And They’re Off!

So here is what the drivers face tonight:

About ten miles of overland, than a quick drop down a VERY steep hill onto a slough which leads to the Big Susitna River. The mushers travel approximately 15 miles until they reach the confluence of the Big Su and Yentna Rivers, than around 17 miles up to Yentna Station–this trail will bear no resemblance to what it looked like yesterday or the day before–there will be many many snowmobiles that will have tracked up the river(s) from bank to bank (in the thousands), and each driver will have a real challenge keeping their leaders on the “solid” trail. Any team that has not seen these conditions before will be at a disadvantage of sorts

This “Yentna River region” is my old stomping grounds, the countryside where I grew up learning to mush & race dogs back in the 80’s–it’s a huge focus of my novel ‘Ballad of the Northland’ where a third of the story takes place, talking about growing up living a rough, subsistence lifestyle without power or modern convenience.

The drivers will then continue on to Lake Creek (15 miles) and then Skwentna (20). It used to be that a driver could stop somewhere around L. Creek, take a 2-4 hour break, then pass up Skwentna completely, only grabbing straw & food, continuing on to Shell Lake (about halfway between Skw & Finger Lake) for a 5-6 hour rest. But I doubt if we’ll see much of that this year.

For the most part, I expect the top drivers to run straight to Skw (putting the front-runners like DeeDee Jonrowe in around 8:30PM AKST) and take a short rest–maybe less than 4 hours–and then continue on to F. Lake. With that said, if we see some of the top drivers take longer breaks in Skw, then I expect they’ll run straight for Rainy Pass. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think this will be the predominant strategy that plays out tonight.

Regardless, keep in mind that while all of the top teams want to cover a decent piece of ground tonight and into the wee hours, their biggest priority by far is to make it safely out of the crowded hub-bub & pandemonium that is the first day–with their plans & dogs intact.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

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12 Responses to “And They’re Off!”

  1. Wow, makes the reader feel like he’s actually out there!

  2. Dancing Whitedog Reply March 6, 2011 at 17:30

    Thank you Jason! I will enjoy reading your posts as always.

  3. This looks like a great blog for Iditarod followers. Thanks!

  4. Great Great Blog.. Keep it up…

  5. Love the details of the trail Jason!! This will be fun to read your blog and the Iditarod site! 🙂

  6. Fantastic blog post Jason!!!! Great perspectives!

  7. My pleasure everybody–thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  8. Jason, you really know your stuff. We’d love to get a live, on-air update of the Iditarod from you tomorrow between 5:30 and 6pm. We’ll be broadcasting our weekly Internet radio show My Yukon Life at Call us on the hotline at (323) 843-6093.

    • Hi Jennifer–I’m interested, but I have a prior commitment starting at 6:00PM Mountain Time. What time zone are you referring to?

      • We go live at 5:30 Pacific, 6:30 Mountain. It’s a half-hour show. If you can’t make it, try for next Monday. We’ll have a special guest on next week so time will be a little tighter, but I know listeners would LOVE to get an update from you– both weeks, if possible.

      • I would love to be on your show–I think I can swing it at 6:35 tomorrow 🙂

  9. Excellent! If you email me your phone number I’ll watch for it on the switchboard. (I’ll begin taking calls about 10 minutes into the show.)

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