Tune in to the big race in Alaska

Contestants line up for the start of the Iditarod Trail Invitational that started Sunday afternoon. The lead bikers were finishing the race on Wednesday evening. (Courtesy of Iditarod Trail Invitational)

Now that the Winter Olympics are history, there’s another big event for outdoor enthusiasts to turn their attention to: the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

I’m not referring to the sled dog race — although that’s cool too — but the pre-sled dog festivities. Prior to the doggies’ big race, a pack of highly motivated people take to the same trail on fat bikes, skis and on foot. Depending on one’s specific motivation, they race 130 miles, 350 miles or 1,000 miles.

Keep in mind that this isn’t your typical groomed fat bike or cross-country ski trail. Racers head out into the Alaskan wilderness and face a whole range of winter trail conditions and nasty weather. Crazy people from across North America and around the world join in the fun.

The race started Sunday afternoon. I have one friend and know others who are on the course. Jill Homer, currently from Boulder, Colo., is running the 350-mile course and her partner, Beat Jegerlehner, is running the full 1,000-miler.

I got to know Jill when she worked on the copy desk here at the Post Register. We once climbed Borah Peak together.

“Runners” actually tend to just walk fast nonstop at about 3 mph pulling a sled behind them with all their survival gear. Bikers, including Victor residents Jay Petervary and Aaron Gardner, haul all their necessities on their bike. Bikers generally move along a bit faster, if trail conditions are good. Poor trail conditions can slow them down to a crawl.

One of the coolest things about this race is that you can follow the racers’ every move online. Each racer takes with them a SPOT satellite tracker that pinpoints their progress along the trail. You can follow racers progress at iditarodtrailinvitational.com/tracking.

One friend, who takes a dim view of such shenanigans, says the SPOT is not to follow their progress but to aid in body recovery when racers collapse along the trail and turn into frozen roadkill.

I once asked Petervary what steps he takes to stay warm along the trail on particularly cold nights.

“It’s all about staying warm,” he said. “A group of people just dog pile on top of each other and hug each other until it’s time to get going again.”

Clearly, necessity is the mother of conduction.

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On the subject of cold places, the Idaho Alpine Club is hosting a presentation by Shawn May of Estes Park, Colo., on climbing Ama Dablam — one of the big peaks in the Himalayas of Nepal.

May and a partner spent a month this past fall climbing the peak. While most of the presentation is about climbing in the Himalayas, he will also touch on climbing peaks in Ecuador and a peak along the Chile-Argentina border.

The program will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Development Workshop, 555 W. 25th St.

The program is open to the public.