A foggy morning in Kaltag finds Pete and the Team checking in at 11:13am, just 35 minutes after Richie Diehl.
Traditionally Teams will take a short breather here to feed and water the Teams before heading over the Portage to Unalakleet. Some Teams though, head out on the trail and break it into two runs and this section of the race is where we begin to see the different strategies play out. We have seen years where Teams look past Unalakleet and rest according to a Shaktoolik goal and further. In any case, the chess match starts here and is always fun to watch.
I’d guess that Pete and Richie will take their break here and then move on out in a few hours.
Unalakleet is also pretty foggy this morning, so it may be a little brisk on the run. Fog just sucks the heat out of a Musher, so it won’t be as comfortable as it could be. The lead teams are showing good times on the portage trail, so it may be in good shape for the 85 mile run and last long run of the Race. After Unalakleet the checkpoints are closer together, but that doesn’t mean that Teams won’t add long runs to the mix, but it does mean that we will be able to better gauge how the Race is progressing.
Pete’s 2016 time across the Portage was 9:31 and a bit over 11 hours in 2015. That would put him into Unalakleet late this evening.
The toughest part of the Race… Half way to Nome and just outside of the Top 10.
The weather has been great, but a Team a bit out of sorts is a bigger challenge in this Race. It happens to everyone at some point. Aliy Zirkle had it in her Team and she expressed the same feeling. “Not much you can do. You want them to do well, but if they aren’t 100%, you just do what you can do.”
I always call Pete “Doggy Yoda” as he is so “Dog Smart” about mushing and dogs and stuff. After the 300 Win in January he called and said they would be going to do the Willow 300. It was a new race and I was asking about it and he told me that more than anything he wanted to have the Team exposed to the other Teams. Much like a child in Kindegarten, when the Team is exposed to others they some times get the sniffles and such, just like kids do. “I want them to build some immunity,” he told me.
A pretty smart move, but unfortunately it was so cold that it just didn’t happen like he planned and the Team got a bit of the trail flu into Galena.
The good news is that now the Team is looking up and that helps everything. The dogs feel better and that puts the smile back in Pete’s face.
The trail in from Huslia was 86 miles of soft trail. Pete and Richie traveled together and split the run into two runs over the day yesterday. In Koyukuk he took his 8 hour layover and reported to the insider that it was some of the toughest trail so far. Very soft and in the heat of the day–quite an ordeal. The dogs are eating well which is the biggest indicator of health. They are hungry and perky and so this challenge is hopefully behind them.
Listen to Pete’s Insider Interview in Koyukuk
Now back on the Yukon, Pete and the Team will make their way down a fairly nice trail to Kaltag before heading over the portage to Unalakleet that is the part of every Race. With the amount of snow we have had this year, it could be pretty soft as well, but it is more heavily traveled and has more of a coastal influence, so should be easier to deal with than the Huslia loop. Down in Bethel the Sun has started to impact the lakes and trails substantially. I was out yesterday in my plane and the snow on most lakes was showing the effects of the sun by melting away the snow. This happens each year as we move into the spring season. Kaltag is 200 miles North or so, but I would assume the same conditions are occurring.
We are ecstatic for Richie Diehl! He is running his best Iditarod ever and is almost an hour in front of Pete and the Team at this hour. He made it over the soft trail after the middle break quite a bit faster than Pete and Richie’s Team looks awesome! This is Richie’s 5th run of the Iditarod and there is no one we would rather see do better that them. Go Richie! He has to feel pretty good about his race so far!
Weather today is still pretty fair, but calling for falling temperatures. It won’t matter though, for as Teams move towards the Bering Sea coast, temperatures will be warmer due to the maritime influence. Wind may become a factor, but for now it’s nothing really to speak of– 10 to 15mph from the Northeast on the coast, calm on the Yukon.
It’s the final Sunday of the Iditarod and veteran fans have many, many memories of this day. The drama usually begins around this point and this year proves to be no different. We are now a bit more than 350 miles from Nome!
The long distance endurance of the Race is showing it’s effects now that the Iditarod is now on the 2nd half. Three long runs are pretty tough and mental endurance as well as physical endurance are necessary to compete at this level.
Pete and the Team arrived into Koyukuk just before 8pm after 16 hours on the trail. I’m anticipating him taking his 8 hour here after the long 86 mile run. Running in 9th place just behind Richie and his Team, Pete is still in good position to move up several places before the finish.
The Team looked pretty lively into the checkpoint, barking and holding their tails up. A good long break here will be a good respite from the trail.
Overcast skies and warm temperatures were the manner of the day, but a cooling trend is in store for Teams for the near future on the trail.
Mushing Weather for this evening-
Partly cloudy, with a low around 2. North wind around 5 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 23. North wind around 5 mph.
Well, it’s happening! The Race is ON and the excitement of the Iditarod is Full On this morning!
As the multitudes of mushers leave their 24 hour rest in Huslia, the trail from that checkpoint South towards the Yukon is filled with the sounds of dogs and sled runners.
Leading the pack is Wade Marrs who left last night at just after 7pm followed by Dallas, Joar, and Mitch. Through the night there was some jostling of position, but only due to rest breaks. This morning finds Wade about 2 hours or so out of Koyukuk and still maintaining the lead.
The next group left out of Huslia, including our own Pete Kaiser just before 4am.
In terms of “Race Analysis”, it is a still a bit hard to judge who the true leader might be. It is still looking like Wade at this point as the next musher behind him with an 8 hour completed is Nicolas Petit who is almost 8 hours behind him. The three mushers in the lead right now can almost take their 8 hour before the next group of mushers having that break reach them.
Pete and Richie are in that predicament this morning as well, as they have to take their 8 hour at some point before Kaltag.
As I wrote before, it’s actually only a 4 hour advantage, but still quite a bit of time.
The thing about the Iditarod is that some Teams, our own Team Kaiser included, put it into overdrive on the coast. This race is NEVER over until a musher is standing under the burled arches in Nome.
At this point, the best strategy is to stay within striking distance and that is where Pete and that second group are sitting. Wade, Dallas, Mitch, and Joar are definitely watching their rearview mirror!
The trail this morning follows the snowmachine trail overland through the woods and lakes between Huslia and Koyukuk. It will pick up the Koyukuk River about 15 miles from the Koyukuk village and then mostly follow it into the checkpoint.
Weather forecasts are calling for a cooling trend and there is a bit of snow and fog on the coast, so weather may find its way into this race after all. Right now the temperatures are around 10 degrees and calm winds. Perfect Mushing weather. Can you believe that the temperatures were almost 50 degrees cooler earlier in the race! Wow!
Ahhh, that lovely Tracker! What would we do without it? In the olden days of dogsled racing, the race happened and then we read about it. Now it’s a completely different matter. Refresh- Refresh- Refresh!!
As Pete and Richie draw their day to a close, it surely was a beautiful day for mushing! Warm temperatures, clear skies, and the sound of the Team making their way through the woods and taiga of Interior Alaska.
At the front of the Pack, things are heating up and the fog the field will clear to show who the leaders are for this year’s running of the Iditarod.
At this hour Wade Marrs, Dallas Seavey, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, and Mitch Seavey are leading the mushers, but none of those Teams have taken their 8 hour layover. At this point in the race, the 8 hour layover is really a 4 hour advantage as Teams will take the extra 4 hours of a planned 4 hour rest in a checkpoint to make up the 8 hour rest period. So a 4 hour advantage lies to those who have taken an 8 hour layover. In this case, this means Nicolas Petit, who is finishing his 24 in Huslia, is 4 hours closer to those in front of him. When he leaves Huslia, will still be behind Wade Marrs by about 4 hours.
Now there is quite a bit of mushing to go and many, many rest periods that Teams will have to take, so the fog of this section of the race will be with us at least until Unalakleet.
Pete and Richie are just out of the front pack, but not by much and are in great position to strike, as they usually do, when headed up the coast. They just need to stay close enough to the front runners that when (And they always do) they make a mistake, Pete and Richie are their to take advantage.
I Love Iditarod, and soon there will be little sleep to be had as we watch this all play out.