Adverse weather and smart dogs can still stop a Seavey winning the Iditarod again. Andre Jute investigates.

A reader of IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth and follower of the page on which many people follow the race, quotes this post I made:
>> March 12, 2017 15:21:38
>> All out of Kaltag.
>> 1. Mitch Seavey 0440
>> 2. Dallas Seavey 0445
— and then asks
> Is this why Dallas Seavey hit the trail out of Kaltag
> checkpoint only five minutes after Mitch?

Exactly. Mitch Seavey is the only other musher besides Dallas to win an Iditarod since 2011, and he has two second places too in these last years. Besides the fact that anyone can see that Mitch is running up front, this history makes Mitch his son Dallas’ main competitor.

Also, on the coast, as they close in on White Mountain, the race reaches a critical stage.

Coming off the Yukon, for the first time, fans and competing mushers too can compare the mushers at the front of the race directly, even-steven, without having to make complicated mathematical calculations, fraught with assumptions, to adjust for starting differentials between teams and whether the team had taken the mandatory 24 hour and first 8 hour stops. Now we can directly consider the order on the trail to be the race order, and to be the result of strategy and tactics of when to run and when to rest, and dog-feeding breaks.

The first musher to check into White Mountain with a bit of clear space behind him has an advantage because after the mandatory break of 8 hours at White Mountain to rest the dogs, the end of the race under the arch in Front Street, Nome, is only 77 miles away (55 miles to Safety, then 22 miles to the winner’s laurels — maps here), less than an easy day’s mushing for the hardened Iditarod competitors.

If the weather doesn’t interfere. In 2015 Jeff King and his dogs were blown off the trail. After Jeff’s mishap, Aliy Zirkle sheltered in the checkpoint to protect her team for a few minutes too long and it cost her the championship she so nearly inherited from front-runner Jeff King. Dallas Seavey, visibly worn out, won by a few minutes after nearly a thousand miles — because he judged the end of the storm slightly more accurately and kept going.

And if your dog team doesn’t lie down and refuse to run. Something else that even many fans of the Iditarod don’t know is that dogs are probably the only animal you can’t work to death. If dogs decide you’re working them too hard, or the conditions are to dangerous to run, they will lie down in the traces and refuse to proceed. It has happened out there on the ice of the Norton Sound to top mushers (1), it could happen again, it will happen again.

(1) I don’t give examples by naming the mushers it happened to because there no suspicion whatsoever that their dogs went on strike because they were maltreating them. Their dogs just turned out to be smarter than they were, which is a common condition in a sport where there are reins, no whips, nothing but the musher’s voice to control the sled dogs. Dogs work for the joy of running, for the love of their owner, not because of any other reason.

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:

iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
Createspace Amazon USA UK

GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

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

Andre Jute explains why the Iditarod winner starts his home run earlier every year

12 March 2016 1316 Alaskan Time

The last third of the Iditarod splits into three parts, of which the middle part is fixed and the final part can either be controlled by a dominant musher or deliver vast surprises, as in 2014, when first Jeff King and then Aliy Zirkle, in turn apparent champions, were overtaken by Dallas Seavey, who was staggering from fatigue.

Download the map from and study it to grasp that from the Kaltag Portage onwards the rules of the Iditarod are stacked in favour of the front runners, which is why year on year there is now an expectation of a new record for the race.


Let’s take it from the middle of the three parts in the last third of the race. The rules mandate an 8hr stop to rest the dogs at White Mountain. This stationary moment at a fixed spot is the key in an otherwise extremely dynamic race.

From White Mountain to the victory arch in Front Street in Nome is 77 miles, not a huge distance in a thousand-mile race to gain any appreciable time on a highly competitive and motivated team. That’s why it took extraordinary circumstance for Dallas Seavey to win from so far behind in 2014.

***Iditarod Dallas

While nothing in the Iditarod is certain — nothing except unpredictability! — mushers coming from behind can’t count on the weather breaking against the leaders but being just not bad enough to stop their good selves.

So, because of the short distance from the 8hr stop in White Mountain to triumph in Nome, and because of the strategic placing of this 8hr stop at White Mountain, mushers who wish to control the outcome, must reach White Mountain not only first, but with an adequate margin to ensure that teams faster than theirs cannot overtake them on the short run to Nome.


And that means they must start their home run at Kaltag — at the latest — 346 miles from Nome.

Unfortunately, every other musher knows (intermittently, from talk at checkpoints) when you make your break, and can respond.

So, as the Iditarod competition becomes more and more professional, the home run starts earlier and earlier.

This year, Dallas Seavey started his home run for Nome in the summer when he trained his dogs on a treadmill inside a 75ft long refrigerated truck.

In 2016, out of  Kaltag it looks to be between Brent Sass, Aliy Zirkle and Dallas Seavey.

Sass_Brent_2016-150x195Zirkle_Aliy_2016-150x195Seavey_Dallas_2016-150x195Out of Kaltag, 12 March 2016
1 Brent Sass 0820
2 Aliy Zirkle 1053
3 Dallas Seavey 1124

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:IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
eBOOKS iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&
PAPERBACKS Createspace Amazon USA UK

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