Sunday, March 9, 2014

Now THIS is an exciting dog race.

This has turned into a real nail-biter of a sled dog race. Aliy Zirkle led Jeff King into the checkpoint of Koyuk by only 1 minute. Then Jeff left Koyuk at 17:50, and Aliy at 17:51. Aliy is currently only 2 miles behind her rival. I'd bet you dollars against donuts that she's running with her headlamp off, letting Jeff lay down an easy scent trail for her dogs to follow and just keeping the pressure on. Jeff deals with pressure well, but he doesn't like to be pushed and will sometimes react by running harder than he originally planned. 

Martin Buser left Koyuk in 3rd place after giving his team 4 1/2 hours of rest. He posted the slowest run time to Koyuk, only 6.4 mph. My personal feeling is that the "Buser Bullets" have become the Buser BBs - I think his team has hit their limit and he will be struggling to just keep them moving for quite a while.

On the other hand, Dallas Seavey has been pouring on the speed, having made the run to Koyuk with an average speed of 8.2, faster than either Martin or Aliy. He then gave his team a 4 1/2 hour rest before hitting the trail again. I suspect he shed his Wiggy's mukluks (overboots) in favor of his running shoes, and he is one of few mushers who can actually help his team by running at their pace.

Sonny Lindner has fallen back into fourth place. With 13 dogs, he still has the largest team of any of the front-runners, and he doesn't rely so much on speed as he does on the endurance of his dogs and himself. He's still a threat and one to be reckoned with.

Mitch Seavey, Aaron Burmeister and Joar Liefseth Ulsom are all into Koyuk and appear to be giving their dogs a long break.

All of the leading teams are on pace to break the race record. With a mandatory 8 hour layover coming up only two checkpoints ahead for the leaders, they can afford to run harder than they might otherwise do. They are definitely out there putting it all on the line.

As a historical note, Jeff King has some unhappy history with the checkpoint of Elim. A few years back he was catching a nap when Lance Mackey came in. Lance took off his gear, hung it to dry and generally acted like he was also going to settle in for a long wait. Then, while Jeff was snoring Lance redressed and snuck out of town, gaining just enough time to win the race. Jeff seemed to be pretty upset about it at the time, and still talks about it from time to time today. I suspect that Jeff was mostly upset because he didn't see it coming, he fell for the oldest trick in the play book, and he didn't think of it first.

One of our front-runners is out of the race. Nicholas Petit scratched from the race prior to reaching Unalakleet. According to an I'rod press release
Petit indicated to Race Officials that his team was fatigued and that he felt it was best that he call it a race and try again next year. Petit's team is being transported to Unalakleet by Iditarod volunteers.

Read more here: ... rylink=cpy

That statement is Iditarod "officialese" language that basically means Nick's dogs had enough and quit on him. When dogs don't want to run any more they just quit running. It really is that simple. Jeff King has had dogs quit in the race, heck, everyone who follows the race knows excellent mushers who have had teams just quit on them out on the trail.

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