenance up on not only your bike but your body. There are other things too and all these decisions will effect the outcome. I also believe these decisions are made best from previous experiences.

What did I think about the route? I thought the route was awesome. There was so much varying terrain. Mountains, desert, city, urban, suburban, 2-track, surprising amount of single track, little bit of pavement, some hike-a-bike, did I miss something...The route is much different then most other bike packing routes out there and the other nice thing was each section of trail was just long enough before you got sick of it and before you knew it you would be in new landscape on a different type of trail. It seems as if I got to do all the great parts in the night, like all the single track out of the Stagecoach RV Park to Alpine.

Route finding - Had a GPS track that seemed to be spot on and had some cue sheets that I would reference and then confuse me at times. There were tons of turns and I would often over shoot them. I had one incident where I was getting confused between the track and the notes. It was on route 79, looking for a left hand turn. I went up and down this crazy traffic sketchy pass more then numerous times, all the way up and all the way back down. I easily wasted up to 3 hours! I will blame this on my clarity of thinking, it was the second night of no sleep. This was the same time I found myself in a fruit orchard, not where I was suppose to be, and ended up with a short length of stick and 3 pricks in my front tire. I shook my head broke the stick from the pricks and rallied on with the pricks in the tire. Never ended up with a flat!
Another note to the route was a re-route that never effected me. At the start, as I was leading I was approaching a man mumbling something to the effect of "private property", I somewhat gave him the hand and kept saying "what, what" and flew by him. Others gave him the time of day and stopped and ended up with some re-route. And since I didnt really know about it and it was the same trail we had to return on I think it is funny that I went up that same private road and never encountered a problem. My wife wasnt so lucky...
Hmmm, private property....

How did you not sleep? Again, looking back at my past I have a lot of experience with sleep deprivation. Adventure Racing was very good for this. I went into this event saying I was not going to sleep and would just play it as it went. To help with this I did not bring a sleeping system. I knew I could make one night and was not sure what the challenges would be the second, but the wasted time out on route 79 was enough to sort of  "p" me off and kept me looking back for another competitor to come creeping along. That was the motivator to push through the second night. I can only recall a few difficult moments that evening that were pretty short lived. Overall I am very happy with the way my body reacted to no sleep. If my SPOT was working it would have been interesting to see my total stop time, cause it wasn't much at all.

Speaking of SPOT's. Here is a little opinion I have. I think it is awesome to carry SPOT devices to help keep the honest, honest, and for some home entertainment. What I don't think is awesome is when the riders are carrying I-Phones and looking at Trackleaders to see where there nearest competitor is. Shame, shame on you guys. We should all be making decisions on are own intuition and unknowns not making decisions through technology. As a leader never looking back I could have easily taken a nap knowing the next competitor was 50 miles back but I had no idea. So, I am glad my SPOT did not work the last day cause if the others would of seen me floundering around that night they might have seen how close they really got.

The gear I brought. No secrets here, just a bit of clothing which at night I wore absolutely everything I had and some personal hygiene stuff along with a repair kit. I have learned to bring rain gear, both jacket and pants, on every single trip I do. This is what I rely on when I get cold, I think of rain gear as a functional bivy sak. If need be I could take a short sleep before becoming uncomfortable, which means it's time to go anyway.
These guys were hammering, for a little while, and I thank them!
Did you ride with anyone? Well for the first 55 into Borrego Springs there were 5 or so that were pinning it. This is very typical of me cause the truth of it is I HATE riding with people during a race so I try and shake it out early. There were 2 guys that were just hammering, they did not have any gear and turns out they were credit card touring. Even I thought the pace was a bit much but when we got to Borrego everyone stopped for a meal as I waved and went and did my own thing, which is always going to be more efficient. My stop was only a few minutes doing a quick resupply. And for the people that know the route I did the whole next desert section on 50oz of water to the RV park! Anyway, Borrego was the last I seen anybody and I continued to pin it as I was now by myself concentrating on developing a gap. The reason I like to be by myself is I do not want to be distracted by others and it is not the reason I do events, otherwise I would just go on a ride with some of my friends on our own time, cause it is a race, right? I will glady socialize before and after but the reason I do these things is for me to learn about myself, push myself, be with you see the theme her "myself". It's the reason I "race" bike packing "for myself", I friggin love it!

Very, very distracting to me....
What were you eating? Not much. The first 24 hours were pretty scarce with food calories and more liquid calories. But when I got San Diego, which was very distracting for me, something I learned, I was stopping and eating to much. 2 breakfasts stops that morning, a stop for few tacos, another stop for some pizza, and then a last stop of Micky-D's to get me through the night. I did not eat much on the trail at all. The sections were short enough that you did not have to carry lots of calories and there were plenty of water spots too. So, overall I thought the refueling/water was pretty easy.

It was a beautiful morning of climbing!

Watching the sun come up on the second morning was truly amazing and a time remembered. Peddling back through some familiar terrain was a welcoming sight as I reflected on the blur of the last 48 hours. As a paranoid leader I kept looking back but to see nobody, I stopped at one last little store for some microwave meals which was enough to recharge me for the last 24 miles. The rush of energy I got from being so close to the finish combined with the sugar rush I was able to pretty much stand up and power through the last climbs like it was the first day. It was an awesome way to finish and I was very happy with my performance and the way my body held up.

Just finished. Thanks Hub Cycles, Brendan and Mary.
Thanks Stagecoach 400, you were a good time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Last Minute Ride

Last Friday afternoon Tracey and a friend headed up to the Equinox Snow Challenge in West Yellowstone for the start on Saturday morning. Since West Yellowstone is only 104 miles away we decide that Tracey would take the van with her teammate, gear,  and dogs allowing me to ride up after work. I would be prepared for a possible over night if need be due to a late start and/or the predicted rain/snow that is typical of our spring.

Not that it was a long ride but the truth of it is, I love a ride like this; last minute, questionable weather, into the night, and may or may not make it...

Anyway, it turned out pretty uneventful but very satisfying and went something like this:
It was a cloudy, windy, moderate temperature spring day.
Finished work at 3:30.
Went home, got dressed, loaded up the Vaya's 2 rear panniers and strapped on a sleeping system.
Went back to the bike shop, slugged a double espresso and took off bout 4:30.

Tail winds for bout 20.

Side wind through the potato fields for 40 more miles. 


Riding into the dark and then to the Ponds Lodge Bar at mile 70 for 3 PBR's and a garlic pie which I ate half of.

Rode the last 30+ miles under a star filled sky without a single car and a full belly!

Finished in West at about 1 a.m., just in time as the girls were coming home from the bar.

Had an excellent Saturday watching cheering all the racers.
T-Race and Kim 

We were happy to host Ben and Ken, fellow junkies, coming up from Colorado for there fix.

First ever, Fat Bike riding at the Rendezvous!

Even did a skate lap in shorts, it was 60* during the day!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do Everything Bike

This past weekend was the first time riding the skinny wheels this year, as it was mostly among rain and snow, it had me realize the seasons are a changing and with that bikes change. We still have plenty of snow here in the Tetons and more will fall leaving us with plenty of opportunity to continue riding the fat bikes on snow or maybe even some crust cruzing but to tell you the truth I am ready to move on with the seasons, so I can ride my other bikes. I think that means I am getting over it...winter that is...

This is the beginning of the "shoulder season". In the shoulder season mother nature might be luring you in with the sunshine a shining and then all of a sudden it is snowing as you are next to the hills and then raining as you are cutting across valley. Also, in the shoulder season we are left with wet roads from melt off as well as gravel reminence from winter road maintenance. Most of us wince at riding our nice, race type, road bikes in these conditons, me included, so I have a bike that serves me right this time of year, the Salsa - Vaya.

The Vaya is my do everything bike, how versatile it is. Ride it in marginal weather, don't care, or sunshiny weather too. Attach panniers, tour with it, it will haul a load. Fit 44mm MTB tires and ride local singeltrack with the dogs with it, they love it. Put fenders on, commute with it, it will love you. Attach a drink holder, bar hop, pick- up beers with it, it can take a crash. It's the bike I keep on riding, fix it only what I have to, clean it only when I have to. Ride it anytime, all the time -  dirt, pavement, mud, snow and rain - it don't matter it's my do everything bike. With that being said it might not be my fastest bike in the stable but it is a favorite!

Ride on, no matter the season.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Decisions and Emotions

A few reminders as it is easy to forget...
The are many feelings associated with the Alaska Ultra Sport and depending on how it actually went on the trail it may have open up others. The feelings will vary depending on if you are a rookie vs. a veteran and that is probably cause the decisions you make will be different as well as how do deal with certain situations.

Before the race there is much anticipation and nervous energy being generated. What am I going to bring in my kit, will I need my stove, what are you bringing? A rookie can certainly be unsure here but if preparing properly leading up to the event they should gain confidence. I remember my first year staying in the host B&B before the race thinking I was prepared and all the other racers staying there(mostly foreigners, I was the only english speaking) still building there kits, running to gear stores the day before the race. It made me second guess my preparation and very nervous. A good place to stay but not a good place to stay.

What is the trail going to be like? This is fun to talk about but the reality is it is very different then what you will think, even as you are sitting in Anchorage the day before on a beautiful, cold, sun shiny day it can be dumping at the start. The nice thing is we are all on the same trail, so no advantage to anyone, although as the race moves in a few days the leader can have different weather and different trail then the folks in the back. It's easy to burn energy thinking about these things, the bottom line is, it is what is, accept it.

Once the start of the event hopefully the anticipation and nervousness has at least settled down, if not gone away. Now a new set of feelings might have taken over. Maybe scared, as you enter deeper into the Alaskan backcountry or as it is snowing, scared it might not stop. Now that you actually see overflow, scared to step in it. -40 below out, scared to leave the checkpoint. I think being scared is a good thing on a certain level, it will keep you on your toes.

How about relief, stoked, and happiness once moving down the trail. No more getting ready, it is now happening. I know I feel very comfortable on the trail, it brings back the basics of life and way simpler and easier then so called regular life.

You will be required to make many decisions throughout the day, some easy some not so. When and where to rest, eat, and sleep? How hard/fast to push yourself? These decisions are going to set you up for how you feel down the trail, obviously this is more of a physical feeling but will effect your mental and how clear or unclear your next decisions will be.

Then there is the post race feelings. After completing, or not, such an event you will be reflecting on what you did for a long time. At first it will be all day and then it will start to ease up as time passes. All the what if's, should of's and could of's start to come out? These are great questions to learn from but don't beat yourself up with them. The strongest post race feelings I have ever had was when I bailed out early on the way to Nome, even though I won the McGrath race, it was not my finishing goal so I never really reaped those feelings. I really got down and did beat myself up with the should of's, could of's, and what if's. When coming up short on something or quitting these feelings will haunt you and make you feel like you have unfinished business.

This was an expensive trip from the interior,  my bike is in the sled.
I know this year there are many people thinking about how they should have done something different, could have waited out the storm, or what if they kept going. The problem, beauty of this is they will have to wait another time around.

What can one do to help with the pulling the plug? Patience, patience and more patience. How about phoning a friend or family member that will push you forward or give you the correct decision to keep going, change your mind. These people need to be tough, possibly creative with words and know what you put into it and what your end goal is. Another thing I constantly preach is "no negative words in the vocabulary". No such thing as quit, turn around, this is to hard...dismiss this kind of language from your vocabulary!

Probably not the attitude to have...
This is just a small dose of a very impacting experience. It can possibly change people for life! It has changed me in a way that I just can't get enough...

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Trail

How does the Iditarod Trail get established? Is it something that can be traveled all year? Who maintains it? Is it groomed? What makes it possible for people to actually travel the Iditarod Trail, weather it be human powered or dog powered?
I think people are mislead with the word "trail", cause a lot of it, a lot of the time, does not exist. Well, OK, it exist's but under heaps of snow and not human powered friendly in any way.

Michael Schoder dragging trail near Shell Lake.
There are multiple ways the Iditarod Trail gets established enough for human travel. Snowmobile, otherwise refered to as a "snow-go" as I have learned from the Alaskan Villagers, is how the trail gets packed in.  There is recreation traffic, like on the south end of the trail. There is inter village travel, from one village to the next on mostly the interior of the trail on the way to Nome. This does not connect all the dots and there are many sections that don't see this traffic but then there is the Iron Dog Snowmobile Race which covers the whole Iditarod Trail and beyond. This race conveniently takes place one week before the Ultra Sport race. We generally learn a lot from these folks on trail conditions and with 50 teams of 2 they put in one hell of a trail. These guys for sure establish a lot of trail but they also fan out all over the place and take alternate routes creating sucker trails as well as never go over Rainy Pass. The Rainy Pass section of trail is put in by associates/volunteers of the Iditarod Dog Race as well as our very own Ultra Sport trail breakers.

A local checking out Bison Camp. This particular year this gentleman left just after we did and broke through all the drifted snow.
In the time between the snowmobile race and the Ultra Sport a lot can happen and change the trail with good ole' mother nature. The nice thing is at least you know there is some sort of base, otherwise you would sink to your waist, which is a great way to know when you are on or off the trail.

Going beyond McGrath to Nome puts you onto a big chunk of trail that only gets traveled by the Iron Dog so when leaving McGrath you are relying on trail from 2 weeks ago which may or may not still be there. This is when you start to figure out when the Iditarod Trail Breakers are coming through. This is a group of snowmobiles that go out to manicure a trail for the dog teams. They generally have about 6 machines that are working the trail safe for the dog teams. They often pull some sort of drag, cut out down fall/brush, and are marking the trail with reflective lath so the mushers know where to go. As a racer if you are waiting for these guys to come through, the trail must be pretty bad of not be there at all. On the South route of the Iditarod it is very common to wait for these guys and are often the first ones through all year, depending on timing it can be just a day or it can be 5 days. Plan accordingly, remember when one leaves McGrath it is over 2 hundred + miles in very remote terrain with nothing but your food drop sitting in the middle of the trail somewhere before hitting the Yukon River.
Burlap bags filled with racers food drops. It is nice to know who planned  on making it but unfortunately did not, more food for the folks that do. 
Over the years Tracey and I have broke into a relationship with the Trail Breakers, earning and gaining much respect, and I can say now that they are our friends. They have looked out for us and gave us some good advice as well as having a friendly beer with them (to me this is what the trail experiences are about) It might have been the year we were traveling almost as fast as them making and seeing them at multiple villages several days in a row that cracked the conversation. We feel pretty proud of this as we have heard some not so friendly experiences with other human powered racers. These guys work hard and it is amazing to see them in action!

Iditarod Trail breakers in Iditarod. We sat here for 2+ days on our way to Nome as there was zero trail ahead of us. 
Sometimes as you get closer to Villages you will feel like there is more of a trail and it can be cause the hunters are out checking there traps, which is another way the trail stays/is in.

Martin traps all over the place...

When you hit the Yukon River you will start to pass through more Villages, they vary in distance but are roughly about 50 miles from one another. You can't rely on inter village travel cause if they don't have a reason to go to another village they don't. Fuel is very expensive on the interior so they don't just cruise around. Some villages have more supplies then others or have more dependable flights which will create more traffic to that particular village.

Amazing athletes to watch come by...

With Iditarod Trail Breakers on course this means The Iditarod Sled Dog Race got off which is one week after the Ultra Sport, and if you are someone going to Nome they will catch you. This is another great time to look forward to some trail traffic. You will end up traveling amungst the dogs on the remainder of the route to Nome. This is an exciting time on the trail, villagers engaged, spectating, and that is all that is talked about. This is one of the most exciting times in these Villages all year. With 50-100 people in some villages and a couple hundred in a bigger village there is not whole lot of excitment. The sad thing is it only lasts a couple of weeks and I will say that is true with the trail. Once the dog race raps up the trail gets snowed in deeper, traffic becomes less, wind blows it over to look like the rest of the landscape and you would never of known of all the snowmobiles, humans and dogs that have been through till next year.

Pete Swenson has also become our friend on the trail. Here he is offering us Spam and Pop.  He was proud of Tracey till he found out she don't eat meat...
Amazing trail, filled with amazing experiences, glad it is only doable human powered a few weeks every year!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rainy Pass Lodge to Rohn

The section of Rainy Pass Lodge to Rohn is the mountain section of the Ultra Sport. It is where you climb up and over the Alsaka Range cresting over Rainy Pass and descend down through a gorge winding up in the "AK. interior" and the Rohn checkpoint where you will find your food drop. This section can take 16 hours or 2 days, I been there for both. The conditions and weather can vary greatly from a crisp, cold, calm night blaring with Northern Lights able to see with no headlamp, to the mercy of mother nature; a socked in storm that will just about blow you over, wallowing around looking for trail, peeking around  for the half-way cabin that you heard about, to teaming up with others to just get'er done.
The pass to a rookie is very nerve racking. I remember my first time of reaching Rainy Lodge by myself. It was a cold, stormy night and I was exhausted from the prior section. Opening up the door of the cabin, Jeff and Rocky (veterans) were strategizing softly to themselves as they were resting on cots and said "hey if you want to join us we are leaving at midnight" and they added "you don't want to head out there in this storm by yourself not being here before and there is NO trail up the pass". I think they respected that I was actually there and took me under there wing per say a little bit, this was awesome cause these guys are experinced Alaskan's and competitive. All and all it was the start of a great relationship that we have today. Do you think as a rookie I was nervous at this point? It was negative temps, snowing and blowing in a full on storm. I took them up on there offering and we headed out pushing our bikes into the night barley able to see where we were going. As we trudged through the unconsolidated snow, overflow included, it was the first and only year we actually did not make it over Rainy Pass and took the long route of going around the range and something called Hell's Gate. It was an amazing experience and I learned tons from these guys as we traveled all the way to the finish together. The next year I did make it up and over Rainy Pass in clear blue skis, but not without any hitches. Pete and I were leading the race and we caught up with the trail breakers (snowmachines) on our decent of the pass. They were sitting in the trail trying to make way, it was very slow for them with all the downfall and loose snow, the trail was barly passable. So we bivyed out for several hours and multiple other racers caught up. As soon as there was enough of us we passed the trailbreakers and trenched out our on trail in a teamwork fashion.
To me this is what the Ultra Sport is all about. We have many experiences where we learn from each other as well as about ourselves. Working together, laughing, bitching, moving forward, and over coming obsacles is what will help you get to the finish. This is a very rewarding experience and one that can only be gained by traveling human powered on the Iditarod Trail in the dead of winter.
The stories of the Pass can go on forever but here are some of my photos of making it over the pass through the years.
Rainy Pass Lodge, the entrance to the mountains. 

These Ptarmigan's make a noise where it sounds as if they are laughing at you, not cool while your pushing...

Inside of half-way cabin, I have stopped here and rested by myself the past couple years, very relaxing...

Flat light and hollow willows makes for hard trail finding.

Leaving Rohn.

After the gorge going to Rohn.

Wonder if the burn has snow this year, this is after Rohn  going to  Bison camp.

Getting to the pass.

Going up the pass.

The top.

Rohn cabin checkpoint, this is it, in the middle of nowhere.

Trail breakers, taking a break.

Team work.

Pringles time! Cabin on top of pass.

The gorge, there are many ice bridges that direct you going back and fourth.

On the way to the pass.

Which one is it again....

Leaving Rainy Lodge.


Halfway cabin

This would be a very expensive flight if you so choose...