Sunday, March 9, 2014

Two Team Race

This morning I suggested it might be a two team race by tonight, and  it looks like it is.  King and Zirkle left  Koyuk together  and no one gave chase until they were well down the trail.  Buser finally  followed, but he was three hours and 24 miles behind them and has been moving slower for some time.  Lindner  had a slow run across the bay, and he is still in   Koyuk, with little chance to catch either team.   The two Seaveys  have been moving fast, but apparently  figure they can’t keep it up without a decent rest.   Either Seavey could try to bolt through  Elim and cut the gap, but  that is looking like a long shot now.  Dallas  is now 26 miles behind King leaving  Koyuk.

If the two front runners  are the contenders, King would seem to have  the edge on speed.  He went out  one minute ahead of Zirkle  and that lead has now stretched to almost three miles.  He still has a long  way to go, but don’t bet against him at this point.  Look for a finish late Monday or early Tuesday in record time.

John Baker has moved up a bit.  He told Andy  Angstman at Unalakleet that the team is performing better recently.  He arrived in Shaktoolik in 15th place, but is now bumping  into teams  that have shown more speed   throughout the race so moving up will be difficult.  His average moving speed of 7.2 mph for the entire race  is a full  mile per hour slower than Pete  Kaiser who is also in Shaktoolik. Baker has   often beaten faster teams but it takes long tough runs to do so.  Katherine Keith left Kaltag in 29th place this evening.  The Iditarod pays  30 places.

Tomorrow morning the front runners will be resting in White  Mountain so I will diverge a bit with some stories about the  Father of the Iditarod, Joe Redington.  Feedback from readers suggests  that  there is plenty of analysis to be found elsewhere  but old  time dog race stories  are harder to find. I have a pretty good supply.

One final note, someone inquired about tracker fever, the  new disease mentioned this morning common among race fans.   It is clearly  a virus,  in fact it’s a computer virus.

Nome is a Long Ways Away

The run across the ice to  Koyuk  shows  Aily Zirkle  still in the lead, but a closer look shows  Jeff King moving faster in second place.  Right now,  he seems to  have the edge, but   Nome is  a long ways away.  Martin Buser and Sonny  Lindner are about  10-12  miles behind, and their speed  is a  bit off the pace of the front two.  The fastest moving team in sight is Dallas Seavey, about 20 miles behind  Zirkle and still not out of it.  His mad dash of the last 24 hours has put him back in the discussion, but it remains to be seen how much  dash he has  left.

A speedy run from  Kaltag has moved  Pete Kaiser  up in the standings.   His  9 hour run put  him  in 15th place, just ahead of  John Baker who did the portage in 12 ½ hours.    Richie Diehl moved up to 18th place, passing  Mike Williams Jr who now sits in 23rd place, not yet in Unalakleet. Katherine Keith is in 29th, also on the portage.  Meanwhile at the back of the pack rookie Elliot Anderson  has not yet reached  Ruby.

Yesterday’s  discussion of early race  communication brought back memories of how fans used to follow the race.  In early races,  Iditarod headquarters had a phone bank of volunteers  who had a list  of info to dispense to callers. Of course that was a long distance call from rural  Alaska, so time was at a premium  and some volunteers  were slow on the draw.  One tactic that worked was to claim to be from the media, which  of course produced immediate results.  I often called in as Scott Simpson from the New York Times and  people really responded.   Occasionally  a call to a  checkpoint would find a capable observer to describe the scene.  In some villages I had reliable buddies who would  have all the important news when  I called.

Later,  the fax machine became important.  I convinced  headquarters that I needed regular faxes of the standings, so they put me on their every hour list.  Bethel folks would stop by at all hours for an up date, and when I went to gatherings I would bring along the most recent  report and  tack it on the wall.  The internet changed all of that, and for many years most people had instant access to the latest standings, which at the time seemed light years ahead of the early races.  But the advent of the tracker  has completely changed the life of  the fan.  Now instead of  not enough information, we have too much.  I know I am not the only  person who spends way too much time  receiving race info on the computer.  Tracker fever might be a new medical condition.

Watch  for major moves at Koyuk.  Teams with time to make up often try to  do it there.  By late tonight, we  might be able to reduce our  contender list to two.