On the Move

Keep your friends close and your competitors closer.

When Joar and Jessie saw Pete pull into Old Woman on the Portage trail, in the back of their minds were heard a collective sigh. They just knew that Pete wouldn’t let them get too far out of sight.

Joar arrived first at 9:25, followed by Jessie at 9:45 and Pete at 10:15am. This means that Pete had gained 30 minutes on Jessie as he left an hour after her out of Kaltag.

Joar and Jessie left at 2:00pm followed quickly by Pete 15 minutes later.

Pete is in full on race mode as he has now trimmed another 15 minutes from the lead of Jessie and almost an hour from Joar. If the Team performs like it did yesterday, Pete is just where he needs to be to catch Nic if the Girdwood musher makes a mistake.

All four mushers that camped at Old Woman now have a 4 hour break under their belts and will quickly move through Unalakleet towards Shaktoolik. The wildcard in the mix is Mitch Seavey, whom the Iditarod Insiders think is sitting back waiting for the same thing. They have continued to discount Pete Kaiser, though, and I am seeing the same strategy with Pete that we often see with Mitch– Gain extra minutes by staying with the pack you want to pass and move when they move. With a good team and adequate rest this is totally possible.

As I said earlier, the trail from Shaktoolik to Koyuk is an unknown. Coupled with the fact that the trail from Unalakleet to Koyuk traditionally has cost Teams valuable time. A few years ago Wade Marrs and Pete were virtually stopped on the trail in a freak ground blizzard. (Read the story here)

This totally has to be on Pete’s mind as he pushes forward almost hoping for a little help from mother nature. One other detail is that Unalakleet is almost Pete’s home court. He won the Paul Johnson here in a blizzard and his dogs teams seem to do well here.

Unalakleet weather right now is warm and not too windy. So warm that a blizzard or blowing snow is a unlikely, but who knows. Weather cams show fog or snow showers to the hills to the North.Another item of note is that there is no sea ice at Unalakleet– None. Waves are crashing on sand beaches. It is virtually unheard of.

I love the last Sunday of the Iditarod! So much to see and hear and butterflies in the stomach are the order of the day!

Go Team Kaiser!

From Zachariah Hughes via Twitter Universe:

Unalakleet – No Sea Ice


Like Watching Poker!

This part of the race is so much fun! It’s like watching a Poker Tournament!

Right now we have seen 4 players play their first card in today’s hand:

Nic pushed to Unalakleet

Joar, Jessie, and Pete are resting out of Unalakleet for a possible push to Shaktoolik.

What card will Mitch play?


Bering Sea Today… No Ice Trail to Koyuk

Good Morning Race Fans!

As we stretch and look at the clock that sprung forward last night, Pete and the Team were out of Kaltag and onto the trail towards Unalakleet. As I found it a little hard to get up this morning, I related to watching Team Kaiser last night leaving Kaltag. They all were stretching and peeing and slowly getting back into the mode of running after a nice long 8 hour rest. Bethany was almost beside herself watching. “They aren’t going to leave.” But Pete was patient and understanding and slowly the Team was ready and more ready and GO! Off to the hills as they made their way West. As hard as you might find it to arise this morning, those puppies wanted Pete to press the snooze button as well!

But there is a race to run and we are seeing a solid leaderboard building that is narrowing in its scope. With 300 or so miles to go, there are less and less ways to gain time, but it is still not out of total reach.

Nic Petit left Kaltag 2 hours before Joar and Jessie and 3 hours before Pete. Looking at the tracker this morning as Nic is just outside of Unalakleet, the interval is almost identical. The trail appears to be fast with Nic pinging 10mph on occasion in the flats before Unalakleet.

There is a real nice place to rest about 20 miles before Unalakleet. It is still in the trees and provides cover from the wind and the activity of Unalakleet. It also breaks the Kaltag to Shaktoolik run into two runs. Joar and Jessie are camped there this morning and I have to wonder if Pete will join him. We are in full chessgame mode right now and being in a place where the leader really doesn’t you are can be a good thing.

A long distance race is all about minutes. You think about the hours and hours of a race, but mushers are totally intent on minutes. The activity of a checkpoint can rob a musher of those minutes if they don’t need to be there. In Kaltag, Pete was required to stay for the mandatory rest stop. But by going by Unalakleet he won’t have to talk to anyone or use up valuable minutes that could be used to rest and care for the Team and himself. He won’t have the straw or as much food, but if he was planning a move like this, he would have what he needs to rest, camp, and stay out there.

So here is the kicker… The trail north… It’s not the normal trail over the ice to Koyuk. That section of trail is now the Bering Sea. Warm temperatures have already broken the ice and the trail north is going to be around the sound. This will add many miles to the trail and it will undoubtedly not be the smooth ice that is normally encountered. I overlayed the race map with the a MODIS satellite photo from Wednesday. You can see how much of the ice has gone away. I spoke with Bob Madden, our awesome host in Nome who told me that the ice is disappearing in Nome as well and apparently some gold mining operations have lost equipment because of it. This will add a lot of drama for this next day of racing.

Sea Ice – Race Map overlay


The following photos from Jeff Schultz are available here for sale! Thanks!

The Clock is Ticking…

The clock is ticking and all of the mushers are watching it.

Pete and the Team can leave at 12:51am. As each minute ticks of the clock and Teams behind him rest in Kaltag, Pete gains on them by doing absolutely nothing.

“His Team looks great. They could win it.” Joar Leifseth-Ulsom said as he bedded down his Team in Kaltag.

The deal is that Pete has to stay 8 hours before he can return to the Trail. All of the other Teams with the exception of Aliy Zirkle have taken their 8 hours and can leave whenever they would like.

Pete’s not worried. He made his way up to Kaltag to get all of his gear dried out and ready for the coast. He probably caught a bunch of sleep as well, but he had chores to do in terms of getting ready for the last third of the race.

One thing that is notable to me is how energetic and upbeat Pete is in this race. He looks like he is having a great time. Laughing with the Insider guys, moving quickly as he does his chores. This is a Pete Kaiser I haven’t seen before. And I have to say I am loving it! Races can get to a musher. Long hard monotonous trials in horrible weather. I’ve seen him beat up and sleeping sitting up at the end of a race. I’ve seen him that way in Takotna!

Here we are in Kaltag and there is an air of enthusiasm and I think it really is part of his new program. At the Restart in Willow he spoke about next year already. I’ve been wondering if he has finally come into his own and realize- This is who I am and this is why I’m here!

From Kaltag to Unalakleet to Shaktoolik are established trails. They shouldn’t be having to break trail. Temperatures are warm though and tomorrow we will start hearing about the coast and that challenge. Koyuk doesn’t have any ice in front of the village, so a new overland route is going to be the trail. When Pete leaves Kaltag, he embarks on the final section of the race to Nome. He enters the land of the Inupiaq and the coast and the sea. It’s a new place and this year will provide many challenges.

Mushing Weather for tonight:

A 40 percent chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 30. Northeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
Snow, mainly after 9am. High near 33. Northeast wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.

Go Team Kaiser!

3 Minutes for $2000 – Pete Arrives in Kaltag

Correction The Award is $2000.

3 minutes! That’s what it came down to after another epic 9 hour run in from Eagle Island today. After leaving Eagle Island with Joar Leifseth-Ulsom, Pete came across Nic Petit who had been resting 18 miles up the trail. Pete arrived at 16:48 with 11 dogs followed shortly by Nic at 16:51 with 11 dogs as well.

The last hour had all of Pete’s fans pressing REFRESH on the Tracker while they two Teams made their way up the trail. In the end it was close, but Pete persisted and was first into the checkpoint. Good Job Pete! Good Job Team Kaiser Doggies!

Eventually Joar stopped for a rest and it was Pete and Petit for the run to Kaltag! Kaltag hosts the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Fish First Award that includes $3000 $2000 cash, a beautiful piece of artwork by Bristol Bay artist Apay’uq Moore, and 25 lbs of Salmon from Bristol Bay. You always hear that Alaska is the largest State in the United States, but in terms of our people, we are a close-knit bunch. I read Apay’uk’s name and said to myself, “Hey, I know her!” So I called up my daughter, Kelsey, got her phone number and gave her a ring to see what kind of artwork Pete just acquired. She told me this year it is a burned piece of spruce with a central drawn/burned piece of a dogteam. She is a master artist and we can’t wait to see it! Thanks Apay’uk for your hard work and contributing to Iditarod via BBNC!

Pete will have to take his 8 hour layover now in Kaltag, but that won’t hurt his feelings a bit. It is wet snow right now in Kaltag. Later this evening it is supposed to cool down which will be awesome for the Team and should provide a good trail. We’ll see though.

Wow! What a bit of excitement in the middle of the Iditarod!

I’ll have some stats and race analysis after more Teams make their way into Kaltag. There are several game plans that we are going to see tonight.
Speaking of which– Tonight is my first day of Spring! We SPRING forward this evening and get our light back in the evenings! Tomorrow will be a bit tough to wake up, but it is worth it. Totally!

Go Team Kaiser!!