"I am not having a good morning," he said after making an emotional call to his wife, Melissa from the village's checkpoint.
As he and his wife spoke, Linton wiped tears from his face. She's worried he has pneumonia; he's deeply disappointed to see his rank slipping.
"My expectations are pretty stupid sometimes," he said.
Linton is a three-time Iditarod veteran. Since his rookie year in 2007, he's made steady gains in his race position, finishing 55th, 46th and 28th.
Holding at 24th before losing ground on the way to Galena, he was feeling really good about this year's race. "I am having my best race. I could never have imagined I would be running with the people I'm running with," he said.
Linton is in the top-30 pack that includes well-known mushers Paul Gebhardt, Paul Lanier and DeeDee Jonrowe. His life philosophy is one of dreaming and overcoming adversity. He named his kennel "No Limits Sled Dog Kennel" in honor of that ethic.
But in Galena, the wear and tear the Iditarod can have on a musher's body and mind were settling in. Linton started the race sick, and the bitingly cold weather and hard runs aren't helping him get any better.
A diabetic, he's also working hard to manage his blood sugar and insulin levels. It's tough to measure blood levels in the cold, but Linton says so far he's doing OK, adding he's
thankful that unlike the insulin pump of another diabetic musher, Art Church , his equipment hasn't frozen.
"If my pump freezes at night, I might as well have pneumonia," Linton said, alluding to the possibility of having to quit before the finish line in Nome. "I'm not going to risk my health for a stupid race."
A husband and father of two young children -- a 15-month-old son and a 3-week-old daughter -- four Iditarod's may be enough for Linton. Aside from family, he also has a full-time job to think about; he runs the environmental program for the Homer Electric Utility.
"I need to get off the Iditarod Trail," he said, referring not only to the race but to the year-long work that goes into preparing for it.
For now, his current race standing will take a backseat to his own health and the joy of the racing. If it turns out Linton does have pneumonia, he'll call it quits. If not, he'll press on with a reminder from home that one's personal best can be measured in ways other than charts and numbers. As it is with the Iditarod, sometimes going the distance is victory enough.
"I'm just going to be with my dogs and not worry," Linton said.
Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com