Sass exits ‘camping mode’ as Iditarod kicks into high gear

Brent Sass, pictured here in Ruby was the first musher to the Bering Sea Coast. (Photo by Zach Hughes, KSKA)
Brent Sass, pictured here in Ruby was the first musher to the Bering Sea Coast. (Photo by Zach Hughes, KSKA)
Unalakleet was buzzing overnight as Iditarod mushers and their dog teams arrived on the Bering Sea Coast. As KNOM’s Emily Schwing reports, their sense of urgency was palpable.

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Brent Sass’s dog team skittered to a stop on the hard packed snow and thick ice that covers most of Unalakleet. It’s only the second checkpoint along the race trail that Sass has spent any significant time in this year.

“I have blown through every checkpoint in the race so far except for the ones I had to stop at and I really want to get some information on the coast. It’s the biggest unfamiliar place fro me on the trail and I think that my time of carrying more than I need to in my sled is over. I think it’s time for me to get a little bit more into race mode and get out of camping mode,” said Sass.

Behind him came Dallas Seavey. He seemed frantic and he moved in a near-panic around the dog yard, feeding, changing runner plastic on his sled, packing and repacking his gear. As he worked, he mulled over one question:

“Be faster than my dad or catch up with Brent?,” asked Seavey.

His demeanor was unusual for a musher who is normally poised, organized and focused.

“It’s a trick question of course, because the answer is you just run your team, which is at the end of the day, always the right answer, but you end up thinking ‘if I do this, what are they going to do or if I do this is that enough to catch up, or stay ahead,’ or whatever you’re contemplating. The truth of the matter is, there’s too many people trying to race,” said Seavey.

Seavey’s father Mitch also arrived in a hurry. But he was far more collected, passing through the checkpoint long enough to fill a thermos with coffee, stuff a handful of bacon in his mouth and comment on his dog team.

“They’re doing really, really awesome. I found another really good leader in there, so having fun. Yeah we’re having fun,” said Seavey.

Reporter: “Still smiling?

“Yeah, why not? Pain is temporary,” said Seavey.

The elder Seavey took off, right past his son’s sleepy dog team.

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But one musher who sped down the trail and arrived calm, cool and collected as usual was Pete Kaiser.

“I wasn’t really sure how I was going to run over here, but the trail seemed better than it was reported, so I decided to do it in one shot,” said Kaiser.

Perhaps the Bethel musher should have been the one whooping and hollering as he pulled his team into Unalakleet. En route from Kaltag, he jumped from 11th to 6th place.

“There may be some other teams that come through and go through here while I’m here, so I don’t really know if that position will last or not. We’ll see I guess,” said Kaiser.

As teams head up the coast, it’s anyone’s guess as to how it all might shake out, but it’s only a matter of time before it becomes clear who has enough power and speed to make it to Nome first.