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Photos: 2013 Iditarod Trail Invitational

Scott Wilkinson of the U.K. pedals along open water on the Yentna River Monday during the Iditarod Trail Invitational. A snow drought in the early winter combined with a bitter cold snap froze the Yentna and Susitna rivers in ways never seen before. The Iditarod Trail north has to weave around a fair bit to avoid open leads and overflow.
Craig Medred
The burned out carcass of a snowmachine sits where it died along the Iditarod Trail north of Wasilla. Add fire to the danger a traveler can face on the 1,000-mile route from the city of Wasilla through a vast wilderness to the outpost of Nome on the Bering Sea.
Craig Medred
Foot racers in the Iditarod Trail Invitational charge away from the start line outside the Knik Bar on Feb. 24, 2013, at the start of the 350-mile race up and over the Alaska Range.
Craig Medred photo
The 2013 Iditarod Trail Invitational kicks off Feb. 24, 2013, with bikers walking their bikes in the deep snow.
Craig Medred
Beneath a full moon, defending Iditarod Trail Invitational champ Peter Basinger pedals his bike up the Yentna River on Feb. 24, 2013.
Craig Medred
An Iditarod Trail Invitational runner leads a cyclist out of the birch forest of the Susitna lowlands north of Knik on Feb. 24, 2013.
Craig Medred
Cyclists head down the trail on the first night of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska.
Craig Medred photo
Lindsay Gauld comes up off the Tatitna River into the Rohn checkpoint. The tape on his nose is protection against frostbite. The 64-year-old Canadian almost froze his nose off last year in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Feb. 27, 2012
Craig Medred photo
The Iditarod Trail Invitational's checkpoint tent at Rohn is full of racers grabbing a few precious minutes of rest.
Craig Medred photo
Anchorage cyclist Kevin Easley tops out on Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range Tuesday during the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350-mile wilderness race from Knik to McGrath.
Craig Medred photo
Craig Medred

The 2013 Iditarod Trail Invitational kicked off Feb. 24, with 50 people on foot, bicycles or skis heading out into the Alaska wilderness. The bulk of them are from Europe or the Lower 48, traveling 350 to 900 miles along the Iditarod Trail from the abandoned port of Knik to McGrath and then Nome.

Most people opt for the 350-mile version of the trip. A few, however, do keep going. Less than four dozen have made it all the way to Nome at the north end of the trail in the past decade. More people annually complete the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which begins a week after the Invitational's start. A handful of the racers harbor thoughts of winning the Invitational, which boasts neither trophies nor prize money: Most of them will be competing solely with themselves.

The Invitational, which limits the field to 50, turns away potential entrants every year. Race organizers Bill and Kathi Merchant reject some as just not mentally ready to tackle the Alaska wilderness. Others may lack the physical toughness necessary to haul food and equipment north along the trail.

RELATED: Iditarod Trail Invitational: An endurance race away from civilization