Thursday, March 18, 2010


Mike continues to float through the Iditarod Trail, passing two towns and riding over 60 miles today (and the day is not done yet!). I knew that the trail alternates between wind blasted coastal lands and sea ice, but I did not realize, until watching Mike's SPOT points today, just how far from land the trail actually is. It's also interesting that his path mirrors the coastline, at least as shown by google maps. It almost makes me question the accuracy of the SPOT points.

Today was the most consistently fast day of the trip yet. Almost as if Mike simply stopped less, though it could simply be consistent conditions. I have one theory regarding the stopping less -- camera battery rationing. Mike's camera is relatively knew to him, and I think he had only burned through one set of batteries (4xAA) before the trip. He didn't have a good concept of how long a set lasts, so I think there's a good chance he's running out, especially given his blossoming photo geekery of late. It would lead to less stopping to set up shots, for sure.

Someone in the comments asked about Mike's base weight, without food and fuel. I don't have that answer, but we can estimate what his bike weighs now, at the end of day 19.

5.25 oz of fuel burned per day = ~100 oz
3000 calories of freeze dried food per day = ~456 oz

In the "head food" department, he wrote:

I've got 5# of Mike and Ike's, 5# of Trader Joes peanut butter cups, 36 Nestle Crunch Bars, 2lbs of Fritos concentrate, and 27 Clif Builders Bars. I've also got ~6 ounces of dried/roasted seaweed (that's a LOT of seaweed!) and ~4lbs of trail mix, consisting of Trader Joes dark and milk chocolate covered raisins, plain M & M's, and Peanut M & M's. When you think about junk food cravings, and how they can add up over three+ weeks, my stash of 'head food' is pretty inadequate. I guess I have some faith that I also have a stash of mental strength that can get me through the low points better than processed white sugar.

That's about 24 pounds, and it's probably safe to say that the majority of it is gone. I'm sure he is rationing some of the best bits (if he isn't sick of it all, who knows!). But let's say only 5 pounds of head food remain.

All together, I estimate his bike is well over 50 pounds (54 or so) lighter than when he started. He started at ~145 pounds. There's something almost civilized about a bike that weighs less than 100 pounds, perhaps for the first time all trip. But it is hard to say if the difference is really that noticeable. 50 pounds is a huge difference, but the weight has only slowly been coming off, and fatigue is setting in at perhaps an even quicker pace. I know from my experience backpacking and bikepacking that it's really hard to notice weight lost to food or fuel, though my experience only goes to ~8 days between resupply. With the flotation factor of riding a loaded bike through snow, perhaps the difference is indeed perceptible, both by Mike and by us through SPOT points and his upward trend in overall speed.

On the engine side of things, Mike started at 177 pounds, and if his estimate of 1+ pound loss per day is accurate, he is sitting comfortably (!) in the 150's now. He actually estimated that he might be losing closer to 2 pounds per day towards the end of the trip. That's ridiculously light, and inevitably a large portion of that spent weight is muscle, not fat.

He just rounded the corner in the Koyuk, and is back on land, heading west... to Nome. 170 miles to go. At present pace, we might see a finish on Sunday night, March 21st.

--Scott Morris


  1. Every day I check Mike's progress, and every day I'm amazed at how he's doing. Being an armchair fan, I have no idea what he's going through. The drive and determination he must have leaves me in awe. To be going through the same motions day after day, being the only one in his head, losing all that weight and strength. I wonder how much the sheer will to survive takes over mentally and pushes you along every day?

  2. I remember reading something Mike posted somewhere, where he stated that the sea ice scares the living hell out of him, as it would anyone in their right mind. That, combined with all the other factors mentioned might be the explanation for his efficiency in getting from Shak to Koyuk... 50 lbs lighter? It's gotta be noticeable. He's doing awesome. I can't wait for the photo/word dump from this!

  3. I think you are right about the sea ice and not stopping on it!! Good point, that would sure explain the consistency, and also probably less photo breaks...

  4. man, I've been on Denali for 30 days with the stuff I carried/sledded up the mountain myself. yeah, we flew in, after that it was us. But that doesn't stand up much to what Mike is doing. At least right now it doesn't feel like it does.

    One thing in common though, freeze dried food. We did it for a month. At least Mike will only have it for 3 weeks.

    I can't wait for Mike's words and photos either.

    Thanks for the reports Jill and Scott.

    Thanks for the tracking Scott, cool stuff.