In 1996 I got a bug to go do this low-key and not-often heard about race called the Iditabike. No one I knew had ever heard of it, done it, nor knew of anyone that had done it. The totality of my knowledge of it came from a three-sentence blurb in a magazine, where I learned that it was run in February on a chunk of the Iditarod Trail. In hindsight, the lack of info could have been what was so intriguing about this race. Where I lived at the time (Crested Butte), there was no 'internet' available and researching anything meant asking lots of questions then heading down to the local library. With respect to the Iditabike, that approach netted me precisely zero information.
So I had no idea what to expect, very, very limited budget (well, no budget at all, really) and figured that my single speed would be as good a bike as any. I became obsessed with planning for this race, mostly because the harder I looked the more I came up empty for info. Paranoid! One winter night about a month before the race I had dinner with a few riding friends. After dinner we adjourned to their 'bike room' where I spied a fascinating set of wide bike rims hanging from the ceiling. Snowcats! We finagled some sort of a trade, I relaced them with my SS hubs and fresh spokes, and then 'trained' on them for another few weeks before flying north for my first adult-sized step into total immersion learning.
Leaving the start and intensely relieved to be moving.
Up to about mile 50 things were going well--I felt great on the bike, the day was gorgeous, and I could often see the 5th and 4th place racers just ahead. The track deteriorated over the next few miles, leaving us no choice but to walk and posthole along. About 60 miles in I tore my MCL and meniscus thanks to a careless step into a hole left by a moose (I was running to get warm at the time), then hobbled another ~20 miles before realizing I was off-course, borderline hypothermic, and pretty damn scared. In my infinite wisdom, I decided this was a great time to test out my never-before-used sleeping bag!
I shivered uncontrollably for a few hours in my bag before realizing things weren't going to get better, and it was still 6+ hours til sunrise. Got up, packed up, and started hobbling back down the trail. My torn up knee had tightened considerably while I 'slept', so I flagged down a snowmachine (that was out looking for me...) and took a ride *back* to the next checkpoint: In my lostness I had taken a different trail that cut north of it... Stubborn and stupid, I took a few hours' break, refused to accept my knee woes, then shuffled/stumbled (knee was too stiff and weak to pedal) the remaining ~30 miles back to the finish.
With hindsight it is SOOO easy to see all of the mistakes I made, not just in action during the race, but in judgement and assumptions made leading up to that point. It took a few more races with my steep learning curve to come to the conclusion that a bad race was infinitely more valuable (from a learning perspective) than a race won. And a few more races still until I understood that the process of making mistakes, learning from them, then getting back out to make more mistakes was a lifestyle in itself, and the races were merely a far flung goal to work towards.
Cantina ad published after that race.
I've never lost sight of that--it's the learning process that matters most, and the results will always take care of themselves.