The Yukon Quest 2023 is official finished and the Yukon Quest International Association (Canada) would like to congratulation all the dogs, mushers, volunteers, staff, sponsors and friends of the Quest who helped to make this year so successful.
Some of the major changes made to this year’s Quest races were additions to the mandatory rest requirements coupled with greater flexibility for mushers on where and when that mandatory rest could be taken.
In the Yukon Quest 450, mushers had to take a total of 34 hours of rest before reaching the finish. Of those 34 hours, mushers were required to take a six-hour mandatory stop at either the Braeburn or Carmacks checkpoints while the remaining 28 hours could be taken anywhere along the trail or in checkpoints measured in increments of 30 minutes.
It was a similar setup for the Yukon Quest 250, with 20 hours mandatory rest and a six-hour mandatory stop in either Carmacks or Braeburn. Again, the remaining 14 hours could be taken anywhere in 30-minute increments.
The Yukon Quest 100 had simply a four-hour mandatory stop at Time Station 1, which served as a checkpoint for that race only.
The 30-minute increment was decided based on what would be a small enough unit of time to accurately track the rest while also being an easy-to-work-with number for mushers and official rest trackers.
To calculate mandatory rest, the two official rest trackers checked the race flow through TrackLeaders to monitor start/stop times for each musher when on the trail. Based on when the trackers stopped moving and then started again, the length of each stop could be measured. The two rest trackers would then confer, and any discrepancies would then be adjudicated by a race official. In checkpoints and other stops, in and out times could be used for more granularity than the race flow provides.
Mushers were also tasked with noting their rest times, and the musher numbers were compared with the official numbers at checkpoints at the musher’s request and prior to leaving the final checkpoint.
The actual rest, that is the rest tracked by TrackLeaders automatically, measured all stops mushers made regardless of how short and therefore was higher than the recorded rest by the official race trackers.
This also allows for review of musher “efficiency” during their stops by comparing their mandatory rest and their total rest to determine how much time was “lost” through rest that was uncredited. In a larger or tighter field, that efficiency serves as yet another way a musher can improve their race strategy if similar rest rules are utilized.
The 2023 race also provided a pair of edge cases allowing rest measurement redundancies to be tested in a real scenario.
Michelle Phillips lost her tracker at McCabe Creek, but her rest was able to be tracked by using her checkpoint in and out times.
While Michelle did not camp on the trail while her tracker was inaccurate, that rest would have been verified by taking two known times, i.e. her McCabe out time and Pelly Crossing in time, to find the time to travel a set distance.
Her rest time could then be subtracted from that run time to determine her run time and the distance traveled. A simple division would have given a moving speed, and comparing that to previous and later moving speeds of her team, as well as moving speeds of other teams through that section, would allow for a verification of her stop.
A much higher moving speed would warrant further analysis, while a consistent speed or slower speed would confirm the stop.
For YQ250 finisher Jess Sears, her trackers remained on and tracking for hours after finishing the race. Again, her official finish time was used to accurately calculate any rest on her run into the finish using a similar process to what applied in Michelle’s situation.
Data about rest stops and location, as well as run percentages and moving average speeds is provided below, but it must be noted this was a small race field and therefore had a limited number of data points to draw any type of analysis or conclusions from. Comparing this year’s data to previous 1,000-mile races would be inaccurate and misleading due to the vast difference in pace and strategy between a 450-mile and a 1,000-mile race.
The run percentages and moving average speed are taken directly from TrackLeaders data.
Post-race work continues, but the Quest is beginning to look ahead to the 2024 race.