Thank you everyone who joined us this year for the 2017 ITI. Congratulations to the 130 mile winners, Kurt Barclay men’s bike, Stephanie Melnychuk womens bike, Marty Lindeke men’s running,Mary Beck women’s running, 350 mile winners Jay Petervary men’s bike, David Johnson who won the men’s running division for the 5th consecutive time, Amy Breen the women’s bike champ, Dan Powers our lone ski finisher, Jay Cable winner in the 1000 mile Nome race and all those who finished at Winter Lake, McGrath and Nome. It was “Real Alaska” out there this year. The “old normal” seemed to be the words most used by long time trail travelers.
When I was younger I would come up with what I thought were great outdoor experiences, talk a couple of friends into joining me for what I thought was fun and they never spoke to me again.With that experience repeated many times throughout my life there was a time years ago when during the race conditions got really challenging I wondered if something similar might happen and all my new found friends would never come back. Then I found without fail when Alaska gets real with this group of folks the atmosphere at the Schneiderheinze house in McGrath is amazing. The smiles, excited story telling and comeraderie born of shared experiences reassures me the true adventurer is alive and well in each and everyone of you. It also reminds me if we do too much to make overcoming what the Trail throws at us easier it would cheat those who follow looking for the satisfaction that comes from confronting, accessing and hopefully overcoming whatever challenges we face.
This year’s race not only offered very real Alaskan winter conditions the Trail had another surprise for some of us. We were randomly (me too) selected to catch a stomach bug that has to be experienced to understand. I was told by folks I tried to share the story with those details should only be discussed among survivors. Everyone who survived THAT has my respect especially those stuck outside along the trail in a bivy. Even more impressive and hard to imagine were those who went through the bug to finish to McGrath and even Nome human powered.
This was an especially good year for me on the Trail despite the bug. I had the chance to visit one on one with many of you at the finish in McGrath or on a windless sunny day between McGrath and Rohn. Adrian and I were trail sweeps across from McGrath to Ruby. Having the chance to be on the Trail with the Nome racers passing them one by one until we finally chased down Jay Cable just before Safety was a great experience. Another favorite race quote, “You can’t buy that!”
Having the opportunity to personally thank the many many folks along the Trail who have taken us in over the years gave me the chance to renew old acquaintances and make many new friends. Being there at the finish to congratulate the finishers in Nome and hear the stories first hand over lots of food and beer couldn’t be matched by emails, phone calls and meeting them back in Anchorage. The respect shown to our racers by Mark Nordman the Iditarod Sled Dog Race manager, other ITC staff and many of the mushers at the finish had to be experienced to be appreciated. Listening to feedback from the finishers about Adrian and I being an asset not a distraction on the Trail and in Nome we hope to do it every year.
The stories I heard first hand from locals from this year and years past about all their positive encounters with racers made me feel lucky to be associated with such an amazing group of athletes and just all around good folks.
Thanks again to all who joined us and I look forward to seeing you again in 2018 to once again challenge ourselves on the Iditarod Trail.