There is a lot to peruse this morning in the Current Standings. While we slept, the teams charged through McGrath and into Takotna. Some stayed in McGrath to begin their 24-hour breaks while others continued down the trail. Jeff arrived with perfect timing in to Takotna. Assuming that he takes his break there, he will be leaving around 5:45 am tomorrow morning. The run times between these checkpoints that are closer together and on relatively flat trail can more easily and accurately be compared. I always like to particular pay attention to the times from McGrath to Takotna. This will give a real indication of how the teams are traveling in comparison to one another. Right now, Lance Mackey, Mitch Seavey, Bjornar Anderson and Jeff have comparable times and are moving a bit faster than the folks around them. Dallas Seavey had a great time as well. He is the kind of young buck that will surprise the competition some day… maybe sooner than later? Of course the teams that are coming off their 24 in McGrath will travel that short distance much faster so it will be difficult to get a true comparison with these teams mentioned above.
I expect a phone call or two from Takotna today so I will get the real skinny on each of the dogs, the trail, the competition. I will be sure to fill you in. Some observations over the years as the one on the other end of the phone line: Jeff usually doesn’t have a clear understanding of the race dynamics; He has visual observations about the teams around him but is usually not accurate about how well his own team looks; I hear about his dogs from other folks in the checkpoints.
The trail is likely to become a bit more challenging from here to the Yukon. The trail between Iditarod and Shageluk has not been broken all season so may very well be a slog for the trail-breakers and mushers. The trail into Iditarod from Ophir typically blows over and provides some real trail breaking challenges for many teams. It is good that the teams are all still close together. It is not the time to be making a mad dash to get ahead.
Takotna is Jeff’s absolute favorite for taking his 24-hour break. The community there is outstanding in their hospitality and support of the race. This little hamlet is picturesque to boot. Hot meals are made to order for each musher. Lots of hot water is available as well. This used to be one of the farthest checkpoints ever 24′ered in. In the “olden days” (the 70′s and 80′s) teams religiously took this long, mandatory stop in checkpoints like Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, Rohn and maybe Nikolai. This year we may see some brave souls venture to Iditarod in hopes of weather coming in behind them to hold off the chasing teams. Time will tell.
I will send along a second report today after I talk with Jeff. Until then….