Delta FOURce Saturday Report

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What a day of mushing! For online spectators, today must have seemed long with little going on, but really this was a huge day for the Teams. Although there were few checkpoints, many miles have gone by on quite a tough trail. Luckily all of our teams have not had to break trail which gives their teams a bit of a break. The trail between Eagle Island and Kaltag is soft and sticky and Martin Buser, who had led the race for quite some time may have burnt all his advantage by slogging through the miles in the lead.

Mike Williams Jr. is the story of the day. He is truly burning up the trail. With some of the fastest times on the trail he is advancing steadily and is a team to watch from here to the Finish in Nome. In his last Iditarods, he tends to speed up the closer he gets to Nome. At press time, Mike is a bit over halfway to Kaltag.

Pete and our Team Kaiser have been slowly rebuilding their health and things seem to finally be clicking along. Their trail times have been excellent, but it has been at the expense of longer breaks between runs. Presently Pete and the Team are just into the Kaltag checkpoint. Many teams in front of them have had to rest along the trail, but Team Kaiser made the run with only one short break. This shows me that the team is in good shape and the longer breaks are paying off nicely. I expect another long break here before the run to Unalakleet. Pete has been on this trail earlier this year when he won the Norton Sound 450, so the next section of trail is familiar territory and that will be a definite advantage. Aaron Burmeister is back to the lead presently and he too has been on this trail before. His team may be the one to watch.

Mike Williams Sr. is no longer running with son Mike Jr. He is presently on the trail between Grayling and Eagle Island. It is going to be a long night for Mike and I expect him to take a good break once he reaches the checkpoint. Running in a sticky trail at night can be a burden, so we’ll see how this goes for him. He is still putting in very respectable times, but like Pete is taking a bit longer in checkpoints to recharge his team.

Richie Diehl got a boost today as he got to have dinner in Grayling with his dad, Dave and friends Ronnie Vanderpool and Erich Kubal. They met in Anvik, but Richie was in race mode and running from Shageluk to Grayling, so they drove up to Grayling and got to sit down together as the Team rested. Ronnie and Erich also drove to Iditarod earlier to cheer him on. In a long rookie race, it had to be good to have family and friends around. The middle western Alaska villages are really cheering Richie on as he is the local favorite in that area. Word has it he left Grayling, but had to turn around and drop a dog and then returned to the trail. Richie’s gal Em reports he is in good spirits and dogs are doing well.

Go Delta FOURce Teams!!

Back on the Trail! Headed to Kaltag

Current Kaltag WeatherCams 2:30pm

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Pete and the Team are back out on the trail headed North to Kaltag. Kaiser Fans must be wondering why Pete is taking longer on these breaks at each checkpoint. It is very hard to say, but I would think that it is what the team needs. When you spend as much time with these animals, you get tuned into what they need and what they can or can’t do in a particular time or place. It is what training is all about. The last two breaks were 6 hour rests. The latest follows a 7 and a half hour run.

The key to me is that Pete’s times are improving. Yesterday the team slowed a bit and because of weather or team health it was showing on the leaderboard. After the good long break last night, Team Kaiser was showing it’s normal speed and time. If Pete feels the Team needs a bit more rest before heading out on the trail, the bottom line is that they will take it.

Driving a team too hard has bitten many mushers before and it shows a great deal of wisdom for this young musher to keep his dogs happy and on the trail. I was just reading an article where in the late ’90s in an Iditarod, Dee Dee Jonrowe went on the trail instead of resting and the dogs just decided enough was enough and stopped along the trail. Seeing Pete taking his time and giving the Team time ensures the bond of trust is strong. Go Team Kaiser!! We’re with you all the way!

Martin Buser out of Kaltag. By Sebastian Schnuelle at Iditarod.com

Martin Buser out of Kaltag. By Sebastian Schnuelle at Iditarod.com – Trail looks pretty windblown

The trail ahead has been brutal for Martin Buser. We may look back on today and say this is where he lost the race. Over the course of today Zirkle and Mitch Seavey have gained to where they are now within easy striking distance of what was once a locked race.

From Iditarod.com-

After the long haul from Grayling to Eagle Island, this leg is more of the same—exactly the same, in fact. Just like its predecessor, it’s also 62 miles, and it’s also all on the Yukon River. Assuming yoursquo;ve rested your dogs at Eagle Island, you can assume another 6 to 9 hours to Kaltag.

There’s nothing really new on the river for this leg see plenty more islands, sandbars, sloughs, bluffs, and river bends probably also see a few stretches of windblown sandy trail in the last 20 miles before Kaltag.

Mushing Weather-

Current Kaltag Weather as you can see above is pretty clear with light SouthWest winds. Temperature is great for mushing at 22 degrees.

Forecast for this afternoon remains the same. I hope Pete has his sunglasses on, cause he’s going to need them.

Rest Stop at Eagle Island

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Photos from Sebastian Schnuelle’s Blog

Pete and the Team are into Eagle Island. The checkpoint, about half-way between Grayling and Kaltag, is nothing more than a place on the side of the river, but a good place to take a break and prepare for the next 70 miles. The extended break before the run seemed to revive the Team and was a good move. We don’t know what Pete is seeing, but I trust his judgement and an extended break to give up a couple of positions obviously paid off. They were losing ground before Grayling, but their time between Grayling and Eagle Island is respectable at 7 hours and 30 minutes (From Tracker). I would venture to guess that Pete is doing what he needs to do to conserve the team and keep them healthy. That is paramount in any race– Health before Position. In a long endurance race like the Iditarod, mushers have to deal with many different things– Weather, Dog Health, Musher Health, and of course lack of sleep. Good Job Pete!

Martin Buser didn’t have a great run over the run and the pack chasing is faster and making ground on him. The fastest time, Jake Berkowitz, had a 2 hour quicker run over the 60 miles. Martin also dropped 2 dogs leaving him with 11. The race is not over with about 10 teams that are in the hunt. Anything can happen with much of the race to go and we have seen some of it– Beaver Fever out of Iditarod and a Storm up front are just two examples. Jake Berkowitz was withdrawn last year because he cut his hand, and he had the winning team at that point. Stay tuned. Jake has the team to beat this year with most of his dogs still in harness. I can just see that big smile of his as the “Freight Train”, as it has been called, rolls on by.

A side story is the Dog Drops and Straw in Eagle Island. Apparently the weather kept planes grounded in Unalakleet and all of the Food and Checkpoint supplies for Eagle Island were stuck as Martin left Grayling last afternoon. Fortunately a break in the weather got the wheels of progress into motion and a big push by Iditarod got the Checkpoint setup just before Martin Buser showed up for his break.

Sebastian Schnuelle is reporting a terrible trail from Eagle Island to Kaltag. It has been raining and snowing and the trail is pretty bad. This is good for teams in the “Rocking Chair” , to put it in Trucking terms, as the teams a bit back will have the advantage of other mushers breaking trail and cooler temperatures hardening it a bit.

Current Kaltag weathercam shows ceilings improving and a light southwest wind.

Delta FOURce Update – Friday

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It’s been a wild and wet one today on the trail for the boys from the YK Delta. Temperatures as warm as 47 in McGrath and water everywhere has to have take a bit of a toll man and dog alike.

Pete Kaiser set out first this morning very early and slogged his way to Grayling over the day. Along the way he dropped a few dogs, but seems to be making it okay along the trail. Soon he will return to the trail and begin to try to improve postion. The competition this year is very matched, so definitely the work is ahead.

The Williams family kennel spent the day on the trail from Takotna to Anvik. Mike Jr. is just about to the checkpoint while Mike Sr. is resting in Shageluk. They have kept more dogs in harness, a testament to patience and luck to be sure. This kind of a trail is where the Yup’ik shines. It is their tradition to endure and progress.

Richie is following his conservative plan and basically is running and resting in pretty equal intervals. Videos seen around the web and photos show a good looking team. Richie’s main goal was to learn how this race works and make it to Nome. He is well on his way to both.

With a stomach virus affecting all of the teams, this part of the race is a true struggle. It is the middle part of the race that in some ways takes more of a toll than any other. It just goes forever. At the beginning of the race Teams are excited and optimistic, but at this point after days on the trail, it is just long. As Teams reach Kaltag and Unalakleet, excitement will again build as realization hits that the end is near. Today and tomorrow are the mental tough days. Our guys can handle it– Each in their own way- It isn’t easy living in the Bush, so this is just a speed bump of so to speak.

Go Teams!

Into Grayling – The Shuffle Begins

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After a warm wet day, Pete and the Team are probably ready for a short break. Iditarod Standings haven’t been kind to team Kaiser as we haven’t gotten accurate numbers for them. As Team Kaiser moved out of Shageluk several mushers who completed their layovers went to the trail. When he got to Anvik, they picked up a few more. By the time they reached Grayling there were at least 5 teams running pretty close together.

Once Teams leave Grayling headed North we will see current positions like we did last night into Shageluk. Most mandatory layovers should have been completed and standings will be more accurate.

I expect a 3-4 hour break here for Pete and the Team. The break will give them a chance to rest, but also allow the temperatures to cool and give them a break from this warm wet spell we have been having.

Mushing Weather for tonight is much better as the temperatures cool:

LOWER YUKON VALLEY-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...RUSSIAN MISSION...GRAYLING...
HOLY CROSS...SHAGELUK...ANVIK...FLAT
258 PM AKST FRI MAR 8 2013

.TONIGHT...PERIODS OF SNOW. AREAS OF FOG. SNOW ACCUMULATION 1 TO 3 
INCHES...HEAVIEST IN THE NULATO HILLS. LOWS IN THE MID TEENS TO
LOWER 20S. SOUTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 20 MPH.
.SATURDAY...CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS IN THE
MORNING...THEN MOSTLY SUNNY IN THE AFTERNOON. HIGHS IN THE LOWER
20S. SOUTH WINDS 5 TO 15 MPH.