Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Race Goes On

Wed morning report--   The growing number of scratches (12 as of now) will  focus discussion for a while on the decision made  recently  to use the traditional  Willow start  instead of switching  the trail to Fairbanks to avoid the Alaska Range.   I don’t have enough of the facts  known to the  race organizers  at the time  they made their decision to second guess.  As  one of the people who has made similar decisions for the Kuskokwim 300  for 35 years,  I know such issues are hard to deal with.   It is not a simple as looking for  the best available trail.  There wasn’t going to be unanimous support for either  starting spot this year.

I do know that after the decision was made the weather didn’t  really cooperate.  Warm temperatures race week surely made the trail worse than it had been.  And for many racers the location of the main area of concern moved from one side of the Alaska range to the  other as race day approached.  But one question  still lingers in my mind: knowing full well  the conditions  ahead, why do so many teams still drive such tiny lightweight sleds during the first part of the race?

Because  racers can send out replacement sleds, why not  have a sturdy sled for the tough going and more of a  racer for the rest of the trail?   When Andy  Angstman ran the race in the low snow year of 2007, he used an all aluminum sled  built like a small tank. Such a device was designed to be more or less unbreakable, and  would have been a good choice for this year.  Not only are such sleds harder to break, they provide the racer more protection from obstacles in tough going.

Meanwhile, the race goes on but with a number of folks moving past  Takotna for  their 24 hour  rest, including John Baker.  That makes analysis very difficult.   It will stay that way for  another couple of days as we see how teams fare in their   first big runs after their break.  Naming a leader right now would be difficult, but two guys driving fast teams last night were Jeff King  and Robert Sorlie.   Those fast speeds were recorded during the run from  Nikolai to McGrath, at a time when long runs and short rests  would have made the dogs somewhat weary. It’s a long way to the finish, but both of those teams should be among the top few  at  Nome.

Tonight, as promised, a report on Takotna hospitality.

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