The Iditarod tracker has more information deep in its pages than anyone should really look for, if they have a real life. I apparently don’t cause I spend a lot of time checking it out. Today’s check reveals a few items of interest. It does not appear that Martin Buser can hold his lead. It is down to about 10 miles now over Aliy Zirkle
and a few more miles over a bunch of other teams. The lead has evaporated on the trail, as the chase teams are moving somewhat faster than Martin. At least one, and perhaps a bunch of teams will pass him in the next day or two.
Who has the best shot at winning right now? There are a number of teams still in the mix. One team that continues to shine is Jake Berkowitz. In addition to having the fastest travel time between the last two checkpoints, the tracker shows that he has his fastest speeds at the end of those runs. Most of the other teams, including speedy Mitch Seavey, slow down a bit at the end of a long run. To check that you need to go to the tracker and click on analytics, and study the graph. Tedious work, but not as tedious as running a dog team for days on end. By the way, faster speeds at the end of a run usually mean the team has greater endurance than one that slows down at the end of a run. And after all, this is a race of endurance. One can assume that as the race draws to a close, the team that still has speed at the end of a long run can remain moving if needed to gain time, while the slowing team might have to stop.
The three teams mentioned above are currently Buser’s main competition, but others are right there as well. The rookie Joar Ulsom is drawing more attention as he goes, and is certainly a factor. Sonny Lindner is a bit back but moving hard. Jessie Royer has yet to take her eight hour layover but is emerging as a threat and don’t count out Jeff King, who just took his eight hour and has the fastest moving average speed for the whole race.
Trail conditions, weather, and plain old luck will figure in as well. Also, weight of the mushers could be a factor. There is a reason why they use light weight jockeys in horse racing. It allows the horse to move faster. The same applies to dog racing. Anyone who wants to slow their team down on a training run adds 50 pounds to the sled. Using a GPS, you can remove the weight and notice an increase in speed. Obviously the dogs expend less energy pulling a lighter load as well. We don’t know the exact weights of the contenders, but I can tell you what appears obvious from seeing these racers in person. Berkowitz is the heaviest among the front runners, and several racers are substantially lighter. That makes a difference all the time, but more so on uphill portions of the trail, and there are a few of them left. In a close race, that is surely a factor.
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/