Good Morning Race Fans!
As we stretch and look at the clock that sprung forward last night, Pete and the Team were out of Kaltag and onto the trail towards Unalakleet. As I found it a little hard to get up this morning, I related to watching Team Kaiser last night leaving Kaltag. They all were stretching and peeing and slowly getting back into the mode of running after a nice long 8 hour rest. Bethany was almost beside herself watching. “They aren’t going to leave.” But Pete was patient and understanding and slowly the Team was ready and more ready and GO! Off to the hills as they made their way West. As hard as you might find it to arise this morning, those puppies wanted Pete to press the snooze button as well!
But there is a race to run and we are seeing a solid leaderboard building that is narrowing in its scope. With 300 or so miles to go, there are less and less ways to gain time, but it is still not out of total reach.
Nic Petit left Kaltag 2 hours before Joar and Jessie and 3 hours before Pete. Looking at the tracker this morning as Nic is just outside of Unalakleet, the interval is almost identical. The trail appears to be fast with Nic pinging 10mph on occasion in the flats before Unalakleet.
There is a real nice place to rest about 20 miles before Unalakleet. It is still in the trees and provides cover from the wind and the activity of Unalakleet. It also breaks the Kaltag to Shaktoolik run into two runs. Joar and Jessie are camped there this morning and I have to wonder if Pete will join him. We are in full chessgame mode right now and being in a place where the leader really doesn’t you are can be a good thing.
A long distance race is all about minutes. You think about the hours and hours of a race, but mushers are totally intent on minutes. The activity of a checkpoint can rob a musher of those minutes if they don’t need to be there. In Kaltag, Pete was required to stay for the mandatory rest stop. But by going by Unalakleet he won’t have to talk to anyone or use up valuable minutes that could be used to rest and care for the Team and himself. He won’t have the straw or as much food, but if he was planning a move like this, he would have what he needs to rest, camp, and stay out there.
So here is the kicker… The trail north… It’s not the normal trail over the ice to Koyuk. That section of trail is now the Bering Sea. Warm temperatures have already broken the ice and the trail north is going to be around the sound. This will add many miles to the trail and it will undoubtedly not be the smooth ice that is normally encountered. I overlayed the race map with the a MODIS satellite photo from Wednesday. You can see how much of the ice has gone away. I spoke with Bob Madden, our awesome host in Nome who told me that the ice is disappearing in Nome as well and apparently some gold mining operations have lost equipment because of it. This will add a lot of drama for this next day of racing.