Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Knik 200 is underway

The Knik 200 is underway, with the first mushers on the trail and a huge bunch waiting to start.  The race committee must have been eating their Wheaties this year because it's a much bigger race with a much slicker package than they've had in the past, and it looks awesome.  They've got a redesigned website, ham radio operators, and Spot trackers with tracking provided by Trackleaders.

Trackleaders are continuing to experiment with format and presentation and with every new feature they're making the race easier for fans to understand.  The race has just barely started and there's not much to report but one thing did jump out at me almost immediately, and it's this plot:

Trackleaders call this "race flow" but it's basically just total race time against total race distance, with time on the x (horizontal) axis and total distance on the y (vertical) axis.  This doesn't mean much (yet) but I just had to laugh when I saw it.  Lance Mackey's line is straight - he's been traveling at a nearly constant speed.  However, you can see that the other people who have started came out of the chute faster and then slowed down.  If you've ever stood on the back of a dogsled you know that the first couple of miles can be a little "enthusiastic" and that the dogs do settle down into a more regular traveling pace within a few miles.  Many mushers intend to leave the chute at their traveling pace but not that many people actually do.  I verified that Lance's line isn't straight because there's just two points - there are four data points, and Lance is really traveling at what looks like a dead steady speed.

This should be a really fun race to follow.

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