A few more shots of Anna and Kristy are turning up. Nice work to all of the photographers!
I got a quick text from Kristy confirming which 10 dogs she had on the line, as well as which 7 dogs Anna had, when they reached Nome. As previously noted, those dogs that were dropped at checkpoints along the way are either resting comfortably back at the kennel in Knik or were flown on to Nome to welcome their teammates at the finish. The ailments that required they be dropped during the race are all ones they will recover from, so it is quite likely we'll see many of these athletes - especially the ones owned by Seeing Double - again next year.
As amazing as it is for the twins to reach Nome, remember - the following dogs are the ones that ran the entire way there! Let's take a look...
Kristy's team: Duramax, Beatris, Bouncer, Sweetums, Jack, Quintes, Lobo, RT, Shoes, and Pace
Anna's team: Razor, Rooster, Bison, Jandall, Beaker, Blackburn, and Forrest
Way to go, guys!!
After just over 11 days and 18 hours on the trail, the final teams have checked out of White Mountain and are making the final push to Nome. 56 teams as of this writing have pulled under the burled arch, 8 have scratched (including 3 of this year's 17 rookies), and 8 are still on the trail. Of those final 8, half are rookies. Our current red lantern - or musher in last place - is Cindy Abbott. Cindy first entered the Iditarod in 2013 but had to scratch, as was the case again in 2014. But in 2015 she finished the race for the first time, also claiming the dubious red lantern prize that year. She was on the trail for just over 13 days and 11 hours in 2015, so she is also on track to beat her prior finish time by a pretty wide margin. Cindy, 58 and now living in Alaska, was diagnosed with a serious and rare disease (Wegener's Granulomatosis) that involves inflammation of blood vessels. To help bring awareness to this as well as other rare diseases, Cindy participates in the Iditarod as an advocate for the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD). She even summited Mt. Everest in 2010 proudly holding a NORD banner. More people have successfully summited Mt. Everest than have completed the Iditarod, so the fact that Cindy has done both is a huge accomplishment. Cindy ~ you own that Red Lantern with pride!!
I haven't had a chance to speak with Kristy or Anna yet, but hope to over the weekend. I have gotten a few texts, though, and I know they are enjoying some hot meals, hot showers, and warm beds in Nome. They also have their dogs to care for, both those that finished the race with them and the ones that would have been dropped in later checkpoints and thus flown on to Nome to rejoin their teams rather than back to Anchorage. The short report is both are doing well. Kristy said her face is really chapped and red from all the cold and wind this year, but so far that is the only minor complaint.
In addition to basking in the comforts of civilization (and even a town of only some 3,800 inhabitants like Nome is considered civilization after what they just endured), the twins will make appearances at the local Iditarod HQ to meet with fans and sign autographs. And Sunday at 3pm is the Awards Banquet for this year's finishers. And for once, all of the finishers should actually be off the trail and able to attend! In past years (most past years, I think...), there were typically a few teams still out on the trail during and then even after the banquet.
As soon as the banquet is over, likely as soon as Sunday night, the twins will pack up all their gear and dogs and fly back to Anchorage where the dog trucks will be waiting to transport them back up to Knik. I'm sure the twins will be excited to be home and also to reunite with those dogs that were dropped early in the race and those that didn't quite make it onto this years teams.
Even though things are wrapping up, never fear - your Mad Blogger isn't signing off yet. I still hope to post a blog with insights directly from the twins; a final race recap when the last musher is into Nome; the annual Dog Blog; and an update to the twins' dog teams so you can see which amazing canine athletes took the twins all the way to the finish.
I hope everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick's Day, and enjoy the weekend!
It brings me great happiness and pride to announce Kristy and Anna have reached Nome and successfully completed Iditarod 2017! They pulled under the burled arch amidst cheering fans and sunny skies today at 2:30pm Alaska time...
Kristy: 40th place, 10 days 2 hours 29 minutes 53 seconds, 10 dogs on the line
Anna: 41st place, 10 days 2 hours 30 minutes 14 seconds, 7 dogs on the line
Completing the qualifying races required to even enter the Iditarod? A noteworthy accomplishment.
Simply finishing a race of this magnitude? Impressive.
Holding one's own in the middle of the pack? Commendable.
Successfully doing this 6 and 8 years in a row, facing -50 ambient temps, sleep deprivation, injuries to yourself, having to leave beloved dogs at checkpoints, the physical and emotional toll... and still achieve a new personal record race time by over 8 1/2 hours? Victory!
I'm waiting to see if any more interviews or pictures turn up online from the finish, so I'll be back with more details. But I had to get this exciting info posted!
Just a quick update... The twins pulled into White Mountain right on schedule at 8pm Alaska time last night. They did, however, stay in checkpoint nearly one hour longer than required, resting for just shy of 9 hours. They each dropped one more dog, leaving Kristy with 10 on the line and Anna with 7. Mushers must pull under the burled arch in Nome with a minimum of 5 dogs in harness and on the line to successfully finish, so even if Anna drops any dogs in Safety or has to put one in the basket on the last stretch, she still has a little wiggle room. Even though Kristy has more dogs, the twins are independent race entrants, and race rules prohibit swapping out dogs or loaning them to other mushers.
Kristy was reported in 40th place and Anna in 41st when they pulled out of White Mountain just after 5am today. Their current moving speed is 8mph, but their moving average is 7.7mph. Plus they each dropped one more dog. So, I'm going to widen out my window for their anticipated finished to this afternoon between 2pm and 3pm Alaska time.
A total of 32 mushers have already reached Nome, still only 6 scratched, leaving 34 teams still active on the trail. And they've been out there for 9 days and 18 hours!
Hello loyal readers! My sincere apologies for the delay in this post. I'm sure many of you have been wondering what your Mad Blogger has been up to. Lots of exciting things have taken place since my last update, and I've neglected you horribly. I do have a day job, however, and while it would be remiss of me to neglect that responsibility in most any circumstance, the fact that my employer generously added Seeing Double to their short roster of sponsored athletes this year takes that responsibility up a notch!
I do want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who tolerate - or even enjoy! - my musings for the sake of keeping close tabs on my sisters while they're out on the trail. Family, friends, kids working on school projects, folks from all walks of life and all parts of the world... It's actually quite humbling to know so many people are cheering Kristy and Anna on, and I have the honor of being their voice for a short time. I'm immensely proud of my sisters and equally grateful for all the support they have out there. So thank you. And I mean that.
Enough sentimental blather! Back to the race!
As I'm sure you all already know, we have a winner in the 45th running of the Iditarod! And what a winner... after a nearly unfathomable 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, and 13 seconds on the trail - 979 race miles from Fairbanks to Nome - Mitch Seavey and his remaining 11 dogs pulled under the burled arch at 3:40pm Alaska time on Tuesday afternoon. To win a race like this is an impressive accomplishment... to do so with the fastest time ever AND as the oldest musher (at 57) to ever win? I can't even come up with the right adjective to describe it. And he didn't just squeeze by with the fastest time ever ~ he basically crushed it... by a solid 8 hours. Maybe some will try to attribute this to the weather reroute from Fairbanks this year, but I don't think that's fair. After all, when his son Dallas won this race in 2015, the last time the reroute was used, he needed 8 days 18 hours and change to accomplish this feat. And Mitch trounced that time handily.
To what do I attribute his win? Skill, experience, legacy, and luck. Ok, mostly his dog team, and then the aforementioned. The man's got skills... you might think these mushers just stand on the runners and come what may, but driving a dog sled is no easy task. Balancing the needs of your dog team against your own, battling the terrain and the elements, devising a strategy that will not only get you to Nome, but hopefully do so faster than others... that's a skill. Experience? This is Mitch's 24th running of the Iditarod, having first appeared in 1982 and then running every year from 1995 until today. Legacy? His father, Dan, ran in the very first Iditarod in 1973 (back when it took over 20 days to finish the race) and competed in a total of 5 Iditarods. Not to mention Mitch's son, Dallas, who first competed in 2005 and has just completed his 11th Iditarod. And while I get the impression family competition, and thus a bit of secrecy, is alive and well here, I don't doubt for a second that mushing tales were told over family dinners. Finally, one mustn't discount Lady Luck... I don't want to give her too much credit, but she's a formidable adversary. Be it random weather changes or your dog team not catching a stomach bug that seems to be plaguing everyone else, I think we can all agree that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
And what about Mitch's dog team? To have made it that far, that fast, and only drop 5 dogs? Years of breeding, months of training, an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, knowing when to run and when to make them rest... it's an art as much as a science. I encourage you to check out this ADN.com article and watch the embedded video clip. You can see how he gets choked up talking about his amazing canine athletes and how he would probably rather be caring for them than in the lime-light. Do I think he pushed them too hard to accomplish what they did? No. A musher is nothing without his or her dog team, and I think Mitch simply managed to put together some of the most amazing canine athletes this sport has ever seen. Imagine having a basketball team consisting of nothing but LeBron James and Michael Jordan stunt-doubles. I think he managed just that.
Are we on the verge of a new era is dog sled racing? Quite likely yes.
And what of the other mushers on the trail? As of this writing, we have 16 finishers into Nome. While they all deserve mad props, I want to make special mention of the two ladies finishing in the top 10, Jessie Royer (5th) and Aliy Zirkle (8th). Jessie even finished the race with all 16 dogs on the line, something I cannot remember seeing in the time I've been following the race. Her dog(wo)manship, if you will, is certainly top notch. Another thing I cannot recall seeing? So few scratches. The race isn't over, mind you, but teams are making great progress and we still only have 6 of the original 72 teams bowing out. Perhaps the frigid cold of the first portion of the race is a slightly less formidable adversary than the Dalzell Gorge, Happy River Steps, and Farwell Burn that are usually tackled by teams mushing over the Alaska Range on the traditional route. I'll have to ask the twins about that.
This brings me, of course, to my favorite topic... Kristy and Anna. My last update had them into Shaktoolik, race mile 758, a little after 10am on Tuesday. They took a rest of just over 6 hours here before pulling out at 4:20pm Tuesday afternoon. Neither twin dropped any dogs, leaving Kristy with 12 on the line and Anna with 9. They spent 5 hours 20 minutes covering the 50 miles to Koyuk, pulling into this checkpoint before midnight. After a 5 1/2 hour rest, they pulled their snowhooks, again without dropping any dogs, and hit the trail for the next 48 mile run to Elim. After about 6 hours on the trail, they arrived at the checkpoint of Elim (race mile 856) just after 9am Wednesday morning. They rested for less than 5 hours here, each dropped a dog, and hit the trail again just before 2pm Wednesday afternoon.
Anna was reported in 40th place out of Elim with 8 dogs on the line, Kristy in 41st with 11 dogs. They have a 28 mile run to Golovin, which is noted on the race map but isn't an official checkpoint and thus does not have vets, facilities, or drop bags of supplies waiting for them. I expect them to mush straight on to White Mountain (18 miles further along the trail), where they will take their final mandatory 8-hour rest before the final 55 mile push to Safety and 22 miles from there to Nome.
My sisters might not appreciate my sharing this, but I will anyway... I did get a text from Anna last night and she admitted "it's been a rough one." I know dropping the number of dogs she did early in the race would be weighing on her, and she's almost certainly been pushing herself to the extreme to take any extra burden she can off the remaining dogs. This means hopping off the sled and running, pedaling and ski-poling like a maniac, and probably depriving herself of rest at checkpoints to give extra TLC to her dogs. I can only surmise this takes both a physical and emotional toll, leaving one more susceptible to self-doubt and discouragement. But Anna and Kristy are running together, and if there is one thing I know for certain, when one gets down, the other picks her up. And vice versa. I know there have been times on this race where Anna was the encouraging force, and times where Kristy played that role. To have a best friend and sister by your side for an adventure like this, someone who easily knows you as intimately as you know yourself, is a force to be reckoned with. Also, courtesy of another text via the family grapevine, I know it's working. The twins apparently had a really good run over the sea ice, downright fun at times, perking up their spirits and giving them an extra boost as they head towards Nome.
This brings me to (drumroll please) my prediction of when the twins will reach Nome. I'm calling for 6pm Eastern / 2pm Alaska time on Thursday. They're currently at race mile 887 per the GPS trackers (as of this writing). If they can maintain their current 8.4mph pace, they should be in to White Mountain by 8pm Alaska time. They have their 8-hour rest, and should pull out of WM by 4am Alaska time Thursday morning. With 77 miles to mush at that point, if they can maintain an 8mph pace, they will need about 9 1/2 hours to reach Nome. If I've managed to do my math right and account for the 4-hour difference in our time zones without error (yes, your Mad Blogger is a little tired, too...) - yes. 2pm Alaska time on Thursday it is.
Keep a close eye on those GPS trackers, though, because I underestimated Mitch's speed and arrival time by nearly an hour and a half in the last update, so obviously I'm a little off my game this year. But, if I'm right (and even if I'm wrong by an hour or two), it looks like the twins are on track to achieve a new personal best finish time in this year's Iditarod. Not too shabby!!
In any event, stay tuned! I will continue to update the blog until the last musher is off the trail. With any luck, the twins will feel up to a phone call upon reaching the finish, so I should have a blog update with their immediate impressions of the race just completed. And while I hate to wrap up this entry on a sad note, there have been a few dog deaths on the trail this year, and I've been hard at work on this year's Dog Blog to discuss what happened. I normally post a Special Edition on the dogs earlier in the race, but I've been researching this one particularly hard and giving it a great deal of thought. It's a topic that is near and dear to not only my heart, but the twins' and I'm sure most of our readers, so that promises a blog entry worth checking back on.
In the meantime, watch those GPS trackers. Check the blog. Hug someone you love, particularly if he or she is furry, and send good vibes to all the mushers still out on the trail.
Oh, and enjoy a few more pictures that I found. The ones of the twins are mostly from earlier in the race, but still good ones! And a few of other mushers to give you a taste of what the twins have in store.
Mushers have been on the trail for just shy of an even 8 days and, after a near perfect race with a blistering pace, Mitch Seavey has completed his 8-hour in White Mountain and is on the final 77 miles to Nome. He pulled out with 11 dogs on the line and is currently running at 9.6mph at race mile 939 according to his GPS tracker. Mitch, 56, is a 2-time Iditarod champion, having won the race in 2004 and again in 2013. His closest competition right now is his son, Dallas. But as Dallas is about 20 miles behind his dad, and only running an 8 dog team, something pretty drastic would have to happen to Mitch for Dallas to catch him. In 2015, the last time the Fairbanks-to-Nome route was run, Mitch came in 2nd place after 8 days and 22 hours on the trail. It took him 10 hours to run from White Mountain to Nome that year, but he also only had 10 dogs on the line ~ one fewer than this year. So for those looking to witness what could likely be the fastest Iditarod win in history, I'd be paying close attention to those GPS trackers before 5pm Alaska time today.
Meanwhile, further back on the trail, the twins pulled into Shaktoolik, race mile 758, around 10:15am Alaska time this morning. They were reported in 38th and 39th place. Of course the winds have picked up a bit from my last write-up, so they're not escaping that this year. But at least there are no reports of ground blizzards, which is a huge plus. I expect the twins to rest in checkpoint for about 5 hours before tackling another 50 miles of sea ice as they make their way to Koyuk.
We have had one more scratch in the race, Ellen Halverson, who called it quits in Koyukuk. That leaves rookie Roger Lee in 66th and final place - nearly 350 miles behind the leader!
Here are a few images from the trail. You can imagine how crossing that sea ice in a ground blizzard could be a very dangerous thing... If you or your lead dogs get misdirected, you could find yourself dangerously far from shore and on thin ice before you know it.
It's late Monday afternoon in Alaska. And after just over 7 days and 4 hours on the trail, the twins' GPS trackers have them hunkered down at race mile 680, midway between Kaltag and Unalakleet, as of this writing. Several other mushers also appear to be stopped at this point, so I'm fairly sure they're all availing themselves of a small shelter known as Tripod Cabin to rest themselves and their teams. Temps in this area are reported around +11F with clear skies and mild winds.
Kristy and Anna were reported out of Kaltag at 1:46am on Monday in 36th and 37th places. Neither twin dropped any dogs here, leaving Kristy with 13 dogs on the line and Anna 10. Contrary to their planned strategy to 8-hour in Nulato, the twins opted to take this rest in Koyukuk. I can only speculate at this point on why that was the case, but knowing my sisters as I do, the decision would have been made with the best interests of the dogs in mind. I also see Anna dropped one dog in Koyukuk, and this dog's well-being could have been further incentive to take their 8-hour when they did.
Whatever the case may be, after Koyukuk, the twins did in fact make short work of the run to Nulato, covering the 22 miles in just over 2 hours. They paused only briefly in this checkpoint before hitting the 47 mile trail from Nulato to Kaltag. As noted above, they reached Kaltag 4 hours and 20 minutes later at 1:46am. They took a rest of just under 5 1/2 hours in Kaltag before pulling their hooks and taking off on the 85 mile run to Unalakleet at just after 7am Monday morning.
Mitch Seavey, the current leader, was last reported into Elim (race mile 856) and has 12 dogs on the line. By most accounts, it's his race to lose at this point. But anyone who followed the race in 2014, when Jeff King was a veritable shoo-in for first only to hit a blizzard and scratch so close to his goal, knows it isn't over until it's over. But if Mitch continues to run the near perfect race he has so far, he will not only take first but may even set a new all-time fastest finish and usurp that title from his son, Dallas. And even if Mitch cinches the victory, it will be interesting to see how the top 10 shakes out. With names like Dallas Seavey, Nicolas Petit, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Wade Marrs, Ray Redington Jr, and Pete Kaiser all at the top of the leader board, I'm proud to say that 2 of the 17 women in this year's race are also rounding out the top 10... Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle. In a sport that has historically been dominated by men, I will put on my feminist cap for a moment and applaud these ladies for proving they're just as tough, just as determined, and just as capable as anyone out there. Another race within the race to watch? Rookie of the Year. With 17 rookies in the field, only 3 are currently reported in the top 40, and only 2 in the top 20 ~ Sebastien Vergnaud and Robert Redington.
News coverage at this point in the race almost always focuses on the front of the pack, and I cannot fault anyone for that. And while that makes tidbits about the twins harder to find, it does give us a good look at what Kristy and Anna will soon be facing. And by most accounts, it's quite lovely. When mushers hit Unalakleet, they will have completed their time on the Yukon River and will mush the final 261 miles along the Norton Sound and Bering Sea coast. This final portion of trail has been known for ground blizzards and extreme winds, but this year is gracing mushers with cool - but not frigid - temps, little to no wind, and a big beautiful moon that must make mushing the trails at night a very surreal experience.
The runs between checkpoints after Unalakleet are also shorter (55 miles or less), so expect the twins to minimize camping along the trail and take most of their rests in checkpoint. Also remember that every musher has one final 8-hour required stop in White Mountain.
To help you shake the last of those Monday blues, check out this article I stumbled across that gives a great inside look at Kristy and Anna and how they feel out on the trail. And here are a few pictures to illustrate the race at this point.
Alaska is trending again, so here are some fun facts you may - or may not - know about America's 49th state...!
* It's big. Over twice-the-size-of-Texas big. The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times.
* In October 1867, US Secretary of State William H Seward offered Russia $7.2mm for the land, or 2c per acre. For some time, this was known by many as "Seward's Folly."
* The wild forget-me-not is the state flower, the willow ptarmigan the state bird, the Sitka spruce the state tree, the four-spot skimmer dragonfly is the state insect, and dog mushing the official state sport.
* Jade is the official gemstone. Gold was discovered in 1880.
* Nearly one-third of Alaska lies within the arctic circle.
* Alaska has the lowest population density in America. By contrast, it's coastline extends over 6,600 miles.
* 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the US are located in Alaska. At 20,230 feet above sea level, Mt. McKinley, located in Alaska's interior, is the highest point in North America.
* In 1915, the record high temperature in Alaska was set at 100F at Fort Yukon; the record low temp was -80F set at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
I've been following the Iditarod closely since Kristy first ran it in 2010. And even in those eight years - let alone since Right Said Fred had their top 40 hit 'I'm Too Sexy' in 1992, the Iditarod first started in 1973, or the lifesaving serum run happened in 1925 - sleds have been evolving. Let's take a quick look...
When the serum run took place in 1925, sleds were made of wood and far heavier. They didn't have today's plastic runners or titanium parts, let alone the rest of today's modern gear. Dogs were generally larger, heavier, and slower. Skewed towards endurance over speed and nimbleness.
Sleds over the last decade or so have a few key things in common. Mushers carry one, if not two, snowhooks ~ heavy metal anchors for securing a team. Sleds have a secondary braking system, consisting of a drag pad and often diamond-tipped brake. These are used to slow the team and sled, particularly when navigating more challenging terrain. Iditarod rules prohibit things like wheels or sails and require a secure compartment that can safely carry at least two dogs, as well as the race-mandated gear. Of the sleds most commonly seen on the trail today, the twins still opt for a more traditional stand-up sled. Gear is carried in the sled bag and can be shifted to accommodate carrying dogs. Bales of straw can be carried on top of the sled bag itself.
But all sports are prone to evolution, and the Iditarod is no different. In recent years, mushers have added compartments behind where they stand to store coolers and give them a place to sit over tedious stretches of trail; cabooses or trailers to haul dogs or supplies (although note that new Iditarod rules prohibit hauling dogs in trailers for safety reasons); and, leave it to a Seavey... a batmobile.
No matter how each musher crafts his or her sled, within Iditarod race rules, one thing will remain the same. They require a pack of amazing canine athletes to move it down the trail.
Go to Iditarod.com!