Mitch Seavey’s powerful run from Takotna to Cripple has eliminated several teams from consideration for the top spot in this year’s Iditarod, but the race is far from over. Already, Aliy Zirkle has made a statement by blasting through Cripple with a six minute stop, and Seavey followed with less rest than might be expected after his long run. That tells me Seavey is not ready to write off his nearest challengers, and right now that list includes his son Dallas and John Baker, in addition to Zirkle. I am making a second group of King, Mackey, Jonrowe, Lindner, and Ekran, all of whom arrived in cripple four or more hours after Mitch Seavey. History, and a significant amount of guessing, tells me this group of five mushers still is in the running, but the racers not yet in Cripple as of this report, written at 7:45 pm, are long shots.
Since this is John Baker’s web site, let’s talk about his chances. I am reminded that he has made up more than 3 hours on lots of powerful teams after reaching the Yukon many times. I’m not really sure how he does it. His team seems to gather momentum as the race progresses. Knowing him as I do, quite well, I assume he was pleased to see Mitch leave with about 4 ½ hours rest. That amount of rest is a little light after a 100 mile run with minimal stopping. If anything will slow him down, its reduced rest. Baker can thank Zirkle for that favor.
Someone asked me today how Mitch pulled off such a run. Of course I don’t know exactly what happened, but I have been on a few magical long runs myself, and perhaps I can shed some light on how they happen. For those who aren’t aware of ancient history, I once competed in lots of races. I had an excellent bunch of dogs (I still do) but I had mixed results. I was a passionate recreational musher ( I still am). And here is what I remember. Once in a while in a long race, I would leave a checkpoint for a crucial run that would either make or break my race, and after a few minutes the dogs would work out the kinks and it was like someone lit their tails on fire. Every dog’s line would go tight as a banjo string, the leaders would bear down, and we were on our way to an unforgettable run. I remember three such runs of 100 miles or so, and two meant big wins, one time over George Attla and the other over Susan Butcher. The third time I came in second to Jeff King by a few minutes, but in the process we both took seven hours off the Kuskowkim 300 race record. When I say I remember them, I mean they are chiseled into my memory. I can recall moments from those runs like they are still happening. The dogs, the weather, the trail, and the feeling, its all still there.
But I have no idea how those runs happened. I know I had good dogs, and they had good food and training, but then why did the same dogs do so poorly on their next race or the race after that? Maybe the pros of today could answer that question, but I can’t. It might relate to the same situation that exists in basketball when one team hits 60 percent of its shots one night and wins, and hits 30 percent a few days later and loses. It might be how the stars were lined up. Who knows?
Whatever the reason, Mitch Seavey pulled off a run that put him a leg up in the race, and if he wins, he will remember that run for a long time.
Myron Angstman, lawyer, pilot, and dog musher, lives in Bethel, Alaska. Read more about dogs, law suits and rural Alaska gossip by checking http://www.myronangstman.com/