Jeff Oatley has made it into McGrath as this year's ITI winner. Congratulations Jeff. I know there were a lot of people rooting for Jeff to win, especially after he was forced to give up a huge lead while waiting for a couple days for a trail over Rainy Pass.
I've spent a lot of time since Monday thinking about my plans in regard to if/when to try this race again. It's a very difficult thought process for me right now. On one hand I keep thinking that I am not going to pull the plug on this race just because I have now had two horrible attempts at it in a row. On the other hand though lies the fact that this race really isn't a "race" but more of an expedition. Perhaps I would be wise to focus on racing while I'm still able to perform at or near my highest potential and come back and tackle this one in several years when, as Paul Dewitt said, "I'm old and slow." This isn't a new thought to me. I've thought a lot about this for the past year. Last year I took up a huge chunk of my time focused on two multi-day adventure/expedition style "races" (ITI and GDR). I don't regret this at all but I do realize that had I not dropped out of both of those races early I probably would not have been able to run Miwok or Wasatch, at least not with the success that I did. If I continue to do the ITI every year it absolutely will cut into my potential in my "short" races.
The thing though about the ITI is that being out on that trail has a way of making one feel so intensely alive. I get a huge rush from almost all races I run, but only this race gets into my blood in this way. It's more than just the magnificent challenge of it, although that is a huge part of it. Also there is the simplicity of it that is so appealing. There are almost no rules. The course is not contrived to be a certain distance. You have a start point and an end point, you can take whatever path you want to get from A to B. It is certainly one of the most dangerous races in the world and there is always more you can learn about how to make it safer and more efficient. In short, this race is 100% the real deal. There is no pretense. There are no shortcuts. There is no way you will ever make it to McGrath if you don't have your shit 100% together. The fact that a few people each year go all the way to Nome is still too much for me to even comprehend.
I have a few options that I'm throwing around in my mind:
-Keep banging my head against the wall in hopes it'll finally break through.
-Put this one on the back burner until I'm "old and slow" and likely in a much better place mentally to have success in this race.
-Try it on bike next year and see where that takes me. Bikes have proven year after year to be the most efficient means of travel in this race. A successful race on bike could be a great learning experience to help me conquer it on foot.
-Take one year off to really focus on 100 milers (still could run either the susitna 100 or the arrowhead 135 to get a nice snow race in next winter) and then give this one another shot in 2011.
There are pros and cons to each of these options. I've got a lot of time to think about it. I am leaning toward one of these options right now but I'm not going to decide without taking at least several weeks to think about it and talk with some friends and fellow ITI racers about it. I'd be happy to hear some of your thoughts on it. It's of course my decision to make, but it's always helpful to hear what other people, who maybe don't have so much emotion tied up in a decision, might think.