A few reflections from my experience with this year's race in the rearview. This is a lengthy read.
One: I brought too much food. Without going into detail, I had a gallon
Ziploc bag full of bars, beef sticks, Fig Newtons, etc. I had the same
set aside as a drop at Mel George's and left it there because I still
had enough and more. I ate nothing at Gateway in a 15 minute stay, ate
like a pig at M G’s in 30 minutes (everyone will tell you not to do
that, but it depends on your body. I've
had an upset stomach maybe twice in 57 years, so it works for me), but
would have been fine if I had not eaten at all. Lesson, you (I, at
least) can get by and thrive with less food.
Everything else was perfect. With learnings from the first year I
whittled clothing and gear to the safe minimum. What I rode in worked
perfectly (and there's no point in telling you what it all was, as it
may not have been perfect for you), and when I had to quit I had
everything I needed. And not only did I have everything I needed, I knew
exactly where it all was located. That's important, as I was not able
to get it all for myself. I was able to say, “My parka is in my seat
bag, my mittens are in the top of my anything bag on the right fork,
with my headlamp right under them.” Knowing exact locations of all gear
is a habit developed as a backpack and canoe guide, and it served me
well. It's essential that you know your gear locations well enough that
even if you are in extremis you can accurately direct someone who is
trying to help you.
In addition to knowing where everything is,
don't complain about required gear or try shave ounces there. I've read
the postings questioning whether a -20 bag is really necessary. Usually,
it's not, but unusual things happen. Assume they can happen to you.
Mine is a -40 bag. Overkill, but when you're suffering that overkill
helps. With several broken ribs I was not able to get into my bivy bag. A
warmer than necessary sleeping bag with a waterproof outer, laid over
the top of my bivy and mattress kept me warm as the snow piled up (well,
not really a pile, maybe more of a healthy dusting) and I awaited my
snowmobile pick up. The down parka I packed kept me warm and had already
started to dry my base layer by the time I got into the bag. By the
time the snowmobile arrived I was dry and warm so the 30-45 minute ride
to a warm car was fine.
So it's really simple stuff. Bring the
right things for an emergency and know where they are located on your
bike or sled. It could make a difference.