Teams running at the front of the pack have reached the Bering Sea Coast at Unalakleet. Despite a rough trail, teams are still on record pace as they continue to make their way for Nome.
Once they reach the coast, mushers have to decide how best to cut rest and maintain speed. Jeff King says it’s a mix of offense and defense.
King took his mandatory 24-hour rest later than most other teams. He followed that shortly after with a mandatory eight hour layover along the Yukon River, so he says his team has plenty in the tank.
“I can tell when my dogs are not tired,” he said.
Kings team jumped in harness as they pulled into the checkpoint. Martin Buser’s team however was less excitable. Buser says the way his team is running is definitely defensive.
“Yeah that’s a good way to put it alright,” Buser said. “I was not in offensive position coming over here, that’s for sure. The dogs were playing a little bit of their own team not on our team.”
He says his team is sore and tired.
“They couldn’t reach deep into the tank to give more,” Buser said.
But Aliy Zirkle doesn’t care what’s going on in front or behind her.
“I’m just going to keep going with my schedule I guess,” she said.
The trail from Kaltag was virtually snow free and the trail report is calling for more of the same ahead. That also doesn’t seem to bother Zirkle.
“Three-hundred miles is going to be really freaking far if there’s no snow for 300 miles,” she said. “There’s no snow and then there’s a trail laced with ice. I was kind of hoping for laced, because no snow is… doesn’t matter. I can do it.”
Once teams leave Unalakleet, they head for Shaktoolik where the wind is reportedly howling.
From there, the trail would normally cross the sea ice into Koyuk, but a lack of ice this year will put teams on an overland trail.