Friday, March 7, 2014

Jockeying for Position

Today’s events on the trail confirm most of what was  conjectured here last night.   Martin Buser held the lead for much of  the day, and was first into Nulato.  Next up was  Sonny Lindner, who was the fastest moving team coming down the Yukon after his long rest in Ruby.  The third team into Nulato was Aily Zirkle, and moving well.     Jeff King was  traveling fourth, and  that is a bit of a surprise coming after his long rest in Ruby.  His speed didn't match Lindner’s, and  he also stopped  for a rest in Galena, which  Lindner did not.  The fifth team, in a bit of surprise, was Nic Petit.  He has moved up mainly on the strength  of great speed, which he has shown  in the past few runs.

Not much can be drawn from this information.  Not all teams have  completed  their  mandatory 8 hour rest, and thus equal comparisons can’t be made.  Recent history tells me that the run to Unalakleet is where the elite teams emerge,  and today’s runs were jockeying for position to make a strong run to the coast.

John  Baker  at this writing sits in 13th place,  in Galena with a bunch of other teams that are just off the pace of  the leaders.  Baker  has yet to complete his  8 hour rest.   Katherine Keith is  in 27th place, third among the rookies, at Ruby.

Other teams of interest to many folks in rural Alaska should be mentioned.  Aaron Burmeister with Nome roots  has struggled along with a gimpy knee and has  stayed with the leaders fairly well.  He is in ninth place, in Galena, and has completed  his 8 hour rest.  His speed has slipped a bit, but Aaron is a gritty racer and will  have a good shot for the top ten.

Mike Williams Jr  is in 20th place with 9 dogs on his way to Ruby.  Pete  Kaiser and Richie Diehl are 22nd and 23rd, running in lock step on the way  to Galena as well.   Kaiser,  a  Bethel guy like me,  has a fairly young team and  expected his team  might not be ready to match his best finish of 5th this year.  Diehl is running his second race, and  has moved up significantly from last year when he finished 36th.

Morning Update

Overnight movement has not changed  my view of  how this race is shaping up.  Zirkle went further down the Yukon than I expected, to  Galena, but she  will need a long rest there,  and  Buser  left Ruby ahead of all the teams  that are taking their rest in Ruby. Next out was Burmeister, who also passed through Ruby without  resting.  Sorlie  followed him,  done with his mandatory  8 hour rest and moving well.  As mentioned  a couple of days ago here,   he  is emerging as the team to watch.  King and Lindner will complete   their 24 hour rests this morning and be on their  way,   with plenty of rest for dogs  and drivers,  to give chase.  How those teams  respond to their late  24 rest will  determine if they are  candidates for the top spot.

John Baker is near Ruby at this time,  and Katherine Keith left Cripple,  running a few  hours behind the  leading rookie,  after taking a long rest.

One item of interest  this morning is the reported extra half hour Robert Sorlie took at Ruby.  Taking more than the mandatory  eight hours is rare for the front runners,  and the reason for that delay  will emerge during the day I’m sure.  He might have slept late.

Two teams  who  had fast runs into Ruby are Petit and Redington.    Petit has been hanging around near the front of the pack much of the race, and one big run could put him in solid contention to win it all.  Redington  is a bit back of the front, but he also can’t be overlooked.