10th Iditarod – McGrath

Jay Petervary reached McGrath thus finishing the first leg of his 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational fat bike race to Nome. Things have been going well, but windstorms have left him with a non-existent trail to continue his northward journey. He took a moment to give us a call and check in. Here’s what he had to say about his race so far.

“I’m just recovering right now. Eating a bunch of food and staying hydrated. Doing my work and my maintenance. There’s no trail out there. I’m calling around to trappers and stuff to see if anyone’s been out that may have left a route to follow. So, I’m playing it by ear. You have to be patient, and I’ve gotten pretty good at being patient. There’s a chance the Iditarod sled dog race trail breakers won’t even be out there until Sunday.”

He continued, “I’ve matured through the years, and I’m able to lean on experience, so I don’t feel stressed or rushed right now about what the weather is. It all just is what it is. I haven’t been frustrated at all, and we’ve had some terrible trail along the way. This sense of calm is a lot different than how I was even a few years back. Feels good. My flight home isn’t until March 18th, so I’ve got until then regardless!”

This realistic and in-the-moment attitude combined with a decade of learning are both parts of Jay’s equipment this year. “I’ve kept the pointy end of the race honest and taken time to sleep every night.” Petervary knows how to monitor his vitals and be prepared for anything the environment has to offer. “We had some classic Alaska weather with strong 40 to 50mph headwinds. Ptarmigan Valley saw another big wind storm leading to the drifting snow that’s so much more difficult to ride in than falling snow. Drifts can really just stop you sometimes.”

This year, Petervary is riding a Salsa Blackborow. While racing might not be the first thing you think of with a mid-tail expedition bike, Petervary thought otherwise, and so far after three days and 350 miles, Jay says, “The bike is great! I’m learning the subtleties that are adding up to be beneficial. It makes some things easier – not necessarily faster – but easier. Organizationally, none of my gear is packed away. I’m always just a cinch strap or a zipper away from what I need.”

Ten years on a trail is a lot of time to get to know it. When asked what comes to mind when he just lets it flash back over those years, he says, “Gosh, I feel super fortunate. I appreciate the experience more every time I come back. I feel super lucky.”

He continued, “I’m always reminiscing; ‘Oh I was in the dark here last year, or this is where we post-holed for miles that one year. That happens on and off throughout the day. After this many years, I know the whole trail. I remember not just the piece of the trail, but the piece within the piece. It helps make the trail pass faster. I guess that’s knowledge earned.”

Does that make it any easier, though? “No. Just when this trail you think you know so well is maybe giving you a little wink, it turns right around and gives you one big kick in the crotch. One minute you re on good trail and then you’re not. It doesn’t care about you. So, you have to respect it.”

As Petervary spoke with us, the house he was in was slowly filling with athletes finishing their 350-mile race. The atmosphere inside the house was a warm one. “It’s a family feel,” he said. “Like a gathering at grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. Instead of sharing stories of the past year, we’re all sharing stories of the past days on the trail and sharing food. Constantly eating food. And everyone’s your friend all of the sudden. I’d say we become way better friends than we ever realized we would.”

But, he’s headed to Nome this year. How’s it feel to say goodbye to the mountains of ‘mancakes’, get off the couch, and head back out? “Knowing I’m going to Nome means I have to remember this isn’t my finish, so I can’t relax quite the same way. Even before I get here, I start telling myself that I’m not done and that I am going to leave. Coming in last night, I was almost praying that I’d be able to continue on right away. But there’s no trail.”

“Yes, it’s tough to will yourself away to ride off into the backcountry for I don’t know how long. I need to think of things differently, and not take risky chances and such. But there’s also a sense of relief when I’m finally on my way.”

Stay tuned Iditarod Trail Invitational fans. You can be sure that the remaining two-thirds of this classic and monumental trail has a few tricks up its sleeve for Petervary’s tenth-anniversary run.

You can follow Jay’s, and all the other ITI competitors, dot on Trackleaders here: https://trackleaders.com/iti18