Iditarod trail breakers, who create the path for the sled dogs, passed. Even with their help, the snow just wouldn’t set up. The machines would push ahead and the snow was mashed potatoes, no matter how many went by.
Then the pair got to the coast. The wind started blowing hard and they found themselves walking again. A constant drift of snow, always moving and always shifting. There just wasn’t a surface you could confidently ride.
After hundreds of miles of hardship, the sea ice presented the greatest challenge. They were moving slow enough that markers had been placed for the mushers who departed a week after the ITI racers. Every 50 feet, a reflective Iditarod marker helps guide the way. But the wind was blowing so intensely, they couldn’t see from one marker to the next. They decided to bivy on the sea ice and wait a bit, hopeful conditions would improve. Otherwise they could quickly get off course and end up out to sea. It took 36 hours just to make that 30-mile crossing.
Twenty-five grueling days after leaving the starting line at Knik Lake, they arrived in Nome.
It was two in the morning. It was silent. It was still. The last musher had already finished the Iditarod. All the hoopla was gone. Everyone had packed up and left. No cheering crowds. The finish line chute, the arch—all put aside in the corner.
They found a room, but since nothing else was open, they had one last dehydrated meal in a Styrofoam cup.
For the first time, Kathi felt cold. After weeks of layering, boiling snow, keeping food in pockets and water bottles in sleeping bags—always making sure her system was dialed despite 50 below temperatures—her body was finished.