First report from the boys - 24/2/2002

This image of the 2001 Iditasport start line should give you an idea of what it is going to be like today!

Our first email from the boys - the race starts today (Sunday); we're 9 hours
ahead of Alsaka!

THIS RACE thrives on rumour. Last year it was 'the dreaded overflow'... not a fear of blocked toilets, but the running water on top of semi-frozen rivers. Tales of thigh-deep stretches of icy torrent spooked at least half the field (including us), and consequently the local outdoor store had its best-ever weekend sale on waterproof leggings, gaitors and overboots

This year, navigation seems to be the worry of the week. Map sales have gone through the roof (a full set of maps covering the entire 1,097-mile course costs over $160) - but we've done a deal with Italian runner Roberto and colour photocopied a set for just over $20. With the Garmin GPS we've got loaded with checkpoint references, we hope it should be enough to get us through this weekend's forecast stormy weather.

Other rumours doing the rounds have included wolf packs roaming the Farewell Burn... plus, of course, the usual neck-deep snow at Finger Lake (which
turned out to be true last year). We've just posted off 11 'drops' - after spending the last three days ferrying supplies from local supermarket Carrs. Margriet, who runs the b&b where most of the competitors are staying, will be flying to Hawaii four times a year on the loyalty card bonus...

Al and I were certainly not sad to see the back of the 11 cardboard boxes that have been filling our room for most of the week. We've packed Peronin energy powder, GPush drink powder, trail mix, biscuits, pepperoni and just about every other type of food you could imagine. We've divided everything up into day's-worth portions - a task which involved over 100 zip-loc bags and the kitchen dustbin to stir up the trail mix. Also packed is white gas liquid fuel, headtorch batteries, film, vitamins and extra thermal base-layers. The total food bill is probably nearing $1,000 - but for two people on the trail for 20 days, it's probably not excessive. Both of us were dreading the postage bill - but for 100kgs in 11 priority mail boxes, it totalled just $145. Someone tell Consignia...

Other last-minute changes of plan have included swapping our Nokian tyres for some new WTB Werewolf 2.5,in the desperate hope they might give us some more float on the snow, and a couple of new fleece hats which make us look
like goblins.

Just off now to finish sorting out the bikes, then hit the pre-race meeting for last-minute instructions. Praying now for the heavy snow to stay away -otherwise we're going to get a grim reminder of why these two-wheeled contraptions are called 'push-bikes'.