Mike and marty by Jim Meyers

The Race to Alaska Podcast Graphic

Once again, we have failed to convince anybody that racing to Alaska is a miserable, cold, and potentially marriage-ending way to spend several weeks in June. We keep trying, and we keep failing. In fact—the pool of hopeful racers putting in their bid to be amongst the 2024 cohort continues to grow—and we decided that we need to hear from them exactly how they told their nine-year-old why daddy won’t be home to celebrate Flag Day with them.

And so, we present another distraction from your real-world responsibilities: The Race to Alaska Podcast. Each week (don’t hold us to that schedule) we’ll introduce you to another batch of future-tracker-icons so that perhaps we can all judge their life choices more effectively. 

Episode 20: Ruckus Women’s Racer Panel

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Episode 19: R2AK Eve: Uneducated Guesses

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Episode 18: Teams Malolo & Mr. X

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Read our interview with Team Mr. X

Can you share the story behind why you chose to join the R2AK?

In 2022, after I posted an article on a website about the Golden Gate Bridge to Farallon Island by my TI Kayak and Solo, one person from the forum introduced R2AK to me, encouraging me to join this R2AK event. But I didn’t think I was ready. So in 2023, I used my TI from Golden Gate Bridge to San Diego to prove I am ready for R2AK. In 2024, I applied to join R2AK and was accepted. 

And, I just like R2AK. It’s doable by kayak, not like from the US mainland to Hawaii, which is impossible for a kayak. 

Why did you decide to use a Hobie Tandem Island for the race, and how do you think it will handle the challenges ahead?

I have an AI (Adventure Island) and a TI (Tandem Island). The TI has more space than the AI, so I chose the TI for a long-distance trip. The TI also has a sail on it, and I can put it on top of my car easily, so it is easy to transport. I feel like everything is under my control at a reasonable cost. I like this controllable and freedom feeling.

TI has a shortage compared with real sailboats. It is light, and cannot handle big swells and strong wind, but most of the time the R2AK is inside channels. So I can handle kind of bad weather, also I will use current and wind in my favor. When the current or wind helps me, even at midnight, I will keep moving my TI to my destination. 

Can you walk us through your preparation process over the past few months? What have been the key steps and milestones?

Actually, a lot of stuff. I already got ready one year ago when I traveled from Golden Gate Bridge to San Diego, like a dry suit, safety stuff like a radio, PLB, and life jacket. The biggest concern for me is the cold and wet weather. I used to live in warm or hot areas, like San Jose and Singapore. I hate cold, so in the last few months I bought some clothes to prepare for the cold weather

The key step for me is to prepare some stuff to let me sleep on TI. No need to land, so I can save time and to avoid the bear risk.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge during the race, and how are you preparing to overcome it?

Based on my estimate in advance, the biggest challenge during the race will be the cold. The second is the wind—the wind flow direction is almost 80% against me. Third is that there is no cell phone signal in some areas, and I cannot get the weather forecast information.

How to handle the cold? I will prepare more clothes. How to handle the wind against me? Use zig-zag technique. How to handle the no-signal area? Write down the weather forecast before entering the no-signal area

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from your training that you’d like to share?

I’ll share one exciting story about when I reached San Diego from Santa Catalina Island. I had never been to San Diego before—where will I land my TI? I used Google Maps to find a ramp, but Google Maps never said it was a military base. When I traveled to that ramp, there also was no sign that said it was a military base. After I landed, I dismantled my TI and moved every part to the road, then called Uber but Uber never came. I called Uber a couple of times and waited there for 2 hours, but still no car came. I felt it was strange and unusual, so I found a street cleaner and asked her whether she knew the reason why the Uber never came. She told me this was a military base, and no Uber would come here. She drove me to the office, and lots of things happened consequently, but long story short, after the military police management discussed, they gave me two choices. One: Report my case to court, which will be very troublesome to me. Two: Leaving from where I am landed, and they will give me some information on where I can land legally. I chose the second choice.  

What part of the race are you most excited about, and why?

Traveling on the water in the natural area where I have never been before. This is very exciting. Sometimes I feel my soul is thirsty and sleeping. Only in that wild natural area where I have never been before with certain risks which I can handle, my soul will be filled and my heart will wake up and I will feel like I am really living…….

How do you keep yourself motivated during the toughest training days, and what keeps you going?

My dream is on the horizon, the place where the sun sets, where it’s mysterious and eternal. It’s calling me, echoing in the deep of my soul. I will never stop, never tire of finding them.

Can you describe the most beautiful place you’ve seen while training in California, and what made it stand out to you?

The sunset when I came back to the harbor in Half Moon Bay. That time there was no wind with a small and slow swell. The half sea surface was colored by the blood-red sunset glow, and seabirds were flying above the sea surface. I felt so peaceful, so beautiful, and I felt time stop. My soul merged into that space, something touched the bottom of my heart, and I almost cried silently. 

What’s your favorite snack to keep your energy up during long training sessions?

Beef jerky, black chocolate, and I also fish and eat the meat. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do the R2AK solo? How should they prepare both mentally and physically?

My advice is, if you like, just follow your heart and apply R2AK. I always tell people: Life is short, listen to your soul calling, follow your heart, set a goal, prepare for it, and then just do it. 

Preparation is important, it includes equipment, mental, and physical. For equipment, we don’t need to say. For mental, the adventure mental, can be innate, but it also can be postnatal training—like watching or reading more adventure movies, books, building your interest, only you like it, you will enjoy it, and practice it with happiness. For physical, I think there is no need to say as well—gym, and running are all good. 

Last but not least, I like to watch and read nature adventure movies and books, like “Into the Wild,” “Perfect Storm,” “True Spirit,” and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.” I imagine someday I will have similar experiences, but I am still going to be alive. 

For this R2AK 2024 with a kayak, I won’t be the champion. My purpose is to challenge myself and enjoy every moment on the way to my destination. Sometimes I think I don’t want to prepare too well, I just want to make sure I can make it successful and still be alive—that is enough. If I prepare too well, then no challenge, no risk, no uncertainty, and no fun. It’s just like finishing a job, to finish a routine work. R2AK is a kind of exercise in the gym, in the swimming pool. Let’s keep certain risks, some controllable uncertain, that will make this R2AK unique and a whole life memory for me.

And, I also want to feel our ancestors’ life in the old times with R2AK. In that time there was no motor. There was no weather forecast. How did they face the wild natural world? How did they travel on the water with small and simple boats? From R2AK, I have the chance to touch their life and their spirit…… Yes, this is another major reason for me to join R2AK.

Episode 17: Teams Brio & Oaracle (Blister Prize!)

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Episode 16: Teams Outtaspace, Fossil Fuel, & Sailor Swift

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Episode 15: Teams Boogie Barge, Make Fetch Happen, & Knot So Fast

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Episode 14: Teams Only Lubbers Left Alive, Forget-Me-Knot, & Loose Screw

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Episode 13: Teams SUP N Irish, Victory Oar Duff, & Hard On Port

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Episode 12: Team Stranger Danger & Team Barely Heumann

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Episode 11: Team Rock the Boat

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Episode 10: Team Spare Parts & Team Fairly Fleabag

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Episode 9: Team Natural Disaster & Team Hullabaloo

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Episode 8: Team Norepinephrine & Team Let’s Wing It

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Episode 7: Team Wicked Wily Wildcat & Team Guardian Sailing

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Episode 6: Team Bonesaw’s Revengeance Rising & Team Roscoe Pickle Train

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Episode 5: Team SKOFTIG & Team Juvenile Delinquents

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→ Read Interview Transcriptions: SKOFTIG | Juvenile Delinquents

Episode 4: Team Hornblower & Team Bowen Arrow

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→ Read Interview Transcriptions: Hornblower | Bowen Arrow

Episode 3: Team Kuaka & Team Orca

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→ Read Interview Transcriptions: Kuaka | Orca

Episode 2: Team Tips Up & Team Sail Like a Mother

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→ Read Interview Transcriptions: Tips Up | Sail Like a Mother

Episode 1: Team Narrows Minded & Team Spirit of Nevetz

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→ Read Interview Transcriptions: Narrows Minded | Spirit of Nevetz