McGrath March 2 Day 7 2019 ITI
McGrath March 2
Current conditions in McGrath: 12 F with light snow, no wind
Rob Henderson from Minneapolis won the 350-mile running division last night. Piotr Chadovich from Belarus is the second runner to arrive in McGrath. Congratulations to them both!
Steve Cannon from Des Moines, Iowa, and Alaskan cyclists Missy Schwarz of Fairbanks and Kimberly Riggs of Anchorage departed the McGrath checkpoint en route to Nome this morning. It appears the three snowmachines reported en route to Nome have passed the leading bikers and have put in a trail to the ghost town of Iditarod, where 10,000 gold miners once lived.
The race takes an alternating course each year after Ophir, following a northern route in even years and a southern route in odd years. Many ITI racers find the southern route – which includes the town of Iditarod – interesting because of its historical significance, and I have heard from racers who have done it that it’s especially scenic between Ophir and Shageluk.
The 1000-mile race is more an expedition and adventure than a race. Before anyone can enter the 1000-mile race in the ITI, they need to have finished the 350-mile event in a previous year. Since the year 2000, only about 65 human-powered racers have crossed the finish line under the burled arch in Nome. Only seven have been women.
Go Missy! Go Kim!
The sole remaining skier on the course, Asbjorn Bruun from Norway, is now 18 miles from Nikolai. Last year, we had two skiers finish the 350-mile race. Few skiers enter this race – even fewer finish. It is not hard to understand why. The trail often includes snowless sections of ice and rocks that are difficult to ski. It’s bumpy from snowmobiles and windy through the trees, and there are short, steep sections that are very narrow and icy. And when it is really cold, there is no glide to skis.
There is a reason fat bikes dominate this race, always win and set the fastest times: A fat bike has proved to be the fastest mode of transport for human-powered travel on the Iditarod Trail. In 2015, John Lackey of Anchorage set an ITI 350 bike record by making it to McGrath in under two days, beating the fastest time of even the dog mushing teams on that stretch of the trail. Jeff Oatley from Fairbanks set the 1000-mile bike record in 2014 of 10 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes. In the early days of the Iditarod, Jeff would have won the dog race with this time. The winning time for champion musher Martin Buser’s dog team in 1992 set a record at just over 10 days, and it wasn’t until Doug Swingley’s win in 1995 that a dog team finished in under 10 days.
Kathi Merchant in McGrath