Our friend Paul Gebhardt was reported out of Nikolai in 5th place with 14 dogs in harness early in the afternoon. There are still 64 mushers out on the trail. Of the two that have scratched, we mentioned our friend Scott, the Mushin' Mortician, in the previous post. Details regarding his decision to scratch are limited, only saying he was concerned about his dogs and their performance. We wish Scott and his dogs the very best, and know that he did what he felt was best in the interests of his team. The other scratched musher, Ed Stielstra, did so immediately after the Ceremonial start. Apparently he had suffered some injuries before the Iditarod and knew he couldn't run the whole race, but chose to participate in the start in a show of solidarity for his fellow mushers and in support of the race. Well done, Ed. Well done.
All of you Iditarod Insiders out there may have seen the clip of the twins that was posted recently to their site... "Anna Berington Crashes Sled; Sister Kristy Comes To Her Aid." If you haven't seen it, track it down! Here's what happened: The twins were approaching Rainy Pass and navigating a winding downhill trail with trees and stumps lining each side. Kristy was leading the way and made it without issue. But Murphy and his blasted Law were watching when Anna hit her brake. Out of no where in the deep snow, up pops a 6" diameter tree stump. It wedged itself quite perfectly between the primary brake and her sled, sending her careening forward into her handle bar. The handle bar broke, her main bridle broke, her main brake was completely mangled, and a snow hook flew loose. Our friend Sandy, a long-time watcher of the race, said she has never seen a brake torn in half like that before. As luck would have it, the snow hook apparently lodged in the sled bag and bridle, preventing the dog team from continuing down the trail on their own.
Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the hill, Kristy heard dogs starting to make some noise, and just knew in her gut something was amiss (oh, that "twin thing" again...). With a quick plea to her dogs to behave themselves, she tied them off and ran up the hill. Together, the twins managed to dislodge Anna's sled from the vengeful tree stump just in time for fellow musher Paige Drobny to come along for a repeat performance. They helped Paige as best they could. Kristy also had the presence of mind to pile a bunch of snow over the stump and mark it with pine boughs and some trail tape to help hopefully prevent other teams from encountering the same fate.
I have to admit, Anna looks a little stressed out in the video footage. But, c'mon, who can blame her?! She not only had to patch things up well enough to get to the next checkpoint of Rohn ~ which, incidentally, includes covering the notorious Dalzell Gorge ~ but then has to face re-patching of the sled to a point where it can withstand another 140 miles before getting to Takotna and her reserve sled!! If that isn't perseverance and determination, then I really don't know what is. I don't know exactly what's going on out there, but I know one thing ~ they're still going!
Regarding dropped dogs ~ thanks to Sandy, our Anchorage Dropped Dog Correspondent, I have more information. Anna's first dog drop was Foxie, who was identified by trail vets as being dehydrated. Temps have been hovering between 20 and 30 degrees F, which is uncomfortably balmy by Iditarod standards. Dehydrated and/or overheated dogs are a major concern in this year's race. Rest assured, Foxie is doing just fine now and is showing no additional signs of dehydration. Kristy's first dog drop was Porky, who started showing signs of a sore shoulder that couldn't be worked out on the trail.
When Anna and Kristy reach Nikolai, they'll essentially have 1/3rd of the race under their runners and another 660+ miles to go. I expect them to make at least a 6 hour stop there, both to rest themselves and the dogs but also to do more maintenance to Anna's sled. The trail from Nikolai to McGrath should be fairly uneventful, consisting mostly of runs along lakes, through swamps, and with a few forested clusters to break up the mundane. It can get cold along this stretch, which would probably be a welcome reprieve from the "heat" thus far.
Before signing off for this posting, here are some of the pictures I have tracked down and a couple of articles mentioning the twins. Special thanks to the talented photographers for giving us a trail-side view!
Previewing the world's best-known sled-dog race
Calm Before The Storm: Mushers Set Out From Willow In Iditarod Restart
And, of course, PICTURES!! Please click on the photo to enlarge it and read the caption.