Thursday, January 31, 2013

2011 Quest, positions coming into checkpoints

I went ahead and loaded checkpoint data from the 2011 Quest into a spreadsheet, available online here. I've got one "sheet" per checkpoint (see the tabs across the bottom of the page), and it's a big, slow honker.  Performance is one reason not to use spreadsheets for this sort of work; a database would scale better.  I'll be curious to see what happens during the Iditarod, which has 23 (or 24, depending on whether or not you include Willow) to the Quest's 14 (not including the start).

Once I had the data in a spreadsheet it was pretty trivial to rank arrival times per checkpoint and then turn that into a plot of the top 5 finishers' arrival positions over the course of the race:

I don't think it should come as a surprise that this looks far more chaotic and far less orderly than the plot from 2012.  A lot happened during the race and nearly half of the field scratched or were withdrawn.  Some of the problems faced by individual teams show up in the plot, including Brent's loss of dog on the way into Scroggie and Dallas and others running into dangerous overflow between Circle and Central.

Sebastian Schnuelle's boots in Central (c) Yukon Quest

In Mike Ellis's remarkable video from the race that year, he closes with "2011 Yukon Quest: our toughest, our slowest, our most rewarding!"  The real stories of the race are with mushers, and with what they tell us (or not) when it's over.  But sometimes, a good plot (which this isn't, but it's still revealing) can tell us something, or allow us to get a slightly different visual understanding of what happened.

In the meantime, stories from the trail at the 2011 finishers' banquet:

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