An acquaintance of mine described this year's Iditarod as a "full contact sport." Three more drivers would agree with her. Karen Ramstead, a favorite Siberian husky driver, pulled the plug in Rohn as she suffered a badly fractured hand. Cindy Abbott and Halverson have also scratched from the race at Rohn. So far the battle of attrition has claimed 12 victims who either scratched in Rohn or in one of the earlier checkpoints.
Having completed his mandatory 24 hour layover, Martin Buser is back in the hunt. Although the leaderboard shows him in 31st place, he actually has a full day advantage on everyone else. Aliy Zirkle arrived in Takotna shortly after I posted the last report and settled in for her day of rest. Nicholas Petit pulled into Ophir first, followed by Jeff King a couple of hours behind. Sonny Lindner and Aaron Burmeister have both left Takotna headed toward Ophir.
Meanwhile, Aliy has been joined by quite a collection of contenders. The leaderboard currently shows 13 mushers parked at that checkpoint, all of whom are experienced Iditarod racers with teams capable of winning the race. During the 24 hour layover, the time is adjusted to account for the start differential, so we'll have a better picture of who is positioned in which place.
Writing on the Iditarod web site, Joe Runyan is ready to declare Aliy Zirkle as "controlling" the race at this point. I liked his description of her little lead dog Quito as 'diminutive'. Compared to my traditional trap-line dogs, all of Aliy's crew could be described as diminutive, but they are full of hear and run. Aliy's husband, Allen Moore (way back on the trail with the B-team) loves to tell reporters that "there ain't no 'quit' in Quito.
I think it is too early to declare any musher in "control" of the race. We'll have a better feel for things tomorrow morning, but I'm guessing that the next few days will see Martin Buser back up front, but in close competition with a whole group of able mushers. Aliy will for sure be in that group, maybe even leading it, but one doesn't dare discount Sonny Lindner, Mitch and Dallas Seavey, or any of the other mushers currently resting at Takotna.
Today is finally "change out day" here at work. I need to shower, shave and finish packing my bags for the flight home. Weather permitting (and it's a bit dicey today), I should be landing in Fairbanks just before 1 o'clock, but Trish and I need to do some grocery shopping and run some errands before heading to the house for the big reunion with the Stardancer dogs.
That always takes a while. Each dog wants to meet and greet and jump and lick and sniff and wiggle and wriggle. I can hardly wait.