My friend Ed Iten once made this comment to me while sitting on our coolers, camped between the banks of the Yukon River while our dogs slept on the straw and teams passed us by on their way to Nulato–

He said very seriously “Jason, we’ve all been watching each other and reading the reports & time sheets for years now, and there are only so many moves a driver can make out here.”

The conversation, naturally, was about how he, myself, and running companion Mitch Seavey were going to handle our next few runs once leaving our current campsite at Bishop’s Rock. That comment really struck me, because of its power and simplicity. It was the first time I’d heard it put that way, that manner of parsing the various strategies employed on the Iditarod Trail between the “top dogs”.

What he meant was simply this–“all of us drivers know what to do if it turns out that after a few days of racing we still have a strong group of dogs in front of our sled–you break the Iditarod trail in as few chunks as possible, put the hammer down and get your ass to Nome–it’s not rocket science, but rather the direct application of brute force.”

Now, as the first drivers approach the checkpoint of Nikolai, I’ll use the aforementioned comment to put the developing competition into focus–at this point in the race, especially at this point being so early and the front-runners going on so little rest, the only thing that matters is how your dogs look. How they eat, how they rest on the straw, how much meat they have on their bones. How they look after a few short hours of sleep, and are they too tired to eat again before departing for Takotna?

There is almost no question that Lance Mackey’s dogs look perfect, will eat like alligators, and will all be shrieking to go after maybe 4 hours of rest. If that is not the case, it will be the first time in five years that it wasn’t.

The only real question about the competition is just this–how many of the drivers currently “sparring” with Lance will be driving teams that look as good as his does tonight on the way to Takotna? Speaking bluntly, I doubt if there will be very many–keeping in mind that just because someone is “with” Lance, it certainly does not mean that their dogs are feeling as peppy as his do.

See, that’s the true magic behind what Lance does–no matter how far he runs or how little rest he takes, no matter how many days in a row he’s been on the trail, his dogs always look like they only started the race 20 minutes before.

I’m sure someone will emerge to test Lance–I’m really liking what Dallas is doing right now, and Paul Gebhardt is a certified bad hombre–but only time will tell.

Look for very short breaks taken in Nikolai, and a dash for Takotna where most of the top teams (not all, but most, and I’m betting Lance) will take their 24’s.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

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24 Responses to “Boilerplate”

  1. mornin’ jason
    good stuff!

  2. Jason is sure is a great morning to wake and have coffee with your blog. What a great ‘conversation’ to start the day with your thoughts. BTW thank you for the link to Yukon Radio….I have it on now – I’m loving the link and I’m sorry I got to your post too late to hear you, I am hoping if they have an archive of it, I and others can rehear.

    • Thanks Ev–I’m on every night (6:00 Mountian Time) with Mush You Huskies where I’ll be running analysis for the race. Shoot me a friend request on FB and you’ll see the link when it goes up a bit later today. Also, here is a link to my website so you can check out my book & Harmony’s fabulous art! Thank you for your kind words about my blog–please tell all your friends!!!

  3. Great stuff Jason! Thanks! Did you see Krister finished the CanAm this AM? Brutal race, only 6 finishers!

  4. warm and sunny in nikolai today
    do you see some long rest here for the front runners?

    • Hmm, I see Martin taking a solid six, then shooting for Tak. Lance taking a 4 and also shooting for Tak with the intention of a 24 hour layover–if he takes 6 in Nik, I’m thinking he’ll go to Tak, rest for 5-6, then light out for Iditarod

      • I am excited to Martin Changing up his strategy this year. He must have cut his rest short at the fish camp, would this mean he is going to 24 sooner than later? I predict a duel between him and Mackey, they have the speed and the experience, Martin seems to be running with more purpose this year.

      • I totally agree that Martin is running with more purpose! He ran straight through from Rohn–no significant rest at the fish camp–clearly, a man who wants to put up a fight!

  5. Landon Erickson Reply March 8, 2011 at 11:16

    Thanks for all the updates! The kids really look forward to reading every post!

  6. Jason,
    With teams running during the day…
    Any thoughts on darker colored dogs vs white/lighter colored dogs when running in the sun?
    Also does the sun glare off the snow and ice affect the dogs?

  7. chadschouweiler Reply March 8, 2011 at 11:56

    Wow Jason great new blog! Can Lance pull off a move like he made last year without Maple? Maple sure looked alot better than Rev last year. Mackeys got his hands full.

    • As of this moment, I think Lance might be in a bit of trouble–check out (and “like”) this page for some awesome commentary–!/pages/Iditarod-Trail-Committee/112545578798091

  8. wow something to think abotu jason! great to have your perspective. martin seems a little more serious this year, not as much joking with the checkers and media. more business like, do you think hes taken on jeff kings mantle from the past few years? hmmmm…intersting!

  9. Jason, you put words to my thoughts. Lance’s team seems to be singing, not necessarily to WIN, but due to the love of man dog running. Winning seems to be the icing on top.

    • Thanks for the comment 🙂 One point I make very clear in my novel Ballad of the Northland is that winning is a byproduct of enjoying the beauty of life with your team & joining with them in an epic setting such as bush Alaska

  10. Thanks for spending the time to write and share with us fans, Jason! I used to live in Nome and work with Paul at the radio station. I miss the local analysis and so sit at my computer to follow from afar. Your experience & insights are a treasure to find and follow!

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