Okay, here is the beginning report that you have all been waiting for, the Alaska Ultra Sport 350.
Chuck and I began the 350 mile race on March 1st, along with Tim Hewitt and Tom Jarding who were doing the 1100 mile race. We met James Leavesley at the Minneapolis airport, he was going to attempt the 1100 mile race on a snow bike. Our flight from Pittsburgh was delayed so we did not arrive in Anchorage until Friday evening. We spent the evening hanging out with other races at a local bike shop which hosted a pizza and beer party for everyone.
It snowed all day on Saturday and we debated how the foot or so of new snow would affect the trail when we began on Sunday. The race organizers do a great job of transporting everyone to the start and the bus picked us up promptly at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday for the ride to the start at Knik Lake. The Knik bar was not aware of our impending arrival and had a little trouble keeping up with food orders prior to the start because they did not have enough staff. It was cool to spend some time with others racers. Eric Johnston, who we met last year was at the bar getting some last minute calories. Here is a picture of us at the start, that is a cheeseburger in my hand.
The weather was pleasant, with sun, and temps in the twenties. The trail was well packed and the start was picture perfect. In the small world category, Doug, who sat next to me on the flight to Anchorage was at the start taking pictures. He was from Denver and was in town visiting another photographer friend who dragged him to the start.
Our sleds performed well and we quickly settled into a comfortable pace. Our first goal was to get to the sign for Nome before dark, so that we could get a few pictures of the sign with the Kennywood arrow. The temps began dropping and the wind picked up so when we got to the sign, it was time to add another layer of clothing and get prepared for a long cold night on the lakes, swamps and rivers before arriving at the first checkpoint. When participating in a race that lasts a week or more, it is hard to get into the proper mindset in the early hours of the race. With this in mind, we continued on into the night, heading toward Flathorn Lake, the Great Dismal Swamp and the Big Susitna River.
This is when we encountered our first obstacle.....