My Return to the Iditarod Trail Invitational
The Iditarod Trail Invitational scares me. It is the world's longest running winter ultra-marathon and hearty souls complete this human powered event by bike, ski or foot. I thought this event was impossible for someone like me...someone who hates cold and who's body isn't suited to a hostile, freezing environment. But for some reason...this expedition race kept calling to me...first a whisper, then a loud "call of the wild" howl. I had to listen. I had to go answer that call, to see if I could do it. This human powered expedition with minimal support takes place on the historical Iditarod trail...the same trail as the iconic dog sled race. The history of the trail, the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and the extreme challenge were the magnetic draw.
2019 was my rookie year on the trail. My only goal was to survive and finish and I did that with the help of many winter explorer friends like Jay Petervary, Ed Viesturs, Eric Larsen and Peter Whittaker. Jay...a veteran of winter bike expeditions and winningest athlete on this course told me.."the Iditarod Trail will change you" and he was right. At the finish line, tears of relief, joy and shock froze to my windburned cheeks. I was a different person that the one who started. 2020 I returned stronger, more confident and again completely pushed to my absolute limit by record snow fall and -40F temperatures. I spent that year on course with my husband Greg and the bond between us grew deeper by this shared experience. I return in 2021 to once again test myself against the elements and heed the call of the wild. Why? Because there is no place where I learn more about who I am and what I am capable of than on this trail.
My last race in 2020 was the ITI and we came out of the cold into the shock of a global pandemic on fire. As we return for 2021, the 20th anniversary of the race, things are different and they need to be. Safety has always been my #1 concern for this event and this year, the safety takes a different turn. We are still in a global pandemic so my decision to travel was not taken lightly.
For the first time ever the course has changed to avoid isolated native communities. As a first responder I am being vaccinated for Covid-19. All participants will be tested prior to arriving in Alaska and again before starting the race. Strict mask and distance protocol have been put in place and any indoor facilities or check points have limits on number of people inside. My decision to participate was ultimately based on the updated route and safety precautions the event directors are taking to keep the remote communities safe. What these new and important safety protocols mean is that I have to be prepared even more than previously to be self sufficient, to sleep outside and to minimize usage of any indoor facilities. This is my third year in the Alaskan wild...and the trail still scares me, but this time I'm far more prepared to be self sufficient than ever before. I know the trail will change me once again and I am ready and curious to see how it will change me.
For More Info on The Iditarod Trail Invitational check out their website HERE