10th Iditarod – Shaktoolik

JayP called in Sunday afternoon with an Iditarod Trail Invitational update from Shaktoolik. He has since completed his crossing of the sea ice to Koyuk, but read on for a bit more insight into more of what goes into the ride to Nome. Follow JayP’s journey, and all the other athletes, live via Trackleaders. -Kid

I made it to Shaktoolik last night. Dealing with my drop boxes has been pretty challenging. I’ve never had to spend so much time waiting for them in the past. There are a combination of reasons it is happening. For instance, here in Shaktoolik there is a new principal and he doesn’t know much about this. The old principal always collected all the drop boxes and took them over to the school.

When I got to town someone helped me track down the post master because it was the weekend and closed, but then they were gracious to open it so I could retrieve my box.

The delays have essentially become forced rests. In the beginning I was kind of happy about it but now I’m a bit over it and just want to keep moving and knock out the rest of the trail.

It has been snowing every day, not post holing deep snow, but snowing every day. I had hoped the trail would improve but now I realize it will probably just remain like this the rest of the way, and that is fine. When folks see my blue dot moving at 2.4 or 2.6 miles per hour I am actually riding…just riding very slowly, but it is still better than walking and pushing.

The stretch up the Yukon was really demanding and wore me down a bit. It took so much concentration. Flat light with gray skies and nothing but white around me. It takes everything to concentrate on seeing and staying on the trail. That was really wearing on me.

Now I’m getting ready to head out across the sea ice to Koyuk. It will be more of the same most likely. Flat light, gray skies, and no trail markers since I’m still ahead of the Iditarod trail breakers. That isn’t too much of a problem when there is only one track, but when the track scatters and I have to figure out which one to take, it becomes a bit more challenging.

At least the forecast for my sea ice crossing sounds good as it is saying light winds. The wind can really get howling out there so light winds is pretty great.

One thing I really mess with a lot on the trail is my tire pressure. I am constantly adjusting it, raising it and lowering it. I’ve been running some pretty unbelievably low pressure at times but it can make such a difference. Then when I think the trail surface has gotten a little better and might stick that way for a bit, I stop and pull out my pump. Add 20 or 30 strokes and get moving again. It probably only takes 2 minutes or so, but can really make the riding so much better.

I’m essentially hyper aware of everything I’m doing. Minding my tire pressure, watching the track, monitoring how I’m moving, eating, drinking…everything.

When I’m not in a rush it helps me do it even better. Instead of worrying about taking a few minutes to do something, I think I am faster because I take the minutes to make the adjustments.

For example, if you are running a bad pressure and it is making it more difficult to ride, that means you are working harder than you need to, therefore you are sweating, needing more fluids and food, and maybe knocking yourself down mentally.

When I take the time to do the things I need to do, I avoid that. Things like stopping to cook a meal, make water, vent heat if I’m too warm, add layers if I’m feeling cold, and adjusting tire pressure to get the best ride for the conditions.

When I left Kaltag, the trail wasn’t very good. But I have a trick that I play on myself. I made myself push my bike two miles out of Kaltag. At that point, I’ve gone 2 miles, so the thought of turning around and pushing back to Kaltag because the trail isn’t in doesn’t sound very appealing. If I did, I’d need to do it again at some point, meaning those 2 miles would have become 6 miles. It might sound silly but it’s a way I trick myself into just continuing to push forward instead of turning back.

One bummer this trip was that my timing wasn’t good so I missed out on getting to eat a pizza in Unalakleet. They’ve got a pizza shop but it doesn’t open until 3pm and I just couldn’t wait around all day this time around so I missed out on that.

I expect to be caught by the Iditarod trail breakers in the next day or two most likely, and probably will get caught by a few dog teams as well this year. Last time, Jeff Oately and I didn’t get caught by the dog teams, but I’m actually looking forward to it a bit. It is nice to see the mushers and to have some company on the trail if even for a bit.

I’ll check in from Nome when I arrive there. -JayP