This was the largest team I've run this year, as I've mostly been focusing on bringing along these young leaders. With Ted's help we got everyone hooked up in very short order and I didn't bother doing a 'count down' to the launch. Everyone was lined out and looking good, so I pulled the hooks, popped the quick release, and away we went.
I don't think I could have asked for a prettier day to be on the trail, nor for a better behaved team. We even had head-on passes with two teams. I think it was Rod Boyce and a friend out running their guys, but I'm honestly not certain. Everyone looks the same when dressed in winter gear, especially when one must focus on his or her dogs rather than the on-coming musher.
In any event, it was just a delightful late season training run during a beautiful day. Unfortunately me video camera wasn't working properly, so I wasn't able to record any of it. That's OK, I think I have it fixed now, and there is always Friday. Tomorrow I have an appointment in town that I can't avoid.
I'll share today's training journal entry toward the end of this post.
Teams continue streaming into Nome, and the list of finishers has grown considerably. You can see the whole list on-line though the Iditarod's Current Standings page. Of particular note, Ken Anderson barely edged out Jessie Royer literally be a nose to take 9th place. Jessie rounds out our 2011 Top-10. Though a few hours later, the next pair of finishers were almost as close. Aliy Zirkle passed DeeDee Jonrowe on the streets of Nome in order to claim the 11th position. Officially DeeDee finished two minutes behind Aliy, but I suspect her actual time was a bit closer than that.
Aliy captured video of her run to the finish line, which is available on her SP Kennel blog. Had Aliy's leaders not been so well trained, the outcome of her race, and of DeeDee's, might have been quite different.
"Dogfather" Lance Mackey made it into Nome in 16th place, with only 7 dogs on the gang-line. If you have an Iditarod Insider account you see video of Lance's finish HERE. Lance's perpetually positive outlook comes out very clearly in the video, and he's already warning us of great things ahead for his team of young dogs, and especially his newly discovered race leader.
IonEarth Race Tracking show that Martin Buser is about an hour out of Nome, so will likely claim the 18th slot. Robert Nelson is about 9 miles behind Martin, and Rick Swenson, Cym Smyth, Bruce Linton, Matt Hayashida and Allen Moore are all on the trail between White Mountain and Safety.
Nicolas Petit, the most candidate for Rookie of the Year is in White Mountain. Petit is driving Jim Lanier's team and was a last minute replacement for the veteran musher, who had to undergo some hip surgery. Nicolas is currently in 28th place.
At the other end of the Iditarod spectrum, the "back of the pack" including G.B. Jones, Heather Sirtola and Ellen Halverson are all out of Kaltag in route to Unalakleet. They'll need to pick up their pace a bit if they hope to avoid the weather front that is forecast for Nome and vicinity starting Friday morning.
OK, I know we've heard this before, but Hans Gatt and Sebastian Schnuelle are both talking about retiring from long distance racing, and this time I think they actually will do so. Hans was beaten up pretty badly by the Yukon Quest including severe frostbite to his hands. Gatt finished in third place in spite of nursing his team through a bad bout of kennel cough.
Sebastian has also talked of retirement in the past, but I think he is serious about it is time. He hasn't been bringing any new dogs into his kennel, he's made arrangements to place some others in recreational teams. One of his leaders in this year's race has finished the Iditarod an astounding 13 times. Sebastian said he might get back into sailing, an indication that he has other plans for the future.
Today's Training Journal Entry:
I just got home from work yesterday, and the team hasn't been run for slightly more than two weeks, so my goal today was to evaluate the dogs' condition and help them get their heads back into the game.
8 1/2 miles. Out feeder and powerline ROW to Two Rivers Rd trail to Swamp Trail to Little Chena River Rd extension to Money Trail to circumnavigate the ponds and return by the same route. Feeder trail was deep sugar powder and had to be broken out by the team. The rest of the trails were hard-packed, icy and fast.
Temperature at start was +14 F, and at finish was +21 degrees.
Max speed 13.2 mph
Average speed 8.4 mph
Just & Rose (lead)
Capella & Cassiopeia (swing)
Seamus & Grace (team)
Nels & Beau (wheel)
Before we could run I had to dig out my sled and rig it with an 8-dog line. Teddy came down and helped me hook up, and apparently scooped the yard while I was out. With his expert help hook-up went very smoothly. Grace scotched at Seamus a bit during launch, but settled very quickly, probably because they had to work so hard to keep things moving in that deep, sugary snow.
Once we hit the powerline ROW the power of an 8-dog team became very evident and I had to ride hard on the drag to keep their speed under control while they warmed to the task at hand. Once we turned haw onto the Two Rivers Rd trail I gave them their heads, and they hit their max speed of 13.2 mph.
The leaders responded well to directional cues. I only had to stop once for them to switch directions, and that was an unexpected (to them) by-pass trail. I used that little bypass just as a training opportunity, and I think it worked nicely for that.
We passed two teams head-on as we were coming down the Little Chena Rd extension trail. I think it was Rod Boyce and a friend. My guys did a pretty good job overall, though Grace balked a bit during the passes. That's something I'll need to watch her for in the future. More passes would be very good for her.
Beau was coming off of his tugline during the second half of the run. That's something I'll also have to watch for, as it isn't normal for him. When called on it he got back into the game for a while, but then ran slack again later on. It's possible the pace was a bit fast for his liking, but again, something that bears further observation.
He certainly didn't mind hitting the tugline to drag us through the soft snow returning to the yard. Everyone was ready to roll in the snow, but they could have easily done another or a longer run. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with what I saw of the dogs today.