Martin Buser remains the talk of the 2013 Iditarod on Monday afternoon after a blazing start and an unorthodox strategy. In about 20 hours, he pushed his team of 16 dogs for 177 miles with only short rests at each stop. He stopped 30 minutes in Skwentna for the longest stop, but blew through Rainy Pass after just a two-minute break. Buser reached the Rohn checkpoint at 1:53 p.m. ET.
Former champion Joe Runyon, who is blogging for Iditarod.com, wrote that Buser's strategy is one you see more often in a 300-mile race rather than in the 1,000-mile-plus Iditarod:
Martin gambled and it will be great for fans to follow his race. Just as background, many mushers have travelled 169 miles and more in less than 24 hours, but they usually do it in the setting of a 300 mile race. Everybody gets to rest at the finish, eat a big meal, and go home. It will be a case study to see if Martin's team can keep the mojo after they rest.
Buser's competition, meanwhile, following a more conservative, traditional strategy, lags several hours behind. Matt Failor is the only musher to leave Rainy Pass so far, and another nine are currently resting their teams there.
Aliy Zirkle, who finished runner-up behind Dallas Seavey at the 2012 Iditarod, is one of those following the traditional strategy. She rested her dogs for three hours and 47 minutes at Skwentna before pushing on 70 miles through Finger Lake to Rainy Pass. At a pace of 8.63 mph, Zirkle, along with former-champion Jeff King (8.96), have been near the top of the chart among the leaders.
As for the other favorites: Lance Mackey has left Finger Lake after traveling at a pace of 9.49 mph, as has Seavey, traveling at 8.99 mph. Seavey, though, has already dropped two of the 16 dogs he began with.
Sebastian Schnuelle, another blogger for Iditarod.com, noted that mushers begin the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race with 14 dogs, so it's not necessarily a big deal. "But still, it must weigh on Dallas´s mind," Schnuelle wrote.
Cindy Abbott, the rookie musher diagnosed with Wegner's Granulomatosis who is trying to become the first woman to both summit Mt. Everest and complete the Iditarod, rested her team for eight hours and 45 minutes at Skwentna before hitting the trail.