This 320 mile extreme race sheds all the baggage of rules and gear requirements and Dan figured that if athletes are required to sleep out the first night then only the fools would freeze. Both races have a variety of divisions, all using portions of the famous Iditarod dog-sled trails.
Dan opened the race to skijors (a skier being pulled by up to three dogs), skiers, runners and mountain bikes, but mountain bikers have dominated both of these races.
Then there is the added incentive to stay ahead of the Iditarod dogs, who are hot on our tail. If these dog teams overtake us, we will eat shit for hundreds of miles. Thus, the Extreme leaves athletes working to stay ahead of the dogs on a course that is not marked.
So why do it? People think we are crazy, and have given the race nicknames like idiot-sport and insane-a-bike. But we are not crazy, this race is all about the challenge the challenge of the unknown, it's an invitation to plan for the unexpected.
In these days of fence-lined race courses driven by the "don't look up" mentality, the Extreme is a breath of fresh air. Yeah, sure the air is 23 below and the dew point is on the outside of a jacket, but what is life if you can't live it?
Who does a race like this? The creative, obsessive-compulsive, calculating personality types tend to be the top finishers. Sure we have this laid-back, easygoing look, but just below the skin is a hybrid animal: sort of a Wile E. Coyote with a tiger's reflexes and shark's killer instinct. The bottom line is we all want to win, but just finishing an event like this is an accomplishment on the grandest of scales.
So tune in, the Extreme starts February 27. Athletes have 10 days to travel the 320 miles over the Alaska Mountain Range to the finish in McGrath. This race is the Tour de France of ultra endurance racing. People from around the world will come to challenge the ultimate competitor...themselves.
Race story, interviews and more photos to come...
Pat Norwil, Mountain Zone Correspondent