2011 Kuskokwim300 Update #3

The contestants of the K300 drove hard throughout the night, and I’ve been up since early this morning trying to get a sense of the musher checkpoint reports–here are a few thoughts:

The trail sounds hard & icy fast–while this might sound good, just remember that in this kind of race, speed usually kills (figuratively speaking of course).

It is quite cold out there on the Kuskokwim River–minus 9 degrees in Bethel this morning, with a 15-20 knot wind hitting the dogs & drivers right in the face; probably much much colder up the river; remember those frozen genitals I referenced in the previous update?

Here is a very useful link to the K300’s Leaderboard

It gives us a very good look at what is going on out there on the YK Delta, and I just want to take a moment to point out a few things that some of the fans watching the race might not understand:

As a rule of thumb, there are three “competitive” strategies at work in the lead group of drivers, the one’s vying for the top spots.

Chuck Schaeffer is employing the first of them (incidentally putting him physically in first place for the time being). It is between 98-106 miles into the checkpoint of Kalskag, the first checkpoint where you can start burning “mandatory” rest–there is a total of 10 hours of mandatory rest to allocate on the K300; 6 hours + start differential to be used at Kalskag or further up the trail at Aniak, and 4 hours at Tuluksak downbound.

Chuck ran all night, stopped briefly in Kalskag, then continued on to Aniak after only a few minutes to feed his dogs and probably reboot. This strategy takes a solid dog team, an iron will, and testicles the size of large Mason jars–unfortunately it almost never pays off in the long run.

The second strategy is to run straight to Kalskag from Bethel, then take a solid 6 hours–this strategy far and away works better for producing the “winner”, and is employed by the bulk of the field from year to year. This year Mike Jr. Paul Gebhart, and Martin Buser are the fastest drivers using this strategy–Mike logged a speedy time of 8:58:00, with Mitch Seavey a little over an hour slower. I believe the three teams to watch in this group, one of them will be the champion in my opinion, are Seavey & Baker with Pete Kaiser vying for an upset.

The third strategy is the “Jon Little Strategy”, a sensible hybrid of the first two–it involves the driver(s) stopping at or near Bogus Creek (about 25 miles shy of Kalskag) for approx two “non-mandatory hours”, then pushing through Kalskag and on to Aniak, and once there, taking their six. This strategy has almost no chance of putting a driver in first place at the finish line, but virtually guarantees a “lock” on the top five.

Hugh Neff, Sebastian Schnuelle, and Jake Berkowitz just employed this fantastic tactic, and in my opinion are now looking to populate the “top five” barring a catastrophe.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….


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