The 2019 ITI is a Wrap

The 2019 ITI is a wrap with Grant Maughn and Klaus Schweinberger concluding their ITI 1000 journeys in Nome. Grant finished in 33 days, 7 hours and 9 minutes and Klaus in 34 days, 12 hours and 1 minute.

The two did not make the 30 day cut off, but that does not diminish the feat they accomplished, covering 1,000 miles on foot across the Alaskan wilderness in rain, winds, soft snow conditions and low visibility for the final several hundred miles of their journey. They demonstrated remarkable grit in persevering in the face of enormous obstacles and embodied the resilient spirit of the ITI community.

Grant Maughn under the burled arch

Grant Maughn under the burled arch

Klaus Schweinberger finishes his journey on foot to Nome

Klaus Schweinberger finishes his journey on foot to Nome

Kathi MerchantComment
Steve and Peter Finish the ITI 1000

Congratulations to Steve Cannon of Des Moines, Iowa for finishing the ITI 1000 in 26 days, 2 hours and 33 minutes!

Photo: Dave Mable

Photo: Dave Mable

Peter Felten of Bad Honnef, Germany completed his journey to Nome in 26 days, 6 hours and 43 minutes. Way to go!

Peter Felten.jpg
2019 ITI 1000 Foot Champion
Photo: Jill Homer

Photo: Jill Homer

Congratulations to Beat Jegerlehner for winning the ITI 1000 foot division in 25 days, 5 hours and 11 minutes!

Beat has been on the trail in the ITI every year since 2012. This is his 5th finish in Nome and his first win. Beat finished over 150 miles ahead of the next foot athlete, covering much of the 1000 miles at night to take advantage of cooler temperatures and firmer trails. His relentless progress towards Nome was amazing to watch as he overcame temperatures as low as -30F and as high as 40F that turned the trail into wet, mushy mess.

Beat’s win was a master lesson in preparation, strategy and tenacity by a true champion.

2019 ITI 1000 Women's Bike Champions
Photo: Jill Homer

Photo: Jill Homer

Congratulations to Kim Riggs and Missy Schwarz for finishing the ITI 1000 in 21 days, 23 hours and 39 minutes as the 2019 Women's Bike Champions! They are only the 8th and 9th women to complete the journey to Nome since the ITI began in 2002.

Troy Finishes the ITI 1000
Troy.jpg

Congratulations to Troy Szczurkowski of Brisbane, Australia for placing 3rd in the 2019 ITI 1000 in 19 days, 16 hours and 14 minutes!

Troy is the only Australian to have completed the ITI 1000, and this is his fourth finish in Nome out of four attempts. Troy also completed the ITI 350 in 2015.

Troy led the 1000 mile race for the first 400 miles and battled injuries to his feet for most of his journey to Nome. The determination he showed by pushing through very tough weather and trail conditions while overcoming physical setbacks was inspiring and a testament to his resilience and grit.

2019 ITI 1000 Men's Bike Champions
Finish - John and Petr.jpg

Congratulations to John Logar and Petr Ineman for winning the ITI 1000 Men’s Bike Division in 19 days, 3 hours and 56 minutes!

John and Petr persevered together for over 700 of the 1000 miles, conquering overwhelming challenges during every day of their journey, and, in the end, they crossed under the burled arch in Nome at the same time as champions of the 2019 ITI 1000.

Day 20 - Expecting Finishers In Nome

It is day 20 in the 2019 Iditarod Trail Invitational and 12 athletes are still making their way to Nome in the ITI 1000. Six athletes have previously finished the ITI 1000, but the other six have paid their dues on the Iditarod Trail by finishing the ITI 350 one or more times in the past.

John Logar and Petr Ineman are expected to be the first finishers in Nome this evening. They have been riding together for more than 700 miles and took the lead between Ophir and Iditarod from Troy Szcurkowski. Troy is in third place, 14 miles behind the lead duo, and has been battling trench foot for more than a week.

Jose Bermudez is in White Mountain in fourth place, 25 miles behind Troy. Meanwhile, the women’s duo of Missy Schwarz and Kim Riggs, who have ridden together since the start of the ITI on February 24th, is expected to arrive in Elim tonight.

The lead runner, Beat Jegerlehner, on his 5th run to Nome, is approaching Shaktoolik, around 750 miles into the race. Beat is about 100 miles ahead of the next runner, Eric Johnson, who is also a previous finisher of the ITI 1000 and who is currently in Kaltag.

Iowa’s Steve Cannon and Germany’s Peter Felten left Unalakleet this morning and are about halfway through the 40-mile leg to Shaktoolik. Suffering from gut problems, Steve stayed in Unalakleet for two days until he felt well enough to continue.

The ever-positive and smiling Austrian, Klaus Schweinberger, is in third place in the foot division, just a few miles ahead of Australian Grant Maughan. Both men will reach Eagle Island tonight, the halfway point in the long, desolate and tough 120-mile Yukon River section. As the last competitors on the Iditarod Trail this year, they face the daunting task of covering ground over trails that have not seen traffic in a few days.

Kathi MerchantComment
Nome-Bound Athletes on Day 17

After 17 days, ITI athletes are spread over more than 300 miles.

A frosty Petr Ineman

A frosty Petr Ineman

Petr Ineman and John Logar were the first to make it across Norton Bay between Shaktoolik and Koyuk, spending around 19 hours on the ice working against strong headwinds, snowfall and a blown-in trail. After leaving the bay, they will cover 12 more miles on a revised overland route before arriving in Koyuk.

About 20 miles behind them, Troy Szczurkowski arrived at the Little Mountain shelter cabin, perched on a peninsula jutting into Norton Bay. Troy rested, recovered and attended to his injured feet for about 13 hours in Shaktoolik before making the six hour push to the cabin and is not expected to stay long before embarking on his crossing of the sea ice.

Jose Bermudez stopped in Shaktoolik after crossing the tough Blueberry Hills just outside of Unalakleet and pushing his bike for most of the last 11 miles across the soft trail into Shaktoolik. He plans on resting for a few hours before pressing on towards and across the sea ice.

The Little Mountain shelter cabin 📷 Craig Bullen

The Little Mountain shelter cabin
📷 Craig Bullen

A contemplative Jose Bermudez 📷 Jose Bermudez

A contemplative Jose Bermudez
📷 Jose Bermudez

Missy Schwarz and Kim Riggs arrived in Unalakleet and caught their first glimpse of the coast at 3:30pm while Steve Cannon made good time about 25 miles behind them, riding the packed trails of the portage from Kaltag.

Missy and Kim prepare firewood at the Old Woman shelter cabin between Kaltag and Unalakleet 📷 Nicholas Carmen

Missy and Kim prepare firewood at the Old Woman shelter cabin between Kaltag and Unalakleet
📷 Nicholas Carmen

Steve Cannon arrives in Kaltag at 1am  📷 Nicholas Carmen

Steve Cannon arrives in Kaltag at 1am

📷 Nicholas Carmen

Grant Maughan works his way along a soft trail in snowshoes

Grant Maughan works his way along a soft trail in snowshoes

Leading the foot race, Beat Jegerlehner arrived in Kaltag around 2pm after spending 3-1/2 days working against a sloppy, soft and wet trail. Peter Felten is 36 miles back, doing his best to navigate the overflow and slush while pushing his bike.

Eric Johnson, the second-place foot racer, left Grayling at 1:02pm after spending a day resting and recovering before embarking on the long, arduous and remote 121 mile trek to Kaltag. Although the Eagle Island checkpoint is approximately mid-way between Grayling and Kaltag, there are no services and is only composed of a few tents used as a rugged dog sled race checkpoint.

Klaus Schweinberger is 493 miles into the race and is just about to drop onto the Yukon River, 6 miles from Anvik, while Grant Maughan is 20 miles behind him after having just left Shageluk. Both men trudged through the day in light snowfall and soft trails with temperatures in the high 20’s to low 30’s.

Sea Ice Route

The Iditarod Trail changes slightly each year, based on conditions. This year, warm temperatures and unstable surfaces have required a deviation in the trail over the sea ice between Shaktoolik and Koyuk. ITI athletes will travel closer to the coast after leaving the Little Mountain Cabin and will take an overland route for the last several miles before Koyuk.

After Koyuk, the trail heads takes a more inlet route for the first few miles before rejoining the standard track to Elim. Once athletes leave Elim, they will take the overland route to Golovin.

The map below shows the standard route in red along with the planned revisions in green.

Sea ice re-route.jpg
Kyle DurandComment
Evening update March 9

The first bikers have arrived in Kaltag after the long over 100 mile stretch up the Yukon River in warm conditions with sleet, rain, snow, wind, overflow and soft trails.

The first two arrive were Petr Ineman and John Logar followed by Troy Sczurkowski.

Troy reports temperatures close to 40 degrees with soft punchy trails.

The two Alaskan women in the race to Nome, Missy and Kim, are making steady progress on the Yukon River despite the warm and soft trail conditions.

Jose Bermudez, Steve Cannon and Peter Felten are keeping a steady pace despite the slow trails.

Runners Beat, Klaus, Eric and Grant are also keeping a steady pace.

I spoke with Eric Johnson. He said he has trouble getting the tracker unit opened up to put new batteries in. The screws are in so tight, he is afraid he might strip them out. Will find out how we can get the tracking unit opened up.

The weather forecast for Kaltag:

Tonight

A 40 percent chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 30. Northeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Sunday

Snow, mainly after 9am. High near 33. Northeast wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.

Sunday Night

Snow. Low around 27. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.

Monday

Snow likely. Cloudy, with a high near 29. Northeast wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Kathi Merchant, Matanuska Valley

race director

The women’s record holder Jill Homer is in Nome for a month training for the White Mountains 100 race and awaiting Beat Jegerlehner’s arrival. She went on a locals ride outside of Nome today and witnessed a storm that broke the sea ice loose and she writes on face book that now you can see the ocean from front street in Nome. An aerial image posted later by former racer Sean Grady snows most of Norton Bay without ice also. This means most of the trail beyond Shaktoolik to Koyuk, Elim to Golovin will most likely run overland this year. The warm tempereatures along the coast will also not be ideal for running dogs in the Iditarod. They tend to overheat when it is above freezing.

Kathi MerchantComment
Eric Johnson left Iditarod last night

We did hear that Utah runner Eric Johnson left Iditarod last night. He was in good spirits. His tracker is not working. We will leave a message for him in Shageluk that he needs to check his tracking device.

Florian Reiterberger has left the Ophir check point. We are waiting to hear from him once he gets back onto the road system and cellphone signal about his arrival back at the hotel in Anchorage.

All other racers on the trail to Nome are making great progress.

Leading bikers Petr Ineman and John Logar are only 8 miles from Kaltag this morning.

Kathi Merchant

race director

Kathi MerchantComment
March 8 evening update

We have been monitoring the trackers all day. The ITI racers are moving along the trail now in the midst of the Iditarod dog mushers, who have arrived in Grayling. The leading bikers in the ITI are still ahead of the mushers, and they are moving along well on the big, wide, mighty Yukon River at over a mile wide in places.

A quote from Andy Heading, a competitor from the UK several years ago : “This is not a river, it is an ocean.”

Florian Reiterberger is still in Ophir, according to his tracker. The weather conditions have most likely prevented a bush flight out. A flight or the trail is the only way out.

Not tracking:

Eric Johnson from Odgen, Utah, is on the trail, but either his tracker is not working or he forgot to turn it on. He left the McGrath checkpoint 2 days ago.

The trail is really remote beyond McGrath, and the 1000-mile race is different from the 350-mile race. It is a self-supported, winter expedition. The only news we get as race organizers is what racers post themselves on social media when they have access to wifi in the villages, or if they call from a village. The only cell phone that works close to or in the villages is the Alaskan GCI cell phone. Some racers carry satellite phones. They are not required to call the race organization. We get what information we get on occasion or through Iditarod news media on the trail. We will share information as racers pass through gateways/villages along the trail. There will be more places to find wifi once racers get to Kaltag and after Unalakleet on the Bering Sea Coast.

Hopefully, we will hear from them sooner.

Kathi Merchant
race director, Matanuska Valley, Alaska

Kathi MerchantComment
March 8 day 11 of the 2019 ITI

Racers are making steady progress up the Yukon River and the first 3 bikers — Troy Sczurkowski, Petr Ineman and John Logar — have made it past Eagle Island on the Yukon River, heading north towards Kaltag.

The only two women in the 1000-mile event are Alaskans Kim Riggs from Anchorage and Missy Schwarz from Fairbanks. They both have finished the 350-mile event multiple times previously.

They are currently 50 miles south of Eagle Island, moving along at 6 mph. This indicates the trails on the Yukon River are pretty good and have set up to ride.

Florian Reiterberger is still in Ophir. He is waiting for a flight out. His bush flight may have been delayed because of bad weather. Alaska bush pilots fly VFR, which means the must have enough visibility to fly. Icing conditions also prevent bush pilots from flying when temperatures get close to the freezing point.

The last racer on the trail, just out of Ophir, is runner Grant Maughan from Australia.

Anchorage Daily News had this article about the snowless trail conditions and tussocks showing in the 80-mile stretch between Ophir and Iditarod:

https://www.adn.com/outdoors-adventure/iditarod/2019/03/08/its-just-bam-bam-bam-iditarod-leaders-just-spent-hours-grinding-across-a-tussock-studded-trail-with-not-much-snow/?

The picture of the musher in the article explains pretty well what Alaskan tussocks look like.

Current conditions and forecast for the Kaltag area:

This Afternoon

Snow. High near 31. Northeast wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Tonight

Snow, mainly before 4 a.m. Low around 22. East wind around 5 mph becoming southeast after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of about an inch possible.

Kathi MerchantComment
March 7 there are 12 athletes En route to Nome

Today there are 12 athletes making their way to Nome. Eric Johnson is not tracking. He possibly forgot to change his batteries in McGrath or did not turn the tracker back on.

Grant Maughn has new shoes and is on his way as well.

Donald Kane has pulled out of the race:

https://craigmedred.news/2019/03/07/worst-of-times/

Current temperature in Anvik is 27 F. The leading bikers have reached the small village of Anvik on the Yukon River. In the lead are John Logar and Petr Ineman, both veterans of the 1000-mile race. This morning they are moving at 6-7 mph. With cooler temps at night, trails must have firmed up for them.

Aliy Zirkle is the leading musher into Iditarod in the sled dog race. She has not taken her mandatory 24-hour stop yet. Iditarod is the halfway point for mushers as well as human-powered athletes.

Beyond McGrath, there is a drop bag provided by the ITI organization that is flown out by a bush plane ahead of time. Then there are 3 small villages where racers resupply from village stores or retrieve packages they have mailed ahead to themselves as “general delivery.” There is a BNB in Shageluk and Grayling; otherwise, racers sleep in the schools along the way when there are no other lodging options.

The most desolate and longest uninhabited stretch of Yukon River awaits them after the stop in Grayling: over 100 miles on the big, wide and lonely Yukon River until they reach the community of Kaltag.

Kathi MerchantComment
Wet and snowy conditions on the Iditarod Trail

Day 10 ITI

Trail conditions on the Iditarod Trail are not ideal right now for people or dogs. Temperatures are warming in the Iditarod area and making travel difficult in wet conditions and soft trails.

Two  fat-bikers in the ITI have turned around. German rider Florian Reiterberger is having knee issues and pushed his bike back to Ophir. He is getting a flight out to Wasilla tomorrow. Scottish rider and race veteran Donald Kane, a previous Nome finisher, pulled the plug on his race after heading into heavy snow into the Takotna hills. He walked back to McGrath and flew back to Anchorage today.

Klaus Schweinberger left McGrath and is on his way to Takotna.

Grant Maughan is waiting on new shoes. The ones he used to McGrath caused him foot issues.

9 racers of the 16 who signed up for the 1000-mile event are still in the running.

We are following the Iditarod Sled Dog race updates to get a glimpse of current trail conditions, as well as monitoring speeds and mileage covered by the ITI racers. However, mushing dogs over trail is not the same as riding a bike or running the Iditarod Trail by human power. Dogs don’t need a surface as hard as human athletes do to move forward on a snowy winter trail.

There are several scenarios possible with the current weather pattern on the section from Gayling to Kaltag, a wide-open stretch on the Yukon River of over 100 miles.

The trail could set up hard with cooling temperatures and create fast trails; it could be sugary snow; it could be the consistency of powdered milk or mashed potatoes — all depending on snow, wind, temperature and other factors.

Another issue for these athletes will be moisture management and trench foot issues. Getting wet and damp in these conditions will get you chilled quickly, and it is hard to stay dry. Then you get cold, and it is difficult to dry anything without external heat.

Racers can build a fire. We did in the 2008 race, when we got rained on near Cripple on the Northern Route.

Trench foot is a condition that reduces circulation in your feet and toes due to prolonged wet and cold conditions. It also encourages blister formation. Worst case, you can lose toes if you keep them in this condition too long.

Historically, the Yukon River on this particular section on the South Route between Grayling and Kaltag has dished out sugary snow, head winds and drifted-in trails, and often slow unrideable trails, even slow for foot travel.

We will keep our eyes peeled on the Trackleaders ITI tracking page and see what progress racers are making.

Kathi MerchantComment
Day 9 INTO THE STORM

The 350-mile race is a wrap for the 2019 ITI.

Congratulations to all 39 finishers in the 350-mile event this year!

Full results are found on the Trackleaders page. The results will be posted on our website after this year’s race.

There are 14 athletes en route to Nome.

Current temp in Anvik: 32 F

https://craigmedred.news/2019/03/05/into-the-storm

https://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Human-powered-athletes-warn-of-soft-snow-ahead-for-Iditarod-dog-teams

The leaders of the 1000-mile event are in Iditarod. Troy Szcurkowski was able to get a message out to us this morning that they are OK. They found their drop bags and fuel in Iditarod. There is no trail. They have been traveling behind a group of 3 snowmobiles on the trail to Nome as tourists.

The Iditarod Sled Dog trail breakers are on their way, breaking trail for the dogs. The first mushers have arrived in Nikolai.

There is a winter weather advisory in effect for the Shageluk/Anvik area:

Lower Yukon Valley- Including Russian Mission, Grayling, Holy Cross, Shageluk, Anvik, and Flat 448 AM AKST Tue Mar 5 2019 ...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM AKST THIS EVENING... * WHAT...Snow and mixed freezing precipitation occurring. Plan on difficult travel conditions. Additional snow accumulations of 2 to 5 inches, and ice accumulation of less than a tenth of an inch, are expected. * WHERE...Lower Yukon Valley. Heaviest snow north and west of Anvik.


Kathi MerchantComment
March 4 McGrath

Good morning from McGrath.

Current conditions here: 18 F

Forecast for the Shageluk area, where the current leaders in the 1000-mile race are:

Today

Rain and snow likely. Cloudy, with a high near 35 F. Southeast wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.

Tonight

Rain and snow likely before midnight, then snow. Low around 31 F. Southeast wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Tuesday

Snow before 9 am, then rain and snow. High near 35 F. Southeast wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.

More racers arrived in McGrath last night. Asbjorn Bruun from Denmark became the first and only skier to finish, with a time of 7 days, 11 hours, 27 minutes. Congratulations!

Donald Kane and Eric Johnson, both signed up in the 1000-mile event, are here.

Vincent Poffet, Daniel Slater and Jason Davis – all rookies this year – have crossed the finish line in McGrath. Congratulations!

The Schneiderheinzes’ residence is busy again with trail chatter and finishers enjoying the warm hospitality here, with mancakes, omelettes and French-pressed coffee.

Both Kyle Durand and I are here to congratulate the finishers.

What an amazing field and high quality of athletes this year, and the greatest people to share stories and spend time with here at the finish line in McGrath.

Today, Day 8 of the event, we have a few more racers on the trail between Nikolai and McGrath.

There is a winter blizzard moving into the Lower Yukon area around Shageluk, with temperatures rising to 35 F, and rain and snow from 5-8 inches to possibly even 16 inches.

Iditarod Sled Dog Race trail breakers are in McGrath and heading up the trail today ahead of the dog race, which started yesterday in Willow. The first mushers will be in McGrath tomorrow night.

Our 1000-mile leaders, Troy Scurkowski, Petr Ineman, Jose Bermudez and John Logar, have been stopped at the Moose Creek cabin for quite some time.

The question remains, is there a trail to Iditarod and Shageluk?

Kathi MerchantComment
March 3 evening report

McGrath current temperature 30 F (-1C)

13 racers remain on the trail to McGrath. The last racers are arriving in Nikolai tonight. 7 bikers are en route to Nome between Ophir and Iditarod. Beat Jegerlehner, Peter Felten and Florian Reiterberger are prepping to leave McGrath tonight and in the morning.

Weather forecast for the Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling area:

Winter Weather Advisory

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service Fairbanks AK
301 PM AKST Sun Mar 3 2019

AKZ215-041600-
/O.EXT.PAFG.WW.Y.0056.190304T0600Z-190306T0000Z/
Lower Yukon Valley-
Including Russian Mission, Grayling, Holy Cross, Shageluk, Anvik,
and Flat
301 PM AKST Sun Mar 3 2019
...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING
TO 3 PM AKST TUESDAY...
* WHAT...Snow expected. Plan on difficult travel conditions. Total
  snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches, with localized amounts up
  to 10 inches, are expected.
* WHERE...Lower Yukon Valley.
Kathi MerchantComment