Last night at a little before 11PM, the Last Great Race announced a winner. The 1000 mile dog sled race across Alaska known as Iditarod was won by Mitch Seavey (no relation). This was the second win for Mitch (no relation) who last won in 2004. Mitch (no relation) also became the oldest winner of the race at the ripe old age of 53. Ironically, the youngest winner of the race is his son, Dallas Seavey, who won last year – and thus becoming the first time two members of immediate family won consecutive years (not the first set of immediate family, that would be the three different Mackeys who won a total of 6 times).
From this rookie spectator, the race was crazy interesting. I signed myself up for the insider that let me track the GPS progress including temperatures and elevations and emails whenever someone hit a checkpoint that I cared about. Except for the fact I was way too tired to stay up to see the winner cross the line, I watched it pretty consistently.
It started with a bold move with two teams led by Martin Buser running the first 188 miles without much of a stop, then taking breaks earlier than the traditional places. Then Lance Mackey made the push while Martin was resting to get to the halfway point first, knowing his younger team probably wouldn’t have the legs to go that pace through to the end. Once Martin finished resting he pushed hard to the be the first to the Yukon (600+ miles in and leading to the most brutal part of the race). At that point, the race was a good 30 minutes ahead of record pace, and many thought the race was pretty much over. Meanwhile, many teams were pacing themselves on the first half, some saving dogs, some resting short, some resting long.
The race turned on its ears on the Yukon. Teams faced heavy snow effected by warmer weather, leaving unstable ground. The thing about dog racing is that they don’t clear much of a path for the team. In some cases, stopping may cause the musher to step off into drifts up to their hips, the only savior is to skate along on top of the snow. Except with the warmer weather, the reports were it was like mushing through mashed potatoes. That “30 minutes ahead of the faster ever time” actually became 12 hours behind the fastest time ever. The six hour lead Martin Buser had going into the Yukon was eaten up by the time they left the river a couple hundred miles later. The late front runner was Aliy Zirkle, who’s strategy was to limit her dogs to running a specific time resting for a specific time, and moving like that regardless of where the checkpoints were. It worked for her last year when she came in second, and it appeared to work for her this year. In the end Mitch Seavey (no relation) used a strategy of taking it slow early, resting at traditional locations, and saving the dog’s legs for the flats. He took the lead with over 100 miles to go, Aliy closed the gap at one point in the hills outside of White Mountain to one mile or about 7 minutes; but when things flattened out along the coast towards Nome – the lead just kept growing. In the end Mitch (no relation) won by 23 minutes.
So that ends the dog race for this year. Time to live vicarious through Auggie and race him around the backyard. The next big thing to look forward too is breakup, then spring, then summer.