Meanwhile, the leaders are on a record pace, out of Unalakleet (race mile 714) and eating up the trail to Shaktoolik. Aliy took the Gold Coast award, something the majority of recent winners have also done. In fact, as it stands right now, she's setting herself up to beat John Baker's winning and still record time of 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds set in 2011. But there is still quite a bit of race left, and anything can happen. Just ask Nicolas Petit, who went from being in one of the top 5 in my last postings to being the 16th musher to scratch this year, citing a fatigued dog team. That leaves 53 teams on the trail.
And reports indicate it will be a more challenging trail over the last 260 miles or so of the race. The Alaska Dispatch says:
Drivers will have to hang on with the teams moving at these speeds as the race heads onto more snowless, treacherous trail. The Innoko River country of the Interior had some snow, as did the Yukon, but starting about halfway across the Kaltag Portage, the snow dwindled to almost nothing.
Much of the trail north to Nome looks largely snowless, and Iditarod officials say it's about 15 miles longer than normal because of the way the trail across Norton Bay from Shaktoolik had to be moved around to find good ice.
It looks like the winds have picked up, and temps are holding just on the positive side of 0F.