We are already 16 hours into this year's Iditarod.The dog teams have run through the first night and left all the nervousness and starting stress at Deshka Landing. Now they run towards the silence, the routines and the rhythm of the trail.
What is important to keep in mind is that the one who is first on the trail does not necessarily lead the race, due to different start times. This time difference is adjusted later, during mandatory rest.
The first stages up to Finger Lake are easy for the dogs to run, the terrain is flat, and the trails are good this year. After Finger Lake, the dog teams continue towards Rainy Pass, one of the most scenic areas in the entire race, with mighty and beautiful scenery as far as the eye can see. On this stretch, the trail is hilly and more demanding. The checkpoint is located on Puntilla Lake, in the heart of the Alaska Range. Then the dog teams cross Rainy Pass, the highest point on the Iditarod.
Deshka landing (Copyright: Dave Poyzer)
“Dallas has run hard from the start. He has had steady, good speed, not too fast, and not too slow. Dallas has also taken a little less rest than Joar on his way to Finger Lake”, says Thomas Wærner.
Dallas, bib number 23, had three short breaks on his way to Skwentna, only long enough to get the dogs a little snack. At the Skwentna checkpoint, after 67 miles/108 kilometer, he rested for 2 hours and 17 minutes, before continuing on to Finger Lake, where he came in as number 11, after five hours and three minutes on the trail.
Joar, bib number 41, had two short stops on the trail, to allow the dogs to replenish calories, before stopping after about 50 miles/80 kilometers. He was resting for about three hours on the trail and stopped only six minutes at Skwentna, before heading on to Finger Lake.
Both Dallas and Joar have started the race relatively conservatively, compared to those who first came to Finger Lake.
Nicolas Petit and Ryan Redington have both started the race fast, with little rest in the beginning. It will be interesting to see if they manage to maintain the speed in the team and if this hard opening will give them an advantage further on, or if they will get a drop in speed, says Thomas Wærner.
He believes it is gambling to run the team so fast, so early. Wærner's best advice to Dallas and Joar is to focus on their own team and close their eyes to everything that is going on around them. Remember, it is not possible to win a long-distance race as the Iditarod is on the first day, but it is possible to lose it.