Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Iditarod 2012: And Then There Were Three

The 2012 Iditarod will be decided today, we just don't know who will claim victory in Nome just yet. The frontrunners have arrived in White Mountain, which is just two checkpoints away from the finish and at the moment they are serving out a final mandatory 8 hour rest before they begin the final run to the end.

As I write this, Dallas Seavey is in first place with a one hour and 11 minute lead over Aliy Zirkle. Racing in third place is Ramey Smyth who is another 52 minutes back. Aaron Burmeister is the only other musher to reach White Mountain at this point and Peter Kaiser is currently holding down the fifth position on his way into the CP.

Once they have completed their mandatory rest, the teams will head back out onto the trail. That means Dallas will maintain his lead as they resume the race, but what happens after that is what will ultimately decide the outcome. The leg from White Mountain to Safety, the penultimate checkpoint, will be a challenging 55 miles in length and from there it will be just 22 miles to Nome.

The wildcard in the top three is Ramey, who struggled at the mid-point of this race but has come back very strong now. Smyth has bolted past a number of very good teams and is now in position to contend for the win, something that seemed unthinkable just a few days ago.

Now it all comes down to who has the fresher dogs and sets the right pace. Nome is close but there are still many miles to go until these teams are done. Trail tactics can still play a role in who will come out on top. No matter who wins however, it is going to be an exciting finish.

The winner should arrive in Nome sometime early evening today.

For more Iditarod coverage be sure to check-out the Iditablog.

2 comments:

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Unknown said...

Dallas Seavey learned how to treat sled dogs from his father, Mitch. That's why people wonder if Dallas uses the same cruel techniques on his dogs. In his book Lead Follow of Get Out of the Way, Mitch wrote:

From page 86:

"Call his name and a command, like 'hike up.' When he doesn't respond, stop, go up to the dog, pull back on his tug line and with a pre-selected willow stick about 1/2 inch in diameter and three feet long, give him a good whack on the butt as you repeat the command. You have to whack him good, too."

From page 108:

"Distance racing does have its negative moments (gasp!); time when Fluffy would rather not do what I want him to do, like pull the dang sled.

'Fluffy, hike up!'

Fluffy thinks, 'No thanks. Actually I'm a little tired here, and pulling would be a negative experience so I don't think I would like to pull the sled. No, I definitely don't want to pull the sled right now.'

'Fluffy, quit-your-screwing-around-you-miserable-excuse-of-a-fur-covered-garbage-disposal-before-I-whack-your-worthless-hiney-so-hard-you-will-need-two-stamps-to-send-back-a-postcard.'

Collect yourself a stick, give the verbal command 'hike up;' stop the sled, pull back on Fluggy's tug line, and whack Fluffy's butt."

From page 159:

"You also need to trim the hair on the bottom of the dogs' feet to prevent ice balls from forming and clinging to the hair. You can use a scissors or an electric clipper to trim it even with the pads. Don't take it out from between the toes though, because dogs without any hair between their pads can form big ice balls in there when running barefoot in the snow.

After you've trimmed the hair you need to 'candle' their feet, or singe the ends of the hair that you trimmed. This make snow even less likely to collect in the foot hair.

Notice the term is 'candle' the feet. My boys are always looking for faster ways to do their chores. I suppose that is why they started using a propane torch to 'candle' dogs' feet. That in turn explains why, upon entering the shop one winter's day, I observed the back half of my best leader apparently going up in flames. This gives a whole new meaning to the term, 'Put the dog out, son!"