Aaron Burmeister completed second within the 2021 Iditarod Path Sled Canine Race, reaching the end line in Deshka Touchdown simply 3 hours after Dallas Seavey, the now 5-time Iditarod Champion.
KNOM’s Sophia DeSalvo spoke with Burmeister about his workforce’s Iditarod efficiency this 12 months and what it would take to lastly carry dwelling the gold.
Aaron Burmeister has been racing the Iditarod for the previous 27 years and has completed within the high 5 7 instances, however he has but to win. In a 12 months the place all the things was largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, mushing was no exception. Nevertheless, for Burmeister, this meant dedicating much more time to coaching for the Final Nice Race.
“So it did change up the coaching. The main target and coaching with the canines that we’ve all the time had was nonetheless there solidly, however we definitely spent much more time with them and on the path this winter as a result of there was nothing else to do, and we didn’t exit and do any socializing.”
– Aaron Burmeister
A vital change made to this 12 months’s Iditarod was its shortened route, which Burmeister felt actually remodeled the race, particularly with out the standard end in his hometown of Nome.
“You understand it’s a unique occasion once you’re not going to Nome. It felt like a ‘Gold Path Loop.’ It was definitely a world-class canine sled race, however it wasn’t the Iditarod or it didn’t really feel just like the Iditarod since you didn’t have the villages, you didn’t have the folks and buddies alongside the Yukon River and the Coast and it simply being a unique path.”
Regardless of the modifications to the 2021 race route, Burmeister acknowledges that adapting to totally different situations on the path is a serious a part of mushing.
So far as technique goes, Burmeister burdened that the most effective method “interval” is to run your personal canine workforce inside their capabilities and the way they have been educated. The veteran musher had educated his workforce utilizing two schedules, a passive one and a extra aggressive one; the night time earlier than the race started, Burmeister opted to take the passive schedule.
“Which was to stack my relaxation early within the race, cease at Nikolai for an 8 and get behind the lead pack. By taking an 8 early, it places me instantly 4 hours behind the leaders, and that allowed me to have a path forward of me and let the frontrunners go on the market, put on their canines out some, and set the path.”
Whereas a pack of seven or 8 aggressive groups pushed Seavey within the entrance, Burmeister hung again within the shadows, retaining his workforce well-rested and robust earlier than making his transfer.
“I used to be 4 hours behind them, realizing at the back of my thoughts that my schedule by Nikolai would come again collectively and even out with Dallas’, which it did. On the best way again between McGrath, Nikolai, and Rohn, I launched by a number of the groups that have been up there racing laborious and was proper again within the hunt with Dallas, and that was a part of the plan of that schedule, so it went like clockwork.”
Towards the top, nonetheless, Burmeister realized he wanted extra time and extra mileage to have the ability to overtake Seavey. However with solely 150 miles to the end, Burmeister executed his remaining massive transfer in his run from Rohn to Skwentna, making up a while on Dallas however finally falling brief ultimately.
By all accounts, this 12 months’s Iditarod efficiency is one in every of Burmeister’s greatest, however his mindset after a second-place end demonstrates what a fierce and elite competitor he actually is.
“So I didn’t win this 12 months’s race, I used to be second place. Sure, on paper it appears like my greatest race. I believe I’ve run simply nearly as good or higher races up to now and fell brief, however from my thoughts, I’ve acquired to take that gamble. I’ve acquired to take that shot at successful. And whether or not I’m second, or fifth, or tenth, if I’m not successful it actually doesn’t matter to me. My objective was to win, and that’s one thing I’ve dreamed of.”
Burmeister is again dwelling in Nenana after the 2021 Iditarod, however his sights are set on returning to Nome in 2022.
“Subsequent 12 months is our fiftieth anniversary. I’m planning on that being my final Iditarod, however my objective is to carry the victory dwelling to Nome subsequent 12 months. We’ll be simply as centered, prepare simply as robust of a canine workforce, and hopefully be capable of carry that victory dwelling to Nome.”