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Shifting to race mode!

There is something strange happening with the dogs and the musher after a few days on the trail. They become a symbiosis, and they run into a faster rhythm. The body and mind adapt to the stresses and respond by showing strength. We call this "race mode".

There is a metabolic adaptation and an immune response in the dogs, which makes the body recover faster. The metabolism is optimized, and the dogs can eat and utilize large amounts of calories.

For the musher it’s the same. On day three or four, you get in the flow. You get used to running hard and have  little sleep. The mushers becomes, as trail hardens, like the dogs.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom at the Cripple checkpoint, March 12th, 2020.Joar Leifseth Ulsom at the Cripple checkpoint, March 12th, 2020  ©Siri Raitto Photography


Changes in Iditarod

Because of heavy snow conditions, the route will be changed. The mushers will turn around in Iditarod and back down the trail. That means that the musher won’t be making that 18-mile loop through Flat.

As we write this, the first mushers are on their way to Ophir. Ryan Redington has a nice, small lead in the race. He has managed to maintain a good speed all the way, but he has dropped three dogs already.

Sass and Burmeister have also taken out eight hours of mandatory rest and they both have good speed.

The good, hard packed trail has led many mushers to being able to keep up with the lead far into the race, but now we are starting to see the differences in speed and resting time, says Thomas Wærner.


Too early to lose speed

Jessie Holmes, Michelle Phillips, Ryan Olson and Nic Petit are examples of mushers who have chosen to take more rest and/or seem to have lost some speed in the team.

Both Dallas and Joar have a good race so far and both are taking 24 hours of rest at McGrath. They have a fairly similar run time with McGrath. Dallas used 6.56 and Joar 6.51.
Dallas has the habit of running a dog in the sled, to rest the four-legged along the way, which can cause the speed to be a bit slower.

Dallas Seavey at the Nikolai check-point 2021  ©Dave PoyzerDallas Seavey  at the Nikolai check-point 2021  ©Dave Poyzer

Brent Sass told the Insider-crew that his dogs, who are used to colder temperatures, are affected by the mild weather and that the appetite in the team is not as good as usual. He has nevertheless run hard from the start and was one of the few mushers who did not stop at McGrath for a long rest.

Wade Marrs told the crew that he is amazed at how fast everyone is running. He himself is further behind than usual and he says that he takes it easy so far, with a slightly lower speed in the team.

Dallas first

Dallas Seavey received the Alaska Air Transit Spirit of Iditarod Award. Alaska Air Transit presents this award to the first musher to reach the checkpoint of McGrath. He pulled off the Kuskokwim River and into the checkpoint here at 4 pm Tuesday, where he can finally enjoy a good rest of 24 hours.

Dallas is now in a perfect position in the race. It will be really exciting to follow his race. I'm also impressed with Peter Kaiser. It seems as if he has managed to keep the energy in the team, Wærner points out



Speed is the key

If you have a slightly higher speed than the others, you will always be on the plus side and you will have an advantage over the others, who will eventually have to rest to keep up. The fact that Kaiser keeps a slightly higher speed does not mean much in a short time period but considering that there are over 500 miles left of the race, such a small difference can make up long hours.


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