Cold, hard fun

by • March 7, 2017 • 61 North, HighlightsComments (0)175

A rider passes through the landscape of the Homer Epic race. The Homer Epic is one of several winter wilderness races in Alaska. Courtesy Urtesy Ben Belfiglio.

A rider passes through the landscape of the Homer Epic race. The Homer Epic is one of several winter wilderness races in Alaska. Courtesy Urtesy Ben Belfiglio.

Winter endurance challenges not for the faint of heart

If it’s a clear night, you will feel the temperature plummet and frost form on your eyelashes as you drop into the lowest and possibly coldest point along the race course,” reads the online trail description of the White Mountain 100-mile race. It’s one of two human-powered endurance events taking place in Alaska this month, and yes, people actually do it – 75 of them last year, in fact. And, it’s to these bestowed winter hyperathletes, that I say “Bravo!”
The Homer Epic is also set to take place this month and touts equally harsh-sounding terrain. Just reading about it makes me shiver under my down blanket. A past event page reads “trails are remote and located far in the remote backcountry of the Caribou hills and MANY HOURS from help. If you break down during a snowstorm you need to be self sufficient and safe and WARM. These are not groomed trails near town.”
As appealing as that sounds, I’ll be taking a rain check on entering. But, for those of you bold enough to bike, run, or ski across decidedly inhospitable terrain, here’s more to whet your appetite.

 

The Homer Epic 50K or 100K

Since 2013, the Homer Epic has encouraged racers to test their limits over 50 to 100 kilometers of snowy Homer trails via bike, foot or ski. Organized by the Homer Cycle Club, race fees will go to the club’s mission to provide more biking opportunities in the Homer area.
Race director Martin Renner describes the terrain in a single word: “hilly.” He also said that in clear weather, the trail boasts beautiful views as well. In terms of race preparation, organizers emphasize self-sufficiency and advise a high degree of familiarity with what gear you will need for your desired activity. And, while past winter ultra experience is not a prerequisite, it’s desired that you have some experience handling yourself in the cold. Race organizers will cap participation at 100 racers. And, while fees increased to $255 after Feb. 27, Epic hopefuls can register as late as March 3, the day before the race.

White Mountains 100-miler

Not to be trifled with, this race spans 100 miles in the Fairbanks wilderness, across cold winter streams, windy meadows and icy slopes. Again, race organizers emphasize self-reliance among participants. In fact, White Mountains rules state that receiving aid from anyone outside of officials and fellow racers is grounds for disqualification.
The route itself is harrowing, with plenty of hazards ranging from cold winds to fallen trees protruding in the path – a big problem if you’re crossing them in the dark. Which could very well happen considering racers have a total of 40 hours to complete the route. (Last years’ slowest participant came in on foot at an aching 37 hours and 56 minutes.)
The race is scheduled for March 26, and, unfortunately for those tough-as-nails, gotta-get-out-there competitors, registration for the event closed back in November. But would-be racers should be on the lookout for announcement of 2018 registration.
All told, the races promise to challenge and thrill participants – if not leave them really cold and really tired. Of course for those brave enough to try, that’s the whole point.
To learn more about the races or to register visit www.wm100.endurancenorth.org and www.homercyclingclub.org/homer-epic.

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