Good friend and fellow Fairbanks endurance cyclist Kevin Breitenbach shared some incredible memories from last year's Iditarod Trail Invitational on his Facebook page and I told him they needed to be shared elsewhere, in a searchable & linkable place on the interwebs, so they were not lost forever.
I am sharing his unedited, raw and sleep-deprived memories, one per day for three days, matching the time frame of the race and when he will approximately be in the places where the stories happened. I wish all the racers warm appendages, clear minds, a happy stomach, and a good trail. And for 'K-Bear,' go get 'em, buddy!
2013 ITI Day Two:
"It had to be over 100 degrees in the cabin. My arms were plastered against a window coated in ice trying to cool off. I couldn't sleep, we were all resting at the Rainy Pass lodge. 35 hours and 175 miles into the race i just couldn't sleep.
It had been 42 hours since I woke up in Anchorage, now we were just 18 miles from the crest of the Alaska range. At around 1 am, I looked over and Jeff Oatley wasn't sleeping either. 'Should we ride?' he asked. I looked around the room. Tim Bernston, John Lackey and Jay Petervary were all lying down. I whispered back confidently 'Yeah lets roll.'
It may sound lame but I look back on that as a defining moment in my life. There was no question in my mind that was the best idea. Should we sleep no, should we let our gear dry out more no, should we just let ourselves rest no. Should we leave in the middle of the night to push ourselves over the Alaska Range on no sleep about 200 miles from any road...yep. That wasn't a tough decision, it was easy. I realized then I didn't have to live my life trying to prove I was tougher than I looked. I was either tough or delusional...perhaps both.
We quietly got our things together. I looked over at Jay, he was relaxed with his arms crossed and knees elevated to minimize the swelling that we all were experiencing. He had one eye open keeping track of us like the seasoned racer that he is. When we were about to leave Jason Buffington staggered into the cabin exhausted but still cheery and smiling (nothing can get him down, maybe the most positive person I've ever rode with). We suggested he get some rest and lie down on the floor in the back room to keep cool.
Jeff, Tim, John and I all left under a full moon and clear skies and a world of white mountain peaks. We headed up Ptarmigan valley. My Camelback had leaked inside my jacket and kinda soaked my base layer. I got cold and couldn't recover my heat. I told the guys I'd catch up. Oatley got on my case that I needed to eat more. 'You shouldn't be cold right now, it's too warm out to layer up more.' I almost listened but I knew I was a small person, I have very little reserves. Jeff out weighs me by probably 40 lbs. Once my small furnace inside me goes out I need more. I sweat very little. And the guys were never hesitant to give me crap about it. I think Jay called me prepubescent the the night before.
While I layered up I looked back down valley and I could see a headlamp a few miles back. It was Jay, he was on it. Trailing just behind us like he did often over the 3 days. It was becoming a real race. I often felt like we were just a herd of caribou and I was the weak one often falling behind. One of these times a wolf was just gonna pick me off. (Honestly, that's a bit of an analogy, but when I saw fresh wolf tracks I was kinda scared that's how they saw me).
We headed up valley the trail was shockingly good. The guys were all in good spirits but I was fucking tired. The slope eventually got too steep and we pushed. I remember pushing across the small lake near the pass and I was having a hard time staying upright. I thought I was just going to pass out. I held my head low but I pulled out of it. Jeff, John and Tim waited just ahead and we all crested the pass together.
A short rest on top and the early morning sun touched the peaks above us. The moon shone from the south. It took just 4 hours or so and we headed down through the Dalzell Gorge as the day brightened I hardly remember any of that. Around 9 am 8 hours after we left Puntilla Lake we arrived at Rohn, rested no more than an hour and pushed on for the 90 miles to Nikolai again on no sleep.
The race starts this Sunday. I have a feeling I'll have a lot of different stories from this year. and I cant wait to see how it pans out"
- Kevin Breitenbach
Follow the racers on the ITI website