Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day After Report

As usual, the day after the Iditarod winner reaches Nome is like the day after a vacation ends—things to catch up on and  a  return to the routine that race followers suspend for   a few days every March.  There are still teams to finish, including  John Baker, but obviously the suspense of the race is mainly over.

My congratulations to Mitch Seavey for his second win.  I stated here I was pulling for Aliy Zirkle, but that doesn’t prevent me from acknowledging  the top effort Mitch made in getting to Nome first.  Little tidbits from published reports suggested it was not an easy run for him at 53 years old.  Why would it be?  It is hard for anyone, and at 53  he has to feel his years more than a 25 year old kid.  Mitch appears to be in good shape, but try going  that long with very limited sleep sometime.  Awaking from a short deep sleep at  a checkpoint can be painful.

The end result seemed to result from Seavey’s ability to go fast when the trail became better on the way into Nome.  Zirkle was gaining ground until  coming over the last hill at Topkok, and then Seavey started pulling away.  Zirkle claimed second place as she did last year.    The remaining placements reflected a bit of juggling in the last  100 miles, as teams faded and came on strong.  One big jump was made b y last year’s champ Dallas Seavey, and  a couple who fell back  were  Aaron Burmeister and  Martin Buser.   Those two fades were noted earlier here, and teams  who slow down a bunch on the trail rarely gain back their speed.

What happened  to John Baker?  Others who are in Nome to greet him will provide us more of the story, but throughout the race his speed was off the pace needed to compete for the  top few spots.  His finish will  likely be in the 20-21 range, which would be only the fourth time he has finished in the 20’s  including his rookie year in 1996. His lowest finish was  23 in 2008.  He is in good company however,  running right near  4 time champ Lance Mackey and  frequent top  10 finisher Ramey Smyth.

This  has not been a great year for rural Alaskan  racers.  I doubt any one of them would say they  have done as well as they hoped for at the start.  The last couple of years have been good for  rural racers  and   fans  in the  Bush came to expect better things each year, but the Iditarod rarely allows  racers to get better every year.   There are too many things that can go wrong, and when they do, the result is often a long slow ride to Nome.  I had a plan for those kind of events when I raced.  Rather than continue on in a race where big problems developed, I would scratch and plan for the next race. I had no sponsors to worry  about, and I had a job  at home that  needed my attention. I hated moving slow in a race.  Professional racers often have to continue on for business reasons.  The excitement of the Iditarod wanes after the first few teams finish, and for those still making their way to Nome,  is can be a dreary ride. Often racers in the middle of the pack announce  their retirement when they reach Nome, and they remain  retired until they show up at  the starting line the  next year.

Once again I would like to thank Team Baker for asking me to take part in this event  through their web page. Anyone paying attention knows that dog racing is  a passion for me, and commenting  here is just part of that.  The Iditarod and other  dog races that grew up around the Iditarod   are purely Alaska events that  attract the attention of the most of the state and  countless people around the world.  They reflect a primitive means of travel under harsh conditions that appear impossible to many.   I am still amazed  that this event  can happen each year.