Iditasport: Bike Racing on the Iditarod


Photo by Tom Evans

Every winter I get a few folks asking if I’m heading back to Alaska for the Iditasport race on the Iditarod trail.  

That’s an easy “no”, especially after reading about this year’s race.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the race, at least once it was over, it’s just that it’s an amazing tough, enduring race that really could be life threatening if ones luck ever ran out in the remote Alaskan bush.

And I was very fortunate to have a good race on my last attempt when a professional video documentary was made. Popping the DVD in the player is an easy way to relive the misery — or just reading Mike Curiak’s blog.

However, I still have hopes for running the Susitna 100,  a shorter 100-mile race where the odds are much better for being rescued should things get ugly.

Mike Curiak: On his Own to Nome

Mike Curiak on the IditarodMike Curiak is the top dog in endurance racing. He doesn’t do the 24 hour loop-in-a-circle-until-you’re-a-veg. He does the endurance races that most think are simply impossible. Right now he’s riding the entire Iditarod trail at the same time as the Iditarod Trail Invitational race. Mike’s ridden the full 1100 miles to Nome before. He’s already won that race. This time he’s doing it fully unsupported.

Compared with most races and rides, the Iditarod is about as unsupported as you get. You can stop in cabins along the way and purchase a meal. Further along the trail you can stop in small villages and buy food. Mike’s won’t be doing that. He’s on his own and carrying everything he needs.

Just surviving on what you have is amazing. I just can’t imagine the willpower to ride past some of those cabins where they’ll gladly serve some hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Spending a day slogging through snow, eating just Clif bars and trail mix certainly makes you appreciate a basic hot meal.

The above photo is from Eric Parsons. Eric’s company, Epic Designs made Mike’s storage and handlebar mitts. His stuff looks absolutely bombproof and very well-designed. And I know Mike sets the bar pretty high for his gear. If the stuff didn’t work, it wouldn’t be on his bike.

2001 Iditasport Extreme 350: Pushing it to the Limit

The 170-year-old Assumption Grotto Church sits quietly on Detroit’s Northeast side. Behind the Church, nestled in the Parishioner’s Cemetery is the Lourdes Grotto, an outdoors Marian shrine. Since 1881 this Shrine has purportedly bestowed miracles. Since I’d soon be starting the toughest, longest mountain bike race of my life, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a miracle in my back pocket.

But my 20 mile pedaling pilgrimage ends at a disappointing sign — “Closed at Dusk.” I had assumed it never closed because you never know when you might need a miracle. Oh well. I was at least on the Grotto grounds and hopefully that that was good enough for a partial miracle. (more…)

1999 Iditasport 100

Iditasport logoSometimes you can learn too much on the Internet.

It’s a week before the 1999 Iditasport 100-mile race in Alaska and I’m surfing the Anchorage weather web sites. “Worse cold snap in 10 years!” Even the old-timers are having a hard time remembering such cold weather. A day later and I’m calling to confirm my motel reservation near the race start. “It’s only 45 today. It’s been 55 for the two weeks.” There’s no need say “below zero.” Welcome to a brutal Alaskan winter courtesy of La Nina.

Iditasport 1998

I have a very bad tendency to seek tough mountain bike events. The events where you compete against yourself, where finishing is an accomplishment. The ones that make your parents wake up at night in a cold sweat.

It all started in 1994 when I registered our team of five for the 24 Hours of Canaan relay race in West Virginia. Up until this race, I had been mountain biking for three years and racing for two. I figured I could handle anything the Michigan trails could throw at me.

If I were the know-it-all teen, the Canaan course would be the experienced mother. She spanked me pretty hard on race day. Her trails were ten times more technical than anything I’d ridden before. I was left bruised and humbled. (more…) Powered by WordPress |  Hosted by Luckyfish Software |  Privacy Policy
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