The 122-mile push to Kaltag has begun!
After arriving in Grayling at 11:40 last night in 11th position, Travis opted to stay 5 hours and 40 minutes before heading down the trail. He left in 9th position: two teams who arrived before him took longer rests and departed after him. These teams were friend Wade Marrs and Jessie Royer. Jessie stayed 6.5 hours and Wade about 7 hours. These longer rests may prove beneficial a day or two down the line but for now it appears that Travis has the slight edge.
In mushing, there is a general rule of thumb that the dogs don’t really much of a benefit from a rest over 6 hours. That is, if a dog team isn’t restored from a 6-hour rest, an extra 30 minutes or even another hour or two isn’t going to be the deciding factor. Rests over 6 hours, however, do help the musher tremendously. With mushers only getting a little sleep here and there, a 6 or 7-hour break can really help the musher get a good quality 4-hour nap in and may better prepare them for helping their team down the trail.
So far, things are looking good on his run. He’s maintained some really good speed and appears to be putting distance between the teams he left ahead of as well as catching the teams who left before him. It’s been an interesting year given the tough trail conditions thus far. Although our training this year emphasized speed over power, this was the first year that speed has been our true emphasis in training. Even though we did not emphasize power training as much this year, Travis’ team has gone through several seasons of tough “power” training before switching to a different speedier style. Because of this, it’s hard for me to really say what our team specializes in. I’d give a slight edge to speed as that, after all, has been our focus — but that emphasis was built on a rock-solid foundation of many years where power training was the focus. Whatever it is, it seems to be working!
Travis will likely catch several teams, depending on the amount of rest he chooses to take while camped, before Kaltag. He’s also poised to overtake many other teams on the run to Unalakleet. I couldn’t be more proud of how he has managed his race: his strong team management has really shown in his run times!
In Unalakleet, Travis has two different sleds waiting for him. He will certainly switch to one of these sleds as they are both lighter, but I can’t say which one for sure. The important thing is: they are both much lighter than the sled he is driving now. This decrease in weight will make pulling significantly easier on the dogs and give the team a boost at a later stage in the race.
I expect Travis and the teams ahead of him will camp somewhere between mile 585 and 592. Mitch and Joar are resting at 585 and from the map, it looks like this might be a great spot out of the wind — which I’ve heard there is plenty of. Nic is further up the trail at 591. I screenshotted Eagle Island before it was “erased” and had that at mile 592 so it’s unclear if Nic is at the hospitality stop in Eagle Island or resting shortly before it.
By my estimation, Trav will be pulling off the trail sometime between 11-12:30 which will give him and the rest of the pack he is with the benefit of resting during the heat of the day. Nic, Mitch, and Joar do not have that benefit. Make no mistake, these three teams have a significant lead over the rest of the chase pack — but with some forecasted snow along the coast, mother nature could throw a wrench in their races plans.
There’s been some concern from race fans that Travis hasn’t taken his 8-hour layover. Don’t worry! He took his mandatory 8-hour layover in Shageluk but there appears to be a glitch in Iditarod’s system. Every time they try to update this section of his racing information it doesn’t appear to save.
I am off to do some last minute packing, cleaning, etc before flying to Nome tomorrow morning!