Lance Mackey Leading Toward NomeLance Mackey appears to have the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in the bag, barring any sort of major catastrophe. He arrived in the checkpoint of Koyuk a nearly six hours ahead of the second place team, driven by Sebastian Schnuelle. Currently in third place, John Baker apparently lost his team for a while, the second time he's lost his team in this race. You can read all about it in an article in the Anchorage Daily News.
Leading WomenJust a little ways behing the leaders, there is a race between DeeDee Jonrowe, Aily Zirkle and Jessie Royer to determine which will be the first female musher into Nome. According to the current leader board, the three women came into Shaktoolik in 13th through 15th place, all within half an hour. In a report posted on her SP Kennel Dog Log blog, Aliy reported that weather conditions there are cold and windy. The three women are apparently waiting out the storm, and may not be leaving until tomorrow unless the weather improves considerably.
Dogs Dead, Musher Rescued and Two Others ScratchedIn light of bad news, it would seem that the decision by the leading women is quite prudent. Information from both the Iditarod web site and an article in the Anchorage Daily News tells us that 2 dogs on the team of Lou Packer have died. Packer and his dogs were airlifted off the trail. Meanwhile Blake Matray and Kim Darst have been located. Matray and Darst have scratched from the race and plan to mush into Shagaluk in the morning.
Details are a bit scarce at the moment, but it sounds like the three ran into trouble when they found the trail between Iditarod and Shagaluk was heavily drifted by wind blown snow. "Iditarod officials confirmed the dog deaths and said necropsies were planned to determine how the animals died. Thin-coated huskies have been an issue of concern among Iditarod veterinarians in recent years. Concerns have been growing that such dogs might fall victim to exposure." I may post more on this topic when details become available.
I'm Heading HomeHaving spent the past three week either in training or here at my place of employment, I'm looking forward to getting off duty in about 5 hours and heading home for two weeks of R&R. I have a few personal issues to deal with, but the bulk of the R&R will be dedicated to returning to my own dog mushing lifestyle. A dental appointment, tax appointment and some errands all on Wednesday will delay our return to the trail, but I'm hoping to have teams running out of our own yard on Thursday.
I intend to be training consistently over the next two weeks, as our training schedule has been severely disrupted this winter and with three weeks off I'm sure the team has lost a fair amount of our hard-won conditioning. I'm hoping I can bring them back into shape quickly, as earlier tonight I signed us up to run a 6-dog team in the Two Rivers Dog Musher's Association's "Valley Funale" event on the 28th. The "Funale" is a fun end-of-the-season event that will also provide an opportunity to help train the dogs, especially my young LITs (leaders in training) to cope with the crowds of people and dogs associated with racing. Of the six dogs I plan to race, 5 have proven an ability to lead the team down the trail.