May 25, 2018

March 12 10:24 am Kaltag A summary for the very busy Person

March 12 10:24 am Kaltag   A summary for the very busy Person

Joe Runyan

MItch Seavery, now at mile 687 is just 31 miles from the BEring sea community of Unalakleet and is leading the Iditarod.  For brevity, since this is a summary for the VERY BUSY PERSON who is often heard to say,  “What’s the bottom line, quit equivocating, cut to the chase,  I only have five minutes”, Mitch Seavey is presently driving the strongest team on the trail and is not only ahaead on the trail, but his team is more rested.  A reasonable person would have the view that he will win.

MItch accumulated momentum by breaking from a tight knit group of competitors at Ruby and by some swift  runs and thrifty rest arrived ahead of the pack at Huslia.  Since that move,  Dallas SEavey, the 4x defending champ, Wade Marrs, Nicolas Petit, and Joar Ulsom have been in pursuit, attempting, but not successfully reeling in Mitch Seavey.

THE POSSIBILITIES of a CHANGE at the front

Dallas Seavey presents a real problem for any front runner because he is innovative and persistent.  In our race, he is just seven miles behind his father Mitch Seavey. on the trail to Unalakleet.  He is of the school that believes everything is not as ROSEY as it seems, and therefore believes a crack could widen, an opportunity could present itself, if only he was ready.  

Following the example of Dallas,  Wade Marrs, Nic Petit, and Joar Ulsom, the NOrwegian Barbarian,  are at the heels of Mitch SEavey enroute to Unalakleet.

An overview of the trail ahead

The Iditarod trail to Unalakleet has transitioned from the black spruce forest of the great Yukon River Basin to the Bering Sea Coast, often brutally hammered by wind on treeless, exposed tundra.    Additionally, the trail can be exhausting for the musher as a climb in the Blueberry hills outside Unalakleet  in direction Shaktoolik can test the team.  Here, Dallas Seavey, who likes to stay in shape, ran a few marathons this last summer, enjoys putting on his favorite running shoes and jogging up the hills.   What difference will this make if his Dad MItch or any other musher decides to ride the runners?

Questions of what could happen

This is a topic for very dedicated Iditarod fans.  For example, Wade Marrs, Nicolas Petit, and Joar Ulsom have kept their dogs always on the towline.  If Wade has 16 dogs, then 16 dogs will be on the towline as he runs. In contrast, Dallas SEavey  used a creatively designed carbon fiber sled and from the start in Fairbanks has rotated as many as three or four dogs every hour and a half in his sled.  If he has 16 dogs in the team it is possible he will arrive at a checkpoint with 12 on the towline and 4 taking a ride in the sled.

Cumulatively, this could be a great advantage.  Dallas arrived with 13 dogs into Kaltag with only 11 on the towline.   His dogs have learned to rest in the box and as a practical matter it seems they enjoy it.  Dallas unleashes them from the towline and the dogs quite willingly go back to the sled to load.  To a lesser extent, as far as we know, Mitch Seavey has done the same thing.

Now, one wonders, what will happen as we learn Dallas SEavey switched sleds in Kaltag.  He is driving 12 dogs and they are now all on the towline and pulling a very light weight racing sled.  The carbon fiber behemoth that hauled dogs but was a monster to pull, has been left behind.  He is just seven miles behind race leader Mitch Seavey.   By persistence and a little luck he may be able to close the gap.

another great photo by Jeff Schultz in Kaltag.  John Baker jogs up the steep slip from the Yukon at Kaltag

Nic Petit has had a magical race and is still driving a big string of 15 dogs.  His travel times have been very fast—faster than Mitch SEavey.  Can he sling shot to the front?

John Baker discusses his team with Idiarod vet. The yellow tablet contains vet notes and is mandatory gear for the musher

Jessie Royer

Jessie Royer will not budge from her consistent run and rest schedule as illustrated by her four hour rest in Kaltag before chasing the lead pack to UNK. She is a big fan favorite and known for her ability to think clearly in the last part of the race when many mushers are sleep deprived.  She seems to handle it well and is always getting the compliment, “You look so rested,” etc as she cheerfully works in a checkpoint.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it.  Warm temps to 20F, overcast, with some snow squalls that are presently preventing small plane aviation, which is a godsend for mushers and dogs and fans.   The minus 40f temperatures in the first days of the race at Manley and Tanana are slowly forgotten, but the reminders are still there.  Ryan REdington, an experienced Alaskan, did not pay attention and frost burnt his face, a painful episode, and others, witness the blackened toes of DAve Branholm and frost nipped digits of Kattherine Keith.

I am interested in the race narrative at he  front of the pack.  Just as the first part of the race produced momentum in certain teams, due in part to preparation and luck, the same could happen in our final push of 292 miles to Nome.

Aliy Zirkle already on the trail posting fast times, but not as swift as Jessie Royer—-something to watch on the TRACKER

Michelle PHillips just came into the checkpoint, her huskies all with day glo green booties, creating almost an artistic effect in the subdued light on white snow.