Wow! Travis is into Unalakleet in 4th place. He stopped for about 1.5 hours on the trail and will rest here for 3-4 hours before continuing the 40 miles to Shaktoolik.
The dogs looked absolutely amazing coming in. There’s a great video now posted of Travis coming into Unalakleet on the Iditarod Insider. You have to have signed up for the Iditarod Insider program in order to watch this video.
Neighbor and friend, Kale Casey, was in Unalakleet and live-streamed Travis’ arrival to the checkpoint as well as him doing his dog chores in the checkpoint.
It was great watching the team arrive and hard not to get excited by their strong performance. Travis comes into the video around the 15-minute mark: the first part of the video is Joar’s departure from Unalakleet.
The dogs all looked really strong. There were a lot of things to take away from this video: the first is that the dogs were moving great. The 1.5-hour break on the trail helped put some pep into the team and will keep them moving quickly down the rest of the coast. The other thing is that the dogs ate really well; they need this energy to continue fueling them down the trail.
Travis is clearly tired in the video and openly admits he hasn’t gotten any sleep. That’s tough. Right now, that’s going to be the most difficult thing for him to deal with. When you are that tired, even a tiny problem can seem insurmountable. From my experience on the Iditarod, Unalakleet has some of the best sleeping quarters in the race. Hopefully, Travis can get a bit of sleep here — though if he wants to stay in fighting position for the Top 5 he won’t get much more than 30 to 40 minutes; then it will be time to water dogs, booty and take off down the trail.
Travis remarked to Kale that the most important thing was that he was having fun; this has been our mantra all season. Even though it must be tough being so tired, I’m happy to hear he’s enjoying himself.
After the live feed ended, I spoke with Kale privately on the phone and he said that Travis was going to be switching out sleds. He may drop a dog, but who knows! Interestingly, he’s going to be going with his medium weight sled instead of his lightweight sled. This may have to do with the fact that his medium weight sled has a seat and his lightweight sled does not. He’s prepping that for departure, will eat some pancakes, get a quick nap and get back out there.
Don’t be surprised when Travis leaves in a later position: Wade, Richie, Pete, and Ray will likely leapfrog Travis at this checkpoint. They rested longer on the trail and will blow through Unalakleet and run straight to Shaktoolik. Each strategy has different strengths and will unfold differently over the next 24 hours as teams make their way up the coast.
The benefit of what Travis is doing is that it will keep the dogs peppy and should keep him speedy down the coast. Travis is breaking the run from Kaltag to Shaktoolik into 3 runs. He ran 63 miles from Kaltag and camped for 1.5 hours. From his camp, Travis ran 22 miles into Unalakleet and after this run will run 40 miles from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik. These two short runs will build some speed back into the team for the final push from Shaktoolik into White Mountain.
Wade, Richie, Pete and Ray rested for Longer and broke up the 125 miles from Kaltag to Shaktoolik into 2-runs. They will rest less but rest less and longer runs will likely impact their speed.
Travis is betting that a little extra speed will help him be the musher in the front (or close to!) of this chase pack. Time will only tell how this strategy plays out.
Go Trav go!
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