Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How do you feel about opera?

Somewhere out there along the Kuskokwim River west of Nikolai, Pete Basinger should be starting the final 50 miles of the Iditarod Trail Invitational along about now. He has been running like a machine for three days. If he reaches McGrath by about 8 p.m. Alaska time, he’ll not only win the race for the second time in a row, he’ll set a course record.

Hell, why not? After all, it’s been at least a week since he won the Susitna 100. It’s time for the boy to get off his ass, or we might think he’s slackin’.

As Dave Byers pointed out on his blog, the rest of us have spent the past three days sleeping in warm beds, going to work, buying groceries and eating hot meals. The racers, meanwhile, have been pounding the pedals and running on damn little sleep in temperatures reaching 30 below zero.

Pete called race headquarters from Nikolai just before 10 a.m. to report that he had reached the checkpoint after contending with cold temperatures, a bumpy trail and a few inches of new snow. He spent much of the night falling off his bike when he hit tussocks hidden by the powder. He caught about 40 minutes of sleep at Bison Camp, and planned to catch a little more sleep and eat some food before leaving Nikolai.

Those of us following the race now have to sit back and quietly root for him as we sit at our computers and hope for a new course record. His chasers have to follow his tracks and hope for something to happen that would put them back in contention. That’s not likely to happen.

The trail conditions ahead are unknown, and many things could stand in the way of a record, but with Pete’s Pugsley pointed toward McGrath, I'd say the fat lady’s warming up.

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