Forty eight finishers in the McGrath race out of 48 starters!

First things first. Good Luck and tailwinds to our racers still on the Trail to Nome: Bob, Tim, Sebastiano, Ausillia, Beat, Marco, Shawn and Klaus. They have had very warm wet conditions but it seems to be cooling off now so maybe the Trail will improve for them. Facebook is a great way to keep track of them on their way to Nome since folks on the Trail have been posting first hand reports.

Forty eight finishers in the McGrath race out of 48 starters! I expect the odds of that ever happening were about as good as winning the lottery. It is a testament to the strength and determination of this year’s field of athletes. Jay Petervary set a new men’s bike record and the top seven finishers broke the old record. Eszter Horanyi broke the women’s bike record and Anne Ver Hoef the women’s foot record. David Johnson won the men’s foot division just shy of a record with a big smile and a thirty six pound sled behind him. Thank you to all of you who came and raced to McGrath and on to Nome this year and all of you folks out on the Trail, in homes, lodges, checkpoints and villages, behind computors, on machines and dog sleds who made it possible and a lot less painful. .

If you have ever wondered what those like lodge owners Dan and Jean Gabryszak, checkers Rich Crain and Iris at Yentna, Mark and Cindy at Skwentna, Zoe at Shell Lake Lodge, Carl, Kirsten, Mandy, Tyrone and crew at Winter Lake Lodge, the Perrins at Rainy Pass Lodge, Rob and OE at Rohn, Nick, Olene and Stephanie in Nikolai and Peter and Tracy in McGrath who welcome us have to deal with—— Imagine welcoming not one but forty eight folks half of whom you don’t know into your home or place of business  to eat and sleep at all hours of the day and night who haven’t had sleep or a bath in who knows how long and treating them like family. And it goes on for days. First place or red lantern winner each one of you racers are part of the Iditarod Trail extended family. That Trail family goes far beyond our racers, checkpoints and volunteers. Alan Tilling received as big a cheering welcome by Iditarod Rohn volunteers as any musher when he came through after having to start the race 5 days late. A musher passing out snacks to some and hot chocolate to others was reported through the Trail grapevine. I heard stories of Nome racers helping the checkers in Iditarod in exchange for shelter and food in the spirit of a time long past some places but alive and well on the Iditarod Trail. Another racer loaned his sat-phone to a musher and helped try to catch a loose sled dog. One of the Iditarod Trail Breakers to whom the Nome racers have to thank for their trail beyond McGrath in many places saying they enjoy running in to our racers going to Nome. Iditarod comms folks retrieving racers drops sent to a village so they were available on Sunday. School teachers and principals checking on and looking after racers in the villages. When we had 3 racers overdue in Rohn and not seen by Rob Kehrer on his way out of Rohn Terry Boyle and the Iditarod Rohn Crew were immediately ready to help. OE aka Kevin Robins one of our volunteers in Rohn was in his plane and looking as soon as he got it warmed up calling us shortly saying he had spotted the racers who had taken a very scenic 25 mile in and out tour of 3 mile canyon before heading over Rainy Pass and were just running a bit late. Thats just some of the stories I have seen or heard this year and I am sure others could add many many more.

I have watched the race evolve over the years from a couple of dozen diehard bikers with homemade and modified winter bike parts and gear (not because they couldn’t afford it but because there were none to buy), a runner and a skier or two all seen by other Trail users and locals, probably rightly so, as a bit “out there”. To see how we have been taken into the Iditarod Trail Community over the years gives me a lot of pleasure. It says more about the character of our racers than what place they finish. It is all of you racers being such great ambassadors on the Trail and the open hearts of all who help us out there that makes the Iditarod Trail Invitational of today possible.

Thanks to all the Iditarod Sled Dog Race folks some of whom never make their efforts public who have been there for us through the years. To get to be part of our race and the Sled Dog Race as a checker in Rohn is something that makes me personally feel very priviledged. Remember to thank them when you can because without their race ours doesn’t happen.

Thanks to Greg Matyas  bike designer and veteran McGrath racer for holding our pre-race party at Speedway cycles home of the Fatback. Here racers reconnect with old friends and meet the new ones while eating pizza, drinking beer and talking Iditarod Trail.

Kathi had Sharon Heiny long time race checker/supporter/ Iditartod checker and Andrea Hambach veteran 350 finisher and several others including veteran racers and folks on the Trail pitching in on her administrative team this year. Thanks to all of you for making it better for all the folks at home following friends, loved ones or their favorite racer.

Last to mention but by no means least is the nationally recognized, crusty, sometimes jaded or brutally honest old outdoors reporter who has been stalking us since the beginning of time. Sure that someone might be interested in a story about this fringe group of winter athletes Craig Medred has traveled hundreds of miles on the Trail (part of them with me if that tells you anything about the company he keeps) and written thousands of words about our race from a perspective only possible by being there. Thanks for being there Craig.

Thanks to everyone for helping Kathi and I be the facilitators of one of the last great races that belongs to all of you

Bill M.

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