Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Suspense by Myron Angstman

So it came down to this: all the  predictions  have been tossed aside, and  the final run to Nome will decide this year’s Iditarod.  That rarely happens, and right now its very hard to  determine  who has the edge.

Some are suggesting Aliy Zirkle because she gained so much on the last run into White Mountain. That means a lot, but the eight hour rest  might change that dynamic to favor Mitch Seavey.  He has had a faster team much of the race, and could recover that advantage  with rest.  Trail conditions are also a major factor.   Yesterday the trail was bottomless sugary snow, and  that  may have favored  Zirkle.  She has had the most animated, lively team among the  leaders according to reports all along the trail, and  that kind of team handles  bad trail better than one starting to lose interest.  No one has said much about the condition of the trail remaining, but one thought is there will be  a lot of snow machine traffic, and  in recent years, more traffic means more lousy trail for dog racing because of the style of tracks on newer machines.

I am picking Zirkle,  but  that’s only because I’m not afraid of being wrong.  Eight hours rest is substantial but might not be enough to overcome what was an obvious speed advantage Zirkle had yesterday.  She should  speed up too with the long rest, and  observers note that she  is  a fanatical ski poler, which counts  in the final going.  Because   TeamJohnBaker allows me to say whatever I want on this page, I will admit I am pulling for her.  I  have several reasons, but first is a desire to see  people win their first Iditarod.  Zirkle has certainly earned  such a reward with  years of hard work, and a strong second place finish  last year.  She has also raced in the Kuskokwim 300,  my favorite race,  which earns  her points.  She is smart, capable and  well respected in the racing world, and of course she is a woman.  Many of us appreciate the fact that  this sport allows  men and women to compete evenly, and it has been a while since a woman won.

It will be the most  closely watched  last lap in the history of the race.  Most recent races have been pretty much over at White Mountain.  Earlier races  which were close had little coverage, by comparison.  Once in a while, we would get a  snow machine report  during night finishes or an airplane  report during the day.  The radio would report  “Swenson is ahead by about 2 miles at  Topkok”  but  such reports  were often followed by “Swenson is stopped  and Butcher  is gaining fast” so we had no way of knowing for sure.

This time  we will know mile for mile how this  classic  event is  ending.  It should be fun.

Myron Angstman, lawyer, pilot, and dog musher, lives in Bethel, Alaska. Read more about dogs, law suits and rural Alaska gossip by checking http://www.myronangstman.com/