Four lead teams have left the Takotna checkpoint on their way to Ophir, the 444th mile of the race. The next stop is Iditarod at mile 534, roughly the half-way point. Robert Nelson is in the lead followed by Kelley Griffin, Cim Smyth and Trent Herbst, taking the lead from Martin Buser and Lance Mackey who are likely taking one of their mandated rest periods in Takotna.
Pulling up the Red Lantern award thus far is James Bardoner, one of four rookies hanging in positions 54-57. Five teams have scratched: Paul Gebhardt, Jessica Hendricks, Zoya DeNure, Melissa Owens and Bob Storey, the 65 year old rookie originally from New Zealand (now lives in Alaska).
Five teams still have all 16 dogs running; 8 are required to legally finish the race. Media reports and interviews have expressed concerns over kennel cough and higher-than-average temperatures of 20+ degrees F rather than -30F or -40F. The warmer temperatures can dehydrate the dogs and cause excessive cramping of their muscles. No dogs have died; all have travelled safely to pick-up points for care until they can be reunited with their mushers after the race.
A few blogged stories along the way…
Melissa Owens scratched after reinjuring her previously hurt leg en route between Willow and Rainy Pass checkpoints.
Five of Martin Busers dogs were missing after they tangled with another team. Three were picked up by another musher; two made it to the next checkpoint on their own. Official rules allow dog assistance from another team or meeting w/ lost dogs later, however the team does not “check in” until all dogs and the musher are present. Last year, Justin Savadis’ Whitney-Lance went for a fun run only to be found three days later. This year, in good humor, he attached a sign to W.L. stating, “Hi, my name is Whitney-Lance. If you find me, please return me to Snowhook Kennel. Thanks, W.L.”
Paul Gebhart, a long-time favorite, arrived in Nikolai with three dogs on his sled (180lbs roughly) and another having problems in the harness. He said the dogs were dehydrated and cramped along the way. With 700 miles remaining at that point, he scratched and does not regret his decision. Per the blog, ” ‘I feel bad that I got to scratch, but I don’t feel like I made a bad decision,’ Gebhardt told ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins. ‘To me that’s part of the sport — to know when to say when.’ ” The joke was on how he’d return to Anchorage without his wallet.
Zoya DeNure scratched after resusitating one of her dogs after he fell in what appeared to be a heart attack. Zoya did her best to revive him, put the dog in the sled and turned the team to return to the nearest checkpoint for veterinary assistance. On the way, the dog poked his head out of the basket and looked at her, a good yet nerve wracking sign. At Rainy Pass, she withdrew from the race in the best interest of her dogs. Miller, the fallen one, is eating, drinking and doing fine.
Incumbant champion Lance Mackey had to drop his best dog Maple, the canine winner of the Golden Harness award last year. The Golden Harness is given to the best lead dog as voted upon by the mushers. Maple was the Mackey team’s lead dog for 2009 and 2010, winning the Iditarod both times. The four year old was not running as lead dog this race.
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