Flying home from Anchorage by light plane at 120 miles per hour I barely beat the front runners through the Alaska Range. I don’t keep records but I sure don’t recall anyone arriving in Rohn earlier than Kelly Maixner did today, and there were several more teams not far behind. As noted last night, the traveling speed has not been unusually fast but the rest time has been shorter than ever.
Martin Buser rested a bit at Rainy Pass and then blew through Rohn, and has a 19 mile lead over Aily Zirkle at this moment. Both Team Baker outfits rested at Rainy Pass and should be arriving at Rohn shortly. Interestingly, Katherine Keith beat John Baker into Rainy by 13 minutes. Of course those minutes are meaningless at this point, but anyone who expected Katherine to lag far behind is in for a big surprise. She has had excellent preparation for her first Iditarod, and has a good shot at rookie of the year. She mentioned before the race that in training she would sometimes beat John home. A weak team rarely beats a strong team home, but of course John attributed that to her failure to keep the dogs’ speed under control. Right now Katherine is the top rookie but there are a bunch of strong rookies in the same vicinity.
As for other rural teams, Mike Williams Jr. is speeding along and was the third team into Rohn where he rested. Richie Diehl and Pete Kaiser left Rainy a bit before the Kotzebue pair.
News accounts describe rough conditions on the back side of Rainy Pass. Most years that run is a challenge. Many of the current bunch of top racers has done the pass 10-20 times or more. They still admit that getting through can be dicey. In my only run through the pass as a total greenhorn, I remember dropping onto glare ice at the bottom of the pass on a flat stream that runs toward Rohn checkpoint. While glare ice is not great trail, after the pass it seems like a treat to be on flat going for a bit. Before the race Pete Kaiser mentioned he looks forward to that ice as well, even though he is a skilled racer with several races in his resume. I don’t remember much of the pass though because my eyes were closed much of the time.