Yukon Quest: Running Strategies: Who’s in the lead?

Many people wonder how dog teams that leave a checkpoint or dog drop so close together can arrive in the next checkpoint or dog drop several hours apart. The answer lies in the question, “What happened BEFORE the last checkpoint or dog drop?”Each musher has their own schedule and system for running the trail. Some have planned each specific trail section and know exactly how they want to run it based on their dogs condition, abilities and training while others will be running set timing patters (example: six hours of running followed by six hours of resting; repeated throughout the race) and will apply this timing pattern to the trail regardless of where the checkpoints and dog drops are located.Not all mushers will run and rest in the same patterns or locations. As mushers’ race strategies begin to unfold, noticeable differences in their trail times start to emerge. Some mushers may rest their teams just a few miles before arriving at a checkpoint, then run through that checkpoint stopping only to gather their food drop bags, some straw and fuel for their cookers, and be back on the runners in a few minutes. This team will likely travel a few more hours before they camp out on the trail. Mushers can have several reasons to not stay in checkpoints. * Avoiding the distractions of family, friends and media who want to see and talk with them while they ‘rest’ at the checkpoint.* The need to dry out their personal clothing once they have been inside heated buildings – the accumulated frost on their outer layers will melt quickly and begin soaking through to their insulating layers – once damp, winter clothing needs to be thoroughly dried to ensure it will continue to protect the musher from the cold when they return outside.* The desire to keep their run-rest schedule unknown to their fellow competitors, so other mushers cannot learn their timing patterns.Another team might run right to the checkpoint, stopping and resting their dogs there and enjoy the warmth of the community’s hospitality, before returning to the trail and running to the next checkpoint – or camping if the distance mandates resting their team before the next checkpoint.??To an observer at that checkpoint or following the race on the internet and looking at the checkpoint times of the two teams, the first team (resting before and running through) may appear to be “in the lead” compared to the second team who rests in the checkpoint. But this may be inaccurate when looking at the larger picture and understanding that the ‘run straight through’ team has not yet rested completely to balance their run into that checkpoint.??As teams approach Dawson City, they have run the longest section of trail in the race; over 200 miles from Pelly Crossing Checkpoint with the Scroggie Creek Dog Drop almost exactly half-way along that section of trail. The long distances between Yukon Quest checkpoint and dog drop locations mean that there is less known about what happens BETWEEN these locations. This makes it a fascinating exercise in calculation and guesswork to try to determine how each musher is running their race.??Most mushers run their teams on a 50-50 run-rest schedule, especially in the first half of the race. This can be modified if the musher has trained their team for longer runs, and just like human endurance athletes, some dogs possess a greater ability to recharge during rest periods so they are able to rest for shorter periods and be fully ready to charge up the trail.??Lance Mackey’s team is a perfect example of the latter. Through breeding and training, Mackey’s Comeback Kennel dogs have incredible energy. This ability in his dogs allows Lance to run his team longer distances and then have them recharge and be ready to run again with shorter rests.


More Posts

Serious about mushing? Earn money sharing your knowledge on Mushing.com! More Information ℹ️