As a racer, I’m accustomed to ups and downs. In a single race season, you can experience delirious highs and crushing lows. It’s one of the things that makes racing interesting. And, of course, it mirrors life.
And true to form, our effort on the ALCAN5000 rally – now in our sixth day - has had ups and downs. In the first place, we have crossed the continental divide for the third time in three days, and the cold that all of us have been sharing has had us opening and closing our mouths like guppies throughout the ascents and descents to clear our ears.
Second, we started off with a couple of dire results in the time-speed-distance sections of the event, and we worried that we would not be able to recover – a difficult pill to swallow on the first day of a nine-day event. Then, on the second day, we improved our system and had terrific results, winning our very competitive class for the day and hauling ourselves up to second. Then on the ice solo trials we were fifth overall – which is terrific considering many of our competitors are on studded tires and in low-slung rally sedans while we’re on BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires and a full-size Jeep Wrangler. We crushed it, basically.
And then, today, we were crushed. In a short TSD section first thing in the morning, a combination of a wrong instruction in the route book and our confusion on how to deal with it put us off route and we presume we’ve taken huge penalties.
Although, maybe we haven’t. They may not give full penalties thanks to the wrong instruction. We’ll find out when we get to the day’s finish hotel in Whitehorse. Which means we’ll have 600 miles of driving to think about it and stew.
But then, we haven’t. We passed through the highest point of the Alaska Highway, at 4,000 feet, have seen mountain vistas, and a blanket of stars in areas that feel effectively primitive, vast, and unpopulated. It opens up the imagination and makes the heart sing.
Which makes the significance of some penalties on a man-made time-speed-distance challenge seem like the most frivolous thing in the world. Until we get to the hotel and check the scores, of course.