Edgewater resident John McCary is looking forward to a three-day bicycle ride in sub-zero temperatures, toting a stove and other gear.
On Feb. 16, McCary will join about 200 hardy souls in the fifth annual Iditabike Race, a spin-off of the Iditarod dog-sled races.
McCary, the president of the Annapolis Bicycle Club, will attemptto conquer Alaskan landmarks such as Knik Lake, Big Susitna, Rabbit Lake and Big Su during the 200-mile race.
Athletes from Europe, the Soviet Union, Canada and the United States will test their mettle in three separate categories -- the triathlon (biking, skiing, and running), skiing and McCary's specialty, bicycle racing.
Not only will the contestants have to show their athletic talents, but they also must prove to race officials that they are adept at the art of survival.
"I'm not worried about that part of the race, I should be OK,"McCary said. "I'm very confident with my survival skills. They (raceofficials) just want to be sure that everyone is able to fend for themselves.
"You have to bring a sleeping bag, food supplies and a portable stove to melt the snow for drinking water. The stove is important because the drinking water is essential. It's easier to get dehydrated in cold weather than in warm weather."
The race, which starts just outside Anchorage, will have six checkpoints, which racers must clear before continuing. The checkpoint monitors can stop any contestant who looks tired or injured. Riders face a 72-hour time limit unless horrendous riding conditions prevail.
McCary hopes it isn't too warm for the race, because he said warmer weather may hinder the riders rather than help.
"The colder it is, the better," said McCary. "Temperatures anywhere from 0 to 15 below is ideal. It'll make the ice and snow ride like concrete. If it's too warm, it'll soften thecourse, making it very hard to ride."
Biking in hazardous conditions is hardly new to McCary. The Rockville native has participated inlong-distance races for three years.
His training regimen includes regular visits to Frederick County's Catoctin Mountain region, and the C&O Canal, which the powerfully built 5-foot-9 185-pounder rides for 116 miles at a time from Great Falls (Montgomery County) to Hancock in Western Maryland.
He works his training schedule around his job as a small-tools supervisor at the Driggs Corp., a Prince George's County-based contracting firm.
"Training on hills and in the snow is very beneficial. The course up in Alaska is very, very flat, so the more hills I ride on, the better shape I'll be in next month," McCary said.
Just this past September, the former high school football player finished ninth in a field of 30 cyclists in a mini-Race Across America Series Race in New York State's Adirondack mountain range. The 530-mile trek took 43 hours to complete.
"The conditions in that race were unbelievable. We were riding in the middle of 60-mph winds non-stop (with the help of a support wagon to assist with food and other needs). It was an experience," he said.
McCary said that workouts with his 21-speed, 23-pound bike is all the training he needs for the upcoming test.
"After going up and down hills for over ahundred miles, you don't even think about weightlifting or anything else," said McCary emphatically. "Believe me, riding helps tone up everything. It's definitely a full workout. You feel it in every muscle."
McCary, a United States Ultra Marathon Association-certified rider, has much bigger plans after February. He will begin training fora major Race Across America event scheduled for 1992. That event will cover more than 3,000 miles and span eight days, starting in Orange County, Calif., and ending in Savannah, Ga.
"This race will be mynext goal after the Iditabike," said McCary."I'm going to have to train real hard to get to my goal. I'm not very gifted athletically, soI have to put forth the extra effort. But I enjoy challenges, the harder they are, the better."
But for now, the frozen tundra of Alaska looms in his immediate future.
"I'm really looking forward to this (Iditabike) race. Both the Annapolis Bicycle Club and the people on my job have been giving me fantastic moral support, and the peopleat the Bike Doctor (McCary's financial sponsor) have also been a very big help.
"Right now, I'm trying to get myself in the right frame of mind, trying to psych myself up. For an event like this, it's very important to think very positively."