What a day!
Travis arrived in Shageluk this morning at 9:38 am after a very long run. Between the fresh snow and continuous wind, the trail was extremely difficult and made for slow going. Still, he slogged ahead with his leaders breaking trail for the entire 55-mile run. Many of the teams in front of him, it seems felt that this was a particularly difficult run which is why so many teams declared their 8-hour mandatory layover — and many of the teams behind him struggled to get into Shageluk, with many opting to camp along the way. I’m so impressed by both Travis and the dogs, not only in their willingness to face every challenge that comes their way but to do so happily and to make adjustments when needed.
Arriving in Shageluk, Travis declared his 8-hour layover. Mushers can choose where to take this mandatory layover but it must be taken at a checkpoint that is on the Yukon River. This year’s route means that mushers can take it in Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling or Kaltag. Although Travis hadn’t planned to take his 8-hour layover this early, the bad trail and concerns for one of his main lead dogs necessitated it. If you haven’t been introduced to our 2018 Iditarod team, make sure you do!
Travis wasn’t alone in choosing to take his 8 in Shageluk: the pack of mushers he has been running with all decided to do the same. I imagine this must have been a fun place to be early this morning and this afternoon with mushers swapping stories of their journey down the trail in between trying to get some shut-eye.
It seemed that the 8-hour rest did Travis well. He left Shageluk in 13th place with 14 dogs and cruised along into Anvik where he arrived at 9:01 pm. He had a runtime of 3 hours and 19 minutes, the third fastest recorded runtime yet and has been making up time on the teams ahead of him. Because the run to Anvik was so short he, and many of the other teams went through to Grayling.
He posted THE FASTEST run time from so far from Anvik to Grayling: 2 hours and 39 minutes and came into Grayling in 11th position. He made up over 40 minutes on Aliy Zirkle, passing her shortly before getting into the checkpoint. I expect Travis will rest in Grayling for 4 or 5 hours before continuing on down the trail.
With the snow and wind, Iditarod has faced an unanticipated hiccup: the drop bags for the Eagle Island checkpoint could not be delivered. Because this checkpoint is a remote location set up by Iditarod, drop bags are often flown in right before racers arrive: otherwise they risk exposure to the elements and to wild animals. Due to the bad weather, however, this didn’t happen in time. Iditarod, therefore, has turned Eagle Island into a hospitality stop for the remainder of the 2018 race. Mushers will not have any drop bags there though they will have access to a vet and will be able to drop a dog if needed.
The trail from Grayling to Kaltag is 122 miles long and throws a rather interesting wrench into Iditarod 2018. Due to tough trail conditions, mushers will have to break up this run into approximately two 6o-mile runs or into three 40-mile runs. The trail and weather will ultimately dictate what many teams choose to do. Here’s the kicker though: teams are going to have to carry all their gear for this 122-mile stretch. This means extra weight in their sled on an already slow, tough trail. This may end up being an equalizer: stronger, slower teams will have the advantage in this section whereas smaller, faster teams may struggle.
Additionally, the teams out front, Nic, Mitch and Joar — will have to break trail. Their heavy sleds may compact the trail and make it speedier for the teams to follow. If it continues to be windy or to snow, however, any trail they put in may quickly vanish. I’m not sure if the teams behind them will be able to catch them as they have built a fairly substantial lead. That being said, anything can happen!
The run into Kaltag and then onto Unalakleet is traditionally the portion of the race where teams jockey for position to race along the coast.
One thing I know about Travis though is that he shines in adversity!