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.