March 15, 2010

Iditarod XXXVIII

Imagine my surprise this morning as I pulled up the Iditarod GPS Tracker and found that Jeff King and Hans Gatt had pulled into an 8 mile lead over Lance Mackey. Mackey's flag was planted in the Koyuk checkpoint while King and Gatt were already down the coast toward Nome. What made it frustrating is that the GPS system has times where it may not update a mushers position for long periods and Mackeys time was an hour old.

Then the Tracker updated and Kings mileage decreased. How could this be, is he lost out on the ice of Norton Sound and is he now backtracking? A few more updates and I realized that despite the red line on the map the trail actually veers toward the west and intersects the outbound trail from Koyuk making it appear that racers are farther down the trail than they actually are. I'm guessing that the system tracks a mushers position in relation to the imaginary trail rather than actual miles traveled. It just shows the limitations of 21st century technology when coupled with 10th century modes of transportation.

In any event, now that the ITC has finally updated the leaderboard Mackey arrived in Koyuk at 02:48 AST followed by King at 04:02. Unless he gets lost in the last hundred and seventy miles Mackey is on track for his fourth consecutive win and a special chapter in Iditarod history.

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