Reflections from the Iditarod Trail Invitational- The world’s longest-running winter ultra-marathon

ITI RECAP: By Miron Golfman

On February 27th I found myself in the Parking lot outside the Knik Bar surrounded by fellow competitors from around the world.

 After a year of primarily training solo and racing individual time trials, it was exciting to feel the energy of so many people as they prepared to push themselves through the frozen Alaskan wilderness. 

Ready. Set. GO!
2pm the shot was fired and we were off. Quickly we become spread out and I found myself alongside Tyson Flaharty and Ryan Atkins as we pulled into the butterfly lake (checkpoint #1) at mile 25 as the top three racers. Feeling strong we continued to make our way but quickly found that we had made a poor routing decision and had to hike our bikes through deep snow for over three miles. Eventually, once we made our way back to the main trail we found ourselves far back in the pack of racers. As night fell my stomach made a turn for the worst and I found myself battling an unfortunately familiar feeling of acid reflux. Slowing I watched as the lights of the other top racers disappear into the distance as we worked up the Yentna river I resigned myself to the fact that the race was not going my way. Around midnight unable to see straight and having very low energy from not having eaten for many hours I made the decision to sleep in the hopes of resetting my system. 

The Re-Set
Leaving Skwentna I hit the trail at 6 am sitting in 10th position. By 11am I was at the Finger Lake checkpoint (1st resupply). There I found a number of fellow racers resting and refueling. Feeling strong myself, I was quick to restore my food and water supplies, have a bowl of soup, and was off within 20 minutes of rolling into the checkpoint. It was a beautiful bluebird day and I was finally finding my stride after a hard first day. Just before 6pm I pulled into Puntilla Lake amazed to find the race leaders. Invigorated, I once again was quick to resupply having two bowls of soup, and took off 15 minutes after the leaders. As the night settled in, I pushed my way over Rainy Pass following two sets of lights ahead. By 130am I pulled into Rohn (2nd and final resupply). After an hour Tyson and Ryan were off. As much I wanted to push on with them I knew that if I didn’t allow for some recovery I would likely fall apart once again. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly… and the beautiful
After two hours of rest, I took off after the two ahead. As daylight broke I looked out on a spectacular view of the Alaskan interior. The next 70 miles were pure torcher navigating the ruts created by the Iron Dog snow machines from the week before. The condition of the trail made it nearly impossible to maintain any speed or even sit on the saddle for that matter. After 12 hours of excruciating riding and a very sour butt I rolled into Nikolai (Final checkpoint). Knowing that was still two hours behind the leaders I once again was quick to get back on the trail eating my hamburger as I rode off. With one hour of daylight left, I pushed as hard as I could, knowing that going into the third night I was unlikely to be able to maintain strength for much longer. 30 miles from the finish the temperatures dropped dramatically. Music blasting in my ears and doing all I could to stay awake I quickly found myself becoming very cold and delirious. Eventually, unable to see the trail I made the decision to pull over and crawl into my sleeping bag. I gave myself an hour and a half to sleep and reset. At 1am I woke up to 17 below zero degrees temps and a desperately achy body. Against every screaming muscle in my body, I forced myself back onto my bike and pushed on into the dark. 25 miles later I finally saw the long awaited lights of McGrath.

New relationship to adversity and the idea of limits
Over the past year, I have been working so hard to achieve my dream of being an ultra-endurance cyclist. Coming off the heels of my ride in Baja I wasn’t sure how far I would be able to push myself in the ITI (especially given it was my first-ever fat bike event). I’m proud of pulling out a 3rd place finish in just over 2.5 days and the depths to which I was able to push myself! It has been an amazing process developing a new relationship to adversity and the idea of limits. I know there is still so much room for growth and development, which could not make me more excited and motivated to keep going!! 

By Miron Golfman

Runners’ Edge Athlete Ambassador

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