Monday, March 7, 2011

I'rod Mushers Through the Range

Good evening.  I trust you are comfortable tonight, perhaps curled up next to a nice, warm fire with something delicious in your cup or glass.  Of course I'm at work with a hot cup of coffee and a lot of hours to go before morning.  Some of our favorite dog mushers out on the Iditarod trail also have a lot of hours to go, but few can boast of having that hot cup in hand.

Certainly "Dog-father" Lance Mackey isn't lingering over that first hot cup.  Running out front of the pack with that big ol' target painted on his back, Lance is already out of Rohn, and running down the Kuskokwim River with all 16 dogs on his gang-line.  Robert Buntzen, Paul Gebhart, Ray Redington Jr, Hugh Neff and Martin Buser are all in the Rohn checkpoint, but it's doubtful any will stay very long.  Sebastian Schnulle, Hans Gatt, Gerry Willowmitzer and Bruce Linton are all rapidly closing on the Rohn checkpoint. 

There was apparently quite a bit of excitement at the bottom of the notorious Finger Lake Steps earlier today.  Those with an "Iditarod Insider" account can see some pretty awesome video of some impressive wipeouts involving a particularly notorious tree at the bottom of the drop.  Sab Schnuelle even lost his sled for a brief period, but his well trained dogs combined with that same notorious tree made for a very quick reunion. 

Through the course of the night and certainly by this time tomorrow night we should start to see the field separating into 'packs' or groups.  The most competitive teams will become evident front-runners, sticking fairly close to each other as each tries to gain a competitive advantage over the others.  The middle pack will be the largest of the three and also the group with the most 'spread' as each works to better his or her position, and ultimately his or her paycheck at the end of the race. 

Typically there will be a pretty wide distance between the middle pack and the back of the pack.  Usually made up of inexperienced mushers or particularly slow teams of dogs (by racing standards), some of the best stories tend to come from the back of the pack where mushers are struggling just to finish the darned race, regardless of position. 

There has been no significant change in the weather.  This afternoon was just glorious under a nearly clear sky and with temperatures in double-digits above zero.  As the temperature cools tonight all of the dogs will be running at their best, perhaps under another brilliant display of the northern lights. 

Meanwhile, back here at the farm - or rather at my workplace, the routine of daily work life marches on.  The most exciting part of my day was waking early in order to do my laundry. 

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