Well, if you checked your TRACKER this morning you will see that Jeff has passed Lance on the trail from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Jeff’s run time into Kaltag was 45 minutes faster than Lance’s and had him into Kaltag just 50 minutes behind Lance. I was surprised that Lance stopped in Nulato, showing Jeff his hand, especially after stopping on the Yukon in route. That may have been a grave tactical error. He gave Jeff the opportunity to watch how long he rested in the checkpoint. That made it easier for Jeff to figure out exactly how much he should rest there. Don’t get me wrong, Jeff still has to run the race for his dogs, but leaving a half an hour earlier than he would have, awards him some time and has little affect on the team overall. “Picking up pennies” is what Joe Runyan called it. Pretty soon you have the whole dollar.
So, it is not surprising that Lance went through Kaltag. It will keep Jeff guessing about what he is doing and may hurry Jeff along a bit. It also makes it impossible for Lance to know what exactly Jeff is doing until/and if Jeff connects with him down the trail. Obviously, at this point, Lance is trying to avoid a connection! Both teams appear very strong and healthy.
The trail along the Yukon has been soft and slow, not unusual for this section of the race when the temperatures are moderate. Jeff did call from Nulato yesterday just and hour before he pulled the hook. He said that the dogs were bored with the slow trail and with “nothing to look at” on the long, wide river. He is still thrilled with their appetites and was worried he had overfed Adidas on the
trail going into Nulato. She ran sluggish after a meal but perked up as they rested in the checkpoint. He sounded very focused and alert and called, I believe, to distract himself from leaving. “I got up to get ready to leave, but I’m an hour early.” he said. He was sitting on his hands, so to speak, as he waited to leave.
I believe that Unalakleet got an inch or two of fresh snow, which will slow the trail a bit. The temperatures are forecasted to drop a bit (10 degrees at night in UNK) which will be a great gift to the dogs and mushers. Overall, the trail has been good on average and would certainly not be anywhere close to a bad-trail-year.
At this point, Jeff and the team are just over 3 hours behind his pace from 2006. He took 12 hours from Kaltag to Unalakleet that year. That would indicate a 2 hour rest on the trail at Old Woman Cabin. It is not unusual for teams to make this reported 90 mile run straight through in as little as 9 hours. Either way, we will likely not see a team into this first coastal village before noon today. As the teams arrive in Unalakleet we will get a very clear picture of how this race may play out. Once the frontrunners leave this checkpoint, it is just over 2 days to the finish line.
A correction from my report yesterday…. I believe it had to have been in 1996 when Jeff did the Yukon run in two segments. In 1993 they ran the southern route.