GRAYLING, Alaska (KTUU) - While most mushers have a fairly well-set plan for their races, Iditarod veteran Nicolas Petit is well known for taking things as he goes or “shooting from the hip” as he puts it.
The result is that he is often unpredictable to his competitors: no one can be sure where he might rest or run. Another result, as he describes, is that he is “over-prepared exponentially.”
Petit sends hundreds of pounds of food and supplies across the trail with the possibility that he might rest for extended periods of time at any checkpoint.
The downside to the ‘no-plan-plan’ is that when a checkpoint is closed for 8-hour layovers, Petit is left with a mountain of food.
That was exactly the problem Petit ran into when arriving in Grayling. Earlier Friday, the Iditarod Trail Committee closed Eagle Island for long stays due to poor flying weather.
ITC was unable to fly food bags to the checkpoint so they brought all the food intended for Eagle Island and Grayling together, so mushers would have enough supplies for the long haul to Kaltag.
Sebastian Schnuelle, an Iditarod veteran and checker at the Grayling checkpoint, showed a Channel 2 crew the enormous pile of food bags that Petit would need to sort through before setting off. “What you see here is 12 food bags,” Schnuelle explained. “Most mushers have two food bags per checkpoint, he is known to send six.”
Schnuelle paused and asked rhetorically: “Excessive, no?”
Petit arrived into Grayling and watered his dogs as a team of people pushed a large sled toward him with all his food. “This is going to be some lucky local dogs,” Petit said.
Schnuelle laughed as Petit sorted through his food bags and asked what else he needed: “Kitchen sink! The bathroom!”
Petit seems largely untroubled by the cost and effort of sending extra supplies across the trail. Before the race he told Channel 2 that he sends “more dog food out there than anyone in this race” because “those dogs earn their money; it’s not mine, it’s theirs.”
Eventually, after some groaning, grunting and clever positioning of straw, Petit was off from Grayling, ready to make the 122-mile trip to Kaltag.
A trip where no one is likely to go hungry.