How to discover who really leads the Iditarod. Andre Jute does the math.

  • The Iditarod Trail Committee publishes race standings, but until the mushers check in at White Mountain, those are just the order on the trail. The only true comparison is between mushers who have taken the 24 hour mandatory break and have both either taken or not taken the mandatory 8 hour break.

  • The real leader can be, and usually is, someone else.

  • Aliy Zirkle. Photo by Mike Criss.
  • If you want to know who truly leads the Iditarod, you must allow for three factors:

Relative position on the trail. One musher is ahead of another musher by so many minutes at a checkpoint, and that’s official, or unofficially on the trail a distance that can be measured by GPS responder positions and converted to a time differential by reference to known average speed.

Mandatory stops. There are three mandatory long stops to rest the dogs, in addition to rest and feeding stops the musher makes at his/her discretion. The 24 hour stop can be taken anywhere except White Mountain and Nome, because none of the mandatory stops can be combined and at Nome the race ends. Practically, almost everyone takes the 24 hour stop before descending the Kaltag Portage to the Bering Sea coast. The first of the mandatory 8 hour stops must be taken on the Yukon (including Shageluk). The second mandatory 8 hour stop must be taken at White Mountain, from where it is a sprint to Nome.

Relative order at the start. Mushers start the race at two minute intervals. These differentials are adjusted at the 24 hour mandatory stop. So a musher who starts ten places ahead of another musher and is now three places and five minutes ahead leaving a checkpoint is in fact 20-5 = 15 minutes behind. After both have taken the Yukon 8 hours and the 24 hours, they will be even-steven, and on-the trail differentials will be true differentials. The checking-in order at White Mountain is also a true differential.

Example. Even a little way into the race, getting an answer isn’t that simple. Take this incident of mushers leaving a checkpoint, Musher A one hour before Musher B. Musher A carries bib number 32 and has served his Yukon 8 hours but not his 24 hours mandatory break to rest the dogs. Musher B carries bib number 2 (there is no No 1 which is reserved for the shade of Leonhard Seppala) has served her 24 hours but not her 8 hours on the Yukon.

Question: How far is Musher B, 1 hour behind on the trail, actually in front of Musher A in real standings?

Answer: Musher B is clearly ahead by the difference between their mandatory breaks still to be taken, 24 – 8 = 16 hours, less the hour Musher A is ahead out of the checkpoint, so 15 hours, with the starting differential still to be calculated. (Here’s where most people give up. Don’t. It gets easier.) Note that her time has been adjusted for starting differential to every musher in the race, including his, all the way to the back because, while we speak loosely of “24 hours”, in fact her break was 26h20m. When he takes his 24 hour break, two minutes for his advantage to each of the 40 mushers behind him will be added on, 1h20m altogether, so the total Musher B will be ahead after she finishes her 8 hour Yukon break and Musher A finishes his 24 hour break  is 24 – 8 -1 + 1h20m  = 16h20.

  • From the IDITAROD RULES:

  • “Rule 13 — Mandatory Stops: A musher must personally sign in and out to start and complete all mandatory stops.

“Twenty Four-Hour Stop: A musher must take one mandatory twenty-four (24) hour stop during the race. The twenty-four (24) hour stop may be taken at the musher’s option at a time most beneficial to the dogs. The starting differential will be adjusted during each team’s twenty-four (24) hour stop. It is the musher’s responsibility to remain for the entire twenty-four (24) hour period plus starting differential. The ITC will give each musher the required time information prior to leaving the starting line.

“Eight Hour Mandatory Stops: In addition to the mandatory twenty-four (24) hour stop, a musher must take one eight (8) hour stop on the Yukon River, including Shageluk in odd numbered years, and one eight (8) hour stop at White Mountain.

“None of the mandatory stops may be combined.”

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK



GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on Amazon, Google and all the vendors above:
Henty’s Fist•1 GAUNTLET RUN

andre_jute_singapore André operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Who can deny Dallas Seavey another Iditarod victory? Andre Jute checks the confidence behind the smiles.

So what will it take to win the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and who can do it?

Yesterday, we considered whether one of the currently dominant Seaveys, Dallas (left) or Mitch (right), can win a straight sixth victory in the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. What we saw was that the Seaveys have plenty of experience in winning.

We concluded that what decides the outcome among all these hard men and women is a small quantum of luck, the weather — and experience.

Luck and the weather are, by definition, outside of the mushers’ control. That leaves experience.

We’re not talking about skill or gritty commitment here. For practical purposes all the possible winners are equally skilled and equally gritty as competitors.

In most sports, what predicts the likelihood of success is — previous success. The question is choosing the right kind of success, because not every kind of success defines an overall winner.

What predicts an Iditarod winner more certainly than anything else is top ten finishes, preferably recent top ten finishes. Sure, a rookie can come along and temporarily upset the rule, as Robert Sorlie did with a rookie win earlier in this century; but Sorlie was a musher’s musher, a racer with huge depth of experience of winning in Scandinavia. His “rookie” status was artificial, to say the least.

So here we go.

Nearest thing to a sure thing?

Dallas Seavey, with a side bet on his dad, Mitch Seavey. Been there, done that. There are more interesting questions to answer.

An upset winner?

I was very impressed with Jessie Royer’s run into fourth place in 2015, a bad year for mushers; she’s 40, in her prime as a musher, with experienced dogs she rested eight hours for every five they ran in the  Yukon Quest! Those pups are just warmed up and raring to go. Melinda Shore also picks Jessie for an upset.

[I wrote this article before the race, and I publish it unchanged on the evening of the second day of the actual race as most of the mushers are on the trail from Tenana to Ruby. Jessie lies 11th on the road, but because she has not taken the mandatory 8 hours to rest the dogs yet, Martin Buser, who has, while behind her on the trail, is in fact about 7h15 ahead of her (including the starting differential adjustment), and the same applies to all the mushers who’ve served the 8-hour break as far back as Dave Branholm currently 39th on the trail.

All the same, I publish the article as I wrote it. You have to take your chances and I’m betting Jessie knows what she’s doing putting off that mandatory break to keep up with the real contenders. It’s a lesson in how tricky it is for the mushers on the trail, who don’t have even a fraction of the information you and I have to hand.]

Joar Leifseth Ulsom is 29, the right age to make his mark, and has a stunning record of four top-7 finishes in four Iditarod starts. He’s the most promising runner in the race, but we’d like to see him deliver a credible threat to the mushers in front, and soon, or he’ll be perceived as a technically competent and athletic competitor who lacks the killer instinct a top athlete must possess.

The usual top-ten suspects, ex-champions,  habitual front-runners, and another Norwegian

These all finished under 9 hours last year, as of course did both Seaveys and Ulsom, a distinction shared by only 13 mushers (including those named here) in the entire history of the Iditarod. In the order in which they finished in 2016:

From the top, left to right, more top ten finishers who in 2016 crossed under the arch in Front Street, Nome, under 9 hours: Aliy Zirkle — a multiple runner-up, Wade Marrs, Peter Kaiser, Nicholas Petit — three young lions who everyone expects sooner or later to be champions, and Ralph Johannessen — current Norwegian champion. Plus Jeff King, a four-time champion — only 46 seconds north of nine hours!

This is as frightening a collection of smiling hard cases as any defending Iditarod champion would rather not meet on the trail.

Of these, Wade Marrs [just checking into Ruby as I post this!], who’s been improving radically year by year, is a dark horse whose time could arrive at any moment.

And Nicholas Petit has won several middle-distance races this season to give his team confidence. Any edge is worth having when you go up against competitors riding high for five years already.

Expect to see most of these in the top ten, or challenging for the win.

This is basically the same list as Jake Berkowitz published in the Alaska Dispatch News, and for the same reasons. Berkowitz has a top ten finish in the Iditarod himself, and a bunch of mushing awards, so he’s a talent spotter who merits respect. Berkowitz includes another strong finisher in his list:

“Richie Diehl: The only musher on this list who has never been in the Top 10, Diehl’s best Iditarod was last year’s 12th-place finish. But Diehl had another strong performance in this year’s Kuskokwim 300, surging in the second half and taking third. Look for him to come on strong along the Bering Sea Coast.”

What with the weather this year, I think Berkowitz is right: a fast finish could be the making of a surprise winner.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on Amazon, Google and all the vendors above:
Henty’s Fist•1 GAUNTLET RUN

andre_jute_singapore André operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

 

 

Surviving the Iditarod by intelligent information flow. Andre Jute reports.

Actually, the first thing the Iditarod Sled Dog Race watcher needs is enough sleep, especially towards the end, when it can get very tense whether your favorite starts the compulsory 8-hour rest close enough to the front runners to catch them on the short final stretch to Nome. Newcomers to this tense race are then tempted to wait out the layover; experienced watchers catch some sleep the minute the first three or four mushers are in, because they know you don’t want to miss a moment of that last sprint, on which Dallas Seavey famously has come from hours behind to win from Aliy Zirkle. It could happen again, it could even happen to Dallas. (Don’t bet the house on that last wild speculation, though.)

Next you need plenty of nutritious snack food and hydration because you won’t have time to cook anything demanding, and your family will soon be glued to the screen next to you.

Information without which you can’t follow the Iditarod

These, and only these, are pages of essential information you should keep open on your computer screen, neatly cascaded for instant reference. Other pages you open you should close instantly you finish with them, or soon you will drown in inessential information, and you’ll miss crucial bits of the race because you couldn’t find the right page.

First, the page that will be your action control centerThis is where the selected most relevant news arrives hot and ready to your screen.

Next you need to know when it happens, so here’s Alaskan clock you can scale to the space available on your screen by simply dragging the bottom right hand corner.

You also need to know who it happens to, so here’s a list of the usual suspects, complete with mug shots; they’ll look worse towards the end of the race.
Of course, the question of why it happens to her will strike you with great force, and the answer is often Alaska’s perfectly predictable weather: it will turn lethally nasty at unpredictable times.

CdnFy4NXEAEhX5S.jpg-largeAliy Zirkle running hard for Nome

This is the page for one of my books at my publisher, which collects other essential Iditarod information in one place

Finally, the only guaranteed way to judge the progress of a dog team and its musher is from checkpoint to checkpoint, so you need a checkpoint progress sheet. 

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singapore
Andre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

2016 IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE RESULT. New Race Record!

 

2016 IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE RESULT
1 Dallas Seavey, new record of 8d 11h 20m 16s
2 Mitch Seavey
3 Aliy Zirkle
4 Wade Marrs
5 Peter Kaiser
6 Joar Leifseth Ulsom

Congratulations all round!

A few points are worth making. This year I chose a likely top ten before the race. Five of the six finishers so far are in my chosen top ten. This isn’t magic.

The Iditarod is only for the hardest, most experienced and most persistent mushers. Even the presently dominant Dallas Seavey took ten years to become an “overnight star”, and before that he was in the Junior Iditarod, and before that he grew up in the mushing household of Mitch Seavey, another multiple champion, who this year came second and at stages looked like a possible winner. In short, Dallas has been preparing all his life to take a shot at the Iditarod championship. So what is surprising isn’t that experience counts for so much but that so many outsiders (Butcher, King, to name just two) came and conquered.

The two photographs of Aliy Zirkle (courtesy of the excellent Alaska Dispatch News) demonstrate my other point as well as words can. First the public relations shot: Doesn’t it just look like a carefree camping holiday, albeit a bit extended at a 1000 miles? And then the hard reality: Running a thousand miles behind a dog-sled in sub-zero temperatures, eight and a half days over a thousand miles to be even in contention.  After subtracting 40 hours of mandatory rest for the dogs, that’s nearly 150 miles per day average including all other feeding and rest stops.

Aliy Zirkle into Nome photo ADNCdnFy4NXEAEhX5S.jpg-large

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singapore
Andre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Will the 2016 Iditarod be another Seavey benefit? Race hots up unbearably.

aliyzirkle14 March 2016 1355 Alaskan Time

Dallas Seavey, into White Mountain at 0948, has left a wake-up call for 1430. He can leave, his mandatory 8hr rest expired, at 1748. Mitch Seavey, in at 1027, and Brent Sass, in at 1140, will be 39m and 1h52m behind him when they exit White Mountain.

Aliy Zirkle, out of Elim at 0924, is out of it unless there is an upset ahead of her. At this stage it looks like the rest of the top ten will be made up of Marrs, Kaiser, Leiftseth Ulsom, Burmeister, Petit, Johannessen, with King, Sorlie, Phillips, Beals and Baker pressing for a place, a hard-fought second tier.

At the head of the field, Mitch Seavey and Brent Sass have 77 miles to make up 39m and 112m respectively. But Dallas Seavey has only 9 dogs left, whereas Mitch has 12 and Brent has 13. Weather conditions, especially the wind, may count for as much as Dallas’s youth and strength, or so Mitch will hope. Brent must hope for an upset.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:
eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singapore
Andre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Is this a close Iditarod, or is it close? Is a new record looming?

13 March 2016 1432 Alaskan Time

Seavey_Dallas_2016-150x195In his record year of 2014 Dallas Seavey left Shaktoolik on the Sunday morning at 1028. This year he left at 1027. That record year he left Shaktoolik with 13 dogs. This year he has 9. He says he likes a light team for a fast end run. However that may be, other top contenders, spotting a possible chink, will press Dallas hard, and that could lead to a new record, and possibly an upset too.

Sass_Brent_2016-150x195Remember what I said yesterday, about reaching White Mountain first with enough lead to ensure an easy win? (You can get a screenfriendly map there too!) In that light, check the current official standings, out of Shaktoolik:
1 Dallas Seavey 1027
2 Brent Sass 1125Zirkle_Aliy_2016-150x195
3 Aliy Zirkle 1252
4 Mitch Seavey 1304

Still in Shaktoolik:
5 Wade Marrs, arrived 1352

Seavey_Mitch_2016-150x195Others still on the trail from Unalakleet appear mostly out of contention, though there is still time for an upset to bring them back into play.
iditarod-racePhotos, from the top, D Seavey, Sass, Zirkle and M Seavey.


I

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute


Andre Jute
 is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:
eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singapore
Andre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Who can win the Iditarod?

In theory any of the 85 runners can win but many know that just finishing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a higher accolade than is available in almost any other sport.  Realistically, even with catastrophic lack of snow on the trail to create upsets, most literally and dangerously, the winner will come from fewer than twenty men and women.

DeeDee Jonrowe, photographed by Marianne Schoppmeyer, starting the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Such a lovely, colourful photograph, you would almost think DeeDee is setting off for a little shopping down the mall at the bottom of the road, rather than a 1200 mile tour just under the Arctic Circle.
DeeDee Jonrowe, photographed by Marianne Schoppmeyer, starting the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Such a lovely, colourful photograph, you would almost think DeeDee is setting off for a little shopping down the mall at the bottom of the road, rather than a 1200 mile tour just under the Arctic Circle.

For a start, remember this. The race is so dangerous that the organizers don’t let in anyone who doesn’t have substantial experience in lesser races, some of them as long, and some of them almost as dangerous. Though some are called “rookies”, there are no real rookies in this race. Everyone is experienced, and experience counts for a very great deal, which is how come there are so many middle-aged men among the champions and would-be champions.

Also, this is a sled dog race; the humans are there only to feed and tend the dogs. And dogs, unlike for instance horses, cannot be driven to work. If the dogs decide they’re tired or hungry or the conditions are too dangerous, they will lie down and the musher’s run will be over. It has happened, recently, to leading mushers. It can happen again.

Seavey_Dallas_2016-150x195Dallas Seavey has to be the odds-on favorite. He’s been in the top five five years in a row, with three victories and the race record. He’s a dominant musher, and you bet against him at your peril. It gets worse for every other musher. In years gone by, Dallas has “built his monster” (his own words) slowly and cautiously in the first part of the race, saving his team for a strong finish. This year, when every other musher was taking the summer off because it was too hot for the dogs to train, Dallas was building his monster inside a refrigerated truck on a treadmill long enough to take his entire team. If Dallas doesn’t need to build his monster, if he comes out of the starting blocks sprinting, he could win again.

Seavey_Mitch_2016-150x195Okay, so it’s Dallas Seavey’s race to lose. But there are a lot of hard men and women who would be only too happy to take the Iditarod away from Dallas if he makes the slightest misstep or misjudgment, for which an opportunity arises on the Iditarod every few seconds. Chief among the aspirants is Mitch Seavey, father to Dallas, himself a recent champion, and known for never giving up.

Ulsom_Joar-Leifseth_2016-150x195Royer_Jessie_2016-150x195So who do I fancy for an upset? It won’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who’ve gone to the Iditarod with me a few times now that I’ve got my money on Joar Leifseth Ulsom, the Norwegian who has finished in the top ten in every Iditarod he has run, and Jessie Royer, who has five top-ten finishes, including three in the last four years, and five further top-20 finishes.

Sass_Brent_2016-150x195Kaiser_Pete_2016-150x195Petit_Nicolas_2016-150x195Some other young guns whose time has come, and that you should take a look at, are Brent Sass, Pete Kaiser and Nicolas Petit.

King_Jeff_2016-150x195Zirkle_Aliy_2016-150x195Gatt_Hans_2016-150x195Also, you can’t discount huge depth of experience, including being champion or close runner-up, so given that they have depth in their kennels, I reckon Jeff King, Aliy Zirkle and Hans Gatt stand a good chance of featuring somewhere in the top ten.

Jonrowe_DeeDee__2016-150x195Every year we also follow an outsider but this year I want to break that pattern and follow DeeDee Jonrowe in her 34th Iditarod. DeeDee has a stack of Iditarod awards and prize money, and as recently as 2013 she was tenth, but in 2014 she scratched and last year she was 31st. The question is, is she on the comeback trail this year?

Mackey_Lance_2016-150x195Talking of comeback trails, we’ll also be looking at Lance Mackey. It wasn’t so long ago that he was joking about going straight from Champion to Red Lantern. The man has grace.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:
eBOOKS iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singaporeAndre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Negeqvak, the racer without a bib, biggest threat to every would-be Iditarod champion

Everyone knows why no one races in the modern Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race under Bib No. 1, right? It belongs to the late great Leonhard Seppala, hero of the 1925 “Serum Run” from Seward to Nome.

But did you know there is a musher with no bib, no number? His name is Negeqvak, and last year he took the victory away first from Jeff King within spitting distance from the finish line, and then from Aliy Zirkle when she dithered in the face of Negeqvak.

iditarod-race

I’ll let a lifelong Alaskan, John Schandelmeier, a two-time winner of the other 1000 mile race, the Yukon Quest, explainthe relevance of Negeqvak with particular reference to champions and would-be champions:

“Dallas is faster, but if Aaron can force him to cut his rests short … that could change. Neither Aliy Zirkle nor Jesse Royer can be counted out. Neither should negeqvak.”

So who is this Negeqvak, the musher without a bib? Actually, it’s a what. It’s  the Yupik word for “north wind”.

Here’s Schandelmeier in the Alaska Dispatch News on a few of the years in which Negeqvak influenced the outcome of the race:

“Last year saw negeqvak become the deciding factor to give Dallas Seavey one of the biggest come-from-behind victories of all time. New, dry snow coupled with forecasted wind could again be instrumental. Some of the Iditarod’s most memorable victories have come with the wind, including Rick Swenson’s record fifth win in 1991 and Libby Riddles’ historic victory as the first woman champion in 1985.”

Right now at Koyuk, Negeqvak is blowing 15mph NNE.

***

My page Iditarod follows the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race live, as it happens. You’re cordially invited to join us.

iditarod_cover_6dec13_72dpi_800pxh

André Jute is the author of the much-loved, multi-award-winning bestselling novel IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and all ebook formats.

Risking everything to reach White Mountain first. André Jute explains the Iditarod end game.

No, it isn’t a computer game. It is a real race, the toughest and most dangerous race in the world, running a thousand miles behind a dogsled across the tundra of Alaska, within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle, all the way from Fairbanks to Nome. This is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, famous or notorious depending on your outlook.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Dispatch NewsPhoto Alaska Dispatch News

And after you beat all the human odds of fatigue and sleep deprivation to get to the head of the field by the  time you reach the Kaltag Portage, you have to sprint 250 miles or so to get to White Mountain first.

Why? Because the race is deliberately rigged to set up a sprint for a photo finish under the arch on Front Street in Nome, 77 miles beyond White Mountain. That suited the framers of the competition well, and suits the current race organization equally well, because it also meets the greatest subsidiary aim of the race, next to keeping it alive.

You can tell by their environment that the organizers are hard men and women. But they’re clearly absolutely terrified by a good number of potentials for disaster in the unavoidable dangers that arise from the nature of the race and its immovable geography, terrain and weather. First, they are terrified that anyone will ever say that a dog was maltreated on the Iditarod; they take such good care of the canine contestants that a dog on the gangline, running in the Iditarod, stands a better chance of surviving the period of the Iditarod than the average pooch that you can see your neighbor walking. For the health of the dogs there are several mandatory fixed-length stops during the race. One of these, of eight hours, is at White Mountain.

I said the organizers are visibly terrified by a number of possibilities. We don’t have time or space to go into all of them, but another predictable worry is that a contestant will kill himself on the Iditarod, and perhaps get the race banned. They have very strict entry qualifications to guard against this, and a “rookie” on the Iditarod is always an experienced long-distance musher already. That everyone let into the Iditarod is a very hard case goes without saying, tough, fit, and with unshakable focus.

So now you have a bunch of very tough, fit, focused mushers coming down the mountain from Kaltag, having already beaten out the other very tough, very fit athletes to be in the first ten out of Kaltag checkpoint, knowing that beyond White Mountain, where everyone has to stop eight hours, everyone will be rested, and there will be only 77 miles left in the race.

Seventy-seven miles is not far enough to make up any significant distance on a top competitor.

IditarodMap2015exADN

Every musher wants to be first out of White Mountain. And that means arriving at White Mountain first.

Of course everyone else knows this too. That sets up a longrange sprint of attrition to be first at White Mountain. Every year the sprint for White Mountain starts earlier. This year it visibly started at Kaltag. Some might argue it started earlier, even much earlier…

It doesn’t matter precisely where it started. We’re into the sprint now. Enjoy.

My page Iditarod follows the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race live, as it happens. You’re cordially invited to join us.

iditarod_cover_6dec13_72dpi_800pxh

André Jute is the author of the much-loved, multi-award-winning bestselling novel IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and all ebook formats.

At the Iditarod, I’m almost tempted to be smug… Almost!

Before the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race I picked five mushers who could conceivably win the race, but would certainly end up in the top ten or top twenty, and two who were worth a bet for an upset entry into the Top Ten.

The ever-spectacular Aliy Zirkle, 2nd for the second year running, a definite champion some year soon, already on our shortlist for next year.

Here are the top five I picked, with their results:

Dallas Seavey, defending champion, 4th
John Baker, immediately past victor, 21st
Aliy Zirkle, spectacular challenger, 2nd last year, 2nd again
Jeff King, multiple champion, scientific musher, 3rd
Ramey Smyth, a champion in waiting, 20th

Photo: 2013 Iditarod 7th Place - ROOKIE Joar Leifseth Ulsom</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>9 days, 12 hours, 34 minutes, 00 seconds

Joar Leifseth Ulsom, the heartthrob of Roros in Norway

And my two outside bets both came good:

DeeDee Jonrowe, perpetual threat, 10th
Joar Leifseth Ulsom, worth a bet for a rookie Top 10 finish, 7th

So, out of my seven choices, five ended in the top ten, and Ramey, whose lead dog Barley was put on compulsory medical leave of absence in a controversial veterinary decision, still ended in the Top Twenty. Only John Baker didn’t make it, by one place.

Of course, none of this is rocket science. If you read my reasons for my choices, you will see that all are pretty obvious choices for a top twenty place. Despite the provocative headline, there is nothing to be smug about here. You could make as good a prediction after a few weeks  immersing  yoursef in the history of the race.

My next prediction is  for a much less spectacular but much riskier proposition, a finish by a 61 year-old lady.

Aliy charging hard across the Norton Sound, trying to close on Mitch Seavey, the eventual winner, before White Mountain.

During the race my group at the Facebook page for IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth, serves new arrivals and old hands at the Iditarod with comprehensible race updates and commentary (well, you have to look lively and not need much sleep to keep up, but that’s the nature of the race!). We  also always chooses one of the teams from the back of the pack to follow and cheer on to finish, even to finish last, which is a triumph beyond the reach of all but the few.

Remember this:
Fewer people have finished the Iditarod than have climbed Mount Everest.

This year ten very hard men, and their battle-hardened dogs, over 15% of the starting field, have already scratched…

This year we chose Cindy Gallea, 61, currently in 51st place. She is over the hardest part of the race, up the frozen Yukon towards the Arctic Circle, and has reached Unalakleet on the Norton Sound, only 261 miles from Nome. Go, Cindy!

Come cheer Cindy on.

More about the Iditarod on Kissing the Blarney

Photos courtesy Iditarod Trail Committee and Anchorage Daily News.