Thursday, March 12, 2009

Meanwhile....The Iditarod

Meanwhile, up in Alaska, the 37th Iditarod is being raced. I have been following the internet morning and night. It is shaping up to be a surprising and exciting race. Mushers draw a Bib # at a banquet the night before the race. This is their starting position. Start times are separated by 2 minutes. So, out of 67 mushers, if you draw a high bib #, you're going to start perhaps hours after the first musher. This time is made up somehow when the musher takes their mandatory 24 hour rest period at one of the check points down the trail.

Most of the top contenders drew bib numbers in the 30's and 40's. And they're all tightly bunched at the front of the pack on Day 5. That means, Mackey has passed about 40 other mushers to get there. Passing is done on the trail or at checkpoints by leaving earlier than the others. Several former champions are running in a tight pack in positions 4-10 with some younger guys pulling out the surprising 1-3 spots. It's going to be a tight and exciting race. One young musher has gone from a 60-something-th start to around 12th position. He's surprising everyone, even his dad (a former Iditarod winner and constant strong contender) who is also running the race. They are Mitch (dad) and Dallas (son) Seavey. Dallas' new bride is also running the race. Sometimes musher couples run together, but they must have had an agreement because Dallas left her in his snow dust early on. It was at the Seavey "Iditaride" and kennel tour (2008) that the photos in my sidebar at right were taken.

Last year they had a free GPS tracking on a handful of mushers. It was a trial year that went over as a huge success with the fans. So of course, this year you have to pay for it. I didn't. The Current Standings page (once on the page, click on Current Standings at right - not that I believe any of you actually are interested enough to do so) only tells in and out times from check points. You have no idea what happens once a musher leaves a check point. They list info from the last check point to the current one so you can see how fast they travelled on the last stretch but you don't know what they'll do next. They could rest on the trail, they could have a great trail and go fast, they could have a soggy trail and be slowed down. They could run into moose, wipe out around a tight curve, get a broken sled (like several mushers already have), or any number of delays. They could pass the guy ahead of them and show up first to the next check point. The dogs, of course, are the major factor - how they're feeling and what they need. It adds a fun dimension watching the Current Standings only and trying to figure out who's really in the lead based on how fast they've traveled to the last check point, how long they might rest there and that even though it LOOKS like Martin Buser is in first place, he's really not because he's just starting his 24 while mushers behind him are just coming off theirs.

For a quick look of fun film footage of the dogs and mushers, go to Anchorage's Channel 2 Iditarod page.

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