Additional Time?!?

Sled Dog Ed

Sled Dog Ed

Halauġikpiñ Qanuġitpich, educators? (Hello, how are you educators?)

I learned my first native Inupiaq words! The Inupiaq are just one of the many native cultures found in Alaska. Throughout the race, dogs and their mushers meet many native groups, visitors and volunteers along the Iditarod Trail. Sometimes we have to stay at checkpoints for long periods of time and even overnight. The rest is always great; we usually get lots of leg massages and smeared with that fabulous pink goop for our paws. A dog’s dream!!! However, I would notice that each time my musher declared our 24 hour mandatory rest, usually in Takotna or McGrath, we always stayed longer than some of the teams who came in after us declaring their 24 hour layover as well. I never quite understood what was going on because back then I just ran, ate, slept, and was taken care of by my musher. A few extra minutes of curling up and resting next to my teammates was appreciated.

But being retired now, I have plenty of time to think and reflect upon my years of running. All of the dog teams started the race 2 minutes apart. But…at the end of the race, officials would declare teams that crossed the finish line at Nome in first place, second place, etc.  Hmmm, how could that be if we didn’t all start at the same time?

Just by chance I was sneaking around the dog yard the other day, and I overheard the conversation of planning the mandatory rests for the upcoming Iditarod. I heard dog handlers discussing the “time differential” added at the 24 hour mandatory rest. Time differential? That must be how the Iditarod Race makes up that 2 minute difference for each of us at the start! Whoa…that means that some mushers must stay more minutes at their 24 hour rest so all teams are equal time wise at the end. Now I understand why some teams who came in after us got to leave earlier!! But how does each team know how long to stay? Bow wow, that is too much for me to figure out on my own! So teachers, let me pose the problem and the question to you and have your students work it out for the upcoming race.

Problem: Each musher leaves at 2 minute intervals at the start of the race. Usually during the 24 hour mandatory layover, at a checkpoint of the musher’s choosing, mushers and their teams are required to stay additional minutes past the 24 hours to make up that time difference from the start of the race. To calculate the amount of time differential each musher must stay past their 24 hour layover, bib numbers are used. Each musher gets a bib number on the Thursday before the start of the race. Bib #1 is saved for the Honorary Musher, so the first musher participant will have Bib #2. If there are 85 mushers in this year’s race then the last musher will have Bib #86. See list of bib numbers at Race Center>Musher Profiles>Mushers Listing.

Question: If there are 85 mushers in Iditarod 2016 with bib numbers 2-86, how many additional minutes will the musher with Bib #2 have to stay at the 24 hour layover? Remember, the musher with Bib #2 will have to stay 2 minutes for every bib number after him/her and the musher with Bib #86 will not have to stay any additional minutes.

That means that in this year’s Iditarod race, with 85 mushers participating, the person with Bib #2 will have to stay an additional 168 minutes (2 hours and 48 minutes) to make up for the time differential.

Students could extend this question by figuring out the additional time each musher in the race needs to stay at the 24 hour layover. How about having students put the information in an Excel Spreadsheet or Numbers document? Headings for the spreadsheet might be: Bib #, Name of Musher, Time In & Date (at the chosen checkpoint), Time Differential, 24 Hours (24:00), Total Time at Layover (Time differential plus 24 hours), Time Out & Date.

Here is an example with Scott Janssen who is Bib #2:

Bib #


Time In & Date                           *this box needs to be filled in later

Time Differential           (86-Bib# x 2 minutes)

24 Hours              24:00

Total Time at Layover

Time Out & Date                       *this box needs to be filled in later; add Total Time at Layover to Time In








Have fun with your students figuring out the Time Differentials for the mushers of the 2016 Iditarod Race and what times they may leave their 24 hour layover checkpoint! Keep watching the Iditarod website and the updates from the trail with new ideas posted by the 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Laura Wright.

~Sled Dog Ed