Known Or Unknown 30 Days To Race Day
Harriett Fenerty | Guest Writer
Unalakleet (UNK) (/ˈjuːnələkliːt/ ew-nə-lə-kleet;
NB Mile Post 841
Coastal Regional Layover ( LO) of 8 hours is possible
SB Mile Post 1,395
Coastal Regional LO of 10 hours
Population 688 – 798
Gas Price is just under $5 per gallon
Aviation Gas in the range of $7.16 per gallon (read the story and you will see why this is an issue)
Potato chips are $5 a bag
Candy bars are on sale for a $1 each
12 pack of soda will set you back $12+ tax.
You might think that UNK stands for “Unknown” and I might agree with you when it comes to Unalakleet. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN? Coast running means fast speeds, trail is made of salt-water brine ice and pressure ridges sometime bigger than trail bumps off Big Lake. The horizon is usually flat making it very difficult to see open water on the bays. Racers are experiencing “site fatigue” add exhausted grips and constant ringing ears and you have yourself a wicked mix of self-care deprivation. Off the coast of Norton Sound there are no trees,,,,,,nothing but wind, ice and a little hardpack that becomes the Norton Sound I-5 for locals from November to April……
When a racing team is headed North, they have just left the relatively smooth run on the Yukon and begin an overland portage crossing at Kaltag, back to little or too much snow…..yes, there have been years when it was too much snow….hard to see the little creeks and boom – racer and machine are upside down – skis buried and well……40 minutes of digging and overheated bodies to get back on and go…..feet are wet and then the caribou decide to cross in front of you….I understand heards are in the thousands and journey through this region wreaking havoc on teams……I have never seen the pictures, so that might be something known as a real “Game Tale”.
8 hours of LO in UNK can seem like forever……teams have been on the run for 48 hours now. Racing time accumulated is only 15 hours and they have about 4-5 hours and 180 miles of run time to get to Nome.
They have been across regions in the southern portion of the trail that took them through the trees, then the mid section that is a big mix of rugged trail and portage crossings and the Mighty Yukon miles from Ruby to Kaltag. The typical racing team running the front pack will arrive in UNK in the wee hours of Tuesday morning….. teams are spread out from Poorman to UNK……that is a 250 mile difference between the leaders and back of the pack…..the spread gets more dramatic as teams are sitting on their mid range LO and the leaders are back on the clock early Tuesday afternoon for their final run to Nome….. where a racer looks forward to a good rest, is super happy to see the family that are waiting the ½ way line and then they will focus on a strategy for their southbound run to Fairbanks…..repairs to make, blisters to cover and swamp foot to dry out. Riding warriors wounds will hopefully be rested and recovered by Thursday Southbound race day!!!!
Unalakleet is situated at the head of Norton Sound, a raging river runs all summer long with great fishing and scenic beauty….Norton Sound – the area is huge – take a look at the google map…..it helps you better understand the land/water mass and how Iron Dog racers go from village to village, miles long…….WOW!!!!
I was astounded to learn it is almost as wide as long…..124 miles wide and 149
So why is Aviation Gas price fact so interesting? Some racers have been known to use AV GAS to fill a machine……if they do that hasn’t been on the Iron Dog account….cover planes carry parts and pieces for many Iron Dog teams…..when team participation depends of plane cover expenses mount fast……
If a plane runs the same distance as a racing team from UNK>>>Nome…. my closest estimates are:
182 aircraft @ 25 gallons = $179
Beaver aircraft @ 40 gallons = $287 to filler’ up!!!
So I guess what is known about “UNK” is Unalakleet is an important checkpoint to Iron Dog……some fans believe Iron Dog is a staged race without a staged race model…..it has three to five very distinct stages and Unalakleet is the beginning of Stage Three!!!! Stay tuned for other checkpoints,……miles to go before we sleep….30 days to RACE DAY……VARROOMMMMMMMMMMM
HLF, Iron Dog Maiden, Facebook Den Mother, or just Harriett…..no matter what you call me…..just don’t call me late for race day or a lady short on words ☺