Last day on the Trail – Into Elim

Good Morning Race Fans!

24 hours from now we will be either at the Finish Line or getting ready to head that way!

Pete and the Team made good time down the trail from Koyuk last night and arrived into Elim this morning just in time for breakfast at 8:12am with 10 dogs in harness. After leaving Koyuk at 1:46am, he traveled with the same group of Teams (Redington, Zirkle, and Phillips) with about the same time differential. Michelle Phillips is just on his heels and the Top 10 is at stake, but at this point, as Pete said in his interview, it’s just what the dogs can handle and get to the checkpoints safely. She arrived only 11 minutes behind Team Kaiser, so the race is truly on!

The weather has just been outstanding. This morning Teams were treated to a full moon and light winds. Much different from some trails in the past.

I am really curious whether Pete will elect to rest or water and go in Elim. I looked in his archive for past experience and it is a mix of rest or go. It really depends on the Team, and so we will wait and watch.

The monkey wrench in all the calculations is Paul Gebhardt, who left just after Pete and then rested just up the trail. I can’t help wondering if he is thinking to go through Elim. He is currently just ahead of Richie, who is traveling in 12 position. He could be thinking of gaining a position by skipping Elim, knowing that an 8 hour break is waiting in White Mountain.

So another day of racing is ahead of us, Race Fans, and then it will be a night of hitting the REFRESH button until it’s all over.

We have to mention that this Team of Mitch Seavey is truly something amazing. His times are record setting on virtually all of the Checkpoints and he truly has to be proud of that Team he is managing. Mitch is out of White Mountain, so a Finish looks to be in the afternoon for the 2017 Champion. Good Job Mitch!

For us, it is actually quite a bit more exciting as, once again, Pete is in a shootout for position. Stay Tuned!

Go Team Kaiser!

They Don’t Call It a Race for Nothing – Into Koyuk

Pete and the Team are into Koyuk at 9:42pm with 10 dogs. They are surrounded with very good, fast Teams and at this point, it is too close to call.

In front of Pete is Aliy Zirkle and Ray Redington. Ray is having the race of his career with a very fast Team. Aliy isn’t having so much luck, but still is moving well. Ray is leading Aliy by almost an hour and Pete picked up 23 minutes on her on the run in from Shaktoolik and trails her by an hour.

However, there are a full string of strong Teams following Pete very closely– Michelle Phillips, who made up 11 minutes on Pete is only 23 minutes behind him.

Following Phillips is a whole slew of Teams including John Baker.

It’s going to be strategy, gamesmanship, and speed; no one better look the other way!

This harkens back to the Lance Mackey – Jeff King battle so many years ago when Lance went out to “check his dogs” and left his jacket hanging on the door, but then took off with his dog team, leaving Jeff holding the bag.

It’s going to be an exciting finish to this year’s race. Ron and I were doing some calculating Pete’s finish and I am thinking near to 6am on Wednesday morning.

Stay Tuned!

It’s ALL about Caring for the Team!

Afternoon in Shaktoolik.

After a long run, a good break in Shaktoolik is now coming to a close. Ray Redington and Aliy Zirkle took about 3hours 30 minutes, while Pete gave the Team a full 4 hours.

In the back of his mind has to be the 2015 Race, where in a blizzard they lost the trail near Shaktoolik, the Team’s confidence was impacted and once in Koyuk, Pete had no recourse but to just wait it out for many hours as Team after Team passed him. It was a brutal experience for both Pete and the Team, and the Finish was a huge accomplishment. The Team was so impacted that after White Mountain, in another blizzard, fellow musher Kelly Maxiner led Pete and the Team through and helped them make it to the Finish line. That 2015 Race, I think, was easily the toughest mentally.

Read “We can’t go anywhere.” and “Exciting Battle to the Finish” (What the ADN article missed was that when both mushers got to the ledge, Kelly offered to Pete to lead him through)

Having that experience tempers a bit what you might want to do, and a few extra minutes definitely won’t hurt a bit.

The trail ahead is another annual mental battle. Once the Teams leave the beach and head over to the frozen ice pack, Koyuk is a mirage in the distance that seems larger that it truly is. Hours go by with it hanging there and a musher just knows they must be almost there. But it isn’t and it is just miles and miles of miles.

It’s a perfect time to do it though as there will be a gentle breeze that will keep the dogs cool and the views should be very dramatic.

Expect a 5 hour run into Koyuk, so Pete should arrive just about dinner time!

From Iditarod .com

There is only one thing to say about this leg—bleak, flat, and deadly monotonous. Locals say the actual distance is under 50 miles, but it always seems like a hundred. There is not so much as a shrub on this stretch, most of which is over the sea ice of Norton Bay. Plan on five to nine hours for the crossing, more if the wind is blowing hard.

The trail runs almost due north from Shaktoolik, overland across very low rolling terrain for about nine miles to Reindeer Cove, then across the ice for five miles to Island Point, then back onto the ice immediately for the last 45 miles to Koyuk. There are no hills.

The trail is also the main snowmachine trail to Koyuk and is well used. However, winds can wipe it smooth in hours. It is well marked with Iditarod trail stakes, spruce boughs, or both. The trail can range from a groomed speedway to rough ice to drifted snow to glare ice. The wind is usually blowing, and almost always right in your face. Days with less than 20 or 30 mph breezes are uncommon.

On a historical note, the original Iditarod Trail didn’t go to Koyuk. It went by Shaktoolik and continued south of Elim to Golovin, skirting much closer to the open water than the race trail does today. During the 1925 Serum Run, Leonhard Seppala drove his dogs (behind his leader, Togo) nonstop from Nome toward Unalakleet and Kaltag, thinking he was going to pick up the serum somewhere on the Yukon River.

He unexpectedly met Henry Ivanoff carrying the vaccine on the ice just offshore of Shaktoolik. Seppala loaded up the serum and immediately started back without even resting his dogs. He went almost directly across the mouth of Norton Bay to Golovin, where he passed the life-saving package to Gunnar Kaasen and his legendary leader, Balto (who, by the way, actually belonged to Seppala).

Seppala’s route from Shaktoolik to Golovin was extremely dangerous and difficult, made worse by high winds and 40-below temperatures and the ever- present threat of open water and moving ice. Seppala was already widely regarded as the territory’s best musher, and his part of the serum run was certainly the hardest of any of the 20 mushers who participated. Togo worked so hard on the Serum Run he injured himself and never raced again.

Sounds like fun- I jest! Go Team Kaiser!

Monday Morning in Shaktoolik

Almost exactly 7 days from when this grand journey began in sub-zero temperatures, Pete and the Team have arrived into Shaktoolik. 758 trail miles under their belt and 221 miles until the burled arches of the Finish Line in Nome.

Team Kaiser checked in at 11:23am with 11 dogs.

They have good speed into the checkpoint, but expect a bit of a break here before heading out over Norton Bay towards Koyuk.

Reports from the trail are that this is a unique experience for most Teams running through Shaktoolik, where it usually is pretty windy. This morning the winds are very light and a brilliant morning is underway.

Pete is still holding in 9th position, while Ray Redington has made some time on Aliy Zirkle who slowed over the trail from Unalakleet. This may bode well for Pete and the Team as well because they were gaining as well. In 221 miles a great deal can happen, as we have seen before.

Really, the race is to White Mountain and the mandatory 8 hour break that is required there. It will really depend on what position the Team checks in at that checkpoint as to how this will play out. White Mountain is 144 miles down the trail. Three runs and done.

Get a good break Team Kaiser! The Race is On!!

 

 

 

More from Unalakleet – Lee Ryan’s Photos and Video

From Lee Ryan in Unalakleet-
The Unalakleet checkpoint was lively between 4:30 and 5:30 this morning! Richie led a pack of 8 into UNK, most all opting for rest while Pete blew through after a quick watering of his team and topping off his hydro flask’s in the hospitality suite! Both Pete and Richie looked lively, the dogs were all looking good and the reflection of the moon on the snow made the cool air bright. Listening to some of the musher talk in the checkpoint indicated there’s quite a few teams fighting off a bug, but the dogs in this middle of the night group were all eating and drinking well.

No Time for Breakfast – The Moon is Calling

A beautiful Full Moon and Exciting Action on the Trail!

Good Morning Race Fans! The final stretch of the 2017 Iditarod Trail Race is here and you can feel the excitement! This is my favorite part of the Race! For 800 miles the Teams pretty much are in travel mode. Rest strategy and maintaining the dogs is key to get to the coast. Once a Team reaches Unalakleet, the party is on!

As expected, Pete and the Team rested before Unalakleet to make Shaktoolik the goal for this morning. They arrived at 5:31am this morning and were back on the trail at 5:45am. The Team is now 11 dogs, perfect for a run around the coastal trail to Nome. The Kuskokwim 300 starts its 300 mile race with 12 dogs and with 261 miles to go this Team size very advantageous. The competition is so tight that every single move a Musher makes in a checkpoint or rest stop is time sensitive. Having less dogs to tend makes it faster for the Musher. Also consider that these Mushers are pretty tired and lessening the workload is a huge issue for them.

The Top 10 is going to be a tough challenge this year and Pete and the Team are sitting right in the middle of the action. Ray Redington seems to have a very fast Team and is moving up the leaderboard nicely. Pete is currently running in 9th position with Aliy Zirkle and Ray just in front of him. Michelle Phillips is also having a great run and is just on Pete’s heals. There is no room for any mistakes as this race for the Top 10 is easily as exciting as for the Win! It looks like Pete has the speed and its really up to the Teams and the Musher as for what happens next as the Trail is nice and the weather isn’t a factor.

Just in from Unalakleet, Lee Ryan sends these photos and a short video of Pete and the Team. “Pete checked in, filled up with coffee and water, watered the dogs and hit the trail to SKK! (Shaktoolik) Perfect morning in PAUN (Unalakleet). Cool, calm, bright from the moon and shooting stars! Richie is in tending to the dogs then up for sourdough and bacon from chefs Middy J and Andy B.” Thanks Lee!

What a great day for a dog race!

The Weather is about as perfect as it can be with calm winds, cool temperatures, and a full moon. With the stillness of the early morning, and a sunrise a couple of hours away, this is sure to be a memory for Pete and the Team they won’t forget!

See Ya in a Few! Go Team Kaiser!

 

The 50 Mile Gambit

And the fog clears… The fog kept Unalakleet under a blanket of white and it cleared in the evening. So does the strategy at play with some Teams this evening. Pete and the Team are party to this new strategy and I’m curious to see how it plays out.

Pete and Richie left Kaltag at nearly the same time, but the two friends have a different game to play when it comes to the Iditarod.

Richie stopped halfway from Kaltag to Unalakleet, while Pete kept moving. He just stopped in the same general location that Mitch Seavey, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, and Jesse Royer. I was wondering why only 20 miles from Unalakleet…

Then I started looking at the mileages and it now makes sense. It’s 50 miles… The magic number is 50.

Pete actually ran 60 miles from Kaltag before he stopped, but after a break, he’ll not stop in Unalakleet. He will make for Shaktoolik, 50 miles from his present resting place. At that point, each of the next legs can be broken down into 50 mile legs all the way to White Mountain and the 8 hour mandatory rest.

Rest to Shaktoolik – 50 Miles
Shaktoolik to Koyuk – 50 Miles
Koyuk to Elim – 50 Miles
Elim to White Mountain – 50 Miles.

It makes sense to keep the legs consistent- The Team should like it and the musher should as well.

Let’s see if my calculations are correct!

Oh! I almost forgot!! A couple of years ago Google actually was in Unalakleet for the Iditarod!!

Click on this Link to be taken to Unalakleet at the Checkpoint (2015) Then click the little Street View Man and drop it near the River and you will be transported to the Iditarod! Very Cool! You need a break from the refresh button anyway 🙂 You can click and hold and look around 3D!

Go Team Kaiser!