It was 2015 when I completed the 350 mile race to McGrath, but it seems like only a few months ago. This race really sticks in my mind, long after the muscle soreness has gone and the foot odour has dissipated.
This is the story of my 2016 journey along the North Route of the Iditarod Trail, 1000 miles to Nome.
Having gone to McGrath in 2015 with me HERE (along with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7), dear reader, you're probably thinking that going to Nome is just 3 times the work. Well, maybe on paper it may seem like that, but it's a different beast altogether - like a domestic kitty to a lion.
So you've already read the 2016 prologue HERE, lets just get serious and straight to race day.
First lets go through a bit of tech on the bike and gear, how it's all loaded and why. This is what worked for me, after a lot of thought, custom design and DIY manufacture - built not bought! I'm always happy to help out rookies, so shoot me a message if you've got any questions. I won't give you all the answers here though...
The foundation is the same Muru Witjira classic ti frame I've rocked up to Alaska with since 2013. I designed a custom Muru ti fork to suit my requirements and geometry preferences for 2016, running Muru ti bars and a Muru ti seatpost. Wheels are HED carbon 100mm with Tune hubs, 1x11 SRAM drivetrain, Shimano XTR pedals. I extensively winterise all high speed bearings (totally unfair advantage of being a qualified bike mechanic)
On the fork I had barrel mounts top and bottom, mid blade rack mounts and 2 sets of triple cage mounts on each blade - all to give me multiple mounting options for storage. On the back of the RH fork blade is a 600mL MSR fuel bottle, sitting in a Salsa Nickless cage and covered with a small bag I stitched up. I leave the pump on the bottle and pressurised - the bag keeps the whole lot clean and free from debris. I stitched up the panniers to perfectly match the rack, the right hand one neatly carries my ti pot set, MSR stove and overflow food. Very quick to access all the needed gear at bivvy time, as all food and cook kit is on this side of the bike, so can do it from the sleeping bag.
Top of the cockpit its clean and simple. Not much to bounce off, distract or play with. Revelate Pocket has my goggles and night lenses in. Stashed under that are my overmitts. A joby tripod for awkward shots and a Zipshot for everything else. Osprey camera bag holds spare lithium batts for lighting and GPS. OR bottle cozy, sitting in a Salsa HD cage, holds a 1L s/steel double walled Hydroflask and on top of that I have a ziplock with a map that the pet monkey made me years ago - keeps me centred.
The Garmin velcro holder slips to the side when not used.
On the left of the stem is a Revelate feedbag with another Hydroflask with hot chocolate or soups, right hand feedbag has chocolates, nuts and snacks. Underneath the thermometer is a Topeak pouch that clips to the back of the anything cage, containing a small spotting scope, compass, notepad and 4b pencil.
The Garmin is a GPSMAP 62s, the big buttons and bright screen are positives when you have bulky gloves on and tired eyes. Runs on all kinds of batteries, but lithiums are the go for cold stuff. Tethered but quick to fit and stow in a jacket pocket.
Whats in the gas tank? You shouldn't need to ask - nothing but my proven food choice of Bonk Breaker bars. This is my bulk storage, I stitched a pocket onto my base layer fleece that I rotate the bars into, using body heat to prewarm them ready for eating.
The front rack stabilises this load so well, it's a tight setup with zero movement on mogul trails. I'm using a Revelate harness to hold the bag and mat. In this configuration, I can access the pad and bag separately, when I want to have a quick shiver bivvy on the trail I just unload the mat.
Small bottles of Ride Mechanic Bike Cream chain lube for easy and quick access.
LH side of the frame bag holds paper maps and route notes. More reflective striping on the downtube bag.
This seat tube bag I stitched up from an old wetsuit for the 2015 race (held my MSR stove back then), this holds the Power Monkey cache battery, all the camera batteries, battery charger.
Standard Revelate Viscacha seatbag, containing my big The North Face Himalaya down parka, Mtn Hardwear insulated pants and lightweight hardshell. Huge stretchy reflective panel, but under this is another strap running to the seatrails as load redundancy, as well as the strap you see going from the seat rails down to the rear rack top loop - this strap controls seatbag sway.
The rear panniers I stitched to hold a few items of clothing, extra base layers and socks, spare liner gloves - that sort of thing. Super narrow so you can push the bike without having to work around them. More reflective strip.
Lets talk about me now. I wore 45NRTH Wolfgars, but I used a pair of Intuition liners to replace the stock wool liners - the stock liners rubbed my ankle pretty badly so had to go. The Intuitions are closed cell EVA, so don't absorb moisture and maintain the R value wet or dry. 45NRTH insulated gaiters on the calf, my sock system was an Injinji coolmax liner, with an LG summer sock over the top of that.
Reflective striping on the boot also makes a point of difference at busy checkpoints (where you remove your boots to enter) and reduces confusion of which boot is yours - it has happened many times!
Lower body is LG Neo Power Motion shorts - these don't have a silicone gripper for the thigh, so no issues with irritation. I stitch loops into the waistband, so they can clip to my mountaineering braces, this way my top layers remain unchanged when I need to visit the rest room. Then I have The North Face thermal pants as required, and then Salomon Momentum softshell XC ski pants. Windstop panels on the top and regular fleece on the sides and back panels.
Outer shell is Salomon Equipe softshell XC ski jacket. Rear pocket stowage for my RAB hot socks. I put an old shoe inner sole into the hot socks - insulates my soles when I walk around huts or on the snow.
Next to skin layer is an LG mesh base. Over that is a technical fleece from The North Face. Then is the Salomon Skin 12 race vest - water in the back, room for overflow food and big pockets in the front for daily items like chapstick, toothpaste, brush and other toiletries. Also used as pillow. I stitched a custom bladder insulator to reflect body heat back into the water.
Winter neck buff and Salomon hat with slots for the sunnies. Oakley Jawbones with persimmon lenses for night, also had fire Iridium polarised lenses for day. Love these glasses and how quick and easy to change out lenses.
That's about it for the moment. I'll cover more tech topics as the race reports progress.