Friday, March 8, 2013

Up the Yukon by Myron Angstman

Martin Buser  has a substantial lead, and   he won’t give it up without  a fight.    He is a veteran racer with some winning experience, and he hasn't  done so well recently.  It is quite possible he will never hit the Yukon  with  a big lead again.   He won’t be waiting for anyone.

That said,  no one among the chase pack is going to concede first place just yet.  There are a number of teams of interest in that group, but the one that  has caught my eye from the stats is  Jake Berkowitz.  Before the race he would have figured as a dark horse, based on performance in other races this year and the past.  Few would have predicted  a win for him.  But I first spotted his time coming into Takotna from McGrath, which was fastest on  the trail.   The reported times are not always perfect, for a lot of reasons,  but  his reported time was consistent  with other  flashes of speed he had shown earlier.  Today, he had another  fast run to Grayling from Anvik, tops among the front runners by ten minutes in a run listed as 20 miles,  at the end of a long run from Shageluk.   Those end of run times count, because they show that a team has speed plus endurance.  White Mountain, the next to last checkpoint which is often viewed as  the unofficial finish line, is obviously at the end of a very long run, and  Berkowitz has shown that he is likely to be at  the top of his game during  that last  stretch.

Rookie Joar Leifseth Ulsom is running third right now and catching some attention.  For a rookie he is running in pretty fast company, but he does have a bundle of experience.   He has moved up rapidly in the last two days, and it is in this stretch of the race that such moves really mean something.    John Baker  has what seems to be an  insurmountable task in catching so many fast teams.

There was some suspense on the trail today as Martin Buser headed out of Grayling to Eagle Island before the  dog food and straw had been delivered to that location.   At last word it was on its way from Kaltag in less than ideal flying weather,  but at least there were no mountains in the way.  The Yukon is wonderful for that  well  known Alaska navigation system known as IFR, short for  I Follow River. 

Between Eagle Island and Unalakleet, big moves from the chase teams can be expected.  Sometimes those moves pay off, other times  they leave a team resting for hours along the trail.  Keep an eye on the tracker.

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

Anvik by Myron Angstman

Martin Buser has a  22 mile lead over his nearest  rival Mitch Seavey  as of  11:15 Friday.  Seavey  is moving a bit faster, but  that’s about three hours of trail time at  current speeds, and  that is not a trivial amount.  Speeds vary from hour to hour, and  no one should  count Buser out of winning at this point.    Zirkle,  Berkowitz  and  Burmeister are the others in the mix right now according to my fool proof analysis.  By fool proof, I mean there is no proof  I am not a fool.

John Baker moved up a bit more with some serious non- stop pursuit,  and he is nearing  Anvik where he will likely take his eight hours.  That will put him  something like 12 hours behind  Buser,  and  in need of a storm to tighten things up.

This morning  Buser said he thought  his dogs were a little sick from drinking the swampy yellow water at Iditarod.  Of course that reminds me of  a story .  When I pulled into that checkpoint I was more than thirsty. In those days, no one carried bottled water, and my thermos bottle had been empty of coffee for a day.  It was  the middle of the night, and -30. The checker pointed me to the water hole in the ice.  There was a small metal dipper laying nearby. The first order of business was a drink of water.  I dipped into the hole with the extremely cold pan and got a  pan full of yellowish water.  In my headlight, it  looked like it might  still have some Iditarod gold in it.  There was no option.  Bottoms up.  It went down with a swampy flavor, tinged with a metallic overtone from the cold pan.  It was so bad, I had another pan full, and then put some in my thermos.   I don’t doubt Buser’s dogs are a little sick.

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