Lanthier and the other top athletes were forced to turn back because of the conditions
Extreme endurance athlete Chlöe Lanthier has returned from the 1,200 mile Iditasport Impossible exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed but proud to have biked as far as she did in what were probably the worst conditions in the history of the event.
"Im okay physically, which is pretty amazing considering what we all went through," says Lanthier, an accomplished veteran of 24 marathon bike races and a two-time participant in the 240 km Marathon of Sand endurance race in Northern Africa. She has successfully completed the Iditasport five times before this years competition.
"It was warm during the day, and we got a lot of precipitation, so it was very different this year," Lanthier says. "Strategy-wise and equipment-wise we all had a lot of different things to worry about this year. We had no choice but to cross rivers and lakes that were covered with water and crap. When it would have taken 20 minutes to cross a lake last year, it took an hour and a half this year because of all the water we had to go through.
"To make a long story short, it was very strenuous this year. It was full-on survival, not a race."
To give you some idea of what Lanthier and the other athletes who were planning on making the trip from Anchorage to Nome went through, in two weeks they cycled about 600 miles from Anchorage to McGrath and then another 150 miles before turning back. Last year she finished the entire race, including some extremely difficult sections, in the same amount of time.
Of the 120 athletes who started the race, more than 40 pulled out by the second day. Of the 80 who went on, only 35 made McGrath. Of the 35 that made McGrath, only nine went on before turning back. Lanthier was also the only woman to make McGrath and ninth overall in the race.
"At one point we were moving so slow and the snow was so deep and the conditions were so horrible," says Lanthier, "that we knew that there was no way we could make it. We were going about a mile every five hours. At that rate it would take us six days to go 90 miles to the next food drop, and we only had food for two days. We had to turn back."
Lanthier is giving a slideshow of the race with five-time race winner John Stamstad on April 6 at 8 p.m. at the Patagonia store in the Holiday Inn complex.