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Day 7 – Fits and Starts

Yukon Quest Map

Sled Dog The leaders on the trail are: William Kleedehn (12), Hugh Neff (23), Jon Little (18), Sebastian Schnuelle (20), and Brent Sass (13).

All the teams have reached Dawson.

David Dalton (21) scratched on arrival, and Yuka Honda (24) got dinged with a 30 minute penalty for needing to replace her axe. [An axe is mandatory equipment.]

You can get Race Updates here.

Post Updated below the fold:

In addition to David Dalton (21), who scratched because of sick dogs, Josh Cadzow (15) has scratched at Dawson. Cadzow left, and then returned.

Cadzow’s problem may be related to the situation that he and Martin Buser found themselves in early in the race: they misjudged the amount of dog food needed and had to limit.

The trail is very fast this year. It is possible that not only will Lance Mackey’s record fall, but the winner may make Fairbanks in less than 10 days. Sled dogs are like high performance engines – the faster they go, the more fuel they use, and at higher speeds they lose efficiency, i.e. their “mileage” suffers. After all the problems of last year, the trail preparations were much more intense this year, and the weather has cooperated, to produce a very fast course.


1 hipparchia { 02.21.09 at 9:43 am }

i agree with the commenters calling for race officials to come down hard on mushers who run low on food. fast course or no, it’s inexcusable. even *i* can look it up on the internet and find out how much food racing sleddogs need.

the item about the sick dogs is worrisome too. if he thinks they’ve got something contagious, i suppose it’s best he didn’t go on to the checkpoint. otoh, if he too did something stupid like running out of food and running his dogs too long and is trying to hide it, that’s bad.

it’s stuff like this [and worse] that earned long-distance sleddog racing its bad name years ago. the sport has done a lot to weed out the idiots and the heartless bastards and can’t afford to let this kind of stuff start creeping back in.

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2 hipparchia { 02.21.09 at 9:48 am }

aargh! and don’t even get me started on the guy who said it’s not an option to pull out.

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3 Bryan { 02.21.09 at 2:28 pm }

Hipparchia, Cadzow is a rookie on distance races, but Martin Buser isn’t, and there is no standard for a racing sled dog, only averages. The average dog in average conditions eats an average amount of food. I don’t doubt that both used their actual experience in training with the actual dogs who were racing to determine how much they needed to carry. At about $2/pound delivered for kibble you don’t want to overdo it, and you also have to factor in the weight the dogs have to pull in the sled. Between 10 and 14 thousand calories is not very accurate and not particularly helpful if your dogs want 16K for their effort.

I would think that an enterprising dog food company would be ready to sponsor a few checkpoints with extra food available for a minor time penalty. I would have included that in the YQ marketing plan. One of the secrets to Lance Mackey’s success is that he has a dog food sponsor.

I have a feeling that the decision on not going to the checkpoint was more a matter of not wanting the dogs any more stressed than they were. He went to a musher’s place, so there was no way of hiding any illness, and there would be knowledgeable people to help. Jean-Denis Britten was there, as well as the owner, so Dalton would be getting good advice. He was already down to 9 dogs, so if he had more than one sick dog, the race was essentially over for him. Britten scratched because he had three dogs go through the ice. They were probably lead dogs, so his team would be left leaderless.

4 hipparchia { 02.21.09 at 5:50 pm }

martin buser has been involved with eagle pack for possibly as long as i’ve been a fan of sleddogs.

sure, lots of variability there, but it still comes down to the fact that they were unprepared for the trail conditions and when they had a chance to make up for that, they didn’t do so. they all have the option of taking a time penalty and getting an extra food drop. if i can read that in an article online, they already knew it before they started the race.


He also considered having food flown in and taking a time penalty for the outside assistance.

“They probably could have flew me out some. I should have (done) that,” Cadzow said.

this very properly puts the penalty for musher on the musher, where it belongs. instead, these guys shoved it off onto their dogs, something for which they should be roundly censured by their fellow mushers and formally penalized by racing officials. and $2/lb to fly in food? piffle. it’s an expensive sport and if you can’t afford to take care of your animals, you shouldn’t be in it.

sorry, no excuses.

as for the one who went to the cabin instead of the checkpoint, i can think of some legitimate reasons for that, but i can also think of some not-so-legitimate reasons. it will be worse for the sport overall if the general public is left with the impression that something is fishy.

help! i’m up on my soapbox and can’t get down! i speak as someone who not only loves animals [to a ridiculous extent, in some people’s eyes] but also loves competing in sometimes risky and sometimes grueling sports with them. anybody who is either unwilling or unable to put the animals’ welfare first needs to take up nascar or snowmachine racing or biathlon or something else involving only soulless machines and equipment.

5 Bryan { 02.21.09 at 11:45 pm }

Unfortunately Eagle dog food has no connection to the Quest, and the current director of the Quest, who is resigning, hasn’t pursued any corporate sponsors for the race.

What I’m talking about is a company that sets up a booth and has food for sale at the checkpoints. There should be a time penalty for buying it [30 minutes for a mandatory equipment violation?], but it should be available to protect the dogs from musher stupidity.

The mushers are not going to get off, or have you forgotten how hunters/outdoors types never forget a screw up. [Shoot a puny deer and you will be reminded of the year you shot Bambi forever.] Buser will be hearing WeightWatcher jokes from now on. Ridicule is part of all of these events.

I think Cadzow scratched when he realized he couldn’t possibly finish in the top 15 and get $1000, and it would costs hundreds over his budget to properly feed the dogs. He comes from a small town and has probably been saving for years for this run. He is going to take grief from his dad, who ran the Quest years ago, for screwing up on the food. If he comes back it will take him years and a lot of sprint wins to finance it.

As for Dalton, the vets at the earlier checkpoints obviously didn’t see anything in particular, but he was losing a dog every other stop and his speed was dropping, probably from carrying dogs. I get a feeling he wanted a second opinion and realized he didn’t know what was going on with the dogs. Everything was fine for the first 2 checkpoints, then trouble set it in. He was down to 9 dogs at the end and may have run out of leaders. You have to have 6 dogs to finish, and I don’t think he was confident of that, so it made more sense to scratch and see if he could figure out what was going on. If you have a friend in the area and know you’re going to scratch, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go into the checkpoint and then drive back out to the friend’s.