The mushers are a few miles from McGrath and moving towards their 24 hour. If we were to stop the Iditarod right now and let everyone take their 24, there would be some surprises. We wondered in our last blog about the changing of the Guard with the younger mushers moving up. While old timers and long time followers of the race can be proud of the veterans that occupy the top positions. Why, even Rick Swenson is currently in eleventh place out of Nikolai with Dee Dee Jonrowe in twelfth place with Sonny Lindner leaving in the fifteenth position. This assures the public that these perennial favorite mushers are still contenders and should always be considered as serious competitors.
There are over 20 teams on the 48 mile trail heading for McGrath from Nikolai with more poised to move forward at any moment. This will crowd the 24 hour favorite spot, Takotna. Look to see some mushers moving up to Ophir to take their 24 just to maintain some quiet rest time for themselves and their dogs. Than the mushers in the thirtys to be happy with their 24 in McGrath.
The twenty four hour has another twist that can affect the race and that is the time adjustment. Remember that all mushers left in 2 minute intervals from Willow so the first musher has a jump on the other competitors so the equalization time comes at the 24. Musher Ray Redington Jr who left in second position (Number 1 goes to the Honorary musher) will have to spend 2 hrs and 12 minutes longer for a total of 26 hours and 12 minutes. The last musher, Ryan Redington will only spend 24 hours as he has no extra minutes to spend. This levels the playing field for the rest of the Race. Ryan can tell Ray Jr that he gained over 2 hours without even lifting a finger. Two hours translated into miles can change the playing field. Look to see the time adjustment on the rest of the field and it could actually change some positions in the race.
Snow continues to dominate the race. It has caused the dogs to expend more as well as lose the trail. A couple of the lead mushers took a dead end and had to turn around. The snow is dry and powdery and can put the leaders in a lot of stress just trying to stay on the trail. John Baker in an interview in Nikolai said his team faced the challenges and he has never been so proud of his team. Mushers are dropping very few dogs and that is the plus of an abundance of snow. Believe it or not, the challenges of the snow will be even more when the mushers head to Cripple and Ruby. You will find a lot of weary mushers who probably are yelling gee and haw in their sleep when they reach the Yukon.
The 24 hour break comes at a good time for my blogging, I'll be back on Thursday evening.
Sam Towarak, retired school teacher, dog musher, and sports commentator, lives in Unalakleet, Alaska.