I’ve been making stupid school-boy errors recently.

First, I happily advised someone I was going riding with that Camelbaks are OK below freezing as long as you blow the water back into the bladder to stop the pipe from freezing. I then forgot to do so myself and ended up having mine freeze solid. Doh!

Then, I forget to check my chainring bolts at all for ages and this happens:

With thoughts turning toward Alaska again, I thought it was time to review the mistakes that I shouldn’t make in an unforgiving environment:

Mistakes not to make again on the Iditarod Trail Invitational

  • Take plenty of socks! They weigh hardly anything and the frostbite from last time was largely attributable to my wet socks.
  • Don’t set off from a checkpoint in wet socks (especially if it’s -30C out there) – you’ll get frostbite.
  • Take sensible food i.e. varied and tasty. Last time I took a mix of salty and sweet for eating during the day. I thought that nuts would be good because they pack a lot of calories and will replace salt. I ate some nuts on day 1, the rest were dead weight. I’ve got a sweet tooth during rides, so I should know better and pack for it (at least I got this right on the Divide).
  • Don’t get too excited (another one I got right on the Divide)
    • I tore away from the line on day 1 with no real idea of where I was going. John Ross and I got kind of lost. We rejoined the pack only after wasting a load of time and effort.
    • I barely slept before the race and on the first night of the race itself. If you’re going to lie down and do nothing else, you might as well sleep.
  • Don’t bother with hydraulic brakes. I really wanted them for UK riding, but should have gone straight to cables on my snow bike. They were more noisy than really draggy in the end, but if it had been colder, I could have been in trouble.
  • Don’t rely on post from the UK to Alaska being half-way reasonable. Send it really early, or take it with you.
  • When veteran racers are putting on extra clothes before they drop down to ride the frozen river, they really do know better than you.
  • Don’t use an old pump. The seals on mine shrank from OK in normal temperatures to completely useless on the Trail. I had to rely on others and had some dodgy moments when the temperature drop brought my tyres down with it.
  • Take some energy drink. I know it freezes faster, but it encourages me to drink more (the taste and the knowledge that I need to drink it soon).
  • Don’t listen to snow machiners (or snow mobilers, or whatever you call them). Bill told me not to, but I didn’t listen to him. If they’ve got motorised transport, they’ve got a whole different idea of distance than you have (I got this right in the Nokia Coast 2 Coast re: motorbikes).

I’m sure I’ll have a whole load of new mistakes to make this time around 🙂

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