Monday, March 12, 2012

CVIB Analysis Reveals...

If you are curious about race times of our top contenders from White Mountain to Nome, you are not alone. We know that Dallas Seavey was a competitive international wrestler. We know that Aily Zirkle is not afraid of working hard and running. We have all heard the lengendary Smyth brother stories and Ramey has shot-gunned himself to the front pack and is a genuine threat to the leaders. Aaron Burmeister is in familiar territory and his dogs must be smelling home and Speedy Petey Kaiser -- wow, how exciting to watch that guy! So here below are some running times from White Mountain to Nome. You can draw your own conclusions from the times below, but the most shocking thing for this CVIB analyst is the impressive finish times from Bethel's Pete Kaiser.

Monster unleashed

For many miles now, Dallas Seavey has hinted that he has been holding back his team, waiting to release the "monster". Well that monster has been released as he has reeled off a couple of monster runs to put his team at the forefront of the Iditarod sled dog race. First his team covered the 85 miles from Kaltag to Unalakleet on the coast in 11:42, a full hour less then his nearest competitor Aaron Burmeister and almost 2 hours faster then race leader at the time Aliy Zirkle. Then after taking a 4:22 break he covered the 90 miles to Koyuk in 15:29 with a few snack breaks along the way. With the second place team of Aliy Zirkle approaching the Koyuk checkpoint, it looks like Dallas could have up to a 1.5 hour lead with 171 miles left in the race.

Further back on the trail, one time lead contender Jeff King has dropped out of the race short of the Unalakleet checkpoint when his dogs decided they were no longer interested in the race. Rookie of the year contender Josh Cadzow has dropped for a similar reason. Young Kuskokwim River native Pete Kaiser has pulled into the 6th position and Ramey Smyth who always seems to have fast runs up the coast has willed his team into the conversation by moving into the 7th. Either one of those teams could help determine the outcome of the CVIB pool.

Read more here:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who left the most for the coast?

There is no extra credit for miles leading the Iditarod. If there were, then Aliy Zirkle would have a credit rating in the 800's. Sitting on the Bering Sea coast at the Unalakleet checkpoint with 750 Iditarod trail miles under her harness, she has led the race for most of those, yet she can't seem to shake the pursuit. Historically, she has not been speedy up the coast. But she has never been in this position before either, nor has she ever commanded a team like this one. Lets take a look at who has a chance to catch her.

Dallas Seavey: Dallas has kept the front of the pack in his sights the whole race and has now maneuvered into second. By his own admission, he hasn't unleashed his team to their fullest potential, and they look strong. look for him to take the brakes off and perhaps do a long run or two.

Aaron Burmeister: Aaron is a veteran of 12 Iditarods, but hasn't been in the race since 2009 when he placed 7th. Like Dallas, he as kept within reach of the front and has been creeping upwards in the standing. We have previously remarked about his analytical intelligence. He has been training in Nome this year, so no doubt his doggies will be fired up on this home stretch as they will be racing in familiar conditions. He has hinted that he has one or two tricks up his sleeve, so don't be surprised if he pulls out a monster run to propel him to the front. the team looks strong.

John Baker: Mr Steady. He won last year's race by keeping a steady pace while the leaders eventually hit the wall. We see no new strategy for John, and he is positioned well to make it work again if the leaders screw up.

Jeff King: Caught boasting that he was positioned to win, Jeff has closed the gap with the front, but is it enough? With four victories and many many competitive Iditarods under his belt, he has the experience, knowledge, and maybe even a trick or two to pull this off. Don't count him out yet.

Mitch Seavey: He spent some time in the front, and then dropped off the pace a bit, but just when we are ready to count him out, he has shown new life. He might not win, but a top 5 postion is within his reach if he can hold his team together.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Coast Crunch Numbers

In anticipation of the top mushers reaching the coast, it may  be interesting to look at travel times of some of CVIB's racers of particular interest from Unalakleet to Nome. It is anyone's guess as to who is going to get to see the crowd at Unalakleet first. but once s/he does arrive, this may provide a glimpse if s/he has the ability to hold off the contenders or if a challenger can kick it in! Below are the Iditarod race times for the past 3 years from Unalakleet to Nome for John Baker, Dallas Seavey, Mitch Seavey, Jeff King, Ramey Smyth, Aily Zirkle, Aaron Burmeister, Dee Dee Jonrowe, and Pete Kaiser.

Here comes the King

Jeff King has the nickname of "King of the Kuskokwim" due to his mastery winning the K300 river based dogsled race 8 times. He might have to add "King of the Yukon" to his list of aliases as his team has been reeling in the competition since hitting the Yukon river in this year's Iditarod dogsled race. In the 120 miles from Ruby to Galena, King has cut the gap between him and Dallas Seavey from three and a half hours to an hour and 10 minutes. With 84 river miles left to kaltag, maintaining that pace could put him in contention fro the lead. In that span, he has passed Mitch Seavey who was leading the race at Cripple, and moved from 6th to 3rd, with only Dallas Seavey and Aliy Zirkle in front of him. Aliy has shown some decent GPS speed of late clocking a 9.6 mph segment coming into nulato and still has a 12 mile lead over Dallas.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rumble on the River

Aaron Burmeister can figure out how fast John Baker is going by the distance between Baker footprints in the snow. He might be the one musher that is smarter then the CVIB bloggers. Mitch Seavey arrived at the Ruby checkpoint first to collect the $3000 First to the Yukon cash donated by the Remushitating Mortician. Aliy ZIrkle left Ruby 5 hrs ahead of Mitch which puts her 3 hours behind him mathematically since he has his 8 hour Yukon layover ticked off the list, however he and Dallas now have to run their teams through the afternoon sun so there is a penalty to pay. The Dallas Seavey team coming into Ruby second is moving fast and unlike his father Mitch, Dallas has been giving them some rest breaks on the trail, so a well rested team with speed is a dangerous combo. However he was clearly second guessing his strategy when he passed Aliy resting her team 20 miles short of Ruby. We didn't see the same amount of confidence Dallas has shown at previous checkpoints. At his point it is a virtual 3 way Seavey-Zirkle tie for the lead with Baker, and Burmeister on the cusp. We'll see how it all plays out in Kaltag as the teams depart the Yukon river.

Seavey family time in Ruby

With dawn approaching the Yukon river in a few hours, Mitch Seavey and Dallas Seavey are the first Iditarod teams to approach the Ruby checkpoint as they lay down the challenge for the other contenders to keep them within reach. Further back on the trail, the team of Aliy Zirkle is resting out in the wilderness as she has chosen to break the 170 mile run from Takotna to Ruby into 3 segments instead of using the Seavey 2 segment strategy. While the Seavey teams will likely choose an overdue rest at Ruby (maybe even taking the mandatory Yukon 8 hour break), Aliy may in fact blast through that checkpoint and regain the lead. She is about 25 to 30 miles out, so continuing to run to an early afternoon rest down the Yukon river fits her strategy well. All three of these mushers still show a level of confidence in their race so far, even though Mitch admits to checking behind him on occasion. As the trail changes from the hills to the flat cold and sometimes windy stretch along the river, the character of the race will change, so we will see.

Not far back, 2011 winner John Baker is making his move - if you can call it that. The large dogs on Baker's team average about 70 pounds compared to the 40 pounds on Zirkle's team and they have only one speed. That speed is forward. The fact that he is closing the gap with the leaders doesn't mean he is speeding up, it means they are slowing down. That is good news for some of the other contenders further back like the surprising Aaron Burmeister, the unretired Jeff King, and the florescent pink outfitted team of Dee Dee Jonrowe. Dee Dee who has had her share of troubles for many years seems to have all of the pieces falling in place this time around, and we are happy to see her up there.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Team Seavey to the front

Why is this guy smiling?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Zirkle sets the Iditarod pace

Aliy Zirkle drove the first dog sled team into the McGrath checkpoint right outside McGuires tavern in first place and is showing no signs of slowing down. She picks up the PenAir Spirit of Alaska award for being first into this outpost on the Kuskokwim river. She stopped long enough to pose for some pictures, sign an autograph, and off she went towards the Takotna checkpoint. She pulled into Takotna 3 hours later with one dog in the sled and still in the lead, and promptly declared her 24 hour layover. The chase pack of John Baker, Mitch Seavey, Jeff King, and Dallas Seavey showed up 30 minutes later. With fresh snow on the trail, chances are this whole group will decide to take in the fresh pie that Takotna is famous for while they 24 here.

Farther back, Lance Mackey decided to take his 24 at McGrath with a team that seemed to be slowing pulling into that checkpoint almost 3 hours after Zirkle passed through. He originally headed out of McGrath but was sidetracked when 2 members of his team decided to consummate their friendship which not only distracted the rest of his team, but other teams passing through as well. hopefully the lovebirds will find time to rest during the next 24.

After making up the start differential, Zirkle will leave Takotna with a mere 10 minute lead over the Seaveys who started the race in 34th and 35th position. Farther back, Grandpa Seavey has regained contact with the tail end racers after taking a wrong turn in the Alaska range. Remarkably, no teams have dropped out so far in what has to be a first for this stage of the race. Next stop is Cripple for the halfway award and some key points in the CVIB pool.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Iditarod Surprises

1) the Happy Steps were no problem

2) Aliy Zirkle leading the charge to McGrath. In her 12th iditarod she typically starts strong but the highest she has finished is 11th (twice). We still aren't sure how many of Allen Moore's Qwest dogs are on the team.

3) Kelly Griffin running with the leaders. Someone in the know picked her in the CVIB Challenge so there must be something there. She had a run in with a moose during training a few weeks ago that shook her and the team up. Her 4th iditarod - she finished 26th last year. First year in many however that she hasn't run the Qwest.

4) Busers are lagging. Both have shown a passion to charge hard from the start in the past, yet this year they are more then a checkpoint behind the leaders, so what's up with dat?

5) Too many Seaveys to track. Dan (aka the ol' man) placed 3rd way back in 74 and decided he needs one more kick at the can at the tender age of 74. He is definitely bringing up the rear, and may get booted from the race if he doesn't pick up the pace. Dallas and Mitch are right in the thick of things, so watch for them as they typically make their move towards the front along the Yukon river.

6) Hugh and Lance must enjoy each others company. After running neck and neck a few weeks ago for 1000 miles of the Qwest, they don't ever seem to be more then a sticks throw away from each other in this race so far.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Back from the Abyss

Things have been kinda hectic here in the Wyoming CVIB satellite office, so we've fallen behind on the coverage of this years Iditarod. Don't expect extensive coverage here because that can be found elsewhere, but there is still extensive interest in the event. A couple of quick observations for you. The trail over the Alaska range is in much better shape then most anticipated including the Happy Steps, which were supposed to be bypassed this year, but put back in because of the increased snow depth. There are many teams sitting out the heat of the day in rainy Pass now, and the consistent theme of their comments has been how well the trail over the steps were. A couple of highlights for you - Ramey Smyth fell asleep on the trail and as a result, lost his team for about 45 minutes. He is one of the favorites for many in the CVIB pool, but he still has plenty of race left to make up for that mistake. Aliy Zirkle likes to run with the leaders at the front end of the trail, and this year is no exception. I think she mentioned that she had some of the dogs from husband Allen Moore's 2nd place Qwest team. Lance Mackey is once again with the front runners, and you can be sure, all the contenders will want to keep him within striking distance. Sigrid Ekran is back in the race from team Norway, and looks to have a strong team. Yukon Qwest winner Hugh Neff is with the leaders and exudes confidence every time he speaks.