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Sunday 3/14/10 Update

Wow.

It’s another nail-biter! I think each one of these races takes years off my life…. : )

So, a predicted, the first team into UNK (Unalakleet), the first checkpoint on the coast, arrived at 3:30 am (including the “Spring ahead” adjustment for Daylight Savings Time). However, as unpredicted, it wasn’t Jeff! Lance made a bold move running through Kaltag (his typical move, actually, but usually he stops on the trail somewhere along the way) AND NOT stopping to camp along the way to the coast. That truly may be a first. The amazing and notable aspect of this “cutting rest” scenario, is that his team is still moving very well and looked excellent arriving into the village, as viewed on the Iditarod Insider video. We have discussions regularly wondering if these incredible athletes have limits….. A well trained and physically and mentally well-maintained team has all of the appearance of being bionic. We all agree that the mushers are the weakest links in the team. It is absolutely amazing and thrilling to see what these sled dogs are capable of!

Jeff, Lance and Hugh had very similar run times on this long trek to the coast. Hans opted to take his rest on the trail but otherwise appears to be moving very well with comparable speed (if not faster). My old adage was that the sequence in which the teams arrived into UNK was typically how they crossed the finish line in Nome. That has been proven wrong too many times these past few years to put any stock in it this year. A three-hour advantage at this point in the race is truly significant, however. The ability of the teams to try to cut rest this far into the event, at least of any true significance, dwindles rapidly as the miles swish under the runner tails. Depending on the time differential, the speed at which a team is moving must be considerably faster than its competition to alter the outcome with so few trail miles left. That is all assuming that the trail and weather conditions remain friendly. Last year was a great reminder of how Mother Nature can shake things up!

I would be remiss without mentioning a bit about human nature at this point. Most of us have grown up in the black hat/white hat theatre of competition. Guard yourself from creating imagined foes. The people that are on the trail with Jeff are some of the most talented, knowledgeable and intuitive dog folks on the planet. Over the decades of the Iditarod, there have been giant leaps in knowledge and experience surrounding the science of dog care, training, race strategy, and most importantly, reverence for these Alaskan Huskies. Winning this prestigious event is a well-earned award and believe me, without trying to sound too “Pollyanna”, these competitors are all winners and should be held in the highest regard for their talents, drive, expertise and love of the sport and of the dogs. They are examples of the very best that is put forward on the 1100 miles of Iditarod trail.

So, what happens now? It would be typical for the teams to rest at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours here before headed to Shaktoolik, the coastal checkpoint known for extreme winds. The Alaska Coast can dole out some bitter challenges to the teams as they make their way along the last 200 miles to Front Street and the burled arch in Nome. Managing the team will be like trying to balance a fine, crystal goblet on the end of your finger. It takes intense focus, impeccable attention to detail and an ability to predict what will happen with the simplest of adjustments. A move too far this way, or that, could cause the cherished crystal to tumble earthward. Have no fear! That is what Jeff just happens to be outstanding at!

I am packing up today for the trip to Nome tomorrow. I think that I am most looking forward to a big, warm, “your-home” hug from our beloved friend and host of many years, Mary Knodel. She is family. And of course, our Nome experience will hold many memories and reminiscences of the past 20 years of race finishes, friends, celebrations and Iditarod life that have become such a part of who we are.

I will continue to post updates! Cheers!

Comments

  1. You posts are wonderful! Even though most of us reading (and writing)are baised, you do a wonderful job of remaining objective and pointing out the positives of all the mushers and their teams.
    I am a 4th grade teacher in northern New York, and have met the King family (and their extended family)at the Husky homestead on 2 occassions. My students have learned a wealth of knowledge about Alaska, mushing and Jeff King himself. We’ve shared Cold Hands, Warm Heart as a class, and the children are often “caught” glancing at our autographed picture of Jeff King when they’re supposed to be looking at the US flag during the Pledge of Allegiance!
    Our 140 pound Alaskan malamute puppy (Kenai) lays at my feet each time I come to the computer to get the updates and especially loves hearing the video of the champs howling at the “official” Iditarod website!
    Know that your updates and information are very meaningful to many people, myself included!

    Thank you!
    Heather Burdick

  2. Go Jeff Go! Every year I have always monitored the Iditarod but this year has been extra special since this is Jeff’s last race. It would be really great to see him win of course but to finish with a healthy and happy dog team is even better.

    I have also enjoyed your posts throughout the years. Well done on keeping us Iditarod fans informed.

    Thank you for allowing me to help take care of the dogs a few years ago. I really enjoyed it all.

    Amy Irish (aka Becky Irish’s sister)

  3. Wow, is right! As we all say to you, Donna, thank you for taking the time to keep us posted!! You write so well.

    I can’t imagine what is going through the minds of these men as they ride their runners… surely, every conceivable trick in the book to win!!! I do know one thing…the dogs feel the excitement and will play off this energy to the end! MAY THE BEST TEAM WIN!!

    What nice comments from you, Heather. I have a feeling that you are a great teacher!

    GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO TEAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Thanks for the updates and information! What an exciting race. I am concerned though b/c I just saw a video of Jeff leaving Unalakleet and it looked like one of his dogs in the front was really limping. I hope he/she is OK. Jeff seems to be moving along and maybe catching Lance a bit though.

    Thanks

    Dianna

  5. Thanks to the Howler for your kind words! I am “such a great teacher” that I made certain that I had lesson plans and everything else in my classroom prepared for the duration of the Iditarod, so I didn’t feel guilty about all of the time I spend here “checking in”!!!
    I try to hide my feelings about The Last Great Race not receiving television coverage, but dang!!! I truly believe the right network could make these 2 weeks before the NCAA tournament into amazing coverage with special glimpses of some of the great athletes on the face of the earth, as well as their mushers, handler and trainers!
    With the beauty of Alaska and lack of most US citizens knowledge of this state….the right broadcast could be some of the most interesting history, geography, sportsmanship, art and scenic beauty and of course, canine culture, to hit the airways! Until then…..thank God for the internet and those who take the time to share!
    Go Viper & Titan!!!!

    Heather

  6. I want to add my thanks for your wonderful blogs. It has made the race so much more real to me. I met some of the family a couple of years ago at Husky Homestead and can’t imagine rooting for anyone other than Jeff and Dave. The whole experience turned me into an Iditarod fan. So, thanks again!

  7. Down to the wire – just the way we like it! However, I am so respectful of the talent and time that goes into preparing these teams to race, I almost feel guilty cheering Jeff on! Truly, may the best team win. I love the comment regarding TV coverage. With all the emphasis on “reality TV”, I cannot imagine a more fitting program than this! Reality – indeed – at it’s best.

    We’re glued to the computer monitor, will be cheering for the winner, regardless, and loving the perspective that this blog and meeting Jeff King and his beautiful animals has brought us.
    A big “hello and well done” from your best fans in Gulfport, MS

    The Blakeslees

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