12 NOON FRIDAY , RUBY, Flash report—Burmeister, King, Jonrowe modify fan’s predictions
This late morning in Ruby, the arrival of some exceptionally zippy teams parked near our three leaders of the pack, namely John Baker, Mitch Seavey, and Dallas Seavey impressed bystanders.
Although they remain ignored two hours behind the leaders, Aaron Burmeister, Dee Jonrowe and Jeff King impressed fans and the checkpoint volunteers I plumbed for insights. Across the board, it seems that these three team were noticeably active. Further reports from my sources indicate that the King and Burmeister teams were eating with much gusto, the clear sign they are feeling good about life.
In earlier stories, Aaron reported that his team was consuming the calories, some of them, he thought, actually gaining weight on the run. Once again, he tells me in the Ruby Checkpoint that they are eating like horses. As an example, he shows me a forty pound kibble bag nearly empty and another bag that ten minutes ago held thirty pounds of meat.
Commenting on the trail to Ruby, temperatures read -40F in the valleys and rose to -5F in the hills. Taking advantage of the temperature difference, he stopped to feed on the hills in warm temps. Nearly two coolers of meat went into the team furnace.
If you are interested in the detail of strategy, Aaron had some good insights. Like King, he is very careful to run in the turn of light. Aaron and King, for example, would be very reluctant to drive dogs at noon, as Aliy is doing at the moment to Galena.
Instead they prefer to rest from noon to five or six, when the turn of light matches the dogs natural rhythm.
AAraon describes his 16 dogs as steady and tough, traits he hopes to begin leveraging. With a team now called the most powerful on the trail, he is hoping to outflex the frontrunners, notwithstanding their three hour lead.
I often had coffee and talked dogs with Aaron’s dad when our musher was a little boy. Taking a little license I asked him what the deal was with the cigarettes. “I am getting lots of heat. I am quitting immediately after the Iditarod. “ To formalize and document the statement, I had musher Sebastian Schnuelle take photo below, rather than give him a public spanking. If you see Aaron, remind him!
At the moment Aaron is driving sixteen dogs. He plans to drop one, but says that’s OK, “I have a big leader that likes the trail for himself, so dropping a dog opens up a single spot on the towline.”
The veteran and consummate 4x champ is running in the background with Aaron and tells me, “I know, I know, it sounds old, but seriously, I have never had a dog team eat so well.” The proof is in the pudding, the dogs are inhaling buckets of feed, the sure indicator that the dogs are very much interested in life and putting some miles down.
“one inch off the edge of the trail and it was like falling through a trap door to a bottomless pit,”King says about the trail to Ruby. The trenches left by the snowmachines are two feet deep with trail breakers telling us that new falling snow was so deep it was moving fifteen feet ahead of the trail busting machine.
In the checkpoint, I catch King eating lunch while a group of us talk about the race. When a couple of us observe that King, Aaron, and Dee Jonrowes team look vibrant, King jokes, “Well, maybe they (referring to the present front four) are racing the wrong people,” a funny comment, but worth considering.
Its often happened, especially early in the race, that bold moves between competitors ends up the wrong tactic for both. From behind emerges a more preserved team and takes the marbles. With half a race still to go, and uncertainties always present on the Bering Sea Coast, King’s comment could be fortune telling.
I really wanted to get his comments on the importance of time of day. “Always it’s better to get the dogs running in time with the turn of light,” a fact he emphasizing where he took his rests and decided at what time to run.
Aliy Zirkle is enroute to Galena, albeit in the middle of the day (different strategy than King, Burmeister), but both like the way she played her rest breaks. She rested just before Ruby in the hills, scooted through Ruby, and on her way to Galena.