Husky House

Posts Tagged ‘biking’

Fireweed 400 Bicycle Race Across Alaska

We are typically last-minute people; prior or long term planning just isn’t our thing.  With four Siberian huskies to consider, you think we would plan ahead.  Well, you would be wrong.  After a career in logistics and planning, I am now blissfully retired and planning is no longer an option.  All this is to preface that, at the last minute, we decided to enter the half-century field of the Fireweed 400 Bicycle Race Across Alaska, something that I had been craving to do for the past several years.  The race starts at the Sheep Mountain Lodge at mile 113.5 of the Glenn Highway. There isn’t much there and what few accommodations exist are booked about a year in advance, others camp on the airstrip at the Lodge.  I am not a camper.  Having made the decision to ride only 10 days before the race, the closest acceptable hotel was two hours away from the start in Anchorage, with Anchorage being six hours from Fairbanks, where we live; an inconvenience, but not a great one considering the opportunity to fulfill a dream.  As is our style, we departed Fairbanks late, arrived Anchorage late, had pizza and beer late, then got up early to make the two-hour trek to Sheep Mountain for the race, arriving just in time to get it all together to make it to the starting line.

The visual proof that we survived the Fireweed 400...and Bill is still smiling despite his crash!


It was all worth it. Despite weeks of rainy weather and overcast skies, it did not rain for the ride, and the scenery along the Glenn Highway was breathtaking.  I have felt better on bike rides, I think the all out last minute effort to make it to the start left me mentally, if not physically, fatigued.  But it was a great ride; note the use of the word “ride,” for us this was not a race.  The logistics and support were superb; I don’t think I have participated in a more finely tuned event.  Back at Sheep Mountain Lodge, at the end of the race, there was piping hot Papa Murphy’s pizza and an assortment of energy bars, real cookies and plenty of cold water for participants and supporters.


Spectacular views along the way included Sheep Mountain; the Chugach Mountains; several lakes; Eureka Summit, the highest point on the Glenn Highway and the Nelchina Glacier, just to mention a few.  The ride is a hilly one, with about 2300 feet elevation gain.  The ride went very smoothly, perhaps too smoothly, with us, the shoe always drops somewhere.  And it did.  About 100 yards before the finish, a guy was checking cyclists’ numbers so he could tell the finish line monitors who was coming.  We were told to wear our numbers on our right side, but the guy was on the left side of the road, so he couldn’t see them, and he yelled out for our numbers.  We were on a nice downhill to the finish, and had some speed.  I yelled out my number and kept going, Bill tried to turn around to see what he wanted and had a spectacular crash.  Classic Bill.  Fortunately he was able to get up and finish the ride, but was (and still is two weeks later), quite sore.  He does keep life interesting.