So far the move by Martin Buser at the beginning of the race has paid off. When we concluded the last blog I had about improving the way for the mushers to improve their race, I thought that efficiencies in the early part of the race was one area to improve but I did not have a run to Rohn with minimal rest in mind. I watched John Baker in the early part of the race to look for efficiencies and I agreed with everything he had done given the circumstances he was in (warm weather with dogs that have trained all year in very cold weather). That said, I am very happy with his current situation given the warm weather so far in the Iditarod. Mind you the weather is an anomaly given the cold February we had faced.
Another note on Martin Buser’s lead. Earlier this year Martin participated in the Putty Johnson 450 Memorial & I observed his second team in action near Old Woman. I noted that the team was trotting with similar movement to the Clydesdales we see on television. The dogs were trotting in a team rhythm and their postures were upright (similar postures seen by marathon runners). There was only one other time I had seen this before and that was watching John Baker’s two running teams in the 2009 Kobuk 440. I commented to Martin that the team’s gait was similar to how John’s teams trot and asked him if he was changing his style of speed & long rests to trotting long distance. His reply was that he is sticking to using speed and sticking to how he always runs the race. However in his reply, I sensed a change of direction in his approach to the Iditarod never knowing that he would run to Rohn- what a stroke of genius.
If you ever watch teams of the top contenders like John Baker running during late stages of the Iditarod, you are missing out on watching a thing of beauty. Another note worth mentioning in this blog is that the dog food destined for Eagle Island did leave Unalakleet on Friday via Ryan Air Transport to Kaltag. There should be some bags at Eagle Island. Related to late food drops, the weather has been very moist with visibility limited for the Iditarod air force to do their job- its been a logistical challenge.
Finally, the weather on the coast should be a non-factor to the mushers as its predicted for low winds, and mid teens to twenties. However there is predicted to be snow today in the Portage (energy expended- more dog food to carry) but that has been decreased from 4 inches to one-two inches. The challenge of the Iditarod has so many variables, I am surprised these professional mushers can adapt.
Sam Towarak, retired school teacher, dog musher, and sports commentator, lives in Unalakleet, Alaska.