Most bikers have gone through Puntilla Lake by now, arriving at night, leaving with the first light in the morning.
Now, slowly the runners/walkers are trickling in, which makes Dave Johnston’s pace even more amazing.
Kevin Breitenbach was the first to cross the finish line in McGrath covering 350 miles in 2 days 4 hours and 43 minutes. Tim Bernston came in as a close second just 21 minutes behind the leader. Third place went to Alec Petro. The trio was leading the race early on and never looked back.
Several riders coming into Puntilla Lake commented on the beauty of the place. I wonder how much time the leaders had to admire the scenery. Many riders arrived at Puntilla Lake in the dark, a few left in the middle of the night.
Some riders took the time to sleep over in the warm guide shack: “Life is too short to race”. Breakfast in the morning, waiting for the sun to warm the cold winter air. Beautiful clear skies and vistas were their reward.
Another notable event was the arrival of the first walker, Dave Johnson, running about 120 miles in 2 days. He took a nap, gave an interview and headed towards Rainy Pass.
After less than 24 hours the first three riders arrived at Puntilla Lake! Tim Bernston, Kevin Breitenbach, and Alec Petro were the first ones to check in and leave Puntilla Lake for Rainy Pass a few hours later. A short rest in our warm guide shack and a hot meal was all they took before heading out again.
Pretty amazing sight seeing bicycles in the middle of nowhere. The bikes are snowbikes with big fat tires, and metal studs! Every rider carries some required gear, such as a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and food. 50 individuals have signed up for this year’s race, the majority riding 350 miles to McGrath. 22 riders attempt to go on to Nome for a total of 1000 miles. They follow the Iditarod trail, which seems to be very fast this year, despite or because of the low snow conditions.
So far I have seen one single speed, one bike without front brakes, no shocks, some carbon frames… I am not sure how important the gear is. The mindset is certainly crucial. This is not a race for the faint-hearted. Yes, there are food drops, cabins, and checkers along the way. Then again, there are long ours of solitude, exertion, and struggle. I am surprised how little attention these athletes get compared to the Iron Dog snowmobile racers or the Iditarod sled dog mushers.
Oh, I forgot. There are also a handful participants that walk or ski the distance. Looking forward to seeing those athletes to arrive at Puntilla Lake.
Puntilla Lake is an official checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail. I had no idea how much effort goes into preparing the trail for this race. Not only stakes and markers, but also bridges, tree cutting, and snow shoveling are part of the preparations. This is all done by volunteers, who work long hours in the cold.
Last night a trail crew arrived in the dark, frozen beards, wet boots and all. Reluctantly they drank a cup of coffee and some water before heading back out into the night.
During the day we had a fleet of volunteer pilots drop tons of hay, dog food, and other supplies. When I say tons I am not exaggerating. It was a beautiful day for flying. There is an official logo for these volunteer pilots: The Iditarod Air Force. The pilots all seemed to be proud and enthusiastic to be part of that race.
The 2014 Iditarod Race is following the traditional Iditarod Trail leading through the Alaska Range. Due to the icy conditions on parts of the trail the race committee had considered a different route, but Mother Nature has provided a little dusting and we hope a little more snow will make the trail safe for everybody. It is supposed to be toughest sled dog race on Earth…
This means we will have 72 mushers, over thousand dogs, and a few hundred spectators at Rainy Pass Lodge in a couple of weeks. We will listen to a different tune than the roaring 600cc snow machines that came through here this weekend for the Iron Dog. To round up the madness, a few selected extreme bikers, runners, and skiers will come by the week after during the Iditarod Trail Invitational.
Looking forward to all the activity, and the return to “normal” afterwards.
And this is how the professionals race…
“The World’s Longest And Toughest Snowmobile Race”
Need I say more? The rest is here!