Iditarod 2012: End of the Trail

Well time to sign off for now. Flying out the machines today and than ourselves in the morning.

Here a last write up:

The middle of the pack is arriving in Nome, while the back of the pack is still as far out as Shaktoolik. This morning Trent Herbst and Matt Giblin arrived in 37th and 38th place respectively, both running dogs from Jake Berkowitz’s Apex kennel in Big Lake. Between the 3 mushers they have fielded 5 teams for 1000 Miles Races this winter, no small feat. Trent and Matt were racing hard along the beach outside of Nome, both pedaling along and encouraging their dogs to kick it up a notch on the last miles to Nome. They both ran very different teams, where as Trent races the B Team of Apex kennels, Matt driving the yearlings, in this case dogs with are 16 months old, led by11 year old faithful Feta, a dog out of Zack Steers yard who has been to Nome many times. Matt’s job was to show a young group of dogs the trail to Nome so they know the way for future races. His patience along the way paid off. Whereas Trent Herbst had left Takotna a whopping 27 hours ahead of Matt, they are only 5 minutes apart at the finish line. Where Matt took his 24 hr layover early in the race in Mc Grath, Tent opted to push on to Cripple hoping for a poke of gold, just to be outrun by 71 year old Jim Lanier of Northern Whites Kennel. Not only did Trent miss out on the gold, that move cost him valuable speed and stamina in his team, which allowed the puppy team driver Giblin to catch up. Of course those 2 mushers had a bit of rivalry going on near the finishing line, of who would get there first, which Trent making up 5 minutes during the last 7 miles, as near Howard Farley’s Camp they were still traveling together.

How this race went for these two mushers shows a common trend in Iditarod. At the first third of the race, the field was tightly packed, one long string of mushers only minutes apart, to the point where there was no real discernable front pack. Throughout the middle of the race that pack thinned out and the usual groups of mushers formed, to than stretch apart multiple days by the end of the race. There is an old saying amongst mushers. If you race a 20th place team, like a 10th place team, you will get 40th. If you race a 10th place team like a 20th place team, you might get 5th, while picking up mushers along the coast. Some of the mushers who were in the front pack of the race early on completely faded away during the later part or even scratched once reaching the coast.

That also related to runtimes between the checkpoints. Mushers like Aaron Burmeister, who ran a slow 3hrs and 2 minutes into Takotna, ended up having a large string of 15 dogs in Unalakleet along the coast. Others who ran the same stretch in less than 2hrs ( that is 9.3 miles an hour versus 6 miles an hour ) nursed small teams along the coast or even scratched before. Its comparable to driving a truck. If a truck is idled along at slow speeds and rpms, the engine will last for a very long time. If the same engine is revved up high for shorts burst it will eventually blow up. Patience is the name of the game in distance mushing.

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