Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Down to the Wire

I'm 'down to the wire' in preparations to return to work.  My R&R is done, and my work weeks are coming up in just a few hours.  It's been an 'interesting' R&R this time around.  The problems with the cabin heater, the broken fan belt on the tractor, confusion of coming home to a beautifully cleaned but rearranged house, and compelling need to find and train a new handler/caretaker complicated things considerably.  This was compounded when my friend Kyle Belleque's flight was cancelled and then the Two Rivers 200 race postponed by a week.

On the other hand, I was able to get in a couple of nice training runs, one of which provided some important learning opportunities.  This was one of those R&Rs that could drive a person crazy if s/he were unable to cope with unexpected events and a relatively high level of stress.  I didn't get in a whole lot of "rest", but the "recreation" part was good - as was taking care of all those little issues in time, so I don't have to worry about things at home while trying to do my job.

Things are also down to the wire out on the Iditarod Trail, and one of the closest and most exciting I'rods we've seen in years.  Dallas Seavey came into Elim, grabbed some gear and straw, and headed out very shortly thereafter, perhaps hoping to pressure Aliy Zirkle into changing her race plan.  It was a nice try, but Aliy isn't the sort of woman to be flustered by the antics of a very young man.  She settled in and gave her team their planned rest, which was wise.  Dallas only traveled a couple of miles out of the village before settling his own team for their rest.

They must have been mixing things up between themselves out on the trail, as Dallas arrived in White Mountain for his mandatory 8 hour rest at 12:14 in the morning, and Aliy checked in at 1:25.  Ramy Smyth must have been feeding his dogs rocket fuel, as he arrived at White Mountain at 2:17, less than an hour behind Aliy.  We can expect each of these mushers to launch exactly on time, 8 hours after they arrived.  This means that Dallas will hit the trail at 8:14 this morning, Aliy at 9:25 and Aaron at 10:17. 

All of the teams will probably just blow through the last checkpoint at Safety to make the dash for the cash in Nome.  There will probably be a winner in this race by the time I get off duty at 6:00 O'clock.  It's possible I might even be able to watch the finish on television.  That would be a rare treat.  The question is - who will cross the finish line first.

Dallas came into White Mountain with an average speed of 5.7 miles per hour, but remember the average doesn't account for the time he spent camped just outside of Golovin, so his trail speed was probably faster.  Aliy averaged 6.4 mph, which indicates that her team was probably a little slower than was Dallas.  With only 70 miles of trail left to run, both teams and mushers starting out with a good, long rest and plenty of hot grub on board, this truly is coming down to a dash for the cash.  We really could see a side by side sprint for the finish line, such as when Dick Mackey beat Rick Swenson literally by a nose - less than 1 second apart.

It is also possible for Ramy to move up a position.  While he isn't likely to take over first place unless one of our leaders suffers a truly catastrophic misadventure, this IS a dog race, and anything can happen out there.  Aaron clocked the fastest time between Elim and White Mountain, with an average speed of 6.26 mph. 

For me, it's time to eat my breakfast and hit my own trail.  I have no doubt I'll have more to write over the next couple of days.

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