Strategizing the Iditarod

I'm fascinated by the Iditarod and mushing in general. Whenever faced with an uncommon sport, the uncommon sportsman should immediately be thinking about uncommon goals and uncommon strategies to achieve these goals. To that end, I've searched high and low (on Google's initial search results page) for Iditarod Winning Strategies.

Being a technology oriented guy, I thought maybe the strategy would've been in ultralight gear and minimizing friction and stuff like that. Then, I thought about it more, and I realized that part of the strategy must involve scoping out untrustworthy gardeners willing to kidnap dogs off of the estates of notable judges in California to sell to dog traders and ship to the Klondike, where they are then turned into race dogs by beating them with clubs.

Turns out, the Iditarod isn't ready for my tech innovations and the practice of stealing dogs away from their comfortable lives isn't much in practice anymore. From Ultimate Iditarod:

Strategy in the Iditarod requires that mushers determine a schedule of running and resting that allows them to make good progress down the trail, but maintains the dogs' energy levels, attitudes, and enthusiasm.  The Iditarod has been won and lost because of these very critical decisions.

I like the attitude and enthusiasm part. I can only assume that when one of the kidnapped dogs develops a fierce rivalry with the lead dog, it's an unspoken part of the musher's job to officiate the subsequent fight to the death and ensure that packs of wild dogs don't interfere with the old Alaskan dog ritual.

Actually, much of the strategy relies on perfecting the balance between running and resting. For years and years, Alaskan mushers had gone with relatively equal parts resting and running and focused their breeding on really quick dogs. Then the darn Norwegians showed up and blew that strategy out of the water by breeding and training dogs that ran slower than their American counterparts, but required much less rest. A recent NPR story describes more.

Here's my suggested strategy... Run a full contingent of 16 dogs, but run only 12 dogs and rest the other 4 on the sled. Then rotate the dogs out 4 at a time, stopping very briefly for these rotations. Like tires in a NASCAR race. At the end of the race, you have to finish with at least 5 dogs, so with, say 20 miles to go, send all, but 5 of the dogs home and strip the sled down to nothing and f_ckin' sprint. I'm open to any team, American, Norwegian or otherwise to trying my strategy.

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