Read Part I and Part II first...
We didn't stay long at Checkpoint #4. I was happy to see that Julie M. was still there when I arrived. Before we left the cabin, Ed asked me if I would be back next year, I said, "I think so. But ask me after this last 20 miles."
We only had about twenty miles left to go, but it was going to be a tough twenty miles. Remember all that down, down, downhill that I talked about at the beginning? Well now we had to go up, up, up.
But I felt really strong. Maybe it was the sun, or maybe it was the bagel sandwich that Brian left for me at Checkpoint #4, or maybe I was running on a high of knowing that I was going to finish. Even if my tire completely deflated at this point, pushing my bike twenty miles was not out of the question and I still had over 24 hours to finish before the cutoff.
It was hot. Well probably about 20 degrees, but that was a 40 degree temperature swing from the morning. The sun beat down on us as we stripped layers and made our way to the trail shelter at mile 91. These miles flew by, but we could see the Wickersham wall looming in the distance. It was a mile long hill, with over 600 feet of elevation gain.
After stopping too long at the trail shelter, stuffing our faces with Pringles, Julie M., Ed (who was on skis) and I started off on the last 11 miles of trail. We hit the Wickersham Wall and began to push. Ed took off up the hill. On a day hike this would be nothing, but after riding for 30 hours and pushing a bike that weighed 50 pounds, this wall felt horribly difficult to me.
It was reaally slow. Reallllly, reallly, slow. It probably took about 30 minutes to go that one mile. But we got to the top and from there Julie M. told me exactly how many hills there were left. I was looking forward to the one mile of downhill at the finish.
We traveled over the hills and counted them as we went. There was a short stretch of fun downhill in between each hill and I think we were both happy and sad to be so close to the end. And then before I knew it we were at the one mile sign. I stopped to take it all in, because I knew it would soon be over.
(Me and Carlene at the finish. I love this photo.)
Then I was at the parking lot. Brian was there. He had waited over 6 hours after finishing his own race which was quite impressive. I figured he would be back in a hotel in Fairbanks by then.
My friend Carlene (who had been volunteering at the race Head Quarters for two days with no sleep) was there dressed in a crazy costume with a feather boa and pom poms. She was yelling, "YAAAAAY JULIE! YAAAYY JULIE!!!" and I told her later that it was the best greeting I have ever had at a finish line.
(Me and the other Julie. Done.)
It was over. I had finished my first 100 mile race. I'm still not sure what made this "the greatest race ever", but I believe it was a combination of the following:
1. The race was really well organized.
2. The volunteers and race directors were super fun, really helpful, and genuinely concerned for our well being.
3. The course was so scenic and the scenery kept changing throughout the race.
4. I got to ride with Julie Malingowski and we helped each other along the course. When I was struggling, she was strong and vice versa. It really worked out well.
5. The cabins were only 20 miles apart and were filled with warm people and warm food.
6. The hills! Yes the hills made this a true mountain bike race, unlike any other winter race I know of. YES, we struggled up super long steep hills sometimes taking only one step every other second, but that just meant there was the reward of a long and fast downhill on the other side!
7. I fixed my first sub zero Endomorph flat (well sort of).
8. I finished my first (yes first) hundred mile race, and it was in the snow, crazy wind, and sub zero temperatures of the interior of Alaska.
Take any of these away and the experience would not have been as great. Sometimes in life it all comes together and this was one of those rare moments.
Thanks so much to everyone who volunteered (especially Dan and Ti the medics) and thanks to Ed and Ann for putting on such a great race. We'll be back. Thanks to everyone who took the beautiful photos that I stole from the race website. Thanks to my stomach for keeping all of that food down. Thanks to Carlos for loaning me the frame bag, Carlene for the Bivy Sack (that I didn't have to use thankfully), and of course Brian for all of the support leading up to, during and after the race.