I expect the twins to take around a 5 hour rest in Cripple before heading back out on the trail. When they leave, they'll have a 70 mile run on the Yukon to the next checkpoint of Ruby. I don't expect any lengthy campouts along the way, just some shorter stops to snack the dogs. Although Cripple is considered the official halfway point of the race, the twins won't technically have covered half the total race mileage until they are in between these two checkpoints.
And this means that the leaders of this year's Iditarod are now more than halfway home. With Jeff King having finally declared his 24 and hunkered down in Ruby, new leaders have pulled out of the Ruby checkpoint and are heading to Galena. In first place as of this writing is Brent Sass with 14 dogs, and 3 hours behind him is Aily Zirkle with 15 dogs in harness. Rounding out the top ten are other familiar names including two Seaveys, Nicolas Petit, Wade Marrs, Hugh Neff, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, and Ken Anderson. By most accounts, the pace of this year's Iditarod has been fast. Like new record fast. Even the twins were commenting at the start of the race on not only how large the field is this year, but how many experienced, competitive mushers were in it. Which means following the leaders the final 100 miles or so of the race should prove very interesting. The Alaska Dispatch News has a good article analyzing a few of the leaders based on where they took their 24, in case you'd like to read more.
There are 80 of the original 85 teams still on the trail, which brings me to a bummer of an update... Musher Charley Bejna, close friend of Seeing Double, opted to scratch in McGrath. I don't have any details yet, other than he was quoted as saying he scratched out of concern for his dog team. We hope Charley and his team get back to their kennel in Knik safely.
Also a bit of a bummer? I have a fresh update on Anna and Kristy's dropped dogs. Since the last dog update, Anna did drop 1 dog in Takotna, leaving each twin with 11 dogs each on her team. Joining Rooster, Romell, Precious, Bodie, and Duchess back at the kennel are: Kristy's dogs Kick (his gait was off), Kona (sore shoulder), and Nicholas (mild diarrhea and coughing). I am still waiting for an update on two of Anna's dogs, including the one dropped in Nikolai and one in Takotna - although I fully expect the latter to be Delta, since he arrived in that checkpoint in the sled basket. Each of these dogs will run another day, dear reader, so don't fret. But I'm sure all of their friends still out on the trail are missing them.
As this Friday comes to a close, at least in my time zone, I have to admit, I'm looking forward to the weekend… time off from my day job to focus on the Iditarod!! The twins and their dogs aren't taking the weekend off, and neither am I. Check back for the usual race updates as well as some extras.