Armchair Musher: Answers to your questions

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2-4-2019 9:11 PM

Hello race fans. Your armchair musher is back after a day in the dog yard for your daily dose of (hopefully) useful insights.

I wanted to start addressing some questions being asked on social media.  Let’s start with the Trackers since that post prompted some questions.  Also by the way, mush thanks for the great feedback, I am really glad to see people are interested in learning more about how to use Trackers. 

So I reached out to my techie guru’s and will be sharing their knowledge. Today I am again indebted to my friend Melinda at Mushing Tech. The first question we will tackle has to do with all the different colors and shapes of the ‘blips’ on the map when you look at an individual musher’s history. The different symbols have to do with what message the spot tracker is sending. When you see a Yellow square with a ‘pause’ button means the musher has stopped moving. A green tent means they are stopped. The green square with a ‘play’ button means they are moving again.  White and Blue are both Tracker updates. Quest mushers have two spot units attached to their sleds, and both are sending readings and you are seeing both readings. The redundancy helps ensure accuracy and provides back-up should one have problems. This video on redundancy explains it in more depth, and demonstrates the controls you can use to get from point to point.  Tracker Redundancy  

And while we are at it, she also took the time to make a really good overview video people might enjoy watching to learn more.  It helps you understand how to better use the Trackers Team Movement.  These videos were made during past races, and do not describe what is going on in the race right now, but they do provide valuable information on how to better use the Trackers to understand what is going on right now.

And what is going on right now. Well teams are headed to Dawson. And with almost all the teams past Stepping Stone, and the leaders out of Scroggie they are setting a fast pace. And you can see differing run/rest patterns emerging. Mushers will break that exceptionally long stretch of trail into sections that they hope are manageable for their team and the way they trained.  All the while making sure they have “gas in the tank” (more about that in a minute). In Dawson a glorious 36-hour break awaits them, and armed with that knowledge musher may make longer runs or cut a bit of rest knowing they can give it back in Dawson. 

 “Gas in the Tank”? Give what back in Dawson? What is she talking about? I am using musher speak, this is how we describe the energy out team has to run with. Gas in the tank is the energy (both physical and mental) a dog team has to give you on the trail. A team with a full tank would be all fired up and ready to go. Running removes gas from the tank, and rest fills the tank. In addition to training and conditioning their team for the race mushers are constantly monitoring the team while racing. As the metaphorical tank gets lower it is time to stop, feed and rest. Careful conditioning and planning means that mushers have a very good idea of what their team is capable of, they will add to the information about the trail and conditions and will run accordingly. In this case, they know that they will be getting an extremely long rest and refuel in Dawson, so teams may choose to take shorter rests or maybe do longer runs leading up to it. The question is, did they get it right? And the answer, well we will not find out until the second half.

And now an anecdote for all of you following at home and wishing you could get more information so you won’t feel so all alone. Spent some time online this evening with a good friend of mine who is also a musher’s partner. Now us mushers partners are a special breed. We spend an inordinate amount of time and money to get rid of our significant other BECAUSE we love them. Personally, I did not get a wedding ring cause we wanted a new race sled, and we spent our “honeymoon fund” to go compete against each other in the Copper Basin 300. (Dan won, but I still love him)  Anywho… she was commenting on how maddening it was to see her musher camped out just a mere mile from the team in front of them.  uips of “if they just raced harder they could pass them” were juxtaposed with rational comments like “well it is far too early to be pushy”, “of course I am not out there doing this” and “of course they know what they are doing”.  We chatted back and forth and in the end had to laugh. Both of knowing that in the end, just like everyone else, we were limited to the blips on the screen. At least until the teams start rolling into Dawson. Where the dogs will get treated like royalty and the musher will get hot meals and rest in a bed, and the reporters will swoop in and get interviews, and the kennel will post updates.  And then all we will get to hear the stories behind the blips.

Jodi Bailey