Monday, February 15, 2010

Yukon Quest - Day 10 am

I got a pretty good night's sleep in spite of my aching knee.  The swelling has gone down a lot so I think it will mend OK.  I have to prepare to return to work tomorrow morning, so it will be a fairly busy day.  I don't need to run errands today (I did that Friday), but I do need to pack, clean up the house so I don't come home to a mess, and of course take the dogs over to their boarding kennel.  With 14 dogs, it takes two trips even with my purpose built dog truck.

As I check up on the Quest, the Live Tracker shows that all three leaders SPOT units are functioning this morning.  As I write (8:30 am PST), the leaders are about half-way between Braeburn and Whitehorse.  Hans is maintaining the lead, but it's not as great a lead as when he might hope.  Lance Mackey is only 5 miles behind him, and Hugh Neff is about 8 miles behind Lance.  Hans might be thinking about giving his dogs a rest in the next hour or two, but if he does Lance will no doubt go marching past. 

Although I don't know, a mutual friend tells me that Hans was doing long, 100 mile runs, with his team pretty early in the season so it is likely he'll just keep them moving.  As I noted earlier Hans seems to have the faster team, though not by a great margin.  According to the Live Tracker data, at 8:25 Han's team was moving along at 7.8 mph.  Lance's team has been running right around 7.2 mph over the last couple of hours.

Although the sky is deep twilight gray here, the racers are further south and one time zone removed.  The sun is probably rising well over the horizon by now, and with the sun comes the heat.  The forecast for Whitehorse calls for clear skies and a high temperature of 1 degree C - 34 degrees Fahrenheit.  Double coated sled dogs run most efficiently at temperatures between -10 and +10 degrees and warmer temperatures slow then down and tire them out considerably.  Hans' dogs prefer to run at a lope, which is fast and efficient, but generates more body heat than produced by trotting dogs such as those on Lance's and Hugh's teams.

It's going to be a very interesting day out on the trail, and I think I'll find it difficult to do the things I must in between checking in on the race by computer. 

Ken Anderson and Zach Steer arrived in Braeburn neck and neck, only 1 minute apart.  They will be eligible to leave at 3:34 and 3:35 respectively.  I think their run to the finish line in fourth and fifth places will truly be a 'dash for the cash' and will probably be a lot of fun to watch.  The fourth place team will earn at least $13.380.00 and fifth will earn about $11,760.00.  Each came into the checkpoint with 11 dogs on the gangline and they have been running on a similar run/rest schedule throughout the race.  Leaving only a couple of hours before sunset, most of their run to the finish line will be during the cool of the night, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a very fast, close finish in their race for position.

Brent Sass left Carmacks last night in 6th place, but he has a serious problem.  He only has 7 dogs left on his team, and the rules require that he finish with at least 6.  That means he can only drop one more dog and remain in the race.  According to the Live Tacker, he has already been passed by Sonny Lindner who left Carmacks more than three hours later than he.  Rookies Abbie West and Josh Cadzow are both out of Carmacks with 8 dogs each.

In Alaska, any team of less than 8 dogs is considered to be a small team, and a team of 8 or more is considered large.  That 8th dog makes a HUGE difference in power, and Gary Paulsen dedicated a fair amount of space to the 'eighth dog phenomena' in his book Winterdance.  Adding an 8th dog seems to increase the power of team exponentially, and each dog added above 8 continues to have that exponential effect.  I've noticed it myself.  When I run an 8 dog team it is though the gang is invincible and infinitely untiring.  I rarely have to pedal or run to help the dogs.  With only 7 I have far more control, but also have to work much harder to reach my destination. 

That being the case, I would not be at all surprised if Abbie and Josh both pass by Brent, even if he is able to keep his small team together enough to finish the race.  Brent is a young guy and not particularly wealthy.  I imagine he feels like he needs a pay-day to justify the time and expense of running the race so he well try to soldier on in spite of the odds against his finishing.  He's going to have to make a major decision when he arrives in Braeburn.

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