First, let's take a look at the Iditarod.
Martin Buser served his mandatory 8 hour layover in Anvik, arriving to a gourmet meal and cash award as the first musher to reach the Yukon River. While his team was resting, Aliy Zirkle blew by, and mushed on to the checkpoint at Grayling, where she spent the heat of the day doing her mandatory layover.
Martin passed through Grayling at 12:52, running on the rain-soaked river trail. Although the leader board doesn't show it yet, I have no doubt that Aliy left exactly on time. Although she is the only musher out there with a realistic hope of catching the race leader, he nonetheless has a 5 hour lead.
I compared their run times for each leg of the race earlier today, and they are very evenly matched. Both teams have been maintaining about the same speed nearly every inch of the race. That means the only way Aliy can catch Martin is by running longer and resting less. That can be a pretty risky strategy, and Aliy is not willing to take very many risks with her dogs, not even for the biggest race of the season.
On the other hand, few mushers have the kind of bond that Aliy has with her team and by all accounts her dogs are plenty energetic. She may be willing to try a long run, similar to one Lance Mackey did a few years ago to win his first Iditarod. That might allow her to catch up to Buser, but the effort could leave her with a rest deficit her dogs just can't overcome.
We'll just have to see how the game plays out over the next few days. It's very few days indeed, though. At this point I'm not sure Aliy has enough trail left on which to pass Martin Buser.
Aaron Burmeister will be leaving from his 8 hour layover momentarily and will be followed half an hour later by Jake Berkowitz. Aaron also has a very fast team and has been consistently posting really good run times, but he's also been taking plenty of rest. Berkowitz is a workman on the trail, and this year is proving his mettle as a serious contender in the long-distance sled dog racing game. Both men have lots of dogs in their teams, too. Aaron has 15 on the gangline, and Jake still has the full compliment of 16.
There is a bit of gap between Jake and the next group of racers, which includes Sonny Lindner, Jessie Royer, Mitch Seavey, DeeDee Jonrowe and Paul Gebhart. Mitch has already finished his 8 hour layover, so he's likely to be the first of this group to leave Grayling. He could put some pressure on Jake and Aaron, but I doubt he'll be able to catch up to Aliy with anything short of a big, surprising move.
As I noted this morning, the Chatanika Challenge (aka Two Rivers 200/100/50) started at noon today. The 50 mile race goes from Chatanika to Two Rivers Lodge. The 100 milers race around many of the local trails in our little community (50 miles worth) and finish their race at Pleasant Valley Store. The 200 mile racers go from the store out to Angel Creek Lodge checkpoint, and then return to finish at the Store.
Sound confusing? Wait until you see the map (below):
|Chatanika Challenge Trail Map|
Most of the mushers appear to be resting at the first checkpoint, Two Rivers Lodge, as I write. Matt Hall, however, is apparently moving on to take an early big lead. Perhaps he's borrowing a page from Martin Buser's playbook. In any event, he will owe a total of ten hours of mandatory layover time that must be taken at checkpoints. As he spent little time at the Lodge, he may decide to divide that as 5 hours each at Pleasant Valley and Angle Creek. In any event, he'll need to have spent at least 10 hours in checkpoints before he'll be allowed to leave Angle Creek for the final leg of the race.
You can learn more about the Chatanika Challenge on the Two Rivers Dog Musher's Association website by clicking HERE, and you can follow the race in near real time through our newest GPS tracking feature.
Also this weekend, in Fairbanks, those high-speed sprint dogs are competing in the Alaska Dog Musher's Associations Limited North American Championship race.
Here are the results of the first day of high speed action at the ADMA Dog Musher's Association track:
|ALASKA DOG MUSHERS' ASSOCIATION, INC.|
|2013 Limited North American Championship|
|March 8, 2013|
|8-dog||11.0 MILES||TEMP: 43||TRAIL: fast|
|802||Hynundoul "Nikki" Seo||8-2||35:54.4||3|
|806||Lisbeth Brax Olofsson||8-2||42:57.5||9|
|6-DOG||6.2 miles||TEMP: 43 F||TRAIL: Fast|
|4-DOG||4.8 miles||TEMP: 41||TRAIL: Fast|
|408||Lena Boysen Hillestad||4||7||13:26.3||1|
|403||Jay Olmstead Jr.||4||3||15:28.5||6|
|SKIJORING||4.8 miles||TEMP: 37||TRAIL: fast|
|121||Sven Ivar Moen||1||19||15:16.0||1|
That's it from me tonight. I need to get some sleep so I can start all over again, way too early tomorrow morning.