It’s about 1,000 miles from Mount Airy to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that’s how far Dr. Jan Kriska plans to walk or run. Except Kriska will make his journey on foot in arctic conditions.
In February Kriska, who practices internal medicine in Mount Airy and Elkin, will travel to Alaska. He will take on the Iditarod dog sled course, which leads participants all the way from Anchorage to Nome, on foot, pulling everything he needs on a sled behind him.
While 1,000 miles will be a new feat for Kriska, traveling long distances on foot is nothing new for the doctor. Arctic conditions won’t be new either. Nearly a year ago, Kriska finished at the head of the pack in the 300-mile Yukon Arctic Ultra in Canada’s Yukon Territory. He finished that race in a little more than 118 hours, breaking the course record.
He has been participating in ultra races since 2009.
Kriska said the Iditasport race in which he will be competing has a long tradition. It started 20 years ago, and throughout the course of the race’s history, only 15 people have completed the 1,000 mile race. There is a 2,000-mile option too. However, that has never been attempted.
There are also shorter options for participants, said Kriska, the shortest of which is 200 miles. There’s a 350-mile option. Many more people will bicycle, ski or run those races, but few will travel beyond the 350-mile mark.
“After 350 miles it’s sort of, ‘Buddy, you’re on your own,’” said Kriska, noting two others will compete in the 1,000-mile race.
Kriska has been preparing for the event. He explained he pulls a sled behind him which carries everything he will need to survive in the arctic conditions.
“I try to limit my equipment to about 50 pounds,” said Kriska. “The more you carry, the slower you go, but if you don’t have enough supplies, you won’t finish.”
Kriska said he will have to attack the longer race differently than others in which he has run. He will walk more and run less. He also can’t cut corners on sleep as much, as the average finish time for the race is 28 days. The fastest time a person has finished is 25 days.
The doctor noted one of the biggest obstacles he will face is a calorie deficit. It’s impossible to take in as many calories as one burns while participating in such activities in cold conditions.
According to historical weather data, the temperature on the course will be near or below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Even the best of training and preparation won’t ensure Kriska finishes.
“I think I’m capable of doing it,” explained Kriska. “You are also at the mercy of other factors, and mother nature is the biggest of those.”
Kriska said everything can go well for a participant, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate the journey could become impossible.
There’s another factor too, said Kriska. He will begin the race on Feb. 19, and he has only one month of vacation. Should he fall behind schedule, he could have to remove himself from the race at a checkpoint to make it back to Surry County to tend to patients and his business.
Kriska said he’s not the “self-promoter” type. Normally, he wouldn’t announce he was going to take on such a feat. However, he’s hoping to raise some awareness and some coin for a cause near to his heart.
“Sometimes you have to use the media and promote something for a good cause,” remarked Kriska.
He said he will participate in the event for an organization called WOGO, Women Orthopaedist Global Outreach. The group travels around the world performing orthopaedic operations such as knee replacements. Kriska travels with the group performing pre-op and post-op services and has worked with the group in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The group will soon make a return trip to the Congo, and Kriska is hoping charitable folks will donate to the cause.
Those who wish to donate may do so at http://tinyurl.com/jmmfxkl.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.