Into Nikolai – Strategies Emerge

Five of this year’s Iditarod competitors have been nourished by the waters of the mighty Kuskokwim. The second longest river in Alaska, maybe not as well known as the Yukon, but home and sustenance to those of us who live in Southwest Alaska.

Pete was the first of the group to reach Nikolai in 2nd position. Pete split his run between Rohn and Nikolai into two runs as did Joar Leifseth-Ulsom who arrived 90 minutes in front of Team Kaiser.

Last night we saw Nicolas Petit make a long run into Buffalo Camp where Pete caught him and rested as well.

I have been wondering about Petit’s long run short rest strategy and as he passed through Nikolai, it is apparent that is his plan for now. He began moving at 5:30am this morning which would put him with one break before McGrath or Takotna and possibly his 24.

Many Teams will take a good break here in Nikolai and then make one run into Takotna to take the 24 hour mandatory break. The trail should be outstanding as residents travel between the communities on the same trail. It should be packed down and fast.

Strategy is a gamble in this section of the trail. There are several places to take the long break– McGrath, Takotna, Ophir, and even Iditarod. Each has it’s good and not so good points. Takotna is very popular because its very cozy. McGrath used to be “the place” to take the long layover, but it began to be too early in the race. It will be interesting to see what Teams will do this year. After the 24, the trail and weather will begin to be challenging with apparent warm temperatures in the forecast.

Upon arriving into Nikolai it looked like Pete had one dog in the sled. This could be by design, or we may have a small issue that might require leaving it here. New to 2019 is that the maximum dogs in a Team are now 14. That is two less than last year, so mushers must be conservative to some extent. In the Kuskokwim 300 dogsled race, the maximum was dropped to 12 dogs and there was no difference and in fact I tend to think it is as fast or faster now in terms of winning times. Mushers do need to be cautious though as we are only a quarter of the way into the race.

Here are some photos that I screen grabbed of Pete and the Team. It was amazing to watch them rolling in the snow and so happy! Totally beautiful to watch.

Go Team Kaiser!


Second Night Begins – Comparing Run-Rest

A long, but nice day with some rest, some sun, and some oh, so beautiful scenery, Pete and the Team say hello to the second night on the trail. After taking a break in Rohn, Pete is off towards Nikolai and the Farewell Burn. Veteran fans will remember that the burn is known for little snow and rough trail in the sometimes absence of snow.

The jackrabbit in this year’s race is Nicolas Petit. After losing the trail and probably the race last year, he is definitely intent on winning back some pride and some winnings. Just recently, in the 2019 Kuskokwim 300, Petit got off the trail and it cost him several thousand dollars as well as dropping him out of the top 3.

It will be interesting, though, to see if he can hold this pace. Pete is maintaining a conservative 6/4 or even 4/4 run/rest schedule. I’m sure the soft snow of the Yukon and the wet coast trail are on his mind.

Comparing the total run vs total rest between Pete and Nic you can see very different racing styles.

Pete has rested his Team four times with a total rest of 11 hours.

Petit has rested his Team two times for a total rest of 8 hours.

I have to wonder if it is wise so early to use this strategy. Martin Buser and others have tried it only to have their Teams falter further down the trail. Consider that is is very rare for the first Team to the Yukon to win the race.

Here are the two mushers, Petit alongside Pete with the Run/Rest cycle.


2019 Iditarod – Willow Restart Photos

Off on his way to Nome with Gonders and May watching from the sidelines.

It happens every year! By the time I get back to town to work on the photos, the race is underway and more important race action is at play. Hard to believe Pete and the Team have been on the trail for over 24 hours and I’m just getting the photos out. But it is what it is!! See the rest of the photos on Facebook!

It was a grand day as I alluded to before. Lots of friends, fans, and a gorgeous starting location.

I shot 2500 photos for all 5 Teams and here are the choice ones. I’m going to try something new and post the  best 10 photos here and also do a Facebook album. That will clean up the page just a little. Let me know over at Facebook if you like the idea. You don’t have to have a Facebook account to see the photos.

Go Team Kaiser!


Off for a Wild Ride!

After a five hour snooze in the Alaska Range, Team Kaiser is off for Rainy Pass and a wild ride through the gorge towards Rohn.

The trail through the Pass can be treacherous and race manager Mark Nordman told us in the media briefing that they had to put in quite a few snow bridges over sections of open water. Teams will climb to the highest point in the race and then head down into the canyon that leads to Rohn.

Pete is following Nic Petit and their strategy of taking a nice break, but leaving while there is still daylight will give them a double advantage: First, it’s light and they will actually be able to see where they are going. Second, they are the first two teams through the trail and it is supposed to be nicely packed. As more and more Teams cross, it may fall prey to thousands of footsteps and get soft.

Last year, 2018 Champion Joar Leifseth-Ulsom did the Rainy Pass to Rohn trail in 4 hours. That will put Pete into Rohn and most likely onto the Farewell burn. I’d expect him to camp out at Little Egypt and split the Rainy to Nikolai stretch in two runs.

Pete is holding good speed and is about 6 miles behind Nic Petit. Now they each have no way of knowing where the other is and that tends to play tricks with you a bit. But it’s early and Pete isn’t too sleep deprived yet. He’s going to run his race, as will Nic and several other trying to keep themselves near the front of the pack.

Here is a little look at what can happen if you don’t look where you are going. I set it to music last year, but it gives you an idea of what mushers fear, and then think of doing it at night!!