IDITAROD. What is it? As you may ask... Shortly, by the words of the organizers:
"The Iditarod Trail Invitational is the world's longest winter ultra marathon by fat bike, foot and ski and follows the historic Iditarod Trail from Knik, Alaska over the Alaska Range to McGrath and to Nome in late February every year one week before the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The short race 350 miles finishes in the interior village of McGrath on the Kuskokwim River and the 1000 mile race finishes in Nome. Racers have to finish the 350 mile race in a previous year before they can enter the 1000 mile race." For more, see the their website << Iditarod Trail Invitational >>
Sometimes in the year 2007... Browsing the slow internet and, more less accidentally, get over an article about a, at least in my eyes, crazy guy from Czech republic :) , Jan Kopka, who just won some kind of insane race on a bike... I have to read again, yes, indeed, on a bike, across Alaska, without any support, and in the middle of winter... I mean, what??? I am fascinated...
2009. Due to some carreer changes, I am moving to Cyprus. It's so hot, that I almost forget there is such a place like Alaska... Adjusting the plans to available conditions and began training for Ironman, hoping to get to do the Norseman in Norway, one day. I am running, swimming and riding bike. A lot...
2013. Moving again. Norway. Norseman being still high in my priorities. Marathons, swimming and endless hours on bike. It rains. It always rains... School, new work, new language, new environment... Have almost no time to sleep.
2014. A long time issue with my right ankle is becoming worse, yet again... Anyway, I am running Bergen marathon with a good friend of mine Juraj Brezan, having target of 3h5min. After 7km, something goes wrong and I cannot run at all. I am in serious pain, the ankle is getting stiff and I am considering scratching it... It is still far to the finish and I would have to get there somehow anyway, so, I continue and manage to somehow finish just under 4 hours, disappointed... A couple of weeks later, and a new marathon begins. Orthopedic appointments, second opinions, friends... All round and round for a couple of months. In conclusion, the situation is bad and a really serious surgery is unavoidable, there is a possibility of not walking normally again... Bang.. I am down..
December 2014. Ankle surgery, two months in bed, bored to death... In the end, I am reading and watching pretty much everything, just to kill the time that has switched to strange status of slow motion... And, accidentally, yet again, "Jan Kopka won an extreme race behind the polar circle, Rovaniemi 150..." That crazy guy again... Dreaming... But, a short look on my ankle with size of a 5 liter container and not impressive movability of the toes sits me back to place. Rovaniemi, hmm, I am afraid , not really my piece of chocolate anymore... Quickly read an interview with Jan and leave for physiotherapy. In the middle of the physio session, I interrupt the therapist's monolog :) with a question absolutely non-related to his subject: "Will I be able to ride a bike again?" He thinks that yes. "Also on the snow?" he probably thinks I've lost my mind, but murmurs something in the sense of yes. At this stage, I still cannot walk or step with full weight on the foot, but I rode my first 2 hours on the spinner. :)
June 2015. Orthopedy, 6 months post-surgery check up. "Can I ride a bike?" recreationally, yes... "Can I run?" No...
August 2015. I am riding app. 1500km per month. I am beginning to run, really slowly and carefully, not more than 20km per session. The ankle is holding, but it is still far from ideal. Rovaniemi... With shaking hands, filling up the application for Rovaniemi 150. I am not really sure it is a good idea, but anyway, at least I'll try. I am buying my first fatbike, Surly Pugsley, it looks more like a motorbike :)... At this stage, I have no idea how on earth I am going to ride 150km on this monster loaded with bivouac equipment. On snow... Possibly down to -30˚C... Still keep riding my monthly loads, now, app. 1/2 of the time on fatbike. I think nobody has ever taken so many pictures of me as when riding the fatbike... :)
December 2015, International Fatbike Day. I am riding do Nesttun, it is pissing down tractors, extrem even for Bergen... Looking forward meeiting some more fatbikers, at last, I won't look like crazy alone... :) One arrived. Joe. And, I am really happy he did!
February 2016. Accomodation, car, all the equipment, free days from work... everything done and ready for departure to Finland. Just 2 days to go. Or, maybe not... Morning, just a day before the planned departure, I woke up with a strangely stiff left elbow. At first, I don't care. I have many other things to do, but, when 3 hours later I am still walking around the house like Pinocchio, I am getting nervous. Calling my doctor, he wants to see me. 2 hours later, I am sitting in the waiting room of emergency department of the local hospital and still do not completely reallize what's going on... Some squeezed nerve or something, stiff muscle or whatever... They'll do the x-ray and I am back home in no time... Or? No, not really.. :( Something, app 7mm in size has "mechanically" blocked my elbow... I can't believe it.. What? How did it get there? A miracle? They want to take it out immediately... In shock, I somehow come up with "but I am packed to Rovaniemi, I have a race in a couple of days...???" Surgery being delayed, I am leaving hospital at my own risk. Next morning, a test ride. In the beginning, I can ride as the elbow is blocked in an angle allowing me to hold the handlebar, in no time I am up on Kvarven. So fa so good... Here I come, Finland! Turn around, and, the downhill almost kills me. The vibrations and small hits make it unbearable, I cannot ride. This year's Rovaniemi is over. I am broken, yet again...
Soon enough, elbow surgery, 6 weeks at home...
Three months later, new beauty bike from Duratec, big thanks to Matus Kozacik and Venco Zvonar! You rock! I am riding again.
August 2016. Another application to Rovaniemi. Meanwhile, a new event came up in Norway, For the first time , there will be a self-supported winter race on fatbikes in Geilo, Fat-Viking, and , a week prior to that, the Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) camp, for the first time in Europe. Kathi and Bill Merchant, the ITI organizers, as instructors. I am in doubts... I mean, I am riding a lot, I spend almost all my free time outside, but maybe this is too much... Asking friends. thinking.. At last, my buddy Venco Zvonar arranges for me contact with Jan Kopka, yes the crazy guy :).. So, I call. Jan is great, we talk more than an hour... A big thank you, once again! I'll give it a try... :)
Decided, filling up the applications for both, Fat-Viking and the ITI camp and significantly increase the training load. Now I am riding up to 3000km per month, plus seakayaking and slow runs. I hardly find time to sleep. Work, famiily, training, sleep... repeat... And, it almost always rains..
November 2016. Two weeks of welcomed "holidays". Flying to Japan with my friend Juraj Brezan to the World Championship of Hot Air balloons in Saga. Beautiful event! A really needed break from the the daily routines. Thanks Juraj!
Return to reality. Almost Christmas time, ITI camp and Fat-Viking just a couple of weeks away. Yet again, work, family, training... I do not really understand how I manage it all.. A couple of days before Christmas, I wore out the cassette and failed to get a new one before Christmas. At least, I got more time to relax :)
New Year. Last preparations, chaos. In the last moment, due to icy conditions in Geilo, I am buying 5" studded tires and borrowing some things from Joe. I am reading, studying, watching, listening to pretty much anything related to winter riding and biviing..
15.1.2017, two 90 liter duffelbags and fatbike, leaving to Geilo.
To be continued... Part 2 coming soon...