The other day I posted a blog entry with video showing what I defined as a "pretty good" head on pass. Today I have some video to share that shows some of what happens when sled dog teams don't pass particularly well.
Yesterday was a beautiful, clear day - a GREAT day for a dog sled ride. I hooked up two my younger leaders (Orion and Capella) in front of Cassie and Amazing Grace in swing, Denali and Midnight's Son in team and Nels and Aumaruq in wheel. At first we were laying down 'first tracks' on the trails, but when we transitioned over to the popular Money Trail we had a head-on encounter with a team of Siberian huskies. Since the leaders on both teams were not good at passing other dogs, the result was a bit of a ball up that took a while to sort out.
Once out on the ponds, we were quickly overtaken by a team driven by my friend and neighbor Eric Cosmutto. Eric was taking a tour client out for a run, had a larger team, and overtook us pretty quickly. The general rule of thumb on the trail is that the team being overtaken should give way to the faster team that is following. In this particular case, Eric's leaders weren't sure how to get around my team. It was actually sorted out pretty quickly.
In our third encounter, we found ourselves head-on with Eric's team, followed by another tour team driven by Eric and Jan's handler. While going past my sled, a cord on the second sled snagged one of the snow hooks on my sled, creating some unexpected complications.
In spite of the complications, it was none-the-less a great day for a sled dog ride and my passenger, Trish and I enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Out on the Race Trail:
My friend Aliy Zirkle led the race to win the "Gold Coast Award", given to the first musher to arrive in the coastal village of Unalakleet. She was followed rather closely into Unalakleet by Dallas Seavey, Aaron Burmeister and John Baker. This is making for an interesting turn of events. Aaron ran very conservatively through much of the race, and still has 15 of his original 16 dogs on the gangline. This gives him plenty of dog power for the run up the coast. Like Aliy, John Baker came into the checkpoint with 12 dogs. Dallas was down to 11.
John lives on the coast and spends a lot more time training in those types of weather and trail conditions than do his competitors. His dogs are also larger than Aliy's, though I don't imagine that will offer a lot of advantage.
At this point in the race, it's no at all unreasonable to drop a dog or two just because they may be slower than their team mates. Aliy has frequently told me that her favorite size of team is 9 dogs, so I wouldn't be surprised if she were to thin her numbers down a little, perhaps dropping a couple of dogs to ensure she has enough, but not too much.
Mitch Seavey, Jeff King and Ray Redington Jr. are all within a few miles of the checkpoint and I doubt any of them are going to give up hopes of willing. At this point in the race any small mistake can be a huge game changer. That noted, everyone up in this leading group is an experienced long distance racer, and I doubt any of them will make any major mistakes. I'm sure all of the leaders plan to give their teams a nice rest in Unalakleet, and this evening we are liking to see some pretty hot and heavy racing out on the trail.