By Eric Peterson
We turned off the main road and into the abyss of dark with the lights of civilization slowly disappearing behind us. I had heard about this section of the race from others and although I was apprehensive I was also very excited. Countless steep climbs and white knuckled descents sounded exactly like my kind of terrain. The nature of this section of trail made the darkness seem rather vast and my world quite small since all you can see is the small area of snow illuminated by your headlamp.
My legs felt fresh and strong still but my intentions were to hold them back since I didn’t yet know what to expect and the ridiculousness of this event popped into my head repeatedly. Am I really riding 135 miles on snow? Am I really going to ride for over 24 hours? People are settling into bed right now and we are just getting started on the second half of this craziness. I smiled to myself and couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. There is nowhere else I’d rather be right now.
I found this whole section of trail to not only be quite easy but also my favorite. We walked a lot of the steep up hills and blasted the down hills. To me every ascent was a rite of passage to the screaming exhilaration that followed over and over again. Call me sick, but I love the limited visibility at high speeds combined with the unpredictability of the snowmobile packed trail. So on this up and down circus went for hours and hours without incident until Mike and Ken realized that we should be coming up on The Teepee of Despair shortly. We would crest a hill and they would say that ‘it should be just over the next hill’…. Just to find that when we crested that next hill it wasn’t there, so it must be ‘just over the next hill.’ After several hours of this build up and let down desperation started to set in and I became worried that somehow we had missed a turn. Ken’s power at this point was quickly depleting and we started stopping more frequently. I was in front at this point and I noticed that they had stopped behind me, so I did the same, got some food, and looked around as usual.
I had grown accustomed to seeing reflective signage thru the woods at this point and when I looked ahead I saw what I thought was another sign off in the distance, but when I turned my head it continued to glow. It took me a while to process what was happening since it was 2:30 AM but finally I realized that it must be the checkpoint. I yelled back to Ken and Mike, hopped on the bike, and blasted up to the teepee. The people at the checkpoint rang a cowbell as we approached which reminded me of my downhill ski racing days. It’s amazing how much motivation a simple cowbell can give a person. We climbed into the teepee and each had three cups of hot cocoa which was like drinking liquid amazingness!
We hung out for quite a while and I felt that fire inside me start to grow again. My legs became anxious to push hard once more and it was time to go. We mounted our steeds and headed off again into the darkness. I was seemingly growing stronger Mike and Ken were growing tired so we decided that I would ride up front which I was happy to do. We crested wakemup hill and knew we had it in the bag. There was plenty more trail left but it was mostly flat swampland. Easy pickings. We hammered our way thru the woods and Ken got worse and worse. He begged us to leave him but we wouldn’t do it. We hung together all night and it just wouldn’t be right to leave him at this point. After several hours of this and with our pace slowing to a crawl he finally got us to just go. We were only six miles out and he was convinced that he would finish, but he just needed some time.
By now I was jacked on adrenaline knowing that I was going to finish which made my legs feel like they could lift a car. I told Mike to just hang on behind me and off we went. The sky was starting to lighten and we were flying. We whipped thru the swampland like we were being chased by a pack of angry wolves and when we crossed the last road I told Mike that I wanted to sprint the finish. I jumped up a few gears and off I went with no idea how much further I had to go. It didn’t matter. I cranked thru the soft snow pushing faster and faster. I pushed so hard on my pedals that I thought they would break off, and then finally it appeared. The finish. I cruised thru to the most amazing feeling ever. After I checked in and got some food, Dad picked me up and we headed to the cabin where I took a sauna and went to sleep (18 or so hours which was broken up only by dinner)…..