The writer follows the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska in a Super Cub plane:
It turned out that Martin Buser, the musher whom I’d watched start the race, had come up with a strategy that was blowing people’s minds. He wasn’t stopping. Conventional Iditarod tactics call for frequent voluntary rest periods in addition to the two eight-hour breaks and one 24-hour break mandated by the rules. Iditarod sled dogs are bred for stamina, but they need food and sleep. Mushers, who will be almost unimaginably sleep-deprived by the time they reach Nome in any event, need at least token periods of semi-unconsciousness. You know the story of the tortoise and the hare? Yeah, the hare definitely wins the Iditarod. Slow and steady is not the ticket in the long-distance dog-mushing game. You want a lot of naps punctuated by periods of hellish subzero hustling.
Buser, though? He ran from Willow to the Yentna checkpoint and stopped for just 21 minutes. Then he ran to Skwentna and stopped for half an hour. He ran to Finger Lake, in the snow country just before the mountains, and stopped for 26 minutes. Then he ran practically all the way over the Alaska Range on no rest. Through Rainy Pass on no rest. When he reached Rohn, just before 10 on the morning of Monday, March 4, he’d driven his dogs nearly 200 miles in less than 20 hours, and he hadn’t stopped for longer than it took to have a vet eyeball them at the checkpoints. It was demented, was the feeling on the trail. What the pound-sign-percent-asterisk-dollar-sign was the guy thinking?
PUBLISHED: April 24, 2013
LENGTH: 77 minutes (19296 words)