There have been a couple of close calls during the race. Our freind Scott, the Mushin' Mortician, had a dog ~ Marshall ~ collapse but was able to revive him and take him in the basket to the next checkpoint. Marshall is reportedly doing just fine, and vets haven't pinpointed what caused the collapse. He allegedly looked a bit forlorn not to be pulling out with the rest of the team. Another musher was knocked off his sled, and the team went on without him. When he caught up to them, a dog was entangled in the lines, but luckily uninjured. This race is certainly not without its risks, to dogs and mushers alike.
With regard to the mushers, the first few have decided to drop out of the race. Those deciding to scratch did so largely out of concern for their dogs or personal reasons. The distance they covered is no small accomplishment, and we wish them safe and swift travels to their home kennels. There are now 63 mushers out on the trail.
The run from Takotna to Ophir is about 23 miles and generally an uneventful stretch of trail crossing a number of creeks. It promises to be cold, though, as our friend Stephanie is calling for temps in the -10s to -20s F (more details in the weather line on the sidebar to the right). Having just come off their 24, I suspect Kristy and Anna's stop in Ophir will be brief. The next run, 73 miles to Cripple, gets them into Yukon River territory. It's a long section of trail, but if the snow pack holds up, it should be a pretty brisk run. And then a 4-5 hour rest in Cripple wouldn't surprise me.
Our friend Scott pulled out of Ophir just before 7:15pm on Thurs. with 13 dogs on his sled and in 44th. Meanwhile, Paul is sticking in the top 20 ~ currently holding 18th, as he pulls into Cripple at 9:18pm, also with 13 dogs. Half a dozen other mushers have already pulled out of Cripple, which is largely considered the halfway point in the race. They're each running 14 - 16 dog teams. Aliy Zirkle is having an impressive run, but close behind are two Seaveys, Baker, and a Redington. There is a lot of race left, and while I suspect we'll seeing positions stabilize for a bit as everyone comes off their 24, it's too soon (at least for me!) to call who will reach Nome first.
As for Kristy and Anna, their expectations when starting this race were modest ~ to reach the finish line with as many happy and healthy dogs as possible. They're racing against mushers and veteran dog teams that have run the Iditarod dozens of times. While it is nice to be competitive, one must also be realistic. But they will gain experience, and that is invaluable. And I think you will agree after watching the below clip, that it sure seems like they're having a great deal of fun out there.