Critical Section

warming up for the Iditarod

Sunday,  02/14/16  12:43 PM

If you're a frequent reader you'll know, I am a big fan of the Iditarod dog sled race, a 1,000-mile slog in Alaska from Anchorage to Nome, which takes place every year in early March.  It began with meeting and becoming a fan of longtime musher and perennial contender DeeDee Jonrowe, but I just like everything about the race; the dog / athletes, the people, the tradition, and most of all the strategy.  When to go fast, when to go slow, when to rest, when to push on, how much to feed the team and when, etc.  The amazingness of the race was exemplified by the finish of the 2014 race, in which the leader dropped out, the team in second thought they were racing for second, not first, and the winning team thought they were third!

Yukon Quest 2016 leader Hugh Neff and teamSo with three weeks to go I'm warming up for the 2016 edition by following the Yukon Quest race, which is probably the second most prestigious sled race, and which is often used by teams as a pre-Iditarod.  Many think this race is even harder than the Iditarod, as it is slightly longer and features more climbing, and takes place in an area which is even more remote.  That's current leader Huff Neff and team at right; they are currently about 150 miles from the finish, neck and neck with Brent Sass, Allen Moore (husband of longtime Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle), and Matt Hall.

For the last few years the competitors have carried GPS trackers, which makes realtime watching of these races a lot more fun.  In my nice warm chair I can watch the teams battle snowstorms, subzero temperatures, sheet ice, and moose.  Heh.

This year the Quest website has a key innovation, a "race flow" chart, which nicely shows who is where and what's happening.  Here's a current snapshot:

Yukon Quest 2016 as of 2/14/16 at 10:00AM PT

Each colored line represents a competitor; with time along the X-axis and distance traveled on the Y-axis.  Horizontal lines show when the teams are resting, and the slope of the lines shows how fast the teams are traveling.  I love this and I hope the Iditarod adopts it too.  If they don't, I wonder if there will be enough data available to make one myself... hmmm.


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