Friday, February 17, 2017

Blazing through the Race Season

I tried but did not fully follow the many mid-distance races that have taken place the last several weeks. Some of them do not have nearly as much internet presence and cannot afford the GPS trackers for every entered musher. It's even a small challenge to find out who won some of them. I know Cim Smyth won the Tustumena 200. He is the son of Lolly Medley, the second woman to complete the Iditarod back in 1974 when she drove "under the arch"--which was not there then!--in Nome a few minutes behind Mary Shields, who was the first female to run that race, in its second year!  Nic Petit was second, running a very tight race with Smyth.

A third generation Redington, Robert, won the Northern Lights 300 and  Pete Keiser won the Kuskokwim 300--for the third time straight! Jodi Bailey got third place in the Northern Lights, running a great, fast race. Only a few women competed in the Kuskokwim and finished but did not place high.  It is a hard, cold race though! out on the coast around Bethel

Now that the Yukon Quest 2017 is history, I'll share a fw comments. Several of my favorite mushers were involved in either the YQ300 or the YQ1000. The 300 kind of came down to a race between Michelle Phillips who is a Yukon Terr resident and running on mostly familiar ground and Aliy Zirkle who has run one or the other YQ races many times since she won the YQ1000 in 2000, so far the only woman to do so. Michelle took this one and I applaud her for it even though I am a very loyal Aliy-ista! They both did great and finished with most of their dogs. That is one of my personal measures for what musher is really doing it right!!

In the 'big one" lots of kudos to Paige Drobney who finished in 4th place!! Then to round out the top ten, we had Katherine Keith (partner to John Baker who in 2011 was the first Alaskan Native American to win the Iditarod) come in as 7th, then Jessie Royer, a 'cowboy girl' from  the lower 48 who is an Iditarod vet but making her rookie YQ run was 8th and Ryne Olson, the CB300 winner, was 9th! There were some very recognizable names among the  male competitors so these ladies beat some tough competition to place this high. And their larger teams looked awesome coming in to the finish, very few dropped dogs among them.

The thing I find most impressive is they all made some fairly long and very fast runs on this rough trail but they also rested longer between them than most of their male counterparts. Thus, their actual travel times and their average speed while running were both very good. Even their total elapsed times were nothing to sneeze at as evidenced by their places. This comes back to my contention that the mushers whose teams finish the closest to complete and in the best shape are the real winners, the real mushers.

There has been a lot of chatter on some of the Facebook pages about the musher who had two dogs just suddenly keel over and ended up pushing the 'panic button' to call for help and then scratched out of the race with about 75% of it completed. I am not going to throw any stones but when this situation is added to the fact his team essentially 'quit' on him in the 2016 Iditarod at the next to the last checkpoint and he'd dropped from 3rd place to 20th when he finally got them going some 20 hours later and finished the race does raise some questions. Generally he is a well thought of musher and was just written up with two others in Mushing Magazine as one of the three best hill climbers among the current mushers. He defended his own case in an emotional post and I was touched but did not totally cease to question. Looking at the teams of Paige, Katherine, Jessie and Ryne when they came into the chute at Fairbanks proved their care and pace was effective. Those dogs all looked ready to run 1000 miles more as did Allen Moore's (Mr Aliy) when he came in 3rd.  I know and trust the SPK (Allen and Aliy) folks explicitly in their dog care. They've both won recognition for this several times including Aliy in last year's Iditarod. I am lobbying to make the dog care award a much more prestigious and valuable one because n many ways it means more than just getting there first!

Tomorrow I will try to catch up on my schedule and plans for the volunteer stint in Anchorage next month.

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