Frank Baccelli just became the oldest person the complete the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational. Find a reflection on his ride from Knik to McGrath, Alaska, here…
Words by Frank Baccelli, photos by Frank Baccelli and Kyle Durand
My name is Frank Baccelli, and I’m 68 years old. I finished in last place in the bike division, and I was informed by the race director Kyle Durand that I was the oldest person to complete the race in the history of the event.
The Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 is a winter ultra-marathon by fat bike, foot, or ski that follows the historic Iditarod Trail From Knik to McGrath, Alaska. The first-place bike time was 2 days, 7 hours, and 47 minutes. My last-place time was 7 days, 3 hours, and 3 minutes. The ITI 350 website states, “For most participants, the ITI 350 is not a race but an adventure,” and it’s from that perspective that I consider my effort a total success. For a week, I was immersed in the sublime wild grandeur of remote Alaska.
Several key factors differentiate the ITI 350 from other winter ultras I’ve participated in.
Required Equipment: Unlike most winter races, the ITI doesn’t require a long list of required equipment. Only experienced winter athletes qualify for the race, so you are presumed to know how to take care of yourself in extreme winter conditions. The obligation is on you to understand the conditions you may face, the risks you’re willing to accept, and that you will be responsible for the consequences of your own decisions, including those related to equipment. There are only two pieces of required equipment: SPOT Trace unit included with entry and a face mask as required by current Covid protocols.
Emergencies: Evacuations and medical services, if necessary, are solely the responsibility of the athlete. The ITI does not provide emergency response services. Evacuations and medical services are the sole responsibility of each athlete. Do not expect a race volunteer on a snow machine to come to your aid and rescue you. Most participants are in possession of a rescue beacon or satellite phone. Self-rescue is a key tenant of the race.
I went into this year’s race with the knowledge that pacing myself and allowing sufficient recovery time was going to be critical for a successful outcome. Although I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor, I would pause along the trail at intervals when I sensed it was elevated, which may have been every 20 feet when climbing a steep, icy hill or every mile when negotiating a stretch of particularly nasty pump tracks/moguls caused by snow machines. This technique had the added benefit of regulating moisture control. Sweating is not a good thing in this environment.
I only found it completely necessary to bivy outdoors in two situations. The first was midway on the 70-mile section between the Rohn checkpoint and Nikolai. The second was between Nikolai and McGrath when extreme gale force winds made progress untenable.
Warming tents were provided at several of the checkpoints along the way. These offered warm food and drink, a place to dry out wet gear, and if there was room, a warm place to sleep out of the elements. I preferred not to sleep inside in these locations as I found them much too hot, crowded, and noisy. I would set up a bivy nearby, and with my sleeping pad and -40 degree bag, experienced a pleasant sleep. The remaining checkpoints were roadhouses or lodges. The roadhouses provided hot meals for purchase and bunkhouses for sleeping. I splurged and spent a night and a day at Rainey Pass Lodge, as I knew a day off recovering would be beneficial in providing the recovery my body required to negotiate the challenge of the climb up and over Rainey Pass.
I’ve been referred to as an “inspiration” because of my age. If my achievements can motivate a person to improve their lifestyle, that makes me very happy. I don’t think about “age.” I just enjoy being active, getting outdoors, and participating in events that challenge me. I attribute my success to clean living, hard work, and auspicious genetics. My next planned event is Seventy48, a row up Puget Sound from Tacoma to Port Townsend, Washington. I completed it successfully last year and am looking forward to returning.
Special thanks to race director Kyle Durand and Cynthia Durand and all the race volunteers for their efforts in putting on this most memorable event.
Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 Results
- Tyson Flaharty: 2d 7h 57m
- Ryan Atkins: 2d 7h 57m
- Miron Golfman: 2d 14h 33m
- John Lackey: 2d 15h 42m
There are still lots of riders out tackling the 1,000-mile route that ends in Nome, Alaska. Follow along live here.
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