Armchair Musher: Trackleaders Leaderboard

Thursday, February 7, 2019

2-7-2019  12:40 PM

So after a full morning of chores in my dog yard I am looking at the Trackleaders Leaderboard. If you haven’t seen it yet, just click the Leaderboard Tab near the top of the screen. And want to point out a few things that can make it easier to understand. First where do these times come from? All the times listed on the Leaderboard are computed from SPOT points and are UNOFFICIAL, best estimates only. Trackleaders is taking the Spot data and based on the information they have been given about the location of the different points on the trail are giving estimates as to when a musher has hit that point.

If they have a location wrong, that can significantly mess up the time. But here is something worth noting; if they have the location wrong that will affect everyone in the same way, so although the time might be off, the order teams arrived would still be technically correct.  When the Spot Trackers are not working well the data they are sending isn’t good either.  And that is one of the things over which we have no control and must learn to accept. What that means is when you see something that looks completely out of place, a team traveling 55 mph for instance, then you have to ask yourself does this  seem possible? Does it make sense? If the answer is no then it is time to go old school and wait for the official times posted by the Yukon Quest in the Current Standings, and watch kennel pages and news outlets for reports on what is happening. Or what happened, in cases where communication is limited and we all have to wait till the musher get in to tell us.

So if these are not official times then why even bother? Because Trackleaders is pulling data in places where there are not people to do it. Yes it is an imperfect system, but a lot of effort and time has gone into making it as good as possible. And even with some imperfections there is still value if you understand what you are looking at.  And as I just mentioned it give a clear picture of what order and the relative closeness of teams coming into paces where we might not otherwise get that information. 

And to make it even easier to see the order of arrival there is a neat little option you should know about. A small up/down arrow next to the name of each place where the Leaderboard shows data allows you to sort based on the data for That point. In the picture above I have the data sorted for Clinton Creek. This is one of the places the Quest does not have official times for, so the Spot data may not be perfect but it is the best we have. As mushers are traveling through the more remote areas and accessing hospitality stops instead of checkpoints this can be a good way to check on their progress.

In the past there have been two main patterns to get from Dawson to Eagle, three runs with stops at Clinton Creek and then where you leave the 40 Mile River. And alternatively, two longer runs with a stop at the US / Canadian border. A quick look suggests to me that Denis and Matt will be doing this second pattern.

As the map clearly shows teams are crossing the border into the US. For folks who are curious about customs; there will be a US agent in Eagle to check mushers coming to the United States. When the race travels the other direction musher will clear customs in Dawson. The actual border is in the middle of nowhere, the year I ran it was marked with some snow sculptures so you knew you were there. And you just mush on by.

As I type this the front teams are getting ready to tackle American Summit. Teams climb onto the Taylor Highway from the 40 mile river to head toward Eagle, this is the traditional resting spot for teams I mentioned earlier. Some elect to climb up out of the river valley a ways to get out of the cold and camp a bit up the highway. But either locations does the job of breaking the run into three equal segments. With the shortened first half and the extra mandatory rest it will be interesting to see what this years’ teams elect to do. I cannot remember a team making the run from Clinton Creek to Eagle, but every year is different, and I expect with such a strong close field we may see some new moves. Although having said that it is just as likely that teams will use proven strategies and focus on just being the fastest they can be with them. As I keep saying, we just don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out.

So check in and cheer them on!!

Happy trails