The Hippocratic Oath* can be modified to fit the first few days of the Iditarod. As the saying goes, you can’t win the Iditarod in the first hundred miles, but you sure can lose it. How fast they’re moving, how far they run, and how much they rest certainly matter, but it’s like placing bets or buying stocks at this point, we won’t know how it worked out for a while yet.
Overall, I believe ALL the teams are back to taking off too fast. For a few years, 2015-2017 in particular, they’d seemed to find the right balance. Mitch finished the 2017 Iditarod going just as fast as he was at the start.** While not much research has been done on split times in long distance sledding, the general assumption is dogs are like humans, and we’re hoping for a steady pace rather than a steep decline at the end. Just like human marathon runners, very few mushers achieve this.
The past two years, with poor trail conditions on the Yukon and reduced team sizes, have seen some especially noticeable drop-offs in speed over the course of the race.
Right now, the lead pack is running 25% over a 9 day pace.*** That would equate to a 6 day 18 hour Iditarod. Or if you’re a jogger who normally runs 8 minute miles, try running a few at 6 minutes. Tom Knolmayer is exactly on a 9 day pace in 35th position.
Unfortunately, we’ve not seen a winning caliber team take off on a 9 day pace**** to see what happens. I would love to see Joar Ulsom arrive in Finger Lake when Pete Kaiser arrives in Rainy Pass and see how that plays out. If all the teams make some version of the same mistake, it’s hard to judge the impact.
So don’t worry about who’s where. It really doesn’t matter. It’s more indicative of who thinks they can win at this point.
The things I notice when looking at the stat sheet now:
Lance Mackey was 3rd to Rainy Pass. That’s way higher than most of us expected, maybe he’s got a rocket hiding in there somewhere.
Both Brent Sass and Nick Petit are running smart. This is good to see, both are on a comeback tour of sorts, and it looks like maybe they’ve adopted a little more conservative strategy. Brent especially will be in great shape if he keeps this up.
Good night, Danny
*Or wherever that’s from
** that was a record finish, 8 days 3 hours. Even that was very fast in the beginning, it just worked because he was able to hold that pace.
** For the math-inclined: From Willow on the Northern Route, the Iditarod is actually about 960 miles long. If you figure the winner will take 9 days, that’s 106 miles per 24 hours. If you deduct the 24 hour rest, we’re up to 120 miles per 24 hours. The real number is somewhere in the middle, because you’d have to rest at both the 24 and finish; so call it 8 days 12 hours. So, let’s go with 113 miles per 24 hours, 4.7 MPH. Bib numbers matter. 25-26 hours into this race, we had teams leaving leave mile 153. Should have been at 122 = 25%.
**** In the modern, 9-day era, since 1995.