Written by Marty Moffat
As we begin the 4th quarter, Dallas has a dominating lead and has the ball on 25 yard line of....... I thought I would throw that in there for all you Dallas Cowboy fans who always end up disappointed and long to see Dallas doing well. However, the two-time Iditarod Champ, 28 yr. old Dallas Seavey, is doing VERY well.
Dallas has the distinct advantage of both being in prime physical condition AND having a whole lot of mushing experience and know-how to draw from. Beginning in his toddler years forward, he most likely gleaned an immense amount of information from his grandfather and dad before he began mushing himself. These advantages have helped him win this race twice already. Watching him in the checkpoints compared to the other front-runners, the distinction is glaringly apparent. He runs from his leaders back to his sled. He movements are quick and crisp. He speaks coherently. In short, he doesn't seem tired...Oh to be 28 again!
The difference between Aaron Burmeister and Dallas' styles coming into Koyuk was obvious as well. Dallas is always ski-poling, kicking and at times running. Aaron like most of the mushers simply stood on the runners. Dallas is dressed much lighter as well; since he is always moving he gets too warm if he is wearing what the other mushers do.
The weather on the coast is 40 to 50 degrees warmer than the Alaskan interior. In Shaktoolik, Jeff King commented that it "felt like a warm summer day." Certainly the predictable coastal winds are factoring in at certain places, but nothing that begins to resemble the ground blizzard the leaders encountered last year. The trail between Shaktoolik and Koyuk had 6" of fresh snow that obliterated any sign of the trail and Dallas had the luxury of simply following Aaron's tracks. Aaron indicated that it was time consuming for the dogs to be continually hunting for the trail and that there were lots of 2-3 foot drifts to plow through. The texture of snow is sugary and will not pack or bind together so all the following teams will also experience slower going--much like walking in sand--which takes its toll on the dogs.
In all, Dallas made up an hour and 45 minutes on Aaron, and actually passed him just outside Koyuk. His team looks excellent and strong. While he hopes to stay out front from here to Nome, he doesn't plan to attempt to do any more than what was is needed to maintain his lead. He said, "If the dogs are fast, I pay them back in rest and that's how you perpetuate speed." It looks like he has created "the monster" he has been referring to.
All of the top teams have 12 or more dogs left on the towline at 800 miles into the race which is testament to the high quality of care the dogs are receiving. Both Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer have just checked in Koyuk and made reference to the extremely slow and taxing trail conditions. Aliy took an hour longer than Dallas on that 45 mile stretch.
Team Seavey (the younger) has just checked out of Koyuk and has their sights set on Elim 48 miles away. Favorable temperatures and lights winds with a chance of snow is forecasted. These are pretty much ideal conditions for running dogs. The 'hefty' lady hasn't starting singing just yet, but she is clearing her throat.
Check back for 'the rest of the story.'