I had originally planned to start riding the morning after the race had gone off. Didn't want to interfere with the racers or steal their thunder in any way. But as anyone that was out there that day can tell you, it was not a day to sit idling away in a crappy dank motel room. It was a day to ride. So about half an hour after the dust had settled from the racers' departure, that's what I did.
I can honestly say that in a decade+ of riding around the Big Lake/Knik Lake area, I have never seen conditions nearly that good.Hardpacked, fast, with a bit of purchase so you could actually carve corners (and yes! you could actually go fast enough to carve!) instead of slipping and skidding through.
The day was marked by a festival-like atmosphere from start to finish. I worked my way through a pack of skiers andrunners near the Little Su crossing, plus lots of day-riders out tooling about, then rode solo from there out to the Big Su and a little ways up the Yentna before setting up camp. Most exciting moment of the day came when I started stomping out a place for the tent, only to look down and realize I was in calf deep water (overflow) instead of snow. Seemed like a prudent decision to move to a sandbar a little ways upriver.It was very early to be stopping (by racing standards) but seemed just right from a touring perspective: I was tired and hungry and it was dark out. No further reason needed.
I made mistakes every day out there and this one was no exception. I'd been so caught up in hurriedly visiting with old friends at the start that I never made it inside the bar for a burger/fries/rootbeer. As I melted snow for water and attended to nightly chores I realized that the glass of juice I'd had for breakfast accounted for my only caloric consumption over the previous ~14 hours. Not the best way to start a potentially calorically-limited trip, but that was where I found myself. Best just to snarf dinner and get some shut eye.
I learned while sleeping (?!) that the runners can't hear very well over the noise of their sleds. Each time one of them would chuff by I'd call out a greeting and only once (out of a dozen+ runners) was that greeting returned. Geoff Roes stopped and chatted for a few before continuing upriver into the night.