SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Macgellan's Mid-Iditarod Musings -- Part 1

I've been looking at the Google Analytics stats for this DogLog, which shows that the number of "page views" is running just about double what it was this time last year. That number coincides with the ratio of "New Visitors" to "Old Visitors" which is running about 50/50, meaning that about half our DogLog visitors are new to the site… and maybe new to the Iditarod, sled dog racing, etc.

I've also been reviewing the comments, and I see some really good questions that deserve at least decent answers. So, I'm going to use a bit of our "mandatory 24" to volunteer a few thoughts, observations -- even "musings" -- that I hope will explain a few things. Most of you "veteran fans" probably already know this stuff, but maybe there will be a nugget or two that's useful to you, too.

First of all, Aliy is in a really excellent position. Her dog team is obviously "long and strong", which means they are making long runs between (significant) rests, at good speeds, and finishing their "work day" with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Apparently they are eating well, eating everything, and doing what Alaskan Huskies are famous for: Converting 10,000 calories per day from raw meat into pure energy. There is nothing better a musher can hope for than a long, strong, happy, healthy, eating machine of a team.

Aliy will NEVER do anything that will put her dogs at risk. If anything, it can be argued that she has at times been overly conservative and that may have had an adverse impact on her finishing position in previous races. Whether there is any merit to that or not, the fact that Aliy was first into McGrath for the Spirit award -- and then first into Takotna -- shows that she is letting the dogs do what they want, run as they please and really "get after it." She obviously has immense confidence in them, and especially in her main leaders Quito and Olivia. For all you ladies out there, this really is a "girl power" team all the way.

The Red Team is almost certainly taking their mandatory 24-hour rest in Takotna. There is no conceivable -- at least to me -- reason they would be there this long except for it to be their "24." Thus, the team will be leaving Takotna 24 hours plus the "differential" after their arrival. For those of you who are new to this, the "differential math" is pretty straightforward: Teams left the start line in two-minute intervals, which means there was 104 minutes time-span between when Aliy started in position 14 and the last team's start in position 66 (66-14=52x2=104)… Got it? To even out the timing for all teams, each team (besides the last team) has a differential added to their 24-hour mandatory rest.

So, if my math is right, Aliy should be pulling out of Takotna at 1:14 in the morning (11:30 plus 104 minutes). I haven't done all the math for every racer, but it looks like only the Seaveys will pull out ahead of her. This is because even though they arrived after her, their "high starting number" differentials are lower: They have shorter mandatory "24" rest periods.

If that doesn't all make sense, don't worry. There are a lot of "moving parts" to this business of racing sled dogs and it takes a while to get accustomed to it. The bottom line is that Aliy may not be the first to pull out of Takotna, but her team is positioned within minutes of the lead team. That's the key thing!

But, you might ask, what about the Busers? They're "in the lead" in Ophir! Well, yes and no… They are geographically ahead of Aliy (and all the other teams) in Takotna, but they still have to complete their 24 hour rests! Martin arrived in Takotna about 9 hours after Aliy, so it is likely that he will still have something like 9 hours left in his "24" when she passes him by, with her "24" already behind her. And here you have the gist of part of what makes the Iditarod so exciting and confusing: You can't tell who is "in the lead" until you factor in all the other circumstances of rests, differentials, etc. Frankly, you often can't really tell who is in the lead until they're running down Front Street in Nome!

Again, don't worry if you're feeling confused. A couple of years from now you'll be trying to explain this to other people!

I hope this post has helped clear things up a few things rather than make them more confusing for you. If you've got questions, please put them in the comments and I'll try to answer them over the coming days of the race!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great explanation and all the great posts and videos. I had no idea how much went into who leaves when etc. :o) I am really enjoying seeing Aliy up near the front and in front.

Go Aliy and her wonderful dogs!


Anonymous said...

Good job explaining, Macgellan!

kb said...

Mac and Wes & Wendy's columns were EXCELLENT! Loved the pictures. Will be looking forward to hearing about your race, Wes. Are you doing the 100 or 200?

Am very proud to be a SPKennel fan - Aliy and Ryne are doing fantastic. Hope this is Aliy's best Iditarod ever.

Libby the Lab said...

Nice to see you back Mac1

Macgellan said...

Glad to be here... Though sad to be watching from PA not AK!

Linda F said...

Mac - Thanks for the great explanation of the differential. I knew they compensated, but never thought about how they did it!

So......if I'm doing this right using your method, Mitch will be able to leave at 1:11 and Dallas will be able to leave at 1:25. Aliy would be sandwiched between the two at 1:14 - 3 minutes after Mitch and 11 minutes before Dallas. If that's right, it'll be real close going out of Takotna!!

Always love your commentary and insights!!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

My mom is letting me post this. I am almost 8 years old and live in anchorage. We have 2 dogies. They are little dogies bexause we do not have a big yard for big a big dogie like you have. We get them both from the dogie prisen bexause someone did not want them but we took them and we love them and feed them. I walk them in the summer but in the winter its hard bexause the feet are little and they cold. My mom let me go on a dog sled when i was little and i love it. We all root for your team and i love your dogies and i know you alawys will keep the dogies safe. I watch the videos on utube and did a school report on your dogie sled team 2 in my class new your name. You have lots of fans and even me and my mom and sis and one day my mom sayd we will go to Fairbanks and met you all but we need to find a baby sitter for the dogies and kitties and fish but my sister needs to get older and we will do it. I love your dogies and mom says you all are very good to them and take good care of them and watching the videos they are happy and stuff. Even if they need a doctor and stuff you take good care of them. One day i will pet happy i hope. My sister has a nother faveret but I don't remember the name of the dogie. We laugh when we see the dogie Happy because its so happy and makes us laugh. We are fans and thank you and i hope we get to meet the dogies and you some time.

Thank you - Samantha

Mary said...

I am really enjoying following the Iditarod and Aily this year! The excitement is building - thanks for the awesome coverage!

Lynne D said...

Ah Mac, you are missed. Your insight is great for both old and new. I will say "hi" to Aliy when I see her in Kaltag - wish you were here too.

SP Kennel - KAZ said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing this up! You explain everything so well!!

Anonymous said...

About new visitors, one thing to consider is that the SP Kennel site is often referenced in the Iditarod Forum sites as one of the best sites about describing the Iditarod from the musher's view. Aliy's cam of the Happy River Steps came up several times in different threads.

I found the SP Kennel site from the Iditarod forums a couple of years ago and have been regularly checking in ever since...

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Macgellan,
It was lovely to read some writing from you. I hadn't seen any for a long time. You are giving a lot of support to SP Kennel. I think Quito is doing a fantastic, helped, of course, by Olivia and Ms Zirkle!
I hope you are enjoying the racing this season.
From Indigo