5AM Koyuk, Aliy tests Seavey
In a race that remains up for grabs, Aliy coasts into Koyuk 45 some minutes after Dallas Seavey. Discounting difference in strategy since Unalakleet, I see the end result this way: Dallas gained twenty minutes since UNK.
That’s it. Aliy is still very much in the game despite the 45 minute cushion Seavey has on Aliy and the following pack in Koyuk. Objectively, positions of front runners are tenuous, not compelling.
Note: I have a nice conversation with Aliy while she eats a chicken pot pie in the checkpoint. She is a naturally cheerful person and genuinely empathetic. She reads the checkpoint time sheet provided by the COMMS people and tries to contemplate the meaning, a difficult task, given that she is exhausted and just now beginning to feel the warmth of the checkpoint, an easy way to think about sleep. “I have been trying really hard,” an after thought spoken to no one in particular, a revealing element of her motivated personality. Still she concedes that objectively, she can only rest the dogs honestly, and see where that puts she and team.
Really, watching her in the moment is moving, a reason I suppose we all enjoy athletic tests as we watch our favorites confront obstacles. In our own way, we compare how we would react in a similar situation to the cold and the isolation and also the adventure. The warmth of the checkpoint helps her decompress, and Aliy aims towards an area set aside for “mushers sleeping.”
What will probably happen?
Historically, leading mushers tend to conceptualize the finish of the race in terms of two major moves (just three more times to boot the dogs, adjust dog blankets, check and load the sled.)
The first is a giant run from Koyuk to Elim and hence to White Mountain. Basically, it’s a 94 mile hop from Koyuk to White Mountain, with a rest of two or three hours in Elim and a chance to change the booties.
After a mandatory eight hour run in White Mountain, the mushers travel 77 miles to the finish in Nome.
The run from Koyuk to White Mountain is a tough test including some steep portages and miles of traveling on wind pummeled drifts which require an active musher to keep the sled on track. The trail may harden, but any disturbance, like a traveling snow machine, will disintegrate the trail into sugar snow—and that’s hard pulling. The leader needs a little luck! In the early morning, the first mushers may find a fairly firm trail.
Aliy into mushing sleeping quarters at 6:15 a.m. and Dallas just seen emerging at 6:30 a.m. A margin of 45 minutes separates the front contenders. Dallas may have slept for an hour and 15.
Flash: Aaron Burmeister into Koyuk third at about 6:45 a.m.