March 9 8am Ruby Mitch Seavey surges to Galena”

March 9 8am Ruby  Mitch Seavey surges to Galena

Joe Runyan

Mitch Seavey reminds the pack that he’s been on a race or two.  The veteran, in my opinion, seized an opportunity to apply the pressure when he realized his son Dallas and front runner Wade Marrs pulled up in Ruby for a 24 hour mandatory.  That left him a shot to surge ahead.

Mushers eating breakfast in the Ruby community center perused checkpoint times and commented that Mitch’s 5 1/2 run to Dallas is a good one.  “Looks like Mitch turned them loose,” commented one.  So, he is one step ahead , travelling with a fast team, and still has the luxury of a 24 hour mandatory rest ahead.  I saw Mitch in the checkpoint of Ruby as he was preparing to depart.  While filling a thermos with water, he mused, ” the dogs are travelling slow and really good runs.”  Translated, he has executed the musher mantra of never allowing the team to approach a physiological threshold that is not sustainable.  STeady, not to fast, in the early going.

NOte that JOar Ulsom, the NOrwegian Barbarian, will not relent.  His time was 6 hours, but he is very steady.  In the checkpoint he told me was happy with the team, ” A little slow, but I think they are good.”   Bruce Lee, our Iditarod commentator, remarked that his powerful dog team ascended the hill off the Yukon to Ruby checkpoint with ease,   Joar resides in second and has yet to take a 24 hour mandatory.  What was slow is now becoming relatively fast as the trotting teams begin to dominate.

Now, lets shift our attention to the some time erratic and inexplicable Nicolas Petit.  He is third into Galena and is 2 hours in arrears of Mitch Seavey.  Yet, one notices that his time of 5hr 26 min is the fastest—–faster than the freight train of Mitch Seavey.   Mitch and Nicolas still have 16 dogs on the towline.  A little comment on Nicolas Petit.  He is an interesting personality, often discounting mathematical analysis and sometimes very spontaneous in his descisions to go or rest, YET, he is obviously calculating and bends an ear to the needs of his dogs, who I have heard him refer to as his “kids.”  Having spent some time with him  I can say that his empathy with his dogs is genuine and remarkeable.  He talks to them and nonchalantly accepts bad behaviour.  AFter going to quite some effort to prepare a ration of fat and meat, kibble , and water I watched several dogs impolitely tip over their bowls, and cherry pick the especially interesting nuggets.  He shrugs his shoulders, “I dont care, as long as they eat.”  Pointing to another team dog, “This one does it too.”  He doesnt seem concerned.  Somehow a team dog has escaped the tow line and is wandering about.   “Hey, what are you doing?  Get over here!”  He is not at all perturbed and is obviously enjoying the family get together.  The team eats gloriously.  Nic is the chef, ladling out more for the big diners on the towline.

So, there you have it.  Seavey the Elder, Joar Ulsom, and Nic Petit are in command to the front with big teams posting fast times and going deeper in the race without a 24 hours rest.   This is leveraging the following pack.

Paul Gebhardt does not eat his dry Waffles

JOhn Baker, WHILST consuming his breakfast of waffles, syrup, and sausage listens to Paul Gebhardt comment on his wet and damp clothes. “I am wet from head to toe, and when you’re damp it feels even colder.”  It is a comical exchange as John Baker nods and keeps eating.  Paul then describes his rescue of Lynwood Fiedler who he saw walking on the trail just several miles before the Ruby checkpoint.  “Obviously, he fell asleep.  How else do you fall of a sled on flat ice.”  So, Paul, what did you say?  “NOt much, we didn’t say a word.  He just got on the sled.  I asked him if he fell asleep and he said “YEah”.   So Lynwood stood on the back of the runners and I also had a couple of dogs in the sled.  WE didnt go very fast.”  Lynwood thought about pushing the emergency button on a gps unit in the sled and call for a rescue but Paul reassured him.  “Dont do that.  We’re almost to Ruby and the dogs aren’t lost.”

Meanwhile,  Bruce Lee, our commentator, relived his mushing days and retrieved the dog team which had come into the checkpoint without a musher. He staked out the front of the team, took off the booties, and the dogs, satisfied with the routine, prepared for a checkpoint rest.

REturning to the conversation of wet gear, Paul observes that there is no place to hang clothes,  and he would go to Galena if he felt livelier.  JOhn Baker offers some waffles without syrup, “Here’s some DRY waffles. ”  which seems particularly ridiculous and hilarious to a table of very tired mushers.

Flash, 8:56 am, Mitch puts the hammer down and  is departing Galena after three hours rest.  He has waited for this moment to separate from the pack and we suspect he is focused on HUslia for a 24 hour mandatory rest.

Final thoughts

Mitch to the front.  Nic Petit probably resting more in Galena to maintain the fastest team on the trail.   Joar, the quiet Norwegian Barbarian, is steady, dependable, and always appears indefatigable.