Friday, March 29, 2024

Struggling to the Finish – A Well-Earned Sonot Slog

Post by Eric 

Sometimes finishing is winning – literally.

Even if you are left far behind by your wife.

Originally, I had higher hopes for my Sonot Kkaazoot 50-kilometer ski race. Sure, I hadn’t done enough skiing this winter, but I had done a lot of running. And running is a lot like classic skiing, right? Well, without the poling or the kicking and gliding. But, you know, kind of similar. At least, that was my reasoning.

On one of my many runs (but I usually didn't run with poles)

I hadn’t even planned on entering the 50K Sonot. I decided the 30K would be a good choice. But pressure started mounting. 

Susan Sugai, Mother SCUM, told me she was going to enter the 50K, so I knew I wouldn’t be alone at the back of the pack. The SCUM – Susan’s Class of Untrainable Men – are a ski group I remain part of despite showing up to only one or two practices a year. How could I NOT be part of a group called the SCUM? And Susan told me Bill Husby, another SCUM, would also be doing the 50K. 

And Corrine, who only classic skis, said she would be doing the 50K. Unlike me, she did a lot of skiing this winter. She even skied the Oosik 50K Classic Race in Talkeetna on March 9. But with all my run training, I was sure I could keep up with her.

Friend Amanda got this picture of Corrine during the Oosik

We had both planned to ski the 50K Birkebeiner in Wisconsin in February, but an almost complete lack of snow resulted in us cancelling the trip. They did hold the race, but as a 30K for most entrants. Three laps on a 10K loop of manmade snow. We decided we’d rather stay in Fairbanks, where the skiing was much nicer. 

But my focus was on running. I had entered to run the 26-mile version of the Chena River to Ridge in early March. I had been trying to do it for the previous three years and had to bail due to injuries or illness. And this year I actually did enough running training. 

Me at the start of the Chena River to Ridge

I kept injury and illness at bay and finally ran the CR2R 26-miler on March 2! The Sonot wasn’t until March 23, so I still had time to get in some skiing. But there were some bike rides I wanted to do, and a snowshoe race, and I accompanied a friend on a bike ride between Nikolai and McGrath. By the time the Sonot rolled around, the last real skiing I had done had been on February 4. And before that January 3. The longest ski I had done before the Sonot was 18 kilometers. Now that I write that all out, it doesn’t seem all that smart to enter the 50K, but there was all that pressure. And I’ve never been known for intelligent training, so why not go for it?! 

More of the wrong kind of training - accompanying Nikki on a bike from Nikolai to McGrath

Of course, after I signed up for the 50K, Susan told me she had decided to do the 30K. And the morning of the race, Bill said he was doing the 30K. Ah well, I still had Corrine to keep me company at the back of the pack. 

As the race started, I still was full of delusion, convinced I could convert my running training well. At first, Corrine and I skied close together along with Susan, Bill, and Dermot Cole, another SCUM, who was also skiing the 30K.

Several SCUM (and Corrine) at the start of the Sonot

With the warm temps, Corrine and I both decided to use our skin skis (classic skis with patches of traction fabric in the kick zone). I had gotten mine earlier that winter and had used them only a couple of times. But I struggled in the beginning with my kick on the uphills. Then at about 8K, I remembered that my bindings are adjustable. I stopped and – after struggling to remember how to work them – I adjusted them one more click. That helped quite a bit. 

My first ski with my new skin skis in October

But by then Corrine was long gone and Susan, Bill, and Dermot had passed me. I eventually reeled in those three and saw Corrine just ahead of me as I climbed the Tower Loop. I was reeling her in, too!

I didn’t see Corrine again until almost the end. 

But I didn’t know that at the time. I felt good and just knew I was catching up to Corrine and leaving Susan, Bill, and Dermot behind. 

But I was overheating. I was wearing only a windbreaker as an outer layer, but the temps were just too warm. I had planned on taking it off after I caught Corrine, but I couldn’t wait anymore. At around 25K, I stopped at the far end of the White Bear to take off my windbreaker and have a quick snack. 

And along came Bill and Dermot. I thought I had put a lot of distance between me and them! My confidence at catching Corrine started to waver. But I finished my snack and started chasing my SCUM compatriots again. I caught and passed them, then hoped that at some point I would come around a corner and see Corrine.

On the Sunnyside Trail, still hoping to catch Corrine

I kept that hope up for a long time. But every time I came around a corner and didn’t see Corrine, that hope got a little fainter. Finally, at 43K, as I was dropping down the last big hill at the far end of the White Bear, I saw Corrine coming up the other side. She was several K ahead of me. I cheered her on, but I also sighed. There was no way I was going to catch her. I glanced at my watch, then looked at it again when I got to the spot she had been. Fifteen minutes. Ha! No way was I going to make that up. 

But at least I had the last straw of motivation. I didn’t want to dink around on the course because of the volunteers who would be waiting around for me. I needed to push a little harder for their sake. At the next feed station I said, “Well, I guess I’m the last skier.” No, they said, there’s one or two more skiers behind you. I looked back. No one. 

I sure as heck didn’t pick up any speed after that. In fact, I finished 25 minutes behind Corrine, so I lost another 10 minutes after I had seen her last. I finished in 5 hours, 24 minutes. Corrine finished in 4:58. I did a lot of trudging and plodding at the end. Mostly I saved my energy so that I could look good for the finish. Not particularly inspiring. 

Except that I won! 

The pose of a true winner!

My age class for the 50K, that is. I was the only entrant in the 60-64-year-old Men category who started.

Sometimes all you have to do to win is to finish. I’ll take it. 

Corrine also won her age class – 65-69-year-old Women. Also, the only entrant in her category. She would like it known that there were only seven women who raced the 50K and all the other women were less than half her age. Also, that she beat one of those younger women! Her goal was to finish under five hours and she made that goal with 90 seconds to spare! She was also a minute faster than her Oosik 50K race two weeks earlier. The Oosik is basically flat while the Sonot has over 4000 feet (1220 meters) of climbing. Not sure what that means, but I guess she prefers hills.

Corrine at her Sonot finish. She says that leopard skin tights make you faster!

Corrine has reminded me that we can use our time on the Sonot to request a higher wave placement at next year’s Birkie. (We’ve tried to go unsuccessfully for the past three years.) The race has so many skiers it starts in waves with elite skiers going our first and skiers without any recent 50K race time in the last wave. If they accept our time, it looks like Corrine could start in Wave 2 and me in Wave 3 instead of both of us in Wave 6. Less people to pass, but more pressure.

Skate skiers at the Birkie (photo from the internet). Doesn't that look fun?!

But there shouldn’t be that much pressure. Not if I train intelligently. Ha!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Nikolai to McGrath: Helping A Friend Finish the Iditarod Trail Invitational

Post by Eric 

Nikki smelled the finish. 

When I saw the plowed part of road into McGrath, I figured we had an easy five miles left on our fatbike ride. I was tired from the previous 42 miles of trail riding, so I was looking forward to an easier cruise. But Nikki kicked it up a gear. 

Strong personal motivation can give you extra strength, stamina, and speed when needed. Well, personal motivation, youth, and training. Nikki had all of those. I had none. I just hung on, hoping that the next corner would take us to the McGrath Outpost, our finish.

See that little dot up ahead on the road? That's Nikki.

Aborted Race

In mid-March I biked with Nikki Potter from Nikolai to McGrath to help her with some closure. Nikki had entered the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350, which started on February 25. The ITI 350 is human-powered race that follows the Iditarod Trail from Knik Lake, near Wasilla, to McGrath. (The ITI 1000 follows the trail all the way to Nome.) 

Nikki’s race started well, even though conditions were often tough with winds, cold temps, and soft trails. Competitors spent a lot of time pushing their bikes. Despite all that, Nikki was among the top three women and left the Rohn checkpoint, nearly 200 miles into the race, in second place. 

Nikki during a fun time of the ITI.

A not-so-fun portion of the ITI trail. Photo by Nikki.

But as she neared Nikolai, 260 miles into the race, she started having problems and was soon pushing her bike on rideable trail. Below are some texts her husband, Mike Potter, sent to my wife, Corrine Leistikow, a physician and friend of Nikki.

6:56 PM: She just texted me that she is coughing up blood. That sounds bad to me.

7:23 PM: She said it’s coming from her lungs and she is having a little trouble breathing.  She also said she fell a few times today. I asked her if she has an injured rib but she didn’t reply to that.  I would think that she’d mention if she broke a rib though.

9:03 PM: So she’s asking for a ride. Having trouble breathing now. Race is going to try and send someone out to get her with a snogo.

11:00PM: Looks like she has a ride. Going 15 mph now.

Phil Runkle picked up Nikki on a snowmachine and took her to the Nikolai health clinic, where Community Health Aide Natalia Navarro put Nikki on oxygen. Natalia wanted to call an air ambulance flight to fly Nikki to Fairbanks, but Nikki was resistant. She wanted to fly out on a much-less-expensive commercial flight the next day. Corrine texted Nikki she should take the air ambulance flight. Nikki texted that while she had been doing “really bad” before, she was doing better. 

“I feel like I can fly out tomorrow. I’m not going to die for F sake. Have not coughed up more blood. But they saw it all over my shoes.”

Corrine told Nikki that without knowing what caused her to cough up blood, things could suddenly get much more serious if she wasn’t checked and treated ASAP. Nikki finally relented and was medevacked to Fairbanks. At Fairbanks Memorial Hospital she was hooked up to some monitors, diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia – pneumonia in both of lungs – and given antibiotics. Finally, she was released to go home with Mike.

Nikki at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Photo by Mike Potter.

The next day Corrine texted to see how Nikki was doing. Nikki's response: 

“Good morning. Not doing so hot today. My right eye is so puffy I can barely see out of it.  I can’t stop coughing (although I took cough meds with dextromethorphan). I look like shit! LOL I’m back in bed. I woke up last night soaked with sweat.”

In retrospect, it seems obvious that Nikki needed to drop from the race and get to Fairbanks as quickly as possible. But Nikki was in race mode and she’s stubborn by nature. It took her a while to agree to the advice, but she finally did, and everyone – especially Mike – was happy for that. 

Unfinished Business

That was the first time Nikki had ever scratched from a race. It gnawed at her. But she knew she wasn’t going to sign up to do it again. She gets too competitive and doesn’t enjoy the stress. And during the ITI she didn’t really get to take in the surroundings because she was riding at night or the weather was crappy. Still, she needed closure. She wanted to complete the ride. She would still be an official scratch, but personally it would be a finish. 

Enjoying the scenery along the ITI! 
Video courtesy of Nikki.

Nikki – being Nikki – wouldn’t do something like wait a year to complete the ride. And at this time of year, winter race routes soon start falling apart. She needed to do it soon. She picked a date that worked with her schedule – Friday, March 15 – a little over two weeks after her evacuation. The whole trip would require three days, including flying into Nikolai and back from McGrath. 

Mike, understandably, was not happy with the idea of her doing the ride at all, much less by herself. She was recovering quickly, but she had been in bad shape during and just after the ordeal. Still, she felt strong and wanted to get it done. She wanted a trip partner and knew it would help ease Mike’s concerns, but that person would have to be someone she knew who had the time, desire, extra funds, and biking ability to accompany her. And that person had to commit ASAP. Very, very few people met all those criteria. Corrine would have been up for it, but she had to work on Thursday, the day Nikki needed to fly to Nikolai. That’s where I come in. Not exactly a knight in shining armor, but – you know – sort of, maybe?

Corrine and I had planned on a fatbiking cabin trip into the White Mountains National Recreation Area that weekend, but on Tuesday Corrine pitched the idea of me going with Nikki. Corrine insisted that she didn’t mind me bailing on our trip. We both wanted to help Nikki with this personal quest. And I thought it sounded like a fun adventure. I agreed to go. Mike still wasn’t happy, but he felt better. And Nikki said she would appreciate the company. 

Corrine and I on a White Mountains NRA cabin trip in 2023.

Touring Nikolai 

After a flurry of preparations – most of it done by Nikki – we booked a flight with Wright Air Service to Nikolai on the morning of Thursday, March 14. It was a little nerve-wracking, since Wright Air can’t guarantee getting two people and two fatbikes onto one of their small commercial planes. But it worked out and soon we were flying into Nikolai. 

We made it on the flight with our bikes!

Nikki had arranged for us to stay at the Top of the Kuskokwim School (the Nikolai public school), where – much to our surprise – they had a bunkbed for us to use. We had planned to sleep on the gym floor. We also got to use their kitchen and keep our bikes in a storage room. Accommodations were pretty darn nice for a small fee, which Nikki paid.

Since we arrived in the morning, we had a bit of time in Nikolai, which is quite small, less than 100 people. We biked the first part of the trail to make sure we knew how to get out of town in the morning. Then we were on village time. We hung out a bit, kept somewhat busy on our phones (using the school’s wi-fi connection), walked around town, and Nikki made a dinner of pasta, chicken, green beans, and alfredo sauce from canned ingredients she brought along. 

We visited the clinic in Nikolai where Nikki had been taken during the race.
Unfortunately, Natalia was in Anchorage when we were there.

Fancy digs at Top of the Kuskokwim School!

On the Trail

We took off the next morning in chilly but not too cold temperatures. Probably about -5F or so. The sun had risen a little earlier. It was light, and soon we had direct sunlight, which slowly warmed things. 

On our way!

Our bikes were a bit loaded. This wasn’t a full bikepacking trip, but we had a bit of gear, such as a change of clothes for hanging out in the towns, water and snacks for the trail, and gear in case we needed to emergency bivvy on the trail. The trail was in great shape, with lots of snowmachine tracks, and we made good time. I had to work to keep up to Nikki at first. I am normally a slow starter, and my training this year had been for a 26-mile run, not a 300-mile bike. (The ITI 350 is closer to 300 miles.) And Nikki is more than 20 years younger than me. But once I got warmed up and we got into a rhythm, we traded lead back and forth. It was hard work for me, but doable. 

While Nikki had strong personal reasons for doing this trail, I was simply curious. I had spent time at Nikolai and McGrath in 1989 while covering the Iditarod Sled Dog Race for the Frontiersman newspaper in Wasilla, but back then I was hyper-focused on the race. I am curious about the whole ITI race route, though I have no desire to do it. Now I was going to get to see one part of it as well as more of Nikolai and McGrath.

The Nikolai-McGrath section of trail is interesting, for about 10 miles or so. That’s when you start to realize it’s going to be pretty much the same all the way to McGrath. That area is flat wetlands with shrubby black spruce and a few lakes. The mountains are a long way off. This is the kind of country where you can find your inner Zen. Or not. It was good to have the distraction of a riding partner. We stopped and chatted occasionally, trading the lead or having a snack. 

A typical section of trail. You can barely see the Alaska Range in the background.

We did have some excitement. A short way out of Nikolai we noticed footprints leading from McGrath toward Nikolai. We kept seeing them, and we pondered why someone was walking. (They weren’t pulling a sled.)  Then, 14 miles out from Nikolai on a lake, the tracks diverged from the main trail. We stopped. We could see they had come from a side trail that had split off from the main trail at the beginning of the lake. The two trails never met up again and we saw no more footprints. We rode on still pondering. A broken snowmachine was the likely reason, but without any other evidence we had no clue.

The mystery footprints that kept us entertained for a while.

Our other main “excitement” was negotiating some softer sections of trail in windblown areas. Those sections were rideable, but often just barely. We worked hard to keep going and focused on the tree line where we knew the trail would get better. We were both grateful to be doing that on fresh legs and good conditions rather than in windy, snowy conditions after more than 260 miles. That’s what Nikki would have had to face if she had continued. Considering her health at the time, it’s fortunate that Nikolai has an airport and a staffed health clinic. 

A section of churn.

Overland Trail and an Annoying Road

About halfway into the ride, the main trail split into the overland and river trails, both leading into McGrath. We chose the overland trail, which we figured would be slightly safer and a bit more interesting. And it was interesting…eventually. First there was a lot more lakes and wide-open areas, with some areas a bit more protected. We stopped at one and had lunch. (Leftover pasta from the night before. Yum! We also munched on apple fritters that Nikki bought for the trip. Yum! Yum!)

Nikki eating frozen pasta. (Should have packed it next to her body!)

Then more riding with occasional churning, more riding with occasional churning, more riding with…a wall! OK, not really a wall, but the trail suddenly went straight up onto a raised shelf of land. Probably an ancient riverbank. We laughed at the absurdity of it. That’s what happens when you spend hours and hours on flat, monotonous terrain. You see a hill and you laugh, thinking it’s absurd. Weird.

The hill had two parts, this is the second smaller part. Not very impressive,
but even that was a big change from earlier. Photo by Nikki.

We pushed up the hill and were suddenly into a mixed forest. The trail was tighter, winding, and undulating, though perfectly bikeable. The change was a big relief. 

Yay! Fun trail!

It didn’t last long. 

After a couple of miles, we climbed a short hill into an open area and realized we were at the end of a 14-mile road that comes from McGrath to a rock quarry. We smiled, having anticipated this. We were glad for the change and hoped the road would be in good shape. The road wasn’t plowed there, but the good snowmachine trail continued down it with no more wide-open areas with soft trail. Yay! 

Instead, we had looooong straight stretches. We would climb a hill, wondering what was just ahead, only to crest the hill and see another loooong straight stretch. Ugh! That got old in a hurry. 

Another loooong straight stretch. Oh joy.

But eventually we hit the plowed part of the road. Yay! Well, yay for me…until Nikki kicked it up a notch. I was darned tired by then. I didn’t have energy for yay. Instead, I just focused on keeping up the pace and acting like I was unfazed. (A knight in shining armor CANNOT let the damsel know she is kicking his butt!)

As we neared town we needed to negotiate a couple of turns, but Nikki had the route on a couple of different electronic devices. And we finally pulled up to the McGrath Outpost, which served as this year’s ITI checkpoint. The ride had taken us just under 8 hours. 

Nikki at the finish!

McGrath Welcome

Nikki had been satellite texting with the outpost owner, Lindsay Sturm, so Lindsay knew we were close. But Nikki and I were both surprised when Lindsay and her husband, Brad, and several of their seven kids came out to greet us and congratulate Nikki. It was quite a little celebration. Nikki’s not super emotional, so there were no tears, but she did have a big grin and you could tell she was relieved to be done. 

The Sturm family were super welcoming. They have hosted the ITI for a few years and were really interested in people’s stories. We chatted with them quite a bit before Lindsay showed us to our rooms. No restaurant was open in McGrath while we were there, but the general store was still open. We were going to walk the mile or so to the store to get some frozen pizza and fries, but Brad said they were driving to the store so they gave us a ride. 

We had dinner, hung out a bit, and finally crashed for the night. We had a lazy morning the next day before flying back to Fairbanks with Wright Air. 

Touring McGrath before our flight out.

Touring Instead of Racing

Nikki made it clear several times that she is not going to attempt the race again. But she would like to tour other parts of the Iditarod Trail. She wants to be able to see some interesting country at a relaxed pace with friends who also enjoy active touring. On our trip she was already thinking about sections she could tour and who might want to come along. 

I might be one of those people, assuming Nikki hasn’t been training super hard and doesn’t have a finish line she can smell. She went out for a hilly bike ride with Corrine and another friend the day after we got back. What an animal! I stayed at home and took another rest day. I’m still tired! 

Tired, but happy I did the trip. I enjoyed seeing new country and am pleased I got to help a friend complete an important journey. 

This is actually on the flight to Nikolai, but it captures our respective feelings at the end of the trip. 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Chena River to Ridge Run - Another Step Closer to an Overall Goal

Post by Eric

I got the running monkey off my back! 

I finished the Chena River to Ridge 26-miler on foot yesterday (March 2). I have been trying to do that for four years. One year I got sick and two years I had calf injuries (though I was able to ski on one of my injury years.) 

It took me 8 hours and 45 minutes and I finished in second-to-last place (and the last runner), but I finally got ‘er done. 

Cold Start, But Quick Warming

It was a good day for the race, the first loop of which takes in the Colorado Creek and Compeau trails, as well as part of the Yukon Quest Trail, in the Chena River State Recreation Area. (The second loop, which fills out the longer race, uses the Stiles Creek and Yukon Quest trails.)

Right before the start of the CR2R. Lots of layers!

Temperatures were a bit cold in the beginning, but not too bad. A weather station near the Granite Tors parking lot had read -38F that morning, so I came prepared for that. However, my car thermometer read just -23F at the Compeau Trailhead parking lot. And when I headed over to Twin Bears Camp, where the race starts and ends, it felt warmer. Less than a mile into the race, I was already peeling layers. Then the rising sun started to make a difference.

Peeling layers less than a mile in.

Taking My Gear for a Run

I brought too much stuff, as is usual for me. I left my snowshoes at the car, but I brought my Wiggy’s lightweight waders. I hadn’t planned to bring them, but my buddy Ned Rozell had just done an Alaska Science Forum column on overflow and that swayed me. I figured I would ask about wet overflow at the start, but I forgot, so my waders got a nice outing. None of the overflow was even a tad bit wet. 

At the race start, one guy had a pair of snowshoes. He said the year before he was happy to have had them after about 10 miles. Snowshoes are a tough call on these races. The CR2R stays low for about 8 miles, but then it has a lot of climbing. The trail can get really chewed up for the back-of-the-packers. After the race start, I second-guessed my call to leave my snowshoes at the car, but since the race runs right by the Compeau Trailhead parking lot, it was easy to run over and get them. I lost less than 5 minutes retrieving them. But, of course, I never used them on the trail. Ah well. (It’s a proven fact that if you don’t take your gear out occasionally, it won’t work as well when needed. Well, maybe not proven, but I’m sure that’s the case.)

Me at my car with my snowshoes on my backpack.

I did use my collapsible poles. I pulled them out at the Colorado Creek Cabin, the first race checkpoint and the place the trail starts a long climb up the ridge. I was glad I had them since they help with climbs. I was going to put them away on the descent, but my body was feeling a bit beat up by then, so I kept using them hoping they would help reduce the pounding. Not sure how much they helped overall, but they did help on a few steep drops. And I got to wave them over my head as I ran into the finish!

A Great Day to be Out

I quickly became the Red Lantern, especially with my snowshoe retrieval diversion, but I eventually caught a couple of skiers on the way to the first checkpoint. I was a little surprised to catch skiers, but I had talked to one of these guys at the start and they were new to these races. (He had never done ANY kind of race.) We exchanged cheery greetings when I passed them. I was pretty sure they would catch me on the downhill portion of the course. 

One of the skiers right before I caught him.

A little while later I caught and passed a biker. That really surprised me. I recognized him from the start. He had a floor pump sticking out of his backpack. He was stopped, so I asked him if everything was OK. I thought maybe he was having a mechanical. But he said he was doing fine, so I headed off, assuming he would catch me on the downhill, too. (He didn’t. A little after the first checkpoint he broke a pedal but was determined to finish. Tough guy!)

The only other competitor I saw on the course was Lisa Stuby, who was skiing. I passed her at the first checkpoint, and she caught me at the second checkpoint. I left before her, but she eventually caught and passed me. And a while later the two skiers passed me, too. 

Lisa Stuby, on skis, caught me at Checkpoint #2, but I left before her. Of course, she caught me on the downhill, because skiing makes a lot more sense than running in winter!

Otherwise, I was pretty much out there by myself. The day was gorgeous. The views superb. I eventually started listening to music on my iPod. I did a rock mix for a while but got a bit bored. I next went with an all-songs shuffle, which has a bunch of stuff from me and our family. So, I would go from Katie Perry to Van Halen to the Homemade Jamz Blues Band to Adele to Doobie Brothers to songs from the Little Mermaid (those last are mine, by the way. I love “Under the Sea”!). And occasionally I’d get comedy sketches from Monty Python. All that was truly entertaining. Toward the end I switched to a good audiobook I had been listening to. I love being outside and moving, but I get tired of being in my own head, especially when that head starts focusing on aches and pains. It’s good to have distractions. 

I love the tracks animals make in the snow!

Can you see the Alaska Range in the background? Gorgeous! 

Ticking Off the Local Multisport Winter Races

I have been wanting to finish every version of the local winter multi-sport endurance races that I am capable of. The three races are the White Mountains 100, the Tanana River Challenge, and the Chena River to Ridge. (And now the T-Dog just started, but I haven’t included that in my goals.)

The races offer ski, bike, and run divisions. (The TRC also offers a skijor division, but we don’t have dogs.) I have done every version of the WM100 (including kicksled). I’ve done every version of the TRC except biking or running the 45-miler and skiing the 25-miler. I’ve done every version of the CR2R except running the longer version and officially biking the 26-miler. (I did bike it one year but was signed up for the longer version. I’ve also kicksledded the 26-miler.) I can’t run either longer versions of the TRC or CR2R, because I’m way too slow to make the cut-offs (a fact, I’m infinitely thankful for!). Besides, I’m tired of running long distances. I get pretty beat up. And whenever I’m on the downhills I keep thinking, “Human ingenuity gave us a lot better ways to go downhill on snow than running!”

Me finishing the 2022 CR2R 26-miler on skis. 

So, now I just need to bike the TRC 45-miler and ski the 25-miler, and officially bike the CR2R 26-milers, and then I’ll be done ticking off the boxes. Then I can participate however I want. (Spoiler alert: I won’t be running.)

Me finishing the 2020 Tanana River Challenge 45-miler on skis. 

It’s Good to Have Healthy Goals

I’m not sure why this has become my goal. I didn’t start out with that intention. It developed over time, especially with the WM100. I’m not a fierce competitor or anything like that. In fact, I’m proud of my many Red Lantern finishes. (You can’t be trying to get them or they don’t count!) But for some reason I like having these goals. It’s not just the physical aspect. (I don’t care about doing any races outside of the Fairbanks area.) I like the social aspect, too. I like seeing a bunch of people I know, on the trail and at the checkpoints. Almost everyone is in a good mood. And being outside in these beautiful places is a win, even when the weather is crappy.

I have a hard time articulating why I like doing these races, but I guess that’s not important. They are fun (even more so now that I’m done with the running!), and it’s healthy for me to be training for and participating in them. I guess that’s enough. 

Now with all this training under my belt I should ski the Sonot Kkazzoot again. (I can’t do the TRC since Corrine and I have a cabin trip planned for that weekend.) But which version of the Sonot should I do, the 30K or the 50K?  With both, I’ll get to be outside, doing something I love, surrounded by a bunch of great people, most of whom I know. 

Either way will be a win. 

Smiling at the end of the 2024 CR2R 26-miler despite the aches and pains. So happy to be done!