It’s been a nice afternoon on the Yukon, but Teams are probably complaining a bit about the warm weather.
Pete and the Team left Ruby this afternoon after an exactly 4 hour rest break. Several other Teams took their 8 hour layover, but Pete, Richie, and others decided to head on downriver and reserve their 8 hour for later on down the trail. I’d bet that Pete will take his 8 in Kaltag before he heads out over the portage to Unalakleet. That has been his traditional spot.
Jessie Royer is still leading the pack, but it appears that Brent Sass is narrowing her lead little by little.
Pete is showing in 6th position, but Waerner and Burmeister are not too far behind him and they both have taken their 8 hour in Ruby.
This morning there was a Winter Watch with Blizzard conditions showing, but I am thinking that Mushers will just miss it as they head southwest this evening.
It appears to be a slow trail up to Ruby this morning. Where Teams were making pretty good time into Cripple, speeds dropped off dramatically after they left the checkpoint. Looking at past races, the times of Teams into Ruby is pretty consistent with previous races and I figure that this section of the Iditarod Trail is always a little slower. Lots of snow and it’s not a traditional transportation route so the trail is most likely a little softer than those that are packed down after months of snowmachine traffic. Even Cripple has quite a bit of traffic as the Iditarod preps to setup the Checkpoint.
What I am seeing in terms of trail times is consistent with what happened yesterday. Brent Sass made the run up to Ruby in 9:28. Thomas Waerner took 10:32 to make the same run. But who is the faster Team? Waerner by about 10 or so minutes because Waerner took an 1 hour 10 minute break on the trail to snack and water his Team.
Pete and Team Kaiser are doing a good job of keeping rest in the tank, so to speak. He will have a good trail time as well as he split the run into two runs with a 2 hour 30 minute break. Pete is looking “big picture” I’m sure and keeping in mind that there are over 500 miles to go to the Finish Line. A Team with “rest in the tank” will have more power down the stretch. He also will always do what is best for the Team. Sometimes they need a little more rest. It is all about the Team and what they need to keep them happy and barking! I was so happy to see them come into Cripple yesterday. What a fun group!
I was just thinking about something that Pete said in Takotna. “I feel like a kindergarten teacher.” My mom was a Kindergarten teacher for over 20 years and she would talk about certain years classes and how they were so fun and others, well not so fun. I would imagine that Dog Teams are pretty much the same and Pete has said that before. From year to year the mix of personalities in the Team, from a spunky Leader like Frieda to a to a goofball like Bjork must make each year just a bit different as they all work together to make it to the Finish Line. (Team Photos Today for sure.)
Weather this morning is good with Northeast winds at 12 and temperature at 5 degrees. This is the last of it though as a Winter Storm warning has been issued for the rest of the day. It’s going to get snowy folks! Rest in the tank is really going to be useful through the weekend. The Portage into Unalakleet could be really challenging…
…WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 AM
* WHAT…Heavy snow and blowing snow expected. Travel will be very
difficult to impossible. Total snow accumulations of 5 to 10
inches, with localized amounts up to 14 inches, are expected.
* WHERE…Lower Koyukuk and Middle Yukon Valleys.
* WHEN…Midnight to 6 AM Sunday.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Winds gusting as high as 20 mph will cause
areas of blowing and drifting snow. Heaviest snow north of
Kaltag to Ruby.
Here is the Aliy cam into Ruby giving an idea about what Pete is seeing this morning.
As we contemplate life with the Corona virus, Mushers on the trail still are competing on the trail to Nome. I’m sure the word has got to checkpoints and then to mushers about all of the cancellations and all of the apprehension that this is causing.
It’s got to be a little disconcerting to leave a checkpoint and think about all of that all alone on the trail. And then the sound of the trail brings them back to the task at hand. This is their element and no matter how cold or wet or challenging the trail and condition, and there is no place they would rather be at this moment than out on the Iditarod Trail.
Ron was closer than I on Pete’s rest strategy. Team Kaiser were on break for almost exactly 4 hours.
Pete left in 8th position, just after Brent Sass who is just coming off of his 24 hour layover. 8th position is a good spot to be at this point in the race. After all of the trouble getting to Takotna and with a Team now with spunk in their eyes, Pete knows the challenge ahead. Some Teams may falter and others may have their own challenges that may allow him to move up the leaderboard.
Jessie Royer and Aaron Burmeister didn’t take a break in Cripple and moved North to camp out instead. The top 8 musher group this year is really a good group of Teams that haven’t been in the mix together before. This is really awesome to see. The old-timers King, Seavey, Buser, and Mackey aren’t in the mix. This should be super fun to watch. Pete and Joar have won the race, Sass and Royer have almost been there. And then there is the young guys Diehl, Redington, Marrs, and Waerner. Awesome! No offense at all to the older group, but it is very cool to see these Teams that have been working so hard for so many years at the front of the race.
Next stop Ruby- Home of the largest nugget ever found in Alaska (Over 20 lbs) and the second largest ever found in the western hemisphere. It was found in 1998 and is named the Alaska Centennial Nugget as it was found 100 years after the 1898 Klondike gold rush (That brought Pete’s Great Great Grandfather to Alaska)
Weather for tonight: I know forecasted last night was going to be the last of the cold, but tonight is really it. Cloudy skies with light winds and temperatures just below zero are forecasted for tonight. Tomorrow snow will be in the forecast and temperatures will rise close to above freezing. This isn’t welcome news for Mushers as they like a good cold fast trail. But it is what it is!
This section of the race is always a little slow for the Tracker Fan. After a long 24 hour break in which nothing happens, it is followed by a long day on the trail where we don’t even see our Team until this evening here.
Pete arrived into Cripple, the halfway point in the race, with a Team that looked real nice. Barking a bit and a bit of spark in their step, it was a very encouraging sight. After hours and hours on the runners, Pete checked in and went right to work. The Team has the work between checkpoints and it is up to Pete to jump to and get straw down, some food and water, and start massaging those muscles. He’s all business and watching him work I can see why he likes to break away from the checkpoints. A question here or there is a distraction to the task at hand.
Just before the Checkpoint
Bag Check in Cripple
Pete in Takotna Yesterday
It isn’t hard work, but in a sleep deprived state, each detail by rote must be attended to accurately. Unbale the straw and get it to each dog. Back to the sled and get out the cooker and all the fixins. Open the food bag and get out all the goodies that he packed seemingly so long ago.
I stopped by one year to watch the food packing operation and I made a mistake… I asked a question. I quickly realized that I was a distraction and left after a few quick shots. Pete is a meticulous planner and one question at the wrong time throws him off. Those bags have to be perfect when he opens them out in the wilderness. He has checklists and a computer setup that has tracked each years’ packing. Each of the bags is filled with food for the dogs, extra supplies and of course Pete food as well. One year, at a Fairbanks restart, Pete asked me, “Hey, can you go grab a couple of pizza’s?” “Of course, what do you want on them?”I asked. “Pepperoni- Large” It was an odd request the night before the restart and we had just ate at a restuarant. I grabbed the pizza and made it back to Pete who gave them to Bethany and popped them into ziplock bags. “Trail food” he said, smiling.
It takes a bit for the cooker to get underway. It is a stove that uses HEET (Isopropyl Alcohol) to warm up dog food and water. Pop a ziplocked pizza in the water and instant yummy Pete dinner as well. Over the years he has had many different trail foods. Burritos have been a favorite. Dry Fish (Salmon Jerky) are also staples. This year he’s traveling with Bethel’s own Baba’s pizza, Doug Dorland’s famous homemade pizza, and some home cooked vacuum sealed Moose Burritos from his Mom, Janet.
The dogs eat good food as well. Some years he has Sheefish brought in from Kotzebue. The dogs love it and it’s full of great fat and protein. They also eat chicken, lamb, and other proteins mixed with Red Paw kibble sponsored by Drew’s Foundation. Each year Paul shows up with a trailer of dog food or a nice check to cover it. Thanks Paul!
Pete’s Dad, Ron is predicting 4-5 hours here. I’m not so sure. He just did a 6 hour run into Cripple from his last camping spot. The dogs will need a good recovery break and some food. But if he gets back into his 6/3 schedule, he may blast off a little earlier.
Check out this video we made in 2018 about family. It shows the family preparing Pete’s trail meals for the trail. Little Aylee was a bit younger then, but Pete elaborates on how much the family is part of the whole program.
Please see the below statement from the Iditarod Trail Committee regarding COVID-19:
In consultation with the chief medical officer for the State of Alaska and recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization in response to COVID-19, the Iditarod has decided to postpone both the Meet the Mushers event on March 21 and its Awards Banquet on March 22 in Nome. This decision was made in the best interest of public health. All other elements of the race are continuing as planned; however, they will be limited to essential race personnel.
The Iditarod will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed and encourages everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.
IN RESPONSE TO PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS OVER THE COVID 19 Virus:
The Nome Common Council decided in an emergency meeting today to close city facilities:
Old St. Joe’s
Richard Foster Building (including Museum and Library)
The sSwimming Pool
Nome Public Schools for After-school activities
The Visitor Center
Limit access to the Mini Convention Center as staff sees fit.
This means: there won’t be the Lonnie O’Connor Basketball Tournament. The Iditarod banquet and Musher’s Meet and Greet is postponed; Iditarod Arts and Crafts Fair is canceled. Council member Brown said the public is encouraged to NOT COME to Nome. Iditarod dog teams will still arrive and will be welcomed to Nome. #Iditarod,#COVID-19, #Nome, #CityofNome, #LonnieO’ConnorBasketballTournament
After their good break in Takotna, Pete and the Team left their little Vacay for the trail to Cripple Creek and the halfway point in the 2020 Iditarod.
Pete said yesterday that he felt a little like a kindergarten teacher dealing with the Team, but after a break and leaving another “problem child” in Takotna, the Team looks to be back in focus. Leaving with 11 in the Team might seem a little light in terms of numbers, but the Kuskokwim 300 Starts with 12, so I’m not worried at all. He will have to be a little more careful and keep a little closer track of the remaining dogs, but one “problem child” can cause all kinds of ruckus and it’s best to just set them aside for this race.
Looking at Pete’s trail time is very encouraging. Team Kaiser was 2nd fastest to Ophir and tied with the fastest to their halfway rest stop. It looks like several Teams are breaking the Takotna to Cripple run into two runs. Pete ran 5 hours 30 minutes to the spot where Jessie Royer and Richie Diehl were already camped out. Richie is having a fantastic race! With all the hoopla at the front and Cripple, those Teams are now on their 24 hour layover and realistically Jessie and Richie are leading the race at this point.
Pete is just out of the lead pack. Royer, Diehl, Burmeister, Waerner, Ulsom, and Redington are about two hours ahead.
Consider, though, that we are still almost 600 miles from Nome. A half a mile difference in trail speed will pay out over those miles. Also consider that Teams will take another 20 or so breaks between this point and the finish if not more. A 5 minute difference in rest can add up to a huge amount over that span. It is way early folks, so don’t count anyone out. I am looking at Mitch Seavey and Brent Sass as well as Wade Marrs and Matt Failor. All Teams are still in it.
I’m starting to get into Statistics mode. That’s all we really have right now as Teams run over the longest Checkpoint to Checkpoint stretch in the race. The 100 mile run is the longest in either the Southern or Northern route.
In terms of Statistics take a look at the improvement of Team Kaiser after the break. The pink is trail speed after the 24 and the dark blue is before. About a 2mph improvement. Considering Teams run in the 7-9mph range, that’s a dramatic improvement.
Also take a look at trail times into the camp spot and through Ophir. Pete and Ryan Redington are very similar in speeds and are really having great post layover performance from their Teams.
Realistically, this group are the true leaders of the race. Brent Sass may have gotten to Cripple first, but his trail times are about 40 minutes slower AND he took a 5 hour break in Ophir.
Here’s Pete leaving Takotna and a great discussion by Greg Heister and Bruce Lee in Cripple. Bruce describes the 24 and eating and trail condition. Check it out!
It’s a great day on the Iditarod Trail! Stay tuned as there is much more to come!
Next stop on the trail, Ophir. Here’s a few photos from the historic gold mining area.
Don’s Cabin – Ophir
Takotna at night
Takotna resting Team
I’ll have to admit it was a pleasant break from the tracker and a little time spent with the grandkids.
I’m sure Pete and the Team got a great recharge as well and are getting the last bits of shuteye before returning to the trail.
The plan for tonight is to move on up the trail to Ophir and then to Cripple Creek which is the halfway point in the race. From that point it is North to the Yukon and the town of Ruby.
Weather is sure to be a factor for the latter part of the race and temperatures are going to rise. Tonight it is pretty chilly again with McGrath showing -15F at this hour with calm winds. Teams are resting in Ophir, and other Teams have put their stake on the long run into Cripple. Mitch Seavey has done this several times, so it’s not a bad strategy, but it does require a good solid team to run the extra 100 miles before a 24 hour layover.