Saturday, January 7, 2012

Who's in the lead?

We're roughly 50 miles into the 200-mile Knik 200, and there's a natural interest in knowing who's in the lead.  I'm going to argue that there's really no way of knowing who specifically is leading, although we can know with some certainty who's not leading.  Or put another way, we know who's in front but we can't tell who's "winning."

This gets into projecting arrival times, which involves a little bit of arithmetic, a moderate amount of specialized knowledge about the individual mushers and how they like to balance their run/rest schedules (as well as what sort of terrain and weather they favor, etc.), and a good amount of guesswork.  It's particularly dicey so early in the race, although it's easier to make some guesses about what order they'll arrive in Yentna.

So right now the frontrunners are Mackey, Jonrowe, and Berkowitz, with Petit a short distance behind.  They're all within a few miles of each other, which at this point in the race, in the absence of other factors, probably would count as statistical noise.  I did the arithmetic a few minutes ago and (assuming the trail length is exactly 200 miles, which it isn't) if Jake averages .1 mph - that's a tenth of a mile per hour - faster over the rest of the race, and adjusting for Jake's later start (I can't find his bib number but it looks like he started 20-25 minutes later than Lance, who's got bib #1), Jake will arrive back at Knik Lake roughly 20 minutes before Lance.  Jake closed much of the initial gap between them but if you go to the Race Flow plot you'll see that the slope on Lance's line and the slope on Jake's line are basically identical, which means that they're traveling basically the same speed and covering the same amount of ground at the moment.  [Note that if the trail is actually longer it takes less of a speed differential to catch up and if the trail is actually shorter it takes more of a speed differential to catch up.]  But at the same time there's the question of who's going to rest how much, and if I had to guess I'd guess Lance can get away with less rest.

At the Quest finisher's banquet last year Allen Moore talked about talking with the press in Dawson.  When they asked what he thought was going to happen in the second half of the race he said "I don't know, but it's going to be something."  If you follow sled dog racing you know that one thing you can count on in a distance race is that something unexpected is pretty much guaranteed to happen.  You also know that Lance Mackey isn't just a great dog trainer, he's also a great tactician and he knows how to keep his competition off balance.

So, it's early yet, and the tracker is fascinating but I'm not sure how much we can divine at this point.  We don't know what's going to happen yet, but it'll be something.

1 comment:

  1. Trackleader's route line is about 84mi long. We multiply that by 1.073 to account for small bends turns not reflected in our line. That's a grand total of 90mi or so. Some Knik old timers say 90 is on the long side and 85mi is pretty true. It's all in how this year's trail was put in, we suppose. Does it swing wide in the river bends or straighten them out?