D__ and I are heading to Alaska in July for the Alaska Randonneurs' Big Wild Ride 1200K. D__'s first crack at the distance. My third(!), with neither of the first two being successful. Sam should obviously be joining us, but no luck so far. (See the "Ride Announcement" post on April 8.)
The Big Wild Ride is a hard event to segment. There is no natural overnight in the first 600K. Nor is there in the latter 600K! Ordinarily a 6 pm start makes much sense -- the necessary night riding (and some is always necessary) is done on the first night of the ride. But on this one, that means one either commits to several night rides or rides 30 hours straight before sleeping.
I want to ride this loop in 72 hours or less if possible. If it is not possible, of course, I am ready to fall back on the planned overnights and just stay ahead of the sweeper car. My strong sense is that we will know how things are going by the time we have to make our first decision -- whether to sleep several hours in Delta Junction and proceed into the next night, or whether to leave Delta Junction in early afternoon and proceed 95 miles to Fairbanks.
D__, quite understandably, wants to finish.
My preference is to ride to Fairbanks in 30 hours or less. Possible? I say it is. In each of my two 600Ks on similar terrain (even sharing the same road for much of them) I've pedaled about 24 hours total. There are many problems with a 6 pm start, but one advantage is that we will encounter the night early; by 12 hours in, when things get really tiring, it will be full daylight again -- and it will stay basically that way until the following midnight.
The hard part comes in asking what to do next. From Fairbanks we ride to Nenana (50 miles or so), then Healy (another 50), where there is a planned overnight; then Cantwell (another 50 or so). If we stay in Cantwell, we will be 230-240 miles from Anchorage -- certainly possible in the remaining day and 1/2, and maybe even possible on the third day.
If we continue on, we encounter a staffed control at Hurricane Gulch, 35 miles away, and the next available lodging is 75 miles down the road at Mary's McKinley View Lodge. That puts us in easy striking distance from Anchorage on Day 3, perhaps even the 72-hour finish I had envisioned.
Either approach gives the same probability of finishing, because falling back to the back of the pack remains possible no matter what one attempts. In truth, I think this all becomes a game time decision about 10 minutes after the starting gun sounds. I may be napping in a volunteer's vehicle at 8 pm at the Mile 35 control, and that holds whether my plan is ambitious or pedestrian.
The issue seems to boil to this: physically, an "off" day on Day 2 seems easier. The rest-in-Cantwell option means riding 360 miles, 150 miles, 240 miles (the last leg possibly broken into two). The rest-at-Mary's option means riding 360, 225, 165.
On the other hand, psychologically, I like front-loading as much as possible. Waking on Day 3 with 400K in front of me sounds horrific. Waking on Day 3 with 250-275K in front of me is something I can stomach.
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