The Race up the coast: Sleep Deprivation

A few thoughts of the race up the Coast. From Unalakleet on, the race really kicks into high gear. Each and every year.  From here on out, it shows how much gas a team has left in the tank. It also shows how mentally strong they are. It is not uncommon at all for a team to stall, at various points along this stretch. The bigger difference is the instant visibility of it… with the tracker showing every movement. 

Unfortunately in todays age, rumors then quickly spread. I sometimes wonder, if the old times, where mushers would have a little more privacy and being able to deal with things on their own, were not better. Today, everybody wants instant answers, typing away on their computer screens thousands of miles away, in a whole different, safer world.  Likely there is not turning back from that. 

With each and every move a teams makes out there, they are taking a gamble. It is a fine line between a brilliant move and all for sudden experiencing a big setback. Nicolas Petit had talked to me in Kaltag, that he regretted not stopping in Iditarod.  He felt that carrying the extra weight for 2 hrs though the hills, did not benefit his team. After that he stopped in quite a few checkpoints: Anvik, Grayling, Kaltag and Unk. Going through Shaktoolik was a bold move. He likely wanted to be out of sight for the chase pack. A very understandable move, unfortunately in this case it backfired. 

That is the difficulty in a 1000 Mile Race. One wrong move, and days worths of brilliant moves are wiped out. Unlike in most other sports, where the competition lasts a few hours, during Iditarod mushers must be on top of their game for days on end, and that while being sleep deprived. This morning when Jeff Kings asked for a wakeup call at 8 a.m.., he realized something is not right. Staring his watch he could not figure it out. Till it finally hit him. Time change… the time had changed since he has left Kaltag. In “his world “ out with his team, that had not mattered. “ Oh hell no, don’t wake me up in an hour, make that 9 a.m.” 

It was outright comical watching Ramey Smyth trying to get going. After his wakeup call he asked for extra 10 minutes. That stretched into 15 minutes. He was laying on his bed fully dressed. Waking him up for the 3rd time, he jumps up, grabs his gear and is out the door in less than a minute. Just to be back seconds later, sitting down, staring into space. Allen Moore and me than gave him a bit of a hard time about being “ so out of it “. Shaking his head Ramey leaves again… and must have found his team, as he has not been back inside since.