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  • Susitna 100 Mile and 50Km Race Across Frozen Alaska
    February 16-18, 2002
    by Ron Nicholl

    Sean McPeck of Anchorage won the 2002 Susitna 100 in 28:55. Sean, 24, the youngest
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     participant in this year’s foot division took the lead from John Collins, 25, also of Anchorage while leaving EagleSong Lodge. John had led from Big Lake or roughly half the race. Once taking the lead, Sean maintained to the finish. Laura McDonough, Anchorage, repeated as the 2002 women’s winner with a time of 31:14.

    The Susitna 100 has three divisions: ski, bike or foot. Historically the bikers have had the fastest times, but the snow conditions of the past two years have tipped the advantage to the skiers and those on foot. Six skiers led Sean McPeck to the finish but the first biker was an hour behind. This is the first time in the history of the race that the lead runner has beaten a bike. The bikers have had lots of practice pushing their bikes through the deep loose snow of the past two years.

    Weather conditions were almost ideal, 0 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. There was some wind on the return that created bothersome drifting conditions for some while one of the lead runners went shirtless in the sun. Drifts or not, John was too warm. Even with all the recent sub-zero temperatures, there was still some open water on the Susitna and Yentna Rivers. There was no problem avoiding the water in the almost half mile wide frozen river that becomes a winter highway. The irregularity of the frozen river surface is always intriguing, sometimes going slightly uphill and then downhill.

    The loop portion of the course was run in reverse this year to be clear of an area shared with a large snowmachine race on the second day. Some thought that the reverse direction enhanced the course, though the long stretches were still just as long. Not encountering 90 mph snowmachines was greatly appreciated.

    There was light snow through most of the first day and then partial cloud cover through the night. Clearing conditions did occur for those still out on the second night. Instead of northern lights, we had the glow of Anchorage city lights, approximately 40 air miles away. Working through the deep snow and very isolated Yentna to EagleSong section, it was easy to pretend the glow of Anchorage was an aurora borealis.

    No reports of animal encounters, though the moose caution signs loomed out of the dark rather unexpectedly on the historic Iditarod trail portion. Part of the Alaska winter experience is to share the trail with sled dog teams. There were various encounters with them as well as seeing numerous discarded protective dog booties in the trail. Since their dark colored materials stood out against the snow it was fairly easy to scoop them up while running along. It was reported that one runner came back with 15 dog booties in his pockets, a new division record.

    The Susitna 100’s new offspring race, the 50K was a great success. Eliseo Marquez, from Anchorage won in 4:53 while Amy Johns of Anchorage was in close pursuit with a 4:56. Their route traveled the ice road across Big Lake, out to the Historic Iditarod Trail, 1049 miles to Nome tripod sign and then back again. They experienced 50 kilometers of the Alaska wilderness and a chance to evaluate the conditions or fun of maybe doing 100 miles next year.

    It is easy to focus on the foot division and forget the bikes and skis. Each division seems to garner up its own set of stories. A special story was a grandfather-granddaughter combination. Gil Hjellen, 62, who is a longtime race participant, biked the course alongside his 17 year old granddaughter, Laura Wesser, who skied. Laura became the youngest ever skier to complete the 100 mile course and together they were quite an inspiration. Gil is known for his “retirement” speeches after every race but it may be a while, he has eight more grandchildren.

    The safety and well being of the Susitna 100 participants was emphasized during the pre-race and certainly maintained at all times during the race. The care and hospitality at the wall tent check points, EagleSong Lodge and the Garoutte’s Flathorn Lake cabin as well as the Big Lake Lodge start/finish was superb. Lots of warm water, food and encouragement were always available. The camaraderie with the familiar checkpoint personnel is equal to the familiar runners returning each year. The addition of a local snowmachine (Mat-Su Motor Mushers) roving patrol was also greatly appreciated. The trail markings, lathe stuck in the snow with reflective tape, were the best ever. Not a single report came back of anyone losing the trail. Always reassuring to know you have survival gear in your sled but even better to not have to use it. The incredible 73% completion rate attests to the fact that the race organizers and volunteers did an excellent job.

    The Susitna 100 is truly a “Race across frozen Alaska” and a most enjoyable as well as challenging way to experience the Alaska winter wilderness. In all regards, 2002 was the best ever.

    Ron Nicholl

    Susitna 100 Mile and 50Km Race Across Frozen Alaska
    Big Lake, Alaska
    February 16-18, 2002
    Ice Roads, Frozen Lakes, Rivers and Snowmachine Trails
    2,600’ Elevation Gain
    100 Mile
     1. Sean McPeck, 24                              28:55
     2. Todd Kasteler, 34                            30:17
     3. Jamshid Khajavi, 48, WA                  30:51
         Michael Tilden, 35, UT                     30:51
     5. Laura McDonough, 41            F         31:14
     6. John Collins, 25                               38:01
     7. Ron Nicholl, 59                                39:00
     8. Steve Bailey, 37, NC                         40:11
         Robert Lisey, 52, OH                        40:11
    10. Phillip Maynard, 28, OR                   41:42
         Chad Wilcott, 27, WA                       41:42
    12. John Hoppe, 31                              42:42
    13. Leon Draxler, 59, WA                      43:27
    14. Elizabeth Carrion, 26             F        45:14
         Daniel Warnick, 41                          45:14
    16. Sven Oertel, 32, GERMANY             45:46
    17. Alain LeClerc, 40, QE                      45:47
    18. Cilla Peterek, 26, TX              F        46:28
    19. Jason Noffsker, 41                          46:30
    20. Kenneth Greenberg, 47, CO             46:35
         Jeff Jensen, 40, CO                         46:35
    22. Jeff Jessen, 29                                47:00
    30 Starters
     1. Eliseo Marquez, 37                            4:53 !
     2. Amy Johns, 41                      F         4:56 !
     3. Karen Lee Williams, 40           F          5:08
     4. Ann Williams, 37                   F          5:14
     5. Patricia Munz, 46                   F          5:34
     6. Jeanne Schaaf, 48                  F          5:52
     7. Shawn Lyons, 46                               6:04
     8. Niles Woods, 49                                6:08
     9. Shawn Johnston, 32                          6:17
         Shane Garling, 29                             6:17
    11. Lisa Kantor, 33                      F          6:21
    12. Nathan Burnham, 38                         6:38
    13. Pam Cravez, 45                     F          7:09
    14. Joan Wilson, 37                     F         7:49
    15. Terri Morganson, 40              F          7:56
         Mary DuHoux, 45                   F          7:56
    17. Debbie Evans, 45                  F           8:20
    18. Julie Nelson, 40, UT              F           8:21
         Conni Schlee, 61                    F          8:21
    20. Diane Little Eagle, 49             F          8:22
    21. Jane Jossi, 54, NE                 F          8:23
         Ingrid Everson, 57                 F          8:23
    23. Christine Mullaney, 50           F           8:27
        Anne Morris, 37                      F          8:27
    25. Suzanne Hull, 32                   F          9:37
    26 Starters

    # # #



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