Fiona Worcester ('09, the author of this post) , David Hansen ('10), and Dylan Watts ('06).
In January, I completed the 100-mile Susitna 100 ski race, a backcountry race on snow machine trails that started across the bay from Anchorage at Point MacKenzie, and headed north for 53 miles before turning back. Eighty-three finishers biked, ran, and skied the race, and I was the 1st female skier, 4th female overall (3 female bikers beat me), and 4th skier (three male skiers beat me).
The race required bringing at least 15 pounds of gear, including 3000 calories of food, a sleeping pad, a sleeping bag, and a bivvy sack (and not including my water). The race also required a headlamp and a red blinker light, as about 12 hours of the race were in the middle of the night, and we needed to be visible to snowmachine patrollers. Rather than using a backpack, I elected to pull a sled, a homemade aluminum frame built on top of two kids' Fisher RCSs attached to me with a sanding pole and a waistblet. I also wore an insulated camelback and a front fanny pack, for quick access to clothing, food, and water, without removing my cumbersome sled. My focus was on the following: staying warm without sweating, staying hydrated and fed, and to not stop moving.
Me and my rig! My dad took this near the start.
Coming up on one of the male skiers (the trail was narrow).
The course follows the Iditarod Trail in places, and I encountered seven dogsled teams, some practicing for the 1049-mile saga to be held later that month. I also passed icefisherman, a few, sparse cabins, and skied on portions of the IronDog course, a famous Alaskan snowmachine race (Todd Palin has won it twice, I believe). The course was an out-and-back for the most part, with five checkpoints along the way, where we could rest, warmup (or dry out as the case may be), snack, and fill up on hot water.
Mount Susitna: "the Sleeping Lady"
My favorite parts of the race were also some of the most lonely. At about 3:00am, I was traveling toward the dreaded "Dismal Swamp", a 7-mile stretch of wide open space in which you can see your destination, but you never have the sense of getting any closer. The stars were some of the brightest I had ever seen, and I turned off my music, imagining I could hear the Northern Lights that were dancing across the sky behind me, pointing me home. I could see Mount Susitna, "the Sleeping Lady" looming, backlit by constellations I should learn to keep me company on such lonely nights.
The view behind my sled back up the Susitna River
The last checkpoint of the course was a Mardi-Gras themed station where I dined on jumbalaya, served by the two motherly checkpoint workers. Unfortunately, upon awaking from my 15-minute nap (my only sleep during the race), I realized I had tweaked my left knee badly and I could barely put any weight on it. My pilot bindings had given out at mile 55, and, I must of caught my tip and twisted my leg while skiing tensely, trying to keep my skis from catching on the uneven trail. As dawn came, I left in temperatures just below zero, and double-poled the remaining 18 miles to the finish line.
I did not quite make my goal of 24 hours, finishing in 26 hours, 50 minutes. But there's always next year!
The sun rising as I doublepole/limp to the finish.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
David Hansen and Dylan Watts competed in the SKAN 24, a 24-hour ski race held at Kincaid Park, in Anchorage, Alaska. The object is to complete as many laps of a 6.4km loop as possible in a 24-hour time frame. The race also included team events (with 2, 4, and 8-person teams) and 12-hour and 6-hour event, but the Williams boys decided to go the distance with 24-hour solo races!
David demolished the field, posting a record 37 laps in 24 hours, 22 minutes (if you start the last lap before the time is up, you may complete it). His total distance skied was 236.8 km, or 142 miles. These loops were not flat, and included some of the more difficult terrain at Kincaid!
I was out at the race supporting my East High Ski Team boys (they won the 8-man division, with a distance of 448 km [268 miles]) until I went to bed for the evening. They reported that David pretty much kept up the same steady pace throughout, not stopping often. Dylan Watts opted for a different strategy, stopping to rest and change clothes often, and even sleeping at times, but skiing quickly while on the course. Dylan was the second male solo finisher, with a total distance of 185.6km, or 112 miles.
Below is a piece done by a local news station; David is featured prominently. Hear his thoughts during the race! :)