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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Macgellan's Mid-Iditarod Musings -- Part 2

First of all, I'm a wreck. No doubt like many of you, I've been glued to my computer screen, clicking non-stop between a dozen browser tabs, constantly looking for a new nugget of information. I'm napping for a few minutes only from time to time, eating badly at weird times and checking my blood pressure regularly. My experience is nothing compared to what Aliy must be going through!

Second, Aliy and the Red Team are in a fantastic position: Hunting down the lead team less than a mile ahead of them. The dogs can smell the leading team's trail, and the veterans know they are "heading to the barn" in Nome. The energy in the team must be palpable, and I'm pretty sure I see it in their faces in the photo below. I feel humbled every time I look at it.

It was barely a month ago that we all watched an eerily similar scenario play out with Hugh Neff chasing Allen during the final legs of the Yukon Quest. It isn't easy being out in front, constantly encouraging your dogs to go as fast as they can. I'm certainly not saying it's easy chasing them down, but there is some merit to the point that dogs are naturally motivated to chase their "prey" rather than extend a lead over some abstract "predators." The mind of the dog has become a critical factor in this race.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Aliy has taken all these factors into consideration and made a conscious decision to have Dallas in a short-lead position. Besides her awesome physical stamina and incredible dog care, Aliy is a smart, experienced and savvy competitor. It may be unconventional to "give up the lead" but it's a reasonable strategy now that we've entered a "match race" phase in the Iditarod.

A match race is a race between two competitors going head-to head, a format that is common in sailboat and horse racing. It's important to keep in mind that the appropriate strategy shifts from "going as fast as you can" to "beating the other team." The concept of "covering" your opponent comes to the fore. You do what he does, maybe just a little better. You take breaks when he does, maybe just a little more efficiently. You have fewer "decisions" to make on the trail, you have less stress of making a trail mistake. You know where you're going and you are looking ahead not back.

If all goes well, you've saved a little energy, your dogs are highly motivated, they've got a fire in the belly and visions of a nice straw bed in mind. The "no man's land" on the approach to Nome is flat and pretty wide open. This race could come down to a pass on Front Street. It could be as close as that.

I'm even more of a wreck now than when I started writing.

Note: For the record, I am not counting out any of the other top competitors. I've got way too much experience of what can happen on the Iditarod to do that. Aaron Burmesiter left Koyuk almost exactly two hours behind Aliy, and John Baker is sure to be hot on his heels. They are not to be ignored, but I think a two hour lead at this point is significant, especially when the two lead teams are obviously running so well.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the great updates. I had been wondering about the "chasing prey" vs leading since the Quest and yours is the first post ive seen to address this. Go Aliy!

Anonymous said...

This is getting tense....lol.
Go Aliy - Go dawgs!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful update, Macgellan, thank you! Yea, Aliy!! Ditto on the blood pressure :) She and her dogs are commanding racers, a
tremendous joy to watch.

Margaret said...

MAC --

Thanks for the insights - I am using the technique of quietly WILLING the SP Kennel Red Team on to victory.

I hope the dogs back at SP Kennel are howling for their mates!!!

Thanks again for you reasoned comment. And the photo below in another thread says so much about the Red
Team - good lookers and really high stepping fighters!!! Woof!

NCL said...

Great insight - very helpful. Go Aliy and team!

Anonymous said...

GO ALIY! You can do it!


Nathan & Connor from St. Monica 3rd grade in WA!!

Linda Toth said...

Since her times posted faster on the GPS, if we can believe it all the way along the route, it's not out of the question to consider she is lagging for a reason.

Still a tough race to call, though, isn't it?

Go take your blood pressure, Mac, and hey take mine while you are at it.

Anonymous said...

Mac, I agree with your story, no sleep, bad food, My hair turned gray overnight. The only good thing is that I have lost weight.
But it's all worth it.
Go dogs, Go !!!

Susan F said...

I am so with you. I sleep with my Ipad so I can check immediately when I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "Where's Aliy?"I've been an Iditarod junkie since 1975, but this year is so intense. Her team looks great and she is so deserving of a win in this race.

Anonymous said...

Go Aliy! You have fans in Florida cheering you on!

Anonymous said...

We are all right there with you pulling for Aliy!! She's such an amazing person and she loves those dogs so much!! Go Aliy Go!!

Julie said...

Anchorage Daily News reports on seeing Aliy and Dallas going into
Queston: estimated finish time, is there one somewhere??

Marcia said...

Thanks for your insights. I've got my SP Kennel Postcard above my computer for good luck.

Anonymous said...

I am brand new to following the iditarod so closely, but now have to say that I am most definitely hooked! Go Aliy and your wonderful dogs! Thank you also to the blog for all of your insights!

Anonymous said...

As usual, your comments are so appreciated! I so like the theory that Aliy wants Dallas up front so she (and the dogs) can be in the chasing mode!! I think if Dallas was faster and stronger, he would be pulling ahead. Aliy's keeping right on his tail!!

Any guesses as to when they might be heading into Nome?? I've got to be there (via computer) when that happens!!

Anonymous said...

This is all so great. When we get together as a family (ie: teens jump in the car at pick-up) we don't even say HI ! They say, " Where is she!!!"

What an inspiration and electric excitement for the world. The effort of ALL is amazing. Thank you SPK.
All the Millers ~

PS: and they are all learning math, science, geography, strategy and athletic endurance ! Via the computer ! Woot !