In the Spotlight – Tim Hewitt

If you thought being an Ironman was a challenge try becoming an Iceman, or as Tim Hewitt states, ” I have all the records nobody wants!”

When we first heard of Tim Hewitt’s story we could hardly believe what we heard. In fact, we thought that we were being told one of those fish stories or some tall tale. But as we delve into the details we were amazed by what we found out.

We had heard of the Iditarod. The roughly 1,000-mile race across the wilderness of Alaska in which a team of dogs pull a sled and a person with their supplies. When we were told that Tim Hewitt completed this race, we thought “many folks complete this trek, so why is he so unique?”

Tim Hewitt and his family.

Tim Hewitt and his family.

We were then told that Tim won the race and we thought wow that is impressive. Then again we thought, “okay so what was so unique about Tim winning?”  Well we learned that Tim has attempted to complete the journey through Alaska over ten- times and we thought, “wow that is some level of dedication and a very impressive accomplishment.  Someone who completely dedicates themselves to competing in a most unique event year-after-year might make a great story.” Then came the most amazing fact, Tim Hewitt didn’t just win the race, he won the race without dogs pulling his sled. Yes, Tim Hewitt pulled his own sled as he won this 1,000-mile race in the freezing wilderness of the last frontier of Alaska. The event is known as the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

So, we reached out to Tim and asked him for more details. What we found was one amazingly humble person and knew we wanted to feature him in our “In the Spotlight” section. He had just completed his attempt of riding his bike from Pittsburgh to Washington DC in under 24 hours.

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Tim and Loreen Hewitt near Farewell Lakes in 2011

Native to Pennsylvania, Tim currently resides in Greensburg, PA. After high school, he attended Northern Michigan University on a gymnastics scholarship.  While attending college, Tim met his wife Loreen, who also completed this crazy Alaskan adventure which could in its own right be a separate story.

After graduating with a degree in business, Tim went on to law school at Stetson University in Florida. Now Tim practices law in the Greensburg area where he also raised his four daughters.

Tim started running while attending graduate school in Florida as a means to stay healthy and fit.  Since that time, running is deeply rooted in Tim’s DNA.  For example, Tim is one of a handful of individuals who has completed the Pittsburgh Marathon since its inception, a streak of 27 times completed this May.

How did Tim get his desire to compete in an intimidating race such as the Ididarod? Well it came to him as he was running in the Badwater ultra-marathon, a 135-mile run across Death Valley. During this race, Tim quickly realized that he could escape the heat of the scorching dessert by running in Alaska.

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Route used for the Iditarod

The Iditarod race is a bone-chilling, soul-testing event. The route of the race traverses over 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome uses an alternating northern and southern route every other year. This North/South routing is to lessen the impact that the race has on the villages along the way. The race length can also vary as when it comes time to mark the trail, current conditions can affect the route.

The distance is daunting, the mountains are massive, weather, well what can you say about sub 30-degree weather, add in a minimal amount of sunlight as the race is held during the late winter months, rationing of food, extremely dangerous weather and then scatter unpredictable wildlife throughout the journey and you have an event in which Tim repeatedly says, “sign me up”.

Over the last 15 years, Tim has completed both the Southern Route and the Northern Route. Tim holds both route records and has completed the journey in under 20 days which was deemed “impossible to achieve.”

Some of Tim’s accomplishments for the event are:

  • 2001 Southern Route. Tim’s first experience and he completed the event in under 27 days.
  • 2004 Northern Route. Time was the only person to finish the race with a time of just under 24 days.
  • 2008 Northern Route. Tim finished in under 25 days.
  • 2009 Southern Route. Tim finished in under 26 days.
  • 2010 Northern Route. Tim finished in under 23 days.
  • 2011 Southern Route. Tim finished in 20 days, 7 hours, and 17 minutes which is the current course record.
  • 2012 Northern Route. The race directors cancelled the race at the 350-mile mark due to inclement weather.
  • 2013 Southern Route. Completed in under 25 days.
  • 2014 Northern Route. Completed in under 27 days.
  • 2015 Southern Route. Tim did not finish.
  • 2016 Northern Route. Tim set a new course record 19 days, 9 hours, 38 minutes.
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Camp site for the night

During the race in 2013, Tim decided to one up the stakes and made the decision to race the event completely unsupported. This meant that Tim would carry 100% of his supplies with him on his sled rather than have “drop bags” at designated points.  Tim pulled his sled weighing roughly 120 pounds of food, clothing, medical supplies and fuel.   “Going unsupported added another layer of challenge,” Tim stated.  “I would not ever call the Iditarod trail easy, but the challenge of doing it unsupported was enticing to me…. I did it because I felt I was capable of completing it.”

 

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Tim and his supplies

Food and cooking can be challenging along the way. Tim approaches the race by gaining weight pre-race. Tim will put on roughly 8 pounds of body fat to use as reserves for the race. In the end, Tim’s body weight will drop roughly 15 pounds by the end of the race.  Consuming calories during the race requires planning. Planning to eat often and as much high calorie foods as possible such as chocolate, peanut butter, and jerky. A typical day might include 6 full size candy bars.

Over the years, Tim has become a highly qualified and extremely rare expert on competing in the Iditarod Trail race held in the last frontier of Alaska. “The best piece of advice I could offer any rookie or person attempting their first trip to Nome is to stay within their own limitations,” he said.  This advice should resonate with any athlete.

So, what is next for Tim?? Will 2017 be the year that Tim tackles the Iditarod Trail Invitational on a Fat-Tire Bike? This amazing man, we are sure will continue to push the envelope of his own limitations.

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Tim’s long journey.

 

 

 

 

 

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