300 miles in, Iditarod mushers deciding when to “push” — or rest

Dallas Seavey, first into McGrath, with a healthy looking string of dogs. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/KSKA)
Dallas Seavey, first into McGrath, with a healthy looking string of dogs. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/KSKA)

Iditarod dog teams have travelled more than 300 miles down the trail in the last three days.

Defending champion Dallas Seavey says they’ve reached a turning point in the race.

“This is getting to be far enough into the race where you’re going to start seeing some people pushing the pace start to fall back a little bit, but its’ going to be another three or four hundred miles before you really see the separation happen,” he said.

Warm weather has been easy on mushers, for the most part.

Open water through the Dalzell Gorge made for wet feet, but there have only been a few minor bumps and bruises in the last day on the trail.

Brent Sass says warm weather has been great for his race plan.

“I’ve just been having a good time avoiding checkpoints,” Sass said. “I’ve been actually getting some sleep myself, because I can’t be social out there by myself.”

One musher who may have decided to socialize a little more is Hugh Neff.  After a big push early, he was the first musher to declare his 24-hour mandatory rest in Nikolai.

“Obviously I pushed it pretty hard the first day, doing over 200 miles, so I’d say that’s different, but now I think we’re going to get more into just doing a more even run rest schedule,” he said.

Neff says some of his decisions to modify his race plan have to do with the younger dogs on his team.

“It’s a nice team, but I do have four yearlings in this team so I have to play off their youth and inexperience,” Neff said. “They’re really what I’m keying on.”

As for four-time champion Lance Mackey, he says the early part of his race has been a rollercoaster.

“This race is the highest of highs and lowest of lows and you don’t exactly know when they’re going to take place,” he said.

Mackey had a rough couple of days from the start line through the Alaska Range.

“I haven’t had a good clean run in a nice long time and that was my objective and it didn’t look like it was going to start that way,” Mackey said.

But Mackey seemed to be in better spirits in Nikolai.

He says his plan is to push on beyond the teams already bedding down for their mandatory 24-hour rest.

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