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Soldier 1 of 8 to finish Fireweed 400
Army Staff Sgt. Trevor Jones raises his bike in victory on completing a 400-mile race across southcentral Alaska called the Fireweed 400. (Courtesy photo)
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Soldier 1 of 8 to finish Fireweed 400

Posted 8/17/2012   Updated 8/17/2012 Email story   Print story


by Army Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs

8/17/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- For some, the idea of hopping onto a bicycle and riding almost nonstop for 400 miles of hilly road might sound like punishment, but for Army Staff Sgt. Trevor Jones, 59th Signal Battalion master resiliency trainer, there's no better way to kick off a weekend.

The Fireweed 400 is a bike race that begins at a point called Sheep Mountain Lodge about 113 miles northeast of Anchorage, with the halfway point and turnaround at the Captain Jones Gas Station 200 miles away in Valdez.

The entire ride is done in one long haul, with riders only taking breaks as absolutely needed.

"I think I mostly only stopped to pee and stuff like that," Jones said. "I ate and drank my meals on the bike without stopping."

The Fireweed 400 is broken up into different races of varying distances.

Out of 724 racers, only eight partook in this year's full 400-mile distance, which also serves as a qualifier for the Race Across America, a 3,000 mile race spanning from Oceanside Calif., to Annapolis Md., according to George Stransky, assistant race director.

Something as strenuous as a 400-mile bike race requires careful planning, training and safety mitigation measures. Especially in a place like Alaska where local wildlife could potentially pose a threat to a lone biker on the road.

One of the safety requirements for a competitor in the Fireweed 400 is a trail or pace vehicle, according to Stransky.

The trail vehicle serves as both a mobile supply hub for the racer as well as a first responder vehicle in the event of an emergency. For the Fireweed 400, Jones's trail vehicle was manned by his wife, Sarah and friend Jacob Birkholz.

Starting July 13, Jones finished third overall in his division and successfully qualified for the Race Across America.

He even earned an unexpected award for his accomplishment, the Bobby Johnson Spirit of the Fireweed Award, named after a resident of Unalaska who died during the 2009 Fireweed 400.

"[Jones] won the award due to his determination and dedication to the race," Stransky said. "We were aware he had participated in the race last year and didn't finish due to a technicality. The fact that he came back this year and did so well, it really struck us as deserving of the award."

Jones attended the award ceremony at the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub in Anchorage.
There he was surprised to be presented the Bobby Johnson award by the master of ceremonies for the event, Bob Voris. The restaurant, which can accommodate around 400 people, was sold out for the ceremony, according to Mike Jipping, special event coordinator for the restaurant.

"I actually wasn't aware I was being given anything," Jones said. "But as soon as I learned what the award was for I was deeply honored."

With one accomplishment complete, Jones has already set his sights on additional challenges; arguably harder ones. He currently has plans to both partake in the Race Across America, and to continue rock climbing, another extreme sport he enjoys.
"I have my sights set on climbing all of the Seven Summits some day," Jones said, referring to the high mountains on each continent.

He has already conquered Denali in 2009, Anconcagua in South America in 2011, and Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak in January.

He chronicles his mountain climbing exploits on a website "Seven Summits: A Soldier's Quest" at
Jones more or less started his love of extreme sports and recreational activities with rock climbing an injury temporarily sidelined him from getting back on a mountain.

"I broke my ankle a few years back and had to give up climbing until I healed," Jones said, recalling his climbing hiatus. "After that I got bored and started finding other low-impact things to keep myself occupied."

Some of those additional low-impact sport included swimming, biking and eventually running marathons, all the while still making plans to return to climbing.

"I can't really say when I started climbing," he said. "I've always loved being outdoors and climbing stuff, even as a kid. The things I was climbing just got bigger as I got older."
Though he had to cancel travel plans to climb a mountain in Russia this year, Jones has set his sights on an even bigger, and arguably colder challenge down the road.

"I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip to Antarctica to climb down there, it's a little expensive and it's gonna take some time to get everything to work out but I'll make it." Jones said.

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