Thursday, March 7, 2013

Storms and Strategy by Myron Angstman

It sounds like a windy day on the  Iditarod trail. As I gaze out my window in  Bethel, about 150 miles south of  Iditarod,  the wind has  picked up a bit, and appears to be part of a system moving toward  Iditarod and the Yukon River, next up on the trail.   Bad weather is  a significant part of Iditarod racing, although in recent years the race has had fewer big storms that  in earlier years when the race actually  ground to a halt at times.  This storm doesn’t look like it will stop anyone yet, but big winds and warm temps can make a messy, slow trail.

We are too far from the action to determine who might suffer the most from a soft, blown in trail, but there are a lot of hills between Iditarod and Shageluk, and  conventional wisdom points to stronger dogs getting the edge over faster dogs.  I know in my experience, I  used fast trotting dogs that bogged down horribly in soft snow-they wanted  nothing in their way.  Lighter weight,  well conditioned racers also have an advantage  going up  hills in such conditions.

With all that factored in, the first couple of teams to emerge out of the hills on to flat going  at before Shageluk are without doubt the teams  to beat in this  race.  Martin Buser is likely to  be the first team out of Iditarod,  but  historically his dogs shine  on hard fast trail.  The  next team out could well be  Aaron Burmeister and after that it gets  clouded.  One team moving up right now is Pete Kaiser.  His team has been moving a bit slower  in the early part of the race, but he  is a light guy, well conditioned, and  might be well suited for just the kind of trail he will  soon encounter.

Lance Mackey and  Sonny Lindner  are on their 24 hour break at Iditarod. They will leave after a bunch of teams, and that could turn out to be an advantage for them if the trail is the type that can get packed down by  the earlier teams.   John Baker is  50 miles from Iditarod at this writing,  and he needs a slow down up front in order to climb back into contention.

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

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