9th of March – Kuskoskwim River to Mc Grath – 20 km

See the map

10 am. -34 ° C. I arrive at the 1st houses of McGrath, a village of 300 inhabitants. He seems completely asleep, in hibernation in his shell of snow and ice.

5 hours up, 4 hours of sleep, it’s still extremely cold. My feet are frozen, despite the shoes at the bottom of the down sleeping bag. Very hard, painful to put them back on. I act quickly to start, the risk of frostbite is great. The consequences could be serious. From the start, I managed my hands and feet well, to avoid any risk, taking the time it took to warm them up. It would be silly to lose one or more toes or fingers in the last 20 km.

As soon as I’m on the skis, I spread my toes, I bend my ankle with each step to circulate the blood. Ditto for the hands, I constantly move my fingers. I take advantage of the last 20 kilometers on the banks of the river. No tension now, except that biting, polar cold. I am the first competitor to take the track on the river, a track opened only yesterday by Iditarod tracers. All the others took the “Overland Route”, a little shorter in distance but including some climbs. I still often look at my GPS…

10 am. -34 ° C. I arrive at the 1st houses of McGrath, a village of 300 inhabitants. He seems completely asleep, in hibernation in his shell of snow and ice. I find it hard to spot the house of Peter and Tracy (CP6 site).

New flash back 22 years back in 1998.
I arrive at McGrath in the late afternoon. After a shower, I show my swollen leg to Peter. He immediately takes me by skidoo to the village medic. He connects with the emergency department at Anchorage hospital and quickly gives me a first antibiotic infusion then a second one overnight. I have a high fever. The next day, Peter finds a small plane that takes me back to Anchorage. Thanks Peter. After 3 days of hospitalization, I returned to France with crutches in a 1st class seat to be able to stay up in the air…

Back to the present
It is with a particular emotion that I find Peter and Tracy on my 2 legs. This accident spoiled the end of my 1998 race, giving it an “unfinished” look. I kept this desire to come back inside for 20 years. It’s done today. Peter and Tracy seem to be in great shape, it’s a great pleasure to see them again.
I finish this beautiful race in just under 8 days.

I finish this beautiful race in just under 8 days.
I feel like I have been gone for 8 weeks.
I am here. I’m alive. I am happy.

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Epilogue