Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Race is ON.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race started Sunday and after the usual first-day shuffle the mushers are starting to spread out enough on the trail that we can start to get a feel for run-rest schedules and race strategies. I'm still at work (I'll be flying home tomorrow), but will steal a quick window of time to get caught up on some of the action out there.

Last year Martin experimented with doing long, fast runs early in the race to capture what appeared to be a commanding lead, only to have his dog team quit on him - leaving him to just slog along to the finish line for a disappointing 17th pace finish. He nonetheless must feel the approach has promise, because he appears to be doing it again this year. At 3:20 this morning, the leaderboard shows him now in Nickolai, some 75 miles up the trail, where he arrived nearly an hour and 1/2 ago. After such a long, his dogs can certainly use the rest. He may even elect to take his mandatory 24 hour layover here, though it seems awfully early in the race for that. He took his 24 way too early last year, and it cost him dearly and he doesn't have nearly so long a lead over his closest competitors as he did then.

According to the GPS tracker, the nearest competitor, Nichola Petit, is still 14 miles from the checkpoint with Hugh Neff only 4 miles behind him. 10 miles behind Hugh we have a small group of mushers also moving up the trail that includes Aliy Zirkle, 4 time champion Jeff King, Paul Gehardt, Aaron Burmeister and Sonny Lindner.

Following the race by snow-machine, Sab Schnuelle noted that for practical purposes there is NO snow across the Farewell Burn, and posted this image to prove the point.

Part of the trail between Rohn and Nikolai

Given the trail conditions, I'm pleasantly surprised to note that only 1 musher has scratched so far. Cindy Gallea gave up her race at Skwentna.

All of the mushers who can be considered contenders are now out of Rohn.

Today is the last day of my long, 3-week tour of duty. I'll be mopping things up here in preparation for the flight home and time for Trish and of course, my own dogs. I promised I'll try to be a bit more diligent about writing during my extended, 3-week R&R.

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