How to race the Iditarod Trail Invitational on foot

We recently bought you Kathis guide to completing the Iditarod Trail Invitational by bike, and now we have Jerym’s article on how to complete the 1000 mile race on foot.

The Iditarod Trail Invitational is a 350 or 1000 mile race across Alaska in winter – self supported, its a rather chilly undertaking! Jerym, an IT consultant from NZ (now living in London) has completed the 1000 mile Anchorage to Nome version of the race on foot, pulling his kit in a Pulk (sledge).

– How fit and/or experienced do I need to be?
You need to have done the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 mile race to qualify for the 1000 mile version,
To compete in the 350 you need to prove to the organisers that you are capable of completing the 350 by doing their training course or one of a number of qualifying races, if you think you have done something else that qualifies you for the race you can discuss this with the organisers, Bill or Kathi.
Need to be able to cover about 30 miles per day over varying snow covered terrain carrying most of the gear you need to survive, i.e. Bivy bag / tent, sleeping bag, cooker, warm cloths etc
– What training methods would you recommend?
For the foot section, long walks / slow runs with a pack on, or some people tow old car tyres to simulate towing a sled in the snow. You should aim to train 5-6 days a week for at least 8-12 weeks building up so you are able to cover between 30-50 miles per day.
– What kit would you recommend?
For myself, I carry a -40 degree rated sleeping bag
Goretex bivy bag (but be aware the bivy bags condensate a bit in the extreme cold).
MSR White Spirits Cooker (Gas cookers stop working below about -25 degree)
Pan for boiling water, Plastic Knife / folk / Spoon / plate
Waterbottles or Camelback (note the pipes on these freeze easily at -40 so need to insulate them)
Merino wool base layer clothing
Various wool and Fleece mid layers to take on and off as the temperature changes
Gortex Outer Layers (Jacket & Trousers)
Down Jacket (very important for below -40)
RGH Design Mits and Inner Woolen Gloves
Thick wool socks with wicking technology to avoid blisters
Gortex Running Shoes
Neo Over-boots
Petzl Head torch
Garmin GPS
Utility Knife of some kind (e.g. Swiss Army knife)
Hauling sled (Pulk) if by foot
This is not a comprehensive list, but items I would definitely make sure you have.
– What were the highs and lows for you during the event?
Highs
The people you meet on the Iditarod trail Other competitors, support crew and people who live in the villages you pass through. Most people are incredibly friendly and go out of their way to help you.
Obviously crossing the finish line!
The magnificent Alaska scenery along the way
Lows
4am in the morning when youre tired, hungry and cold, and still have 50miles to the next check point
When the snow and extreme conditions slow you progress to below 2 mph and you know its going to take you over 5 hours to cover 10 miles, when you know you can do it in just over an hour on the road running!
Not seeing anyone for days and wondering if youre still actually on the right trail!
– All in, how much would it cost me to do this?
Entry:
$1000 for 350 mile race
$1150 for 1000 mile race
Flights to Anchorage depends on where youre coming from
Accommodation and Food in Anchorage $150 per day
Race Gear E.g. sleeping bag etc starting with nothing: Approx $3000
So I would say $5000 if youre doing it from scratch
– Logistically, how should I go about organizing it?
Talk to the Race Organisers, Bill and Kathi can give lots of advice, and are always happy too.
Follow the links on the website, previous racers blogs, they give good advice and often recommend the best gear to use.
Talk to racers who have done it if possible experience counts for a lot in these races and youll find most people are more than happy to share their knowledge.
Prepare a full gear list for the race
Test as much of it as possible before the race I.e. make sure you can start your cooker before you hit the trail!
Allow 2-3 months training time, min 3 days in Anchorage to acclimatize and recovery from jet lag, organise your gear and get anything else you need. There are a number of good outdoor stores there. Allow 7-10 days for the 350 mile race and 30 days for the 1000 miler
Allow a couple of days to recover and to return to Anchorage

How fit and/or experienced do I need to be?

You need to have done the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 mile race to qualify for the 1000 mile version. To compete in the 350 you need to prove to the organisers that you are capable of completing the 350 by doing their training course or one of a number of qualifying races, if you think you have done something else that qualifies you for the race you can discuss this with the organisers, Bill or Kathi. You need to be able to cover about 30 miles per day over varying snow covered terrain carrying most of the gear you need to survive, i.e. Bivy bag / tent, sleeping bag, cooker, warm cloths etc

What training methods would you recommend?

For the foot section, long walks / slow runs with a pack on, or some people tow old car tyres to simulate towing a sled in the snow. You should aim to train 5-6 days a week for at least 8-12 weeks building up so you are able to cover between 30-50 miles per day.

What kit would you recommend?

On the Iditarod Trail Invitational, I carry;

– -40 degree rated sleeping bagGoretex bivy bag (but be aware the bivy bags condensate a bit in the extreme cold).

– MSR White Spirits Cooker (Gas cookers stop working below about -25 degree)

– Pan for boiling water

– Plastic Knife / folk / Spoon / plateWaterbottles or Camelback (note the pipes on these freeze easily at -40 so need to insulate them)

– Merino wool base layer clothingVarious wool and Fleece mid layers to take on and off as the temperature changes

– Gortex Outer Layers (Jacket & Trousers)

– Down Jacket (very important for below -40)

– RGH Design Mits and Inner Woolen Gloves

– Thick wool socks with wicking technology to avoid blisters

– Gortex Running Shoes

– Neo Over-boots

– Petzl Head torch

– Garmin GPS

– Utility Knife of some kind (e.g. Swiss Army knife)

– Hauling sled (Pulk) if by foot

This is not a comprehensive list, but items I would definitely make sure you have.

What were the highs and lows for you during the event?

Highs – The people you meet on the Iditarod trail Other competitors, support crew and people who live in the villages you pass through. Most people are incredibly friendly and go out of their way to help you.Obviously crossing the finish line! The magnificent Alaska scenery along the way.

Lows – 4am in the morning when youre tired, hungry and cold, and still have 50 miles to the next check point. When the snow and extreme conditions slow you progress to below 2 mph and you know its going to take you over 5 hours to cover 10 miles, when you know you can do it in just over an hour on the road running! Not seeing anyone for days and wondering if youre still actually on the right trail!

All in, how much would it cost me to do this, and how do I organise it?

Entry:$1000 for 350 mile race, $1150 for 1000 mile race. Flights to Anchorage, accommodation and food in Anchorage – $150 per day. Race Gear E.g. sleeping bag etc starting with nothing: Approx $3000 So I would say $5000 if youre doing it from scratch.Talk to the Race Organisers, Bill and Kathi at Alaska Ultra Sport can give lots of advice, and are always happy too. Follow the links on the website, previous racers blogs, they give good advice and often recommend the best gear to use.Talk to racers who have done it if possible experience counts for a lot in these races and youll find most people are more than happy to share their knowledge.

Prepare a full gear list for the raceTest as much of it as possible before the race I.e. make sure you can start your cooker before you hit the trail!Allow 2-3 months training time, min 3 days in Anchorage to acclimatize and recovery from jet lag, organise your gear and get anything else you need. There are a number of good outdoor stores there. Allow 7-10 days for the 350 mile race and 30 days for the 1000 miler. Allow a couple of days to recover and to return to Anchorage.

Follow this link to theIditarod Trail Invitational homepage, and if you would like to take a holiday in Alaska, why not check outAlaska Ultra Sport. If you’re planning a winter walking holiday yourself, then have a read through our winter walking holidays in Scotland page – a great place to start!

Photos – Authors own, and Kathi’s, from Alaska Ultra Sport.