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Archive: March 11, 2011

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go DeeDee, episode III

Friday,  03/11/11  11:52 AM

Here’s the latest update on DeeDee Jonrowe.  She is presently in 10th place, now with 12 dogs left.  She has taken her 24 hour layover and is … running with the big dogs, from the Anvik checkpoint up the Yukon river.  This is the long leg which makes the difference when the Iditarod takes the Southern route.  The leaders are now about 65% of the way through the 1,049 mile trek.  Among the lead group are past champions Lance Mackey, Martin Buser, and Rick Swenson, with about 5 hours separating them on the snow.  (DeeDee has finished second twice and in the top ten 17 times; after her talk to Aperio a few weeks ago she was asked “what does it take to win”?  She replied “if I knew that, I wouldn’t have finished second twice” :)

The conditions have “worsened”, with colder weather, snow, and softer snow.  From what I’ve read, all of this is good for DeeDee!  For what it’s worth, her average speed since the last checkpoint is the highest of anyone in the lead group.  This is the point in the race where wear and tear of hundreds of miles start becoming evident, and the strong teams keep moving ahead.  The picture at left shows DeeDee putting [pink!] booties on her dogs at a checkpoint.

By the way, you might have heard about the huge earthquake in Japan and consequent tsunami warnings all around the Pacific Rim, apparently Norton Sound is on alert but it is not expected to affect on the race.

Here’s the current standings; stay tuned for more … cheers and go DeeDee!

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go DeeDee, episode IV

Friday,  03/11/11  04:17 PM

Many of you have asked so I thought I’d clarify the situation with DeeDee’s dogs.  Each musher starts the Iditarod with a team of 16 dogs.  Each team is required to finish with at least 6 dogs running.  Each team must take one 24 hour stop and two 8 hour stops, for the benefit of resting their dogs.  A musher may decide to rest any dog at any time by bringing them onto their sled.  A musher may also “drop” a dog at any checkpoint.  This means that the dog is left in the care of vets etc and will no longer continue the race.  This is usually done because a dog is tired or hurt.  Toward the end a musher may optimize by dropping dogs to have a smaller team of fresher dogs.  The strategy of which dogs to take, when to rest dogs, when to feed them, when to drop dogs, etc is a crucial part of winning the race. In a real way they are the athletes.

Right: Dee and her team take to the trail, with their pink harnesses!

All dogs are examined by vets at each checkpoint.  The race committee may tell a musher to drop a dog if they feel it should not continue.  The race committee can also withdraw an entire team from the race if they feel this is warranted.  This has happened with one musher in this year’s Iditarod, but I think it was because the musher was hurt, not his team.

Currently DeeDee has 12 dogs left running, which means she has decided to drop 4 dogs.  Three were dropped right near the start at the third checkpoint, there was some kind of accident when she got lost and left the trail.  The dogs are okay but she decided to continue without them. I read one of them was her oldest lead dog, so that was an early blow.  She dropped another dog at the most recent checkpoint, don’t know why but probably because it was tired.

Left: The Northern lights highlight the trail

All of the top teams have dropped at least one dog, most more than one.  Defending champion Lance Mackey is running 5th, but has only 9 dogs left.

Of course deciding how hard to run is important too.  It is a nine day race, going out too fast too early will cost you.  Some mushers hold a steady pace, others run harder but rest more often.  In the last leg from Shageluk to Anvik DeeDee posted the fastest time of all the leaders.  DeeDee is still in 10th, resting at Anvik before the long trek up the Yukon river.  She is 4½ hours behind the leader.  Go DeeDee!

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PS some of you have asked, how do I know anything about sled dog racing?  The answer is: I don’t!  After meeting DeeDee I poked around the Internet and have learned as much as I can and am following the Iditarod with great interest.  It reminds me a lot of another tremendous athletic event I follow, the Tour de France.  In each there is a long way to go and a whole team is required to win, and there’s a lot of strategy involved in deciding what to do when :)



Friday,  03/11/11  05:03 PM


Today at 2:46PM in Tokyo a massive 8.9 earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan.  That was at 10:46PM here, or just about as I was composing my ZZZzzz post.  This is one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, and it has triggered tsunami waves all over the Pacific Rim.  I won't try to be a definitive news source, all I can say is wow, my heart and head go out to all those poor people.  Looking at the pictures and watching the movies, the devastation is unbelievable.

And check out these aftershocks, many of which would be considered major earthquakes in their own right...  wow.

The impact of this disaster will be felt in other ways too; economically, and politically.  There will be calls for better prediction systems, and better recovery.  There will be finger pointing.  But the ground truth is that there are big forces we cannot control.


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