It’s 12.30pm Tuesday Alaska time.
RED TEAM UPDATE
Since we last saw the Red Team pulling out of Nenana and mushing into the cold night they continued along the Tanana River for another five hours and stopped at what we presume was Tolovana Lodge for around four hours. Tolovana is not an official checkpoint but a cabin that has been opened up for mushers. I heard reports that mushers said it was down to -50F on the river overnight! While we were driving home last night we watched the temperature gauge rise in the hills and drop dramatically when we went back down to river level.
Red Team leaving Nenana (wearing their Head-lites collars)
Aliy and Allen talked a lot about strategy for the early part of the race and, as for all races, they came up with several contingencies and plans b, c and d depending on trail conditions, dog speed and weather. Incidentally the strategies did not take into account what other teams are doing at this early point in the race.
There is a great Insider interview with Aliy at the Musher Banquet in Anchorage where she talks about how you have to be flexible with your strategy on this unfamiliar section of trail, depending on run times and trail conditions and how important it is to run your own team. When challenged about that, about saying only “run my own team” she retorts “Oh no, I want to beat Dallas, I want to beat everyone! I want to run my own team but I want to beat them. Without a doubt, I’ll be honest, I want to win this race, and I’m going to try really hard to win it“.
Stopping at Tolovana enabled them to “blow through” the Manley checkpoint, stopping only to restock and supply Aliy’s sled with essentials to camp along the way to the next checkpoint. The vet team will also have gotten hands-on with the dogs and they ask mushers as soon as they arrive if there are any issues or if they need to drop any dogs.
As I write this the team is currently resting 15 miles outside of Manley and will be enjoying some warmth of the sunshine for the dogs to stretch the muscles out and get a good rest.
Aliy and Allen often choose to rest outside of checkpoints. They will make a schedule of run and rest to suit the dogs’ rhythms and if the rest coincides with a checkpoint then they will stop there, if not they will go through and camp when they believe the dogs need to stop. They both enjoy camping out on the trail and say that often the dogs will get a better rest away from the hubbub of a checkpoint.
There are several mandatory checkpoints rests along the way: one 24 hour break at any checkpoint between Manley and Safety, an eight hour stop at any checkpoint between Tanana and Kaltag and one eight hour mandatory stop in White Mountain before the final run home to Nome. Other than those stops, mushers can choose to rest in or out of a checkpoint.
The next checkpoint for the Red Team is Tanana.
BLACK TEAM UPDATE
Currently Allen and the Black Team are enroute to Manley. They stopped at Tolovana for a five hour rest are are 15 miles away from the checkpoint. They are moving along at a good clip around 9.5 m/hr so the trail must be pretty good. Last night both Aliy and Allen reported the trial was “as they expected” – a few faster sections and mostly deep snow and “punchy” trail (where the dogs punch through deep snow). We’ve had a lot of snow around our home trails so the dogs are accustomed to it.
In an Insider interview with Allen in Nenana he describes the conditions right then as “perfect” and the warmer it gets the slower the dogs will go. He said to combat that he might have to run more at night but it all depends on where they are and what’s happening. As with Aliy, he said there are a lot of factors to consider.
If you are an Insider with GPS function, the “Analytics View” is where to go to get run/rest information and speed trends. I am refamiliarising myself with all the functionality available now so that towards the end of the race I know exactly where to go to get the info I need!
Below you can see clearly the rest times, and all the little “blips” down are when the tracker captures snack breaks.
Next checkpoint for the Black Team is Manley