Race fans… we have ourselves a race!! Isn’t this exciting?!?!?
We just watched the latest Iditarod Insider video that shows Jeff camped about 8 miles out from Kaltag, headed for Elim. He was sitting on his cooler and eating a nice hot breakfast burrito that he heated up in his cooker seat. His strategy at this point is to “stay out of sight” of those following him, and be the first musher to arrive into the White Mountain checkpoint. This race is not over yet by any means. As Jeff stated himself “I don’t think I have more than a 50/50 chance at the best… there’s another team coming out here shortly.”
Let’s rewind a bit to review what has changed since our last blog….
When we last left off, Jeff was 42 miles from Kaltag. In Kaltag Jeff dropped a dog and stayed for just under 5 hours, leaving there just before 1am to begin his trek to Unalakleet. “Unk” for short, is the largest community on the Iditarod Trail from Wasilla to Nome and is known for it’s great food on the trail. Many citizens of the community come out in force to see the mushers as they stop here for rest. Jeff arrived in Unk with a “very impressive and animated team”. Once in Unk Jeff stayed 3 hr 35 minutes and upon departing at 4:56pm his team was noted to be “peppy, energetic and ravenous”. Now ‘ravenous’ is a word you really like to hear! We’re sure that Jeff couldn’t be more excited about how the team was eating here!
From Unk on up to Shaktoolik, Jeff had a good run time – just 6 minutes slower than Mitch Seavey who was leading the race at this point. Jeff opted for a shorter rest while in Shaktoolik and took three hours here while Mitch stayed for almost four. Mitch departed at 1:15am and Jeff followed him out at 2:12am – most likely not wanting to let Mitch too far out of his sights and keep him in striking distance.
Jeff also left two more dogs in Shaktoolik. While we don’t know yet who they are, we are busily watching every video and looking at all of the photos that are posted to shed some light on who these two were. We confirmed (via photos) that Ebb and Bailey were dropped down the trail in Eagle Island and Kaltag. Dropping dogs here is not necessarily a bad thing – if a team is running strong, you can still only run as fast as your slowest dog. Mushers will often drop dogs at this stage to speed up – if the team wants to travel at 7.5mph, but Bailey is only wanting to run at 7.0mph…. well, you leave Bailey at a checkpoint and immediately pick up that .5 mph. Mushers are also thinking about lightening their own work load – with two less dogs on Jeff’s team that is only 44 feet to bootie, instead of 52! That’s also less dogs to prepare food for, less dogs to massage,… etc.
Now, here’s where Jeff kicked things into high gear. Running with a team of 11 dogs, Jeff managed to make the run from Shaktoolik to Koyuk 23 minutes faster than Mitch. Most of the trip up, Jeff was (according to quotes in Idtarod blogs/video) trying to determine whether to stop in Koyuk or not. Jeff is most often a musher that stays in checkpoints and doesn’t do to much camping on the trail. Not this time – Jeff arrived into Koyuk at 8:16am and was back out on the trail 6 minutes later, running right past Mitch’s resting team and taking the lead for the first time in this years Iditarod. We were just as excited and surprised as many of you watching!
Husky Homestead support crew that arrived in Nome last night and early this morning have been busy calling and texting us here at home as we all put our heads together and try and figure out what could happen during the rest of this race!
There are still over 100 miles of trail left between Jeff and the finish line in Nome. No one knows this better than Jeff himself. At this point in the race mushers are struggling with sleep deprivation and trying very hard to focus – Jeff included. There are a number of good teams with lots of experience behind him and many Iditarods have been decided on that last section of trail between White Mountain and Nome! This could be a battle to the end.
Brace yourself fans…. we could have a long day ahead of us!
If you’re looking for more great reads, we’ve got some links for you:
“Will Jeff King’s nervy gambit yield Iditarod Glory, or blow up on him?” – Alaska Dispatch
For some great history on Jeff and Mitch – take a look at the above article “King grabs lead… ” from Alaska Dispatch!
Jeff and Mitch are both on the trail and moving towards Elim. How long will they stay? Who will make it to White Mountain first?? How will this all pan out?!?! Alright – finally time for some lunch and to see what else may be going on! Stay tuned race fans… .this could get really good!!!
– The HH Crew