Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 6 by Sam Towarak

Sam's Analysis
Students in a Bethel Immersion school are excited to follow Peter Kaiser as he races the Iditarod. They yell Cingumaarput Nacuk! which translated means "Good Luck Pete (Nacuk is Pete’s Yup’ik Eskimo Name)" Want to thank Virginia Lincoln their teacher for the translation. Getting into the Iditarod Spirit in Yupik.

Aliy Zirkle made an interesting decision to take her 8 hour in Galena. What this enabled her to do is to make the run from Galena to Kaltag with minimal rest, take 6 hours plus in Kaltag and continue over the portage to the coast. Her arrival just before 4pm will allow her to leave just before midnight. Where does that put her in comparison with the top three mushers?

Mitch Seavey left Ruby for Galena at 2pm and that puts him into Galena around 8:40pm tonight. Most of the mushers will check into Galena and check out with items from their bags continuing the journey back down the Yukon to a spot on the trail known as Bishop Rock. I expect all three mushers to do that. Theoretically, it puts them over 3½ hours ahead of Aliy Zirkle. Remember that the top three teams will stop and rest at Bishop Rock. Let’s assume that will be for 3 ½ hours. Than you say that Aliy is running neck and neck with the leaders, but she also will probably feed her dogs at Nulato, lets say for 2 hours. That puts her 1 ½ hours behind the leader.

Aliy Zirkle increases her options by the Galena 8 hour mandatory rest,. Depending on how she feels her dog team is, she can do a couple of things. She can feed her dogs than get back on the trail. The next option will invite a few chuckles but she can actually increase her rest at Nulato to 4 hours. What this allows her to do is to pick straw (or just dog/personal food)at Kaltag and continue over the portage to the coast. She can stop at either of two shelter cabins 49 miles or 39 miles from Unalakleet if she finds her attempt to recapture the lead has not materialized. The one thing I don’t think she will try is to run from Nulato to Unalakleet in one long stretch run. People may remember that this is what Lance Mackey did and it resulted in an Iditarod win. I think that is a once in a lifetime feat that probably will not be done for a long time.

We have not talked about a John Baker strategy to take the lead by the coast but the potential lies there. He may wait to see if the Zirkle vs. Seaveys countermoves play out to see if it affected the speed of the two Seaveys. What he also may be waiting for is for the younger Seavey race with the older Seavey at some point on the Yukon or the Portage. This could affect either of the teams with regards to speed and John could take advantage of that on the run from Unalakleet to Koyuk. We will know by the interviews at the Kaltag or Unalakleet checkpoint to see what the goals are for the teams that are in the top ten. Many times it becomes a race to maintain position or improve upon.

Modern Iditarods have not seen a large group of mushers who can be in contention and having four mushers aiming for the number one spot on the Yukon keeps it an interesting race.

Sam Towarak, retired school teacher, dog musher, and sports commentator, lives in Unalakleet, Alaska.

Friday Evening by Myron Angstman

Myron's Analysis

Run times and on the trail observations seem to suggest that Dallas Seavey has emerged as the fastest team among the frontrunners. Note that he had the fastest time on that all important run into Takotna, which has often been a key to later success in the Iditarod. Pure speed often shows up well on the run down the Yukon River with decent trails and on most days a tail wind. But for some reason, the Baker team is just 10 miles behind him as I write, and still in a good position. I am not able to confirm this next thought by asking John, but I am confident that in the next day or two you will see him pull into a checkpoint behind the Seaveys, grab his food bag and keep on going. Already the speeds have become closer among those three teams, something that was predicted here a couple of days ago. When he pulls that move, he might catch the faster teams at a time when they are not ready to keep going and all of a sudden its a different race.

There are other teams who have moved up in the standings and are worth noting. Aaron Burmeister is a former Nome guy, and thus favored by rural guys like myself (this job does not require me to be impartial). He has apparently put together his best team and is moving well. Another rural guy, our home town Bethel hero Pete Kaiser, seems to have the fastest team in the top 20, and is also moving up. He has run carefully, stopping when the urge might have been to keep going. He might be too far back to win, but he has a good shot at the top five. And don’t rule out Jeff King either. He is moving well and not far behind. I haven’t mentioned Aliy Zirkle, who is actually out front right now. She has an 8 hour break yet to take, so her lead is temporary, but she is running her strongest Iditarod ever. Of course she can’t be counted out. And by the way, isn’t it wonderful that Alaska’s most famous sporting event allows women and men to compete equally? Because of the strong showing by women in this race over the years we have sort of taken that fact for granted, but it still is an oddity in big time sporting events.

Readers of this blog likely cruise the internet for other race information. If so you should check the website for Pete Kaiser. My son Andy is the guest blogger, and a quick check of that page will reveal that he knows more about this stuff than his father. Someone even tracked him down for a national radio interview which is posted on that page. The Kaisers and Bakers have a lot of typical rural Alaska connections, and one of the connections is that the Angstman family roots for both of them. Pete grew up in the Kuskokwim 300 family of races, and at this moment he is the pride of Bethel.

Myron Angstman, lawyer, pilot, and dog musher, lives in Bethel, Alaska. Read more about dogs, law suits and rural Alaska gossip by checking