August 17, 2018

March 10 10:55PM Huslia chk pt Royer, Phillips, Petit ready to pursue

March 10 10:55pm Huslia

Joe Runyan

An easy thing to do in this well organized checkpoint, I take a little walk around the checkpoint after Mitch Seavey’s rowdy departure.   Fortunately, our main players r resting in Huslia are out amongst their huskies in the dog lot.

Michelle Phillips and Jessie Royer are parked in parallel.  “WEll, did we witness the spectacle?” referring to the exit of Mitch Seavey in pursuit of Dallas SEavey, Wade Marrs, and Joar Ulsom, the Norwegian Barbarian driving a raucous team..  YEs, I gather from nods from each of them, that acknowledge a departure from a 24 hour mandatory rest.  Of course, they believe their dogs will perform the same excited display when they leave in early morning and are not entirely impressed one way or the other.  It’s expected that the dog’s want to hit the trail after a long 24 hours of luxuriating on a straw bed.

Jessie Royer, known over a mushing career to be unflappable, imperturbable, and well collected in the last half of a race, reflects on the current situation.  She and Nicolas Petit are driving the only 16 dog teams remaining and are posting the fastest times.  She considers the pros and cons of packing extra straw in case she decides to camp on the way to Koyukuk, and 26f hi and 10f low for tomorrows weather.  “NO, I am not packing the extra weight,” and directly empties her bag of straw amongst her resting dogs, and continues to pack.   She will go to Koyukuk and rest her dogs.  It’s decided.

How about the seven hour lead of MItch Seavey?  Easy question.  Jessie answers, “It’s only half over.”  And , as an afterthought as much to me as herself, “I always do well in the second half, especially in bad weather” which is very true.  She is level headed when others vacillate with sleep deprivation and exhaustion.   

Here’s my take.  She has 16 dogs  and with that power she can gain advantage dramatically over diminished teams.  Historically, she invariably moves up in the final standings but in this race she has found herself with a full string of sixteen dogs and speed.  Watch for Jessie Royer.

Nicolas Petit is always a conundrum, not in any way predictable.  He is disciplined only in the complicated way he is dedicated to his dogs.  He, along with Royer, will leave Huslia with sixteen dogs.  The two mushers are, either one at times, the fastest on the trail.  He faces an interesting dilemna as he leaves about 3am tomorrow Saturday morning.  WEather is 10 low and 26 hi.  He cannot  logically run his dogs into the afternoon heat, but at the same time he cannot remain competitive unless he logs some miles.   Therefore, he will probably progress , he plans, in an easy smooth trot to Nulato and then shut the team down for 7 hours in the afternoon heat.  To do this will require a nine or ten hour run.   “OH sure, they are trained to do this.  It will be an easy run on very fast trail and we’ll stop along the way for breaks and snacks.”   Watching Nic’s run unfold will be a a task for a true Iditarod fan.  I want to see if it works

OK, there you have it for tomorrow—–the grand confluence of Dallas Seavey,  Joar Ulsom,  and Wade Marrs with mushers departing from Husia 24 hour mandatory to include Mitch SEavey, Jessie Royer, and Nicolas Petit, et al.

The table of food in the community hall was varied and spectacular.   Marvelous beaver meat barbecue, moose meat casseroles, salmon, fry bread, and endless deserts,  The community of Huslia hosted an international social event.  I heard French and NOrwegian,  Australian accents, and fans from all corners of the US in the hall gathering with locals.