Supper tonight was much better than was lunch. I enjoyed a bit of baked chicken, some very lightly fried okra and a dab of cole slaw. Very small portions, but it was darned tasty and about as 'southern' as can be done by a cook who grew up in Alaska.
Let's take a look at a couple of dog races. First, the...
Yukon Quest 300
I suspect we'll see a winner in the 300 mile race by tomorrow morning. You may have to flip a coin to decide whether it will be Gerry Willowmitzer or Ed Hopkins. These are the only two mushers to have left Pelly Crossing for the big, 62 mile loop back to the finish. Meanwhile, hanging out back in Pelly Crossing and waiting out their mandatory lay-over we have Mathias Beck, Aliy Zirkle, Brian Wilmshurst, Susie Rogan, Misha Pedersen, Paige Drobny, Jessie Royer and Nathan McNee. Eric Porteau arrived in Pelly, but scratched from the race. No one else appears to be in Pelly Crossing yet.
The 9th place team arrived less than 2 hours after the 3rd, so there could be a lot of back and forth passing during that sixty-something mile loop back to the finish line. I have no doubt that Willowmitzer and Hopkins have teams that can do the loop in a single run, and I'm equally confident that Aliy, Susie Rogan and Jessie Royer can do the same. I don't know the other front runners, so can't speak to their teams abilities, but they must be pretty darned good, 'cause after all, they ARE running in the top-10.
The Yukon Quest front runners are out of Pelly Crossing and are well on their way on the 200 (sometimes more) mile stretch to Dawson, and the mandatory 36 hour lay-over. Gwen Holdman, writing on the Yukon Quest website, discusses the two basic strategies used by mushers over this long haul. There isn't much I can add to what she wrote.
Hugh Neff appears to be headed straight toward the Scroggie Creek dog drop, where he's likely to give his team a well deserved rest. He has LOTS of miles over his closest competitor. According to the statistics reported for each musher through the Live Tracking feature, Hugh Neff has been averaging 6.2 mph thus far in the race. This is a full 1/2 mile per hour faster than Hans Gatt, 4/5 of a mph faster than Sebastian Schnuelle and slightly more than 1 mph faster than Allen Moore.
There is now way I can imagine that Neff's dogs are that much faster than those of his competitors. He is maintaining that smoking pace by running on short rest. If his team is strong enough to maintain the pace he could easily earn the gold awarded to the first musher into Dawson, but the cost could be considerable. If Hugh drives his team to the point where his dogs loose their trust in his judgement they'll just sort of slog along further in the race, leaving him vulnerable to the more conservative drivers that are currently well behind.
Hans Gatt was in second place going out of Pelly Crossing and was only 33 minutes behind Neff when he blew through the Stepping Stone hospitality stop. Based on the map scale, the Live Tracking view looks like he's about 12 miles or so behind the leader at the moment. Like Lance Mackey, Hans is the kind of musher who can pull off a long, fast run if he needs to, but it's a tactic he'll keep in reserve until much later in the race. It could be a decisive race-winning move if Neff's dogs crap out on any of the 3 major summits that still lie ahead, as many of us are predicting. Currently in third place according to the Live Tracking, Sebastian Schnuelle seems to have passed Ken Anderson and Brent Sass since this afternoon. He's probably 14 or 15 miles behind Hans. Brent Sass and Ken Anderson appear to be running together close enough to converse, and are followed by Wade Marrs and Dallas Seavey. Josh Cadzow, Allen Moore and Michelle Phillips all appear to be out of Stepping Stone as well.
By the way, Allen Moore gave his team a full 6 hours of rest at Stepping Stone, and is the only front-runner to still have all 14 dogs pulling on the gang-line. One dog may not seem like much of advantage, but when they hit King Solomon Dome that one dog, coupled with Allen's excellent physical condition and his 'sprint musher' drive could result in him gaining quite a bit of ground.
It is very early in the race, but it is already shaping up to be a very interesting contrast in mushing style and strategy.
Time for me to hit the rack. I'm looking forward to checking in in the morning.