Riding Self-Supported in Winter Conditions for 6 Days, Rebecca Rusch Wins 350-Mile Iditarod Trail Invitational

Mar 11, 2021
by Sarah Moore  



Late Friday Night, adventure athlete and seven-time world champion Rebecca Rusch rolled across the finish line winning the 350-mile Iditarod Trail International. Together with her husband, Greg Martin, Rusch also was the top finisher in the race’s inaugural self-supported class. In her first race back since last year's Iditarod Trail International, this was Rusch’s third time on the trail, second win in Alaska, and first time completing the race completely outdoors with absolutely no assistance for food or shelter during the journey.




bigquotesIt is empowering to move through nature this way, under my own power and getting to see places that almost no one will ever see. Riding self-sufficient was a big and scary commitment and I’m proud of how we executed the ride. Winning was icing on the cake, but I went in with a mentality to execute a strong, safe expedition, and this accomplishment is one of my proudest achievements to date.Rebecca Rusch

Because of COVID-19 precautions, all competitors were tested and raced in the 350-mile as an out and back to reduce potential exposure to remote Alaskan communities. As an additional precaution, Rusch and Martin travelled the entire 350 miles self-supported, and were the only team to forgo any of the meals, indoor recovery, or other outside support that athletes typically receive on the trail. They slept outdoors alongside the trail, clocking only 14.5 total hours of rest during their six days on the trail. The two survived temperatures far below zero by building fires, sleeping in 40° below zero sleeping bags dug into the snow, surrounded by illusive wolves and omnipresent moose.

While Martin and Rusch had not made a plan to race as a team this year, it happened organically. “Felt really natural to ride together and we ride at the same speed, have fun together and we make a great team. It is just more fun to share the emotional and physical experience on the trail with someone else, especially sharing with someone that I love.”

Rusch’s 2019 “first go” at the 350 Iditarod landed her an unexpected Championship, completing the race in 3d 20h 51m, during some of the more gentle conditions in the grueling race’s history. Rusch says of her inaugural year on the trail, “Although I had survived it – and technically won the women’s category – I was physically at my end when I crossed the finish line. It had taken me three days, during which I had slept a total of 10 hours. I was crying, blubbering... emotionally and physically drained. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done.”

Weather and conditions compounded in 2020, with Rusch veering in and out of consciousness and accidentally ending up on a more difficult route. She completed the ride in seven days, pushing her bike probably 150 of the 350 miles through deep snow; in one of the hardest years in the history of Iditarod trail conditions.

bigquotesDoing self-support, like we did this year, would not have even been an option in year one or two, because I just didn’t have the knowledge, experience or confidence in myself to be able to do that. I’m pretty proud of the trajectory and vast difference in how between the athlete I was three years ago to now.Rebecca Rusch


In tandem with her third expedition in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, Rusch is encouraging people to ride 350 miles this month as part of Protect Our Winters’ Crush It 4 Climate Challeng. Rusch has set her sights on the 1000-mile trail, when it is expected to run again in 2022.

See all the details from the Event Tracker here and learn more about Rusch’s gear, training and journey at https://www.rebeccarusch.com













88 Comments

  • 92 1
 That is some seriously badass shit right there. Huge props to Rebecca!
  • 54 22
 Would it have killed you to throw "his" name in the title too? Didn't he also won his class?
  • 26 12
 His name is in the article and it is also mentioned that he won his class.
  • 31 7
 @pmhobson: Yeah, I noticed. It's just strange. They rode together, they won together. Amazing accomplishment.
  • 22 22
 @Adamrideshisbike: It's not though. Googling around a bit, Greg doesn't appear to earn his livelihood through cycling. Rebecca does. She's a sponsored rider. Limelight is part of her career, not his. Hell, for all we know, it's not something he'd want.
  • 9 0
 @pmhobson: I am somewhat positive that Greg is her husband.
  • 7 1
 @pmhobson: Things ya do for love.
  • 3 1
 @HB208: Yeah it's stated in the article.
  • 14 13
 Rebecca Rusch is a MTB legend, her husband is not. This is a biking website so it stands to reason the title will just mention her. I guess reading the article itself is too hard for some people. Go be angry at something that matters like Dr. Suess books or Mr Potato Head. LOL
  • 14 2
 @scott-townes: I didn't realize that only "legends" get their names mentioned in the headline when they win a difficult race.
  • 3 0
 @pmhobson: Lol, shows my reading comprehension. My wife's family lives in SV so they know her. I was banking on this knowledge lol.
  • 15 2
 @scott-townes:

Greg won the single speed 24 hour world championships in 2008 in Canada. I would call that pretty legendary.
  • 5 3
 @HB208: the matter of the fact is that her name will get the clicks and his name likely wouldn't. And PB is about the clicks. Likely also the same reason they don't discourage stupid little tussles like this in their comment sections.
  • 6 4
 @rodponton: I guess, all I know is that we sure would hear about it if Greg was a famous athlete and he won the race with his wife, but she wasn't mentioned in the headline.
  • 3 2
 @onespeed1: LOL that's like winning a chainless DH race. Sideshow.
  • 3 1
 @onespeed1: Username checks out Wink
  • 25 2
 I rode eMTB before the rain came yesterday, in so cal, had a headwind-about the same....wow, warrior Rebecca.
  • 19 0
 I would be so down to do this sounds fun! Except for the bit about pushing your bike through 150 miles of deep snow, sleeping so little you veer in and out of consciousness, becoming physically exhausted to the point of blubbering and crying and unable to naviage, the constant sub zero temperatures, and the 1000 mile length part. Otherwise, all in. Maybe something starting mid morning in the 3-5 mile total range with dry temps in the 70's, with lots of snack breaks. Preferably shuttled.
  • 5 0
 Can I come to? sounds like a good time to me.
  • 45 30
 Dentists: "Its 40F again!!? mY e-mOtOr-BiKe BatTeRy iS BelOW OpTiMaL OpErAtIoN TeMP I'll HaVe To FoRgO mY 10 MiLe LoOp AGaIn. Waaaaaaaaaaaah"

Rebecca Rusch: "Eh its 0F out, reckon Ill go ride my bike. And you know what would make it better. Camping. And carrying all my shit with me. Hell, Its so nice I'll go for a three day ride."
  • 10 12
 dunno why u got downvoted man
  • 21 4
 @13en:

Because that style of being “edgy” is really just super annoying, and he’s creating a strawman to rail against.
  • 9 1
 Thinking of inventing a new type of person to get mad about
  • 5 2
 @13en: Russian Dentist bots
  • 3 0
 @13en: the dentists took it personally
  • 18 1
 Well it rained in San Diego today, so I pretty much get it. Party on!
  • 4 0
 Yes. Plus, its forecast to be getting down to 45 degrees tonight in the coastal areas. Bundle up!
  • 7 0
 @RayDolor: It was 48 when we finished riding at Teds at 6pm tonight! Pretty much the Arctic!
  • 13 0
 That anti-freeze tape for their noses and cheekbones is really interesting. I could see using that on some colder backcountry ski days, where covering your nose just results in your facemask getting wet and gooey.
  • 30 0
 All of the gear in general is really interesting. Would love to see a breakdown of what it's all for and how it works
  • 18 0
 @DirkMcClerkin: Here's a 28 min video she posted breaking it all down - www.instagram.com/tv/CLe2YrggqiA/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
  • 1 0
 Helps keep your goggles from fogging up a bit, as well. Mostly for windburn, though, and when it's cold enough to use tape you definitely want to be wearing a facemask as well.
  • 2 0
 Anyone know what that tape is called? As someone with recurring frostbite of the face tips, it would be a nice thing to try.
  • 10 0
 I live in Texas and 2 weeks ago we had a storm a like this. I made it to the end of the driveway, so I can relate.
  • 7 0
 "Riding Self-Supported in Winter Conditions for 6 Days, Rebecca Rusch Wins 350-Mile Iditarod Trail Invitational"... because of course she did.
  • 1 0
 This comment wins. Like.....duh
  • 1 0
 @sammybikes916: Yeah. I thought so too but seems the comment section disagreed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 7 1
 Meanwhile, I rode my mountain bike through 6 inches of water on a 15 mile bike ride last weekend, so that's pretty hard core too.
  • 7 0
 Does the face tape come in carbon?

Braver (and fitter) than I am, well done to both!
  • 9 0
 That particular tape is 3mm thick, but SRAM is releasing a DUB version that will be 2.98 mm thick.
  • 3 0
 @craigcanucks: face tape conversion kit?
  • 6 0
 Not quite sure what an "illusive wolf" is? Maybe it is that most elusive of the species?
  • 7 0
 Maybe it's a wolf, maybe it's an illusion? Those illusive wolves are good at projecting copies of themselves to confuse their prey
  • 4 0
 ILLusive means it's not well lit.
  • 5 0
 It's when you're so sleep-deprived that you hallucinate wolves. I did a 33-mile race last summer and started to hallucinate that debris on the trail was animal corpses about 24 hours in. There's a 50/50 chance I imagined the bear near the finish.
  • 2 0
 The banner says bike ski walk. Did she win the overall or just the bike divisions? Sure seems like to me that in snow skis would be quicker. But maybe that depends a bit on the particular snow conditions? Sorry for thread jacking but this has got me honestly curious if a fat bike is quicker than skis on snow... of course it would make a big difference the type of snow the race was run in?
  • 8 2
 Actually the only self supported competitor so of course she won. Not under appreciating the sheer will power and stamina it took to complete 350 miles self supported during an Alaskan winter but in a category containing one competitor. And she finished in 6th overall despite being self supported.

The 350 miles was won by Aaron Thrasher (yep I didn't make that up) in 4 days 17 hrs 11 mins.
www.iditarodtrailinvitational.com/results
Total respect for any competitor in any category.

And as for skis being faster than a bike, obviously not as the Mens ski champion finished in 8 days 8 hours 25 minutes.
He got beaten by the Foot Champion who finished in 7days 5 hours 1 minutes.

The movie Safety to Nome is worth a watch and there is a chap who has run it nine times (the 1000 mile length) and ridden it once.
  • 2 0
 @andrewbikeguide: wild as I would have thought skis would be faster on snow than a bike. Of course I guess I don’t know the level of athletes that competed in each division.
  • 3 0
 It really depends on the snow and the terrain. On flat-ish, packed but not groomed snow, a fatbike is likely a little faster than classic nordic skis, but fat bikes suck at deeper powder, and can't handle the steep alpine terrain that alpine touring or skimo skis can very well. Where fat bikes really shine is mixed conditions-you can't ski on a dirt patch, but you can ride a fat bike no problem, and you can ride snow that a normal bike would suffer or leave ruts in.
  • 4 3
 @andrewbikeguide: yup I skied it a few times and won the ski to mcgrath and then we skied to nome in 2000 mcgrath was 7 days and nome was 27, skiing on xc skis is the slowest , biking is the quickest if it does not dump. as tried to ride to nome as well one year and it snowed a ton and pushed for 300 miles and that was enough. ha ha.
  • 5 3
 @jwestenhoff: because of the iron dog that is a week or so before the event it is mostly a whooped out trail from snowmachines, so its not like your actually skate skiing. Unles you have done it, it is hard to explain
  • 1 0
 @norona: I guess I can how fat biking would be quicker than classic Nordic. Looking at the pictures it does look like a good all around skier could get some skates in but probably not a full on skate course and not many people are all that great at skating without a skate specific setup.
  • 2 0
 @jwestenhoff: can’t ski on dirt patches? Crazy talk... lol
  • 4 0
 @andrewbikeguide: the more I think about this the more I think the skiers just must have not been as serious about time as the rest of the field. I can’t see how foot would be faster than skis all other things being equal. I’m kind of fascinated by the thought of mixed mode racing.
  • 2 0
 @iantmcg: don't forget you're carrying a giant pack and/or dragging a sled. I imagine that cuts down on the skating quite a bit.
  • 4 2
 @iantmcg: picture a snowmobile width trail, the iditarod trail only exists from sleds going back and forth between villages. so you can't skate, the classic is hard cause of the whoops and so when you go up hills you cant even hearing bone up them due to the width. so actually walking is faster until your on open rivers and swamps etc. but remember when it dumps as well. also when you go down the alaska range the bikes and runners just have a path as a skier your going down super steep sections where you cant snowplow, your just hail mary with a sled in tow. This is a hrad race to imagine. I raced 40-45 weekends a year for 10 years before I did this event and it took every ounce of the stuff I learned to make it, of course we skied from anchorage to Nome , not just to mcgrath, i did that a bunch of times and had the record and the record of the shorter 130 mile, those were childs play compared to the full iditarod in 200 that myself and kevin vallely did together.
  • 2 1
 @VtVolk: yes it slowed our speed to about half. you just could not carry all the gear to be safe out there. Locals really look down upon people who are out there and not prepared as guys have died trying to save people, if you lie down there without the right stuff, you die, no joking
  • 1 0
 @norona: awesome information, thanks for responding
  • 7 0
 Rebecca is rad!
  • 1 0
 "You're god damn right".
-Walter White
  • 4 0
 Some people are just made different. If it's below 30 I'm hesitant to ride. Unreal.
  • 3 2
 I'm curious if it would be a better strategy to ride at night, and sleep during the day, so that when the temps really drop you'd be pedaling to keep warm... IDK what kind of light it would take to ride a fatbike at night when you aren't moving fast, and if it would be too heavy with the battery requirements.
  • 2 0
 Its pretty hard to sleep on the side of a trail during the day though, and it is still life-threatening cold during the day too. They weren't really sleeping for more than a couple hours, so I'm sure they got plenty of night riding in.
  • 4 0
 This is one of the most inspiring things I read all year. People are awesome.
  • 2 0
 There’s a great documentary on Prime right now about this race called Safety To Nome. It’s pretty crazy to see what the competitors who complete the entire 1000 miles to Nome have to go through to finish.
  • 1 0
 I want to be the queen of pain when I grow up. Not so much in mountain biking, but in a world at large that tends to treat women like delicate daisies, it's so freaking inspiring to see a woman truly enjoying grit and suffering to achieve epic goals. We do not celebrate this kind of thing enough. I love seeing a woman being unapologetically herself. It's also so incredible to see Rebecca doing this at her age and seeing that Red Bull is still sponsoring her as an athlete. I want more content like this. It's truly inspirational to see how she has pivoted throughout her career and continues to strive to redefine what it means to be a professional athlete.
  • 3 0
 She’s so cool. Her documentary riding the Ho Chi Minh trail is so inspiring
  • 4 0
 Such a bad a**
  • 3 0
 My god she is a such a savage.
  • 2 0
 Ladies and Gentleman, that is what it means to be hardcore. Way hardcore! Well done Rebecca and Greg!
  • 2 0
 Assuming clubs and live music ever return post-covid, I think I should start producing as Omnipresent Moose.
  • 3 0
 INSANE!!!Props guys!!
  • 6 4
 Pfff, thats nothing. I went to the mall with my wife! Never again...
  • 1 0
 Amazing achievement! BTW, there is an amazing documentary on the Iditarod dog sled race I would highly recommend.
  • 1 0
 When I read "the queen of pain" under the headline, my first association was not "a mountain biker". What is wrong with me?
  • 2 0
 looks like a bucket list trip.
  • 3 0
 insane!
  • 4 2
 Awesome effort!
  • 1 0
 Congratulations, Do you meditate off the bike. Question for both of you!
  • 1 0
 looks like a blast...
  • 1 0
 Melt snow for water
  • 1 2
 Self supported? Pfffft. She had a man with her. I’d call that support. I bet he paid all the expenses.
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