Episode 2: Trail!

The race begins! Will talks to us about the oddity of finally being on the Iditarod. The team is passed… A few times! The phone is put into a precarious position.

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Check out the emails that Buddies received as the race was beginning!

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Onward and Other Directions

Episode 2: Trail!

Hi, I’m Will. I live with 28 dogs and together we travel across the winter landscape of Alaska. They run and I hang on to a rickety sled behind them. Our team is called ATAO Kennel. This is Onward and Other Directions, a podcast where I take you along our first Iditarod through recordings I made throughout the race in March of 2021. The Iditarod is one of the longest sled dog races in the world. And I’ve been working towards running it since I started mushing in the year 2000.

This episode is the first recording on the race. The team and I have left the starting line and are on our way. We’re traveling along wide braided rivers towards Skwentna, the first resupply checkpoint in the race. We will actually end up stopping to camp about 10 miles before Skwentna at mile 50 of the race as part of our race plan. This recording is a few hours into the run and a few hours before we camp. [Musical transition]

All right. Are we recording? I can’t tell Oh, looks like it. All right. Well, we’re a couple hours into the Iditarod. Maybe I’ll throw in some cool audio from the start. I really didn’t have the capacity to record then. Also, I have no idea how these recordings are gonna sound. They could just totally be garbage. But I gotta keep having to stop and wave at people. A lot of people were on the river still, that we’ll be on for, uh, another like, well, like a total of 80 miles basically. Er, yeah, about 80 miles, I think. And then, um, and then we’ll finally kind of head up into the mountains, but. Yup. Still on the river and there’ve been a lot of snowmachiners and families and little camps waving us on.

[Loudly aside to someone else] Oh, sorry.


You moved faster than I thought.

You guys ready?

[Back towards the audience] That was Aaron Burmeister calling trail to pass.

And, uh, I’m sure you can hear the plane noise. [To someone else] Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you.

[To audience] People saying good luck and see you next week. Also, there’s a plane landing about, I don’t know, twenty feet away from me. The dogs don’t seem to care.

It is… It’s really weird to see so many people when you’re mushing. And I’m guessing

[To the dogs] Haw! Haw!

[To audience] I’m guessing that they, uh — there’s a person walking down the river, and the dogs wanted to go over to her.

[To the person walking] My dogs thought you were calling them. My dogs thought you were calling them.

[To audience] Yeah, it’s uh weird. Yeah, unfortunately, I don’t know how COVID friendly the, uh, these gatherings are. Mostly seems like it’s kind of like individual families and they’re far apart from each other. But I definitely think this is one fear that holding the Iditarod, you know, kind of incurred. Um.

Anyway, I feel kinda silly that I didn’t hear Aaron calling trail. He gave me some really good advice about nutrition, but um. Anyway. When you call trail, the other person’s supposed to stop and pull over. Which I did, as soon as I realized, um, what was going on. I thought it was somebody else yelling, cause we were kind of in so much commotion there. It’s a really hot day. It finally started to cool off a little bit, but when we left it was in the high 20s, and the sun was just beating down, and these guys have not really been running at that kind of a temperature. We did do a run, the last run we did ended up in the 20s, but, I mean, that’s just like not been our norm. So, um, I feel like they’re moving just a little bit slower.

I also made the mistake of, um, uh, they had kind of a bigger meal before we took off, which I didn’t intend for them to have, and, um, they probably should have just had like a broth. So we did our first snack stop and they were like, eh, I’m good.

[To someone else] Thank you. Oh! Alright!

[To audience] That guy told us “It’s all about fun.”

[Others in background] Good luck! [Will, replying] Thank you.

[Others] Have fun! [Will, replying] Thank you.

[Will, to audience] There’s a lot of kids. And when I tell them, thank you, about half of them say You’re welcome. Like, yeah, you should thank me. That’s pretty funny.

Anyway, these guys are moving slow. But it’s hard because I mean, notoriously this first leg, you really want to go fast. So maybe it’s kind of a blessing in disguise that it’s a little hotter. And these guys don’t really want to move as fast. Because ideally, we’re going between eight and nine miles on this first leg, average. And that’s exactly where we are. In fact, we’re actually on the high side of that a little bit. When I check on my GPS to see our speed. We keep being kind of above nine, which is a little faster than I want to go. So

I have to keep slowing them down. Everybody else. I mean, like a lot of the other mushers that we’re passing are, um, going pretty fast, so it’s uh, it’s definitely a weird comparison, like Aaron is gone already. He’s like, he flew by us. And he’s going forward. I mean, he’s probably going like, I don’t know, 11… 10 or 11 miles per hour. And because this race is so different, a lot of people might end up going faster for the whole thing. Because it’s quite a bit shorter. But um

[sneezes] oh, gosh,

[sneezes again] sorry. Oh, I bet that was loud.

I didn’t put my gaiter on because it’s so hot this morning. So my neck is kind of cold now. Alright. Alright, come on, Belle. Go! Alright. Alright. Let’s go.

Good, good girls. There you go. We’ve got Belle and Rey in lead, who are really great, steady pair, Rey is just three. And she’s kind of she really started leading mostly last year. She’s a great leader, she’s really smart. But she is still learning some things. And one of the things she still needs to keep practicing is pooping and running at the same time when she’s in the front of the team. Because it is a little bit more tricky, uh, um, so that’s what she was trying to do just there, and, um, yeah, Belle had to kind of help her keep going forward. because ideally, they poop and run at the same time. I mean, they– it’s pretty amazing. When I’ve done tours, or whatever, with sled dogs, and I feel like that’s probably the most amazing, or that’s the thing that amazes the tourists the most is that they poop and run at the same time. They’re really good at it.

So. If we stopped every time they pooped, we would not go very, very far. You know, one thing that’s been, I don’t know, kind of a telltale thing on this beginning leg already is that, um, when I first started mushing dogs, I used to think that, like, okay, I’ll give ’em a break, you know, every couple miles, cause they’re gonna like that, like I would like a break if I was running, every couple miles, but then I did actually start myself running, like distance running, and I realized that, if you stop every couple miles, you like lose all of your momentum, and it just turns into a crappy run. So the best thing, ideally, is, um, is actually to, um, to keep going and try to stop as little as possible.

So, right now, we’re — even though it feels like we’re kind of moving slow, and we don’t necessarily have total forward momentum, like, the dogs are a little bit, like, kind of distracted. They see another team, and they like yeah! They’re hot, definitely, really hot. Which is another reason to keep ’em slow, you know, not try to push ’em really hard in this hot weather, um, but, again, like that’s part of our strategy is to stay slow, stay in that middle range and then keep in the middle range. Like that’s our, that’s our goal.

But anyway, yeah, the dogs are kind of like a little all over the place. I mean, which is totally understandable. It’s like… it’s a new experience, it’s uh. There’s a lot going on. I mean, like you heard all those machines, there’s birds, we’re on a totally different trail that all of them except for Emmy have been on, so it’s uh. Yeah, this is a whole new world, for sure. And um, so. Yeah. I guess I’m kind of distracted, too, which I’m sure is adding to that energy, because I can’t remember why I was talking about being distracted, but, um, hopefully even though we don’t — I think I was saying, even though we don’t have that forward drive necessarily, we um. I mean, they’ve got the drive. We’re going forward. Um.

Oh, I was talking about making all the stops, even though, yeah, like their energy is kind of like all over the place, stopping every few miles, which I was doing, because for a couple reasons, one, because they were hot, and I really wanted them to be able to get snow and roll in the snow, cool off a little bit. But two, because you know, it’s at the beginning of a race, you ended up getting passed by a lot of teams. I’m right- I was- I started basically right in the middle. So I [had] 20 teams behind me. And

yeah, I think I’ve been passed now by almost 10 of them. I don’t know if you can hear that background noise. But it’s the, uh, it is the it’s snow machines like racing up and down this river. And I just for some context, the river is probably like, I don’t know. It’s hard to tell without like perspective, but like half a football field, the football field wide, something like that. Huge, it’s really wide. These rivers in Alaska are like really, really wide, sprawling rivers. So the snow machines are also on the river, but they’re, they’re really far away from us. But yeah, so anyway, I did kind of like, run into that thing of stopping many times. And I do think that that kind of added to the distraction factor and the, the not feeling kind of in as forward of a motion factor. I do think that they also kind of get bummed out when they get passed over and over, which does tend to happen because we do run a slower pace.

I know I get bummed out. And it’s really hard for me to kind of battle the competitiveness, about that. But I have to keep in mind that we’ve got a long game ahead of us. And, you know, we’re not going 10 miles an hour right now, for a reason. We’re conserving energy, we’re conserving strength, we’re conserving, you know, dog power. And, you know, if you are able to keep a good slow pace, in my experience, you prevent a lot more injuries. The pace, the slow pace is a trot. So it’s kind of like an easier gait than a lope, where they’re actually putting more impact on especially their front feet more, but I mean, you know, there’s a lot there’s more nuance to it. But yeah, like kind of towards the end of when we were last doing more stops when we stopped, they would definitely kind of like, “Ahhhh! I want to go!”

So they– it’s there, it’s just kind of like that energy is, is being kind of distracted. I think I’m gonna be happy when we get off the river where all these people are. And, you know, it’s not necessarily like these people are all here for Iditarod or anything. It’s this is just a big recreation area. There’s a snow machine coming. You’re gonna hear it come by us. Oh, maybe not. No, there it is. It’s pretty quiet until that part, but… And luckily, the dogs are doing really well with that. I mean, they haven’t seen a lot of this. Now another plane is coming by, it’s taking off. Or landing. I can’t tell what’s going on. Actually. It’s doing one of those things. I think it’s taking off. No, no, I don’t know what it’s doing. It’s just like coasting real close to the river. It’s um, ski planes. That’s what a lot of people have. Right. Well, I mean, that’s, I think the… Well, no, I did see some planes with wheels, I guess. So I think if you land on the hard pack that yes, that works. But yeah, mostly ski planes right now. A lot of aircraft. It’s interesting. I mean, we’re down in a way more populated area than where we’re from. So it Yeah, it’s just different. Warmer, more populated. I’ll be excited to go home. [Laughs.]

The dogs are doing good. So I ended up picking. I ended up picking the old dogs like I think I had kind of talked about before and so no Mungry and Link, which is really strange. I mean, I’m really bonded to those dogs. I think I’d said that I whelped them. They’re the first dogs who I like, helped to birth and– All right, I think someone’s Oh, they’re either filming us or taking a picture. They got the old GoPro. I… I have a GoPro actually I have two from some awesome friends of the kennel but… They… Man, it is really a wild strain on my– self to try to get a GoPro happening. It’s like, I don’t know why, it just is like, really taps into my ADHD. And yeah, it’s like so difficult to get it set up. I don’t know, it’s just like goofy but I think what I need to do is get a thing on my sled so I can just like stick it on there…

Uh, that plane’s landing. This isn’t even the busy part. This is like pretty quiet compared to where we were.

But um, yeah, I think if I could just stick a GoPro there, then I would not have to worry. I think putting it on my body is really difficult. It’s also like, kind of tricky because like if you want to put it on your head, then you have like this extra weight on your head and you’re already probably wearing a headlamp. So that’s awkward. So that’s weird. And then if you want to put it on your body, if you’re wearing a parka, it’s like the parka is very big. So trying to get over the parka is quite an adventure. And then, you know, if you put it under the parka– like if you put it on a different layer, but then you need to put your parka on like, yeah, it’s a little tricky, but maybe one of my projects will be to set up a mount for a GoPro so that I can do a little bit more filming.

The other thing that is kind of a trick in the cold weather is that I think you kind of have to like film from your phone. I’m not 100% clear, I guess I could just start rolling and see we get. I did one race and I had someone come and was trying to do some filming. And they put a GoPro on my sled but it wasn’t, we can kind of zip tied it on. And that’s kind of famous last words in the cold.

And to interrupt myself to say we’re finally in some shade. And I feel like the dogs are already like way happier. We’re going to go back in the sunlight soon, but the sun is starting to go down. Which speaking of headlamps and things on your head, I better start considering putting that on. It’s 10 degrees colder than when we started. But yeah, so anyway, that guy or that person put a, put a GoPro on the sled with some zip ties. I mean mea culpa, I like I was the one who was like, oh, let’s do this. And anyway, I really ate shit about two miles out of the checkpoint, or out of the start on some ice and that GoPro just got I mean, I don’t know, where does, it got totally ripped off the sled, so.

I felt bad about that. But yeah, so I guess that’s kind of a cautionary tales. Got to be put in the on the sled in a specific, firm way. Maybe, I don’t know, maybe. Maybe I put it on the front sort of. That way. I don’t have to like, mess with that too much. Anyway.

Yeah, it’s so weird. I’m on the Iditarod. And I’ve mushed this trail before quite a bit, actually when I trained down here. So this doesn’t feel too like different I guess it just feels like I’m mushin’ this trail. But I guess we’re doing it. I mean, we do keep getting passed by people and bibs and I’m wearing a bib. Also. I can’t remember if I said this before, but I’m number 27. So that’s exciting. I actually like that number a lot. So that was kind of exciting. Got a lot of good things going on for it.

Hopefully now that we’re in some shade, the dogs can cool down a little bit and like I said, we’re gonna be back in the sun soon. But yeah, it’s kind of got a we’ve got a bit of a chill wind going on. So and since I didn’t put my gaiter on my face is a little cold, but the sound might change a little bit, cause I’m gonna actually try to put my headlamp on and my gaiter. And then we’ll see what ends up happening with the sound of this recording.

My hope is to do I was gonna try to do one recording per day, but it’s really difficult to tell time or days apart when you’re racing like this. So I think maybe what I will try to do is do one per one per run if I can. I mean I can’t promise I’m going to remember that but we’ll see. I hope so. I think it’s kind of a fun idea. I think by the time if I mean Yeah, I was gonna say by the time I, if I publish this, you’ll all know what transpired on my race already. Like, you know, if I made it or whatever, I hope I make it.

Yeah, we’re getting a little, a little bit of a chilly wind, which is, I’m sure appreciated by the dogs. All right, let’s do this. Got my gaiter and headlamp all ready for myself here. Don’t want to drop either of those things. Gaiter wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But headlamp would. I better take my glasses off. Wearing some fancy glasses. My cousin works at a, an Oakley store down in Florida. And he helped me pick out some cool glasses. I’m sure that’s getting muffled. But try my best to keep you out of there.

It’s like a toss up between keeping you out of there or in the wind. Oops, keep interchanging my snow hook or my sunglasses and my headlamp. They’re kind of similar.

They’re things that go on my head. So make sense, right? I think I put these things on over a hood, but I don’t really care that much, so. Long as they work I guess. A lot of people do that. I usually don’t like to, but.

My hands are getting cold.

[To someone else] Hi! How you guys doing? Good. You guys have some good snacks and stuff. Yeah, good. The setup.

[Back to audience] That’s funny, I think they must have maybe had a bigger party, they had like, only two people there. But a lot of food. Somebody handed me so it’s pretty traditional for people to hand out food and they’re not supposed to this year because of COVID. But I did get handed by a child a — what looks to be like a turkey wing or something. Which I don’t want to eat. But then I also don’t want to like throw it away. It’s wrapped in tin foil. And it’s also like fowl, not. Uh-oh, not foul, like disgusting, like fowl like the bird which you’re not supposed to have around dogs, right, and it’s cooked and all that. So what to do with it. I don’t really have a trash can that I can throw it away in anytime soon. Guess I’ll have to carry it to Skwentna. Even if I eat it, kind of a rough, uh. Yeah, just not good trash to have.

Oh man, whew! Cold fingers. It’s got– we got a moist chill in the air. I’ve got the dogs set up so that they have… I’m using a 16 dog line with only 14 dogs. So there’s a single dog in swing, which is the position right behind wheel. And there’s a single — er, the position right behind lead I should say. And there’s a single dog in wheel which is the position right in front of the sled, so two one-offs, [sound of a plane engine] and that can have some benefits. It means that like you can have an easier time like figuring out who can run with who, because if you have like a dog who doesn’t run well with other dogs and maybe they can be single or you know you can you have a little bit more variables there. But the downside is basically what’s happening right now which is that the swing dog so the one who’s right behind lead doesn’t have as much pulling power. And so the line sets get kind of crookedy.

Give them a little break.

You guys ready? All right. Especially because I do have Sun– I’m gonna have to switch where Sundance is cuz she’s right behind that. Maybe I’ll put her — Well. [Engines speeding by] You can hear the… These guys don’t– don’t don’t go slow. We’re going over this. I don’t really know what this is in the summer. So we’re on this river but not– Right now, what we’re going over is this pretty distinctive like bump that I’ve seen many times I guess it must be kind of like where maybe another stream comes in or something because it like forms this big ice bump. And then that gets covered with snow, but a couple, and now we’re still still in the water. But we went up higher. It’s kind of weird. Like maybe I guess maybe it’s maybe like a little tiny waterfall but that we went up.

But a couple years ago. Well, it’s been a while now. But I ran a race and there was an earthquake during the race and we were on this river and we can feel the river like moving underneath us. So it was terrifying. But when we came back down the trail, that bump right there had just like, I mean, it must just be sort of like a pressure point. And it had just– [High pitched encouraging voice] Come on Rey Rey! Come on! [Normal voice] had just cracked like it was wild. And yeah, it was really scary looking. Actually the whole way home there was a lot of land features that had been affected by the earthquake. It was a pretty big quake. The weirdest thing was that once we got kind of back into the wooded area, we went over some ponds and stuff. And um, the uh. You could tell that that ponds had basically like disconnected from around the outside of the– Oh there’s people. I think they probably think I’m talking on the phone.

[To someone else] Thank you!

[To audience] Anyway, the pond, ponds had like completely broken around the outsides. And then basically, like the ice had jumped up, and then come back down and shot mud from the entire perimeter of all of the ponds up. And out– it was really bizarre. Such a strange sight. And so weird to think about all the ways that nature is affected by an event like that and like in this sort of, unwitnessed way. So to see that was was really awe inspiring in kind of a disconcerting way, I would say. Yeah, I don’t know, maybe these are like sandbars or something. Now we’re kind of going up like another bump and there are like, I can see like driftwood and even like maybe a tree. So I think maybe this might be a sandbar. These rivers typically are what are called braided rivers. So they’re really gravelly, and then they, as you can imagine, like braid in and out the different channels. And at some times of the year, the whole river like there’s no– you can’t see the gravel. It’s all covered with kind of fast rushing water very, it’s very dangerous. But many times of the year, you could actually like walk down a lot of the gravel, sand bars and or gravel bars, I guess.

And yeah, I’ve actually back when I lived in, kind of in this area, there was a river that Hooch, my original sled dog, and I used to go to and we would walk down the gravel bars for miles so we could go up this river and explore and oh, Hooch loved to find dead fish. That was her favorite thing. She’d of course roll in them, devour them and throw them up later. It was it was wonderful. It was a lot of fun.

I really like these braided rivers in Alaska. They’re very distinctive. I think they’re primarily from glacier runoff. I could be wrong about that. I’m not sure if it’s the Yentna a river that we’re on. I think we’re on the Yentna. Gosh, I should know right? I guess we must be. We’ve got another team coming up and they’re gonna get to us pretty fast here so I gotta pay attention. Gotta loosen my headlamp a little bit I had been wearing it, like tightened it by accident, no wonder that didn’t feel good. I had been wearing it to build my sled. And I had just been wearing it on my bare head. It became my new look. And yeah, it was just good fashion.

It’s starting to get to a temperature that I hope is better for the dogs and for me is a little chilly but I mean honestly pretty decent. So and at last I’m now glad I wore my parka I put my parka on for the start. I mean, it’s like more of a– it was kind of one thing for kind of like the image I guess and like, which I guess maybe it’s kind of silly, but seemed like I should be wearing my parka. You know, kind of how I imagined it. And then the [High pitched voice] good job, Sundance! [Normal voice] Sundance is pooping.

[High pitched voice] Good job!

[Normal voice] I congratulate the dogs every time they poop. And it’s important to do. But yeah, I felt silly wearing my parka. And the other reason was that I couldn’t… The sled’s really full… REALLY full. That’s probably the thing that I’m most worried about. I definitely looked like a rookie with my really full sled. And I really cut corners as much as I could but it’s definitely packed here. So I could have strapped it to the top but I was just like, I don’t want to do that and I knew it was also going to get colder and it was like 11 below last night where we were staying which was near this area, so I imagine it’s going to be kind of chilly again tonight. I kind of hope it will be just again for the dogs. That’s a much more optimal temperature for them. But yeah, I’ve got my parka on now so lucky me.

This parka I, it’s a very fancy parka. I actually inherited it secondhand from Aliy Zirkle. It’s way too big for me. Aliy’s a really tall person but my other parka got milkshake, not milkshake, a protein shake — oh man a milkshake sounds great though. Anyway protein shake all over it. I had been carrying it in the pocket… It exploded… It was bad. Anyway ended up basically ruining the park because I couldn’t I washed it a few times and that like destroyed the insulation. So anyway, that parka is toast so I’m wearing this one which is the next size bigger and it’s like really big. So I did cut the ends of the arms off that was basically the compromise I reached to make this parka work for me. [High pitched voice] Rogue! Roguey what are you eating? [Normal voice] Rogue got a snack.

Hopefully it’s a snack and not a bootie. Looks like she got a meat snack. [To the dogs] All right! [To audience] Maybe these guys are getting one more hungry with the temperature dropping.

Yeah, I need to, really need to move Sundance. She’s trying to… So we’re on this braided river right and then there’s all this snow machine traffic. So the trail we’re on right now is like 100 feet wide probably.

And Sundance is trying to get to the edge we’re in the middle of the trail. Sundance is trying to get to the edge, so she’s like trying to pull… We look ridiculous. Someone’s taking a picture right now.

[To someone else] Hi there.

[To audience] Anyway, my newly giant but short armed parka is actually working pretty decent right now. So I’ll take it. I definitely want to get a different parka lined out for myself though. I’m hoping to commission one from the folks who built my sled bag. I’m kind of thinking about some different schemes. More designing stuff. And I mean, I was even after I shortened these arms. [To someone else] Oh, hey! [To dogs] Easy there. Whoa. [Dogs bark] [To someone else] Sorry about that. Hey, how’s it going? Hey, congrats on your race! [To dogs, who continue barking] You guys ready? [Dogs go quiet] [To audience] See, I forgot that we were gonna get passed. Darn it all. That was Dan Kaduce. He just won the Summit Quest, which I was supposed to be entered in. And then there was a picture of him starting in the local newspaper and it said, “Will Troshynski rookie started” and I was not in the race. So it was very funny.

I don’t know if anybody’s gonna listen to this because it’s just gonna be a lot of non sequiturs. But maybe I’ll just call it like, ADHD Onward. ADHD on the Iditarod Trail. Another musher behind me in a bit. Dan’s number 40. So he’s passed a lot of people. He’s got a strong, strong team this year. I must be now in number 36th place. 35 has not passed me but 36 has. Although I guess, since Yeah, no, I must be in 36 not that. At this time of the race, it doesn’t matter at all. And I shouldn’t be counting but I guess it’s just something to do. Yeah, the dogs are already feeling better you can just they’re getting a little bit more of a pick me up.

My race plan right now… Let’s see. Yeah it has me– it has me going 50 miles here. So we’ve got another like 30 miles to go here. And then another 50 and then basically another 40. But I wonder if I want to try and think about the best way. I guess I should do yeah, the 50/50. Trying to think if I can kind of hedge it so that I’m taking a rest in the hottest part of the day. We ended up running in the hottest part of the day, which is right at 3pm. So it’d be ideal if I could be resting then.

And then be starting mushing sometime like now which is like, I think it must be with my shortened arms. I can look at my watch. It’s so exciting. It is six o’clock. Exactly. Well, almost exactly. So.

So yeah, six is a good time to start, it looks like, in this latitude anyway. Sun’s finally starting to set and it’s cooling down. That three to six time was rough. There’s like– I can see a lot of mushers. I’m definitely… I’m gonna be I think I’m gonna be end of the line here at some point soon, but that’s okay.

It’s definitely easy to potentially let that go to my head. But I’m not going to. I say, trying to convince myself. But. I’ll do my best not to. I guess that’s all I can do. Just keep trying to keep focusing on my own race.

That’s definitely always one of the tough things. I mean for me, I’m not like, I don’t think I’m gonna win. I would love if I felt like I could be competitive for Rookie of the Year but I don’t think, I don’t think I have that chance. The dogs are good, but I just don’t think that they’re that caliber. I don’t know. I mean, sorry, guys. You’re– You’re wonderful. But also. I might be wrong. I mean, moreover, though, I’m not that caliber right now. So yeah.

Man, Sundance just really wants some snow. Pullin’ the team. They’re working half time to just pull her sideways. So Sundance was the one who was really thinking about not bringing in favor of Lincoln. We’ll see if I end up regretting my, my choice.

Quick stop here.

Let these guys get some– Especially Sundance. [To the dogs] You guys wanna take a little break? Easy there. Oh, take a little break. Good dogs. Oh, yeah, roll in the snow. You guys ready? [Dogs bark] Great. All right.

[To audience] I think we have somebody behind us. That’s gonna pass us soon enough, but we’ll keep moving for the time being. We are in a race after all. I think I might end up shortening the gangline to the 14. For some reason these guys seem to have more of a difficult time if they’re in this other configuration, which is too bad because it does allow for some good arranging but I think that I’m gonna take a section out. Maybe put Sundance in wheel. Yeah, that’s actually probably a good. Good solution. We’ll see how that goes sometimes her– The siblings who are the same age as her get real upset when she’s behind them. So she’s kind of an odd, odd duck.

in favor of Lincoln. We’ll see if I end up regretting my, my choice. Quick stop here. Let these guys get some– Especially Sundance.

[To the dogs] You guys wanna take a little break? Easy there. Oh, take a little break. Good dogs. Oh, yeah, roll in the snow. You guys ready? [Dogs bark] Great. All right.

[To audience] I think we have somebody behind us. That’s gonna pass us soon enough, but we’ll keep moving for the time being. We are in a race after all. I think I might end up shortening the gangline to the 14. For some reason these guys seem to have more of a difficult time if they’re in this other configuration, which is too bad because it does allow for some good arranging but I think that I’m gonna take a section out. Maybe put Sundance in wheel. Yeah, that’s actually probably a good. Good solution. We’ll see how that goes sometimes her– The siblings who are the same age as her get real upset when she’s behind them. So she’s kind of an odd, odd duck.

So earlier, when I was getting passed by many mushers, I did get passed by Aliy Zirkle on her very last Iditarod. And then I was also right after that passed by Martin Buser, who was my mentor, who taught me how to mush. So it’s kind of an interesting one-two. Never know who you’ll run into in the Iditarod. Well, you probably do, but it’s kind of cool. I mean, you know, mushing alongside some of the people who are best in the world at what they do.

I definitely have three mushers behind me, like right behind me. So see how that goes.

I wonder if it’ll be easier to kind of focus on my own race when I don’t have a bunch of people around me. Or, what I was gonna say is, I don’t think I’m gonna win. Or, like I said, even probably get Rookie of the Year, but I really don’t want to get the Red Lantern. I know, that’s silly. But I just, I have — I struggle with having a lot of pride about that. So I prefer not to get that. But you know, if that’s where we’re at, that’s where we’re at. And I’ll be proud to finish. Because the important thing, honestly, is my little buddies here and me going down the trail, and doing the best we can. And they are doing the best they can right now, that’s for sure. They’re doing awesome honestly.

I keep reminding myself that the, uh. I’m going the speed I want to be going. I don’t know if you could tell that the dogs just sped up, so I had to start putting a drag on. That’s that noise you here. Teams I’ve driven in the past, you kind of have to like ride the drag the whole time. And that’s not been the case on this particular run with these guys, which is a little disconcerting. And I’m thinking it’s mostly because of the heat. Because typically these guys do push pretty hard, but also at the same time, they don’t push as hard as some of the teams I’ve driven.

[To dogs] Gee! Good dogs. Good dogs. [To someone else] Thank you. Wow. Thank you.

[To audience] Wow, they really didn’t want people to go that way. There’s a turn off and they marked it with like, I don’t know. 12 X’s or something?

Who do I have behind me? It looks like a really low number. Can’t see that far away.

Ooh, I have ice cream I could eat. I forgot about that. So I packed myself as a snack…

[To dogs] Gee, gee, gee, gee, gee, gee. There you go. Right there. Good. Gee, gee, gee, Belle, gee, gee. There you go.

[To audience] I packed myself as a snack some ice cream. Also, Sean made me a bunch of candy bacon, which is really exciting. And yeah, I’ve been looking forward to eating that for a while. My, my trail snacks. A lot of times on the normal version of the race when you’re not dealing with COVID precautions, you can buy food at different lodges and stuff. And some places even the communities actually kind of put together like a potluck or, or whatnot. But [yawning] I’m yawning already, that’s not a good sign. Anyway, but this, this year, we definitely have to kind of eat, eat whatever we bring, and it’s kind of cool to have more of a rustic year. It’s cool and also terrifying. So yeah. 37 maybe? I don’t remember who that is. I have no idea who any of the numbers are. I know a couple of people who I know but I honestly, I don’t even know most of my friends’ numbers. It’s a mystery. Apparently, when you’re actually in the race, you’re pretty focused on just trying to get out the, get out of the door. On this big, wide trail, there’s kind of these two lanes and I was calling the dogs to go to the right and now he’s got a number 37 indeed going to the left. I wonder who that is. Hm. Maybe Lev? No, I don’t know. They look like maybe Siberians?

Maybe we’ll do a running pass. I’ll stop. So the rules are you got to stop when somebody passes or needs to pass. But since we’re pretty separated by these two lanes, I don’t think it’s gonna be a big one.

Oh, wait, no, no. I was thinking it might be somebody I saw that it’s not them. The dogs are starting to realize someone’s behind us, oh no!

[Will humming, dogs barking] Whoa.

[To someone else] Have a good one man.

[To audience] That’s Cody.

[To dogs] You guys ready? All right. [Dogs go quiet] [To audience] Cody strength who is a well-known sled builder. That’s so funny. Their dogs look really small right now. But I know they’re, they’re pretty big, maybe just in comparison or something to each other. I wonder if he can hear me talking. He just turned around. I’ll talk quieter.

He’s got a cute little trailer. It’s got its own like little runners. It’s pretty adorable. Most people on the race have some sort of like a tail dragger is what they call it or a trailer. Basically something that goes behind the musher either on the same runners of the sled so like a lot of times we’ll see it where people are using it as a seat. Or as, or like Cody has right now a trailer actually he has both he has a trailer and a tail dragger. And there’s a lot of people seem to, I mean, it’s definitely true. Like the weight dispersal is really nice. You get a lot more storage. And things kind of steer better, but it’s, Yeah, just haven’t been able to. Well, I’ve kind of got two different things. One — he can definitely hear me — he keeps turning around. It’s like pretty quiet out here. So anything that people are saying you can hear. I can’t I feel like I haven’t earned my like sitting down on the sled. Yeah, gotta do it this way first.

All right. I’m gonna stop abusing y’all with my, my talks and let poor Cody off the hook, thinking he’s going crazy, hearing me talk. So this would be it for this one, see on the next, next run. Onward. I guess I should wait till I have the phone in my hand so I can make sure I know I have it. Well, that’s disconcerting. I don’t have the phone at all. Oh wow. Miraculously it is still attached to my headphones. It was just hanging. I wonder if it actually recorded. It looks like it. I guess we’ll see what happened. [Brief musical transition]

Thanks for joining the dogs and I for the second episode of Onward and Other Directions. If you want to learn more about the dogs or ATAO, you can check out our website at ataokennel.com. See you next week when the team and I will be at Finger Lake, and you’ll hear what a checkpoint sounds like. Onward.

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