I can now name my top three for the 2015 Iditarod, subject to change as always.
Aaron Burmeister, Aliy Zirkle and Dallas Seavey appear to have the best positions right now, and of those three, Dallas appears to have an edge. That edge is based on greater speed, but speed does not always prevail in the Iditarod. Aaron and Aliy have shown the ability to stay on the trail for long stretches, while Dallas has preferred shorter runs with more frequent stops. That strategy tends to keep a team’s speed up, while the long run strategy slows a team down a bit. But when the end is near, most of the contending teams cut their rests and stay on the trail longer. Sometimes that has the effect of slowing the faster team dramatically, once they have become accustomed to the more frequent rests. If that were to happen here, any of the top three could win. If the speeds remain constant, Dallas could win handily, as he is traveling about a mile an hour faster than the others.
Jeff King and Mitch Seavey have faltered a bit, and thus don’t make the cut for top three at this time. Both had what seemed to be un-planned stops today in the long run from Kaltag to Unalakleet. The gang of three coming up from behind, Jesse Royer, Joar Ulsom and Pete Kaiser are well positioned to pass any of the top five who falter, and these two veterans appear to be well within reach at this time.
The cold weather is getting a lot of attention. Many are suggesting it has been the coldest Iditarod ever. If so, it has surpassed some awfully cold years. The pictures of racers show a lot of weariness, and not an abundance of smiles when teams reach a checkpoint. Now the weather is warming up, but with high winds. It was gusting to 40 in Unalakleet today, and the next stretch of trail is very difficult to cover in high winds. The race is far from over.
Shameless plugs for a dog race seem to appropriate for a dog race commentator, so here goes. Aaron Burmeister was the successful bidder on an auction item at the Kuskokwim 300 race banquet this year, winning a big batch of home made burritos donated by Ben Kuntz and Sarah Angstman (Iditarod Musher Special- Shrink Wrapped of course). He packed them as his trail food, and soon after arriving in Unalakleet first today, he announced the burritos were great, and it was all he was eating thus far. Next year the bid will start higher.