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 checkinghttp://www.myronangstman.com/