Written by: Jack McKenna, pictured below on his fat tire bike
This past February, Attorney Jack McKenna competed in the Susitna 100 Winter Wilderness Race. He completed the 100 mile course in just over 31 hours on a fat-tire bicycle with 4-inch studded tires. The heavy snowfall in February made for soft trails and a slow ride. But the warmer than average temperatures were welcome when riding on the Susitna River at midnight—even as several inches of snow fell during the race.
The race began at Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels near Big Lake. The route headed south towards Point McKenzie, west to Flat Horn Lake, and north on the Susitna River to Deshka Landing. At the Eagle Quest Lodge, Jack took a quick nap and filled up on biscuits and gravy. The trail then looped around the Nancy Lake Recreation Area before heading back to the kennels. Racers were required to be self-sufficient in case of trouble and carry at all times a minus-20 degree sleeping bag, sleeping pad, bivy sack, lights, 3000 calories of emergency food, and at least 15 pounds of gear.
Racers are allowed to bike, ski or run the course. In recent years, the low snow levels and icy conditions gave cyclists with wide, studded tires a distinct advantage. This year, the soft and deep powder allowed skiers to keep up with the riders. Recent snows also created “overflow” on the trail as the ice sank under the new weight and water seeped up through the snow.
Despite the conditions it was an immensely enjoyable race with friendly and enthusiastic volunteers making it all happen. The friendly folks working the checkpoints were always ready with hot food, a smile, and a warm spot to take a rest. Martin Buser was a welcoming and gracious host for the race headquarters at his kennel. The race could only be the amazing experience it is through the combination of Alaska’s gorgeous wide-open spaces and the warmth of its people.