As I mentioned in earlier blogs, Seeing Double's dog truck and primary mode of transportation was totaled the first weekend of March. The Mad Blogger has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to offset the purchase of a safe, reliable new vehicle. Please consider checking it out!
Whatever you might be doing this weekend, mushers and their dogs are doing the same thing they've been doing for 5 days and 22 hours ~ making their way through the Alaskan wilderness on their way to Nome.
Well, at least 64 mushers are doing that. An additional musher, Scott White, scratched in Takotna, bringing the number out of the race to 3. The back of the pack is all out of Ophir (race mile 352) and GPS has the leaders around mile 600 between Eagle Island and Kaltag. They could wave at each other across the southern loop. But as the trail runs, teams are now spread across 216 miles.
Mother nature has decided it's time to remind all involved that she has a loud say in most everything that goes on. Mushers and snowmachiners came into the checkpoints of Iditarod and Shageluk with reports of high winds and blowing snow; 2-6" of fresh base snow before the drifts that ate the trail, forcing many teams to break their own paths; and blizzard-like conditions. The weather got so bad at the Eagle Island checkpoint, midway along the Yukon River run, that the Iditarod was forced to reclassify it as a "hospitality point", somewhere mushers can drop a dog, seek veterinary advice, or rest briefly, but not an official stop and thus no resupplying. Teams will have to be loaded for 122 miles of trail when they pull out of Grayling and make the river run to Kaltag.
That is something Anna will be doing soon, at least, as of this writing. She arrived in Grayling, race mile 530, at 9:42am Saturday morning. She was reported in 30th place. We last left her on the way to Iditarod. She spent 1 minute shy of 14 hours on that stretch of trail, ahead of my estimate. She took a 5 hour rest there Friday morning before hitting the trail to Shageluk, where she declared and took the 8hr rest that is required at some point along this portion of trail. Probably an easy decision for her, as it made for an even run/rest against the 8 1/2 hours she had spent on the trail. She was out of Shageluk a little before 4am Saturday morning and spent nearly all of the next 6 hours moving along the trail.
Kristy and Andy, as expected, were out of Ophir a few hours after Anna late Thursday. I also expected them to take longer on the long stretch of trail to Iditarod, but perhaps not 4 hours longer than Anna. Be that as it may, 18hrs 18min later, they arrived in Iditarod Friday afternoon, stayed for a little over 6 hours, and then pulled their snow hooks for Shageluk, where they arrived in 39th and 40th place between 8:30 and 9:30am Saturday morning. It wouldn't surprise me if they took the daytime hours here on Saturday to check off their own 8hr rests.
Update 1 on the dogs ~ when Iditarod first reported Anna out of Ophir, they did not show her dropping any dogs, and I reported as such. They later amended the site to show she dropped one dog. She has been traveling the trail with 12 amazing dogs since Ophir. Kristy dropped 2 dogs in Ophir while Andy dropped 3, leaving them with 13 and 12 dogs in front of their respective sleds. Our DDC Jack is meeting a flight in Anchorage today with many, if not all, of the 6 dogs we're anticipating back at the kennel. I'll be sure to report back with details as soon as I have them!
I know we're long past Valentine's day, but if you have a soft spot for a bit of romance, check out the story on how Kristy and Andy met on ADN.com. Don't worry, it's entirely Rated G (for gushing grin or gag, your call!).
Here are a few great photos to tide you over until my next posts, which will be forthcoming over the rest of the weekend.
Hope you're having a good one!
When Anna's stay in Ophir extended to 5 hours, I became pretty certain she had adjusted her race schedule and decided to 24 there instead of pushing on to Iditarod. That was confirmed when she pulled out of that checkpoint at 4:15pm Thursday afternoon, only 2 minutes after her mandatory time was complete. And she didn't drop any dogs! Pulling out with 13 amazing canine athletes in front of her sled. She was reported in 34th place.
Enough mushers have satisfied their 24 hour requirement that I'm willing to talk about position again. While Joar is still at the top of the leader board as of this writing, he's sitting out his 24. A long list of mushers are closing in and will soon pass him, including Nic Petit, Mitch Seavey, Jeff King, and a host of other well known names. Most teams coming off their 24s have 13 or more dogs on the gang line. The front of the pack is into Iditarod or close to it. There are still only 2 scratched teams, leaving 65 racing down the trail. The back of the pack is into McGrath as of this writing, leaving the teams spread out across over 120 miles.
Kristy and Andy should be out of Ophir fresh off their 24s a few hours after Anna, and I'll be very curious to see if they drop any dogs. Our "DDC" Jack is getting off easy so far this year, especially with Seeing Double having 3 dog teams out on the trail.
From Ophir, the teams face the long 75-80 mile run to Iditarod, not to mention a daunting 640+ miles to the finish. They've already been out there for over 4 days.
The weather remains very warm by Iditarod standards, hovering around freezing during the day, and trail reports keep coming back with creative renditions of snow and slow. One musher described the snow as 'deep, really deep, and bottomless'. That will reduce the amount of really technical sled driving required, as the mushers are pulled more slowly through a sea of mashed potatoes.
I expect it will take Anna 15-17 hours of mostly nighttime mushing to get from Ophir to Iditarod, putting her into that checkpoint in the early hours Friday morning. I'll be thinking about lunch. She'll pull over to camp trailside for at least 3 hours along the way. I expect a similar run time, maybe skewed to the end of that range, for Kristy and Andy only a few hours behind Anna.
Here are some more pics of Seeing Double teams out on the trail to tide you over until my next update. Fair warning ~ barring breaking news, my Friday evening post will be brief, if it is crafted at all. But I'll be back Saturday and Sunday with race updates and a couple of weekend special editions.
As Wednesday evening settles over Alaska, mushers find themselves having been out on the trail for 3 days and nearly 5 hours. We last left Seeing Double resting in Nikola, which they did for the anticipated 5 hours. Anna hit the trail first Tuesday evening, making a nearly 7 hour push over the 48 miles to McGrath, arriving at 3:40am Wed. She took a 5 hour rest here before making the short 18 mile run to Takotna, which she stopped at only to replenish supplies. Out of Takotna at 11am Wed, she spent the core of the day mushing the 23 miles to Ophir (pronounced Oh-fur), arriving just after 2pm. I expect her to rest for 3-4 hours here during the peak of the afternoon warmth. Anna hasn't dropped any dogs since Rainy Pass, so she still has 13 dogs on the line.
Once Anna pulls out of Ophir and starts the southern trail loop, she and the dogs will have 75-80 miles of trail separating them from the next checkpoint of Iditarod, race mile 432. Given the length of this run, they'll stop to camp along the way, likely at a small shelter cabin. They'll carry straw out of Ophir for this, so the sleds will be fully loaded. Upon reaching Iditarod, a ghost town from the gold rush days, they'll have reached what is popularly, although not technically, considered to be the halfway point of the race when run on the southern route. The twins had planned to take their 24 hour mandatory rest in Iditarod, and so far that plan appears intact.
Meanwhile, the leader board last had Kristy and Andy out of Takotna, but the GPS trackers show them pulling into Ophir to join Anna. Kristy has been traveling with Andy along the trail, and I'll have to remember to tease them a bit about this unusual honeymoon (they just tied the knot in July). Although not traveling closely together this year, the twins' statistics are still very similar. I will say that Andy and Kristy slowed their pace a bit after Rohn, taking a bit more time both running between and resting in the subsequent checkpoints. Not surprising, as Anna does have the more competitive dog racing team among the three. Kristy has only dropped one so far, leaving her 15 to care for out on the trail. Andy finally dropped his first dog in Nikolai, leaving him with 15 dogs also on the gang line.
Conditions out on the trail have been very warm by Iditarod standards, with people posting pictures of thermometers hovering around the freezing point. There's been plenty of snow, but the temps keep it soft and slow. There were reports of some really deep snow between Nikolai and McGrath from the storm that went through, prompting some teams to declare their 24 in the latter checkpoint even if earlier than planned to give both themselves and their dogs a break. Iditarod Insider interviews with mushers are also revealing stories of knee deep water crossings along the trail. Just goes to show, mushers can and will encounter just about every variety of winter weather imaginable out there.
You may be curious why I have yet to mention the twins' respective rank in any one checkpoint yet, and there's a good reason why. At this point in the race, where one is positioned on the leader board means very little. Mushers can take their 24 hour anywhere on the trail, which leads to a lot of leapfrogging around as some teams stop and others pass them, only to later stop themselves and find its their turn to watch teams mush by. Each musher's 24 is also adjusted to make up for the 2-minute interval start. So Anna, as Bib #4, will have to tack 2 minutes on to her 24 for each musher that started behind her (63 x 2 = an extra 126 minutes). Only Hugh Neff, the 67th musher off the start, will rest for a true 24. So let's just keep track on where the twins are at for now, and leave the leader board for later when we see the top 30 teams have all checked it off their list.
There are still only 2 scratched teams, leaving 65 on the trail to Nome.
It's around 6:30pm Tuesday evening in Alaska as of this writing, and teams have been on the trail for 2 days and 4 1/2 hours. The GPS tracker has the two front runners, Mitch Seavey and Joar Leifseth Ulsom, closing in on McGrath, some 300 miles into the race. Anna was into the prior checkpoint of Nikolai, race mile 263, at 3:45pm Tuesday afternoon. She spent nearly 13 hours out on the 75 mile trail from Rohn and would have stopped to camp for at least 2-3 hours along the way. She was ranked 31st on arrival. Kristy and Andy arrived in Nikolai about 2 1/2 hours after Anna and were ranked in 36th and 37th place, respectively. I expect they will each rest in checkpoint for as many as 5 hours before hitting the 48 mile trail to McGrath.
A second musher has scratched from this year's race, long time fan favorite DeeDee Jonrowe, leaving 65 teams on the trail. 64 year old Jonrowe had previously announced she would retire after this year's Iditarod, which was her 36th time off the start. But by the time she reached Rainy Pass, she knew it was time to start the retirement party early. Her dogs looked great, but she was concerned about her own ability to continue and care for them properly. A wise decision from a seasoned professional and Seeing Double wishes her and her dogs all the best.
As is often the case, the back of the field is often dominated by rookies with this year is no exception. Currently, 7 of the last 10 teams are rookies, with Tara Cicatello - the current red lantern - checked into Rohn. This gives our field a spread of nearly 120 miles.
After mushers cross the Alaska Range and depart from Rohn, they are officially in what is referred to as the Interior of Alaska. Mountains like that have a big influence on weather, and mushers can expect the pattern to change on this side of the range with colder temps, more wind, and higher chances of snow. Although the section of trail between Rohn and Nikolai is reasonably flat compared to what they just faced, it is also home to the Farewell Burn and Buffalo tunnels. The Burn is a recovering forest fire area, and there are actual buffalo in the so-called tunnels. It can be rougher trail plagued by lighter snow, icy tussocks, and even frozen buffalo hoof prints just waiting to sprain a dog's wrist. Sections of trail further from The Burn reportedly had some open water to navigate and more ample snow. But while the snow base is some of the best the Iditarod trail has had in years, it is mushy and soft, reminiscent of mashed potatoes. Some speculate these snow conditions will eliminate the chance of a new record time finish as it keeps teams moving much more slowly.
This just in from Jack, our Dropped Dog Correspondent ~ I have learned the 2nd dog Anna dropped in Rainy Pass was John, who presented with a cough and sore wrists. Jack has John back at the kennel now, and while he will be on antibiotics for 10 days to clear up the cough, he should be back to 100% in no time flat. Jack also filled me in that the weather really turned west of the Alaska Range, "grounding planes and messing with mushers, trail breakers and logistics." Portions of western Alaska were expected to get 8-12 inches of snow and experience 30-50mph winds. Sounds like things are even more interesting for the mushers and their dogs out on the trail than I had even thought.
Here are a few photos I dug up online that help show what the twins have seen out on the trail so far. Just remember, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, seeing it in real life can render one speechless. Click on the gallery for more info on each picture's location.
It's amazing what a good meal, a kat nap, and a cup of coffee will do to energize a person! But as it may be short lived, let's cut to the race.
It's nearing 9pm Monday evening in Alaska, and mushers have been out on the trail for over 30 hours. Anna was reported out of Rainy Pass (race mile 153) in 27th place with 13 dogs on the line at 6:30pm after about 3hr 45min resting in checkpoint. An hour later, Kristy did the same with 15 dogs and in 32nd place. Andy was right behind her with all 16 dogs still on the line. They took a longer rest here than planned, but I suspect recent trail conditions warranted a little extra recovery time for the dogs. After all, they're only part way across the Alaska Range. They will also have just mushed to the highest point of the pass through the range, climbing from 1,800 to 3,160 feet. After Rainy, they will tackle the Dalzell Gorge as they make their way to Rohn. With only 35 miles separating the two checkpoints, the teams are unlikely to camp on the trail and will instead rest for 4-5 hours in Rohn.
Anna was featured in an Iditarod Insider video in Finger Lake, and she sounded good. The interviewer was overheard saying her dogs looked really good. She said the trail was nice, and they camped just before Skwentna as planned. It was calm and starry overnight. Earlier in the race, she found it funny, if not a bit weird, when someone yelled to her, "you're winning!" She could only think to herself, 'yeah, cuz I drew bib #4 and the race has only begun.'
Dog update: I'm thrilled to have Seeing Double's friend and Iditarod guru Jack as this year's Dropped Dog Correspondent. Anna dropped Timmy in Finger Lake and Bob Barker in Rainy (Kiwi is not going to be happy about leaving his bestie behind!). She also dropped a 2nd dog in Rainy, but I am awaiting confirmation of who. Kristy dropped Beatris in Finger Lake. Jack was just getting Timmy, Bob Barker, and Beatris back to the kennel in Knik. All 3 dogs are fine, having been dropped for minor wrist and shoulder soreness. As noted previously, Anna is now paired with 13 canine athletes and Kristy 15.
What about everything leading up to this point? The Ceremonial start on Saturday was great! All 3 teams had a great run with their respective Iditariders and whip-sled drivers. The weather was near perfect and the twins said the trail was really nice. We got the teams loaded up at the Campbell Airstrip, and Anna and I parted ways in one dog truck from Kristy and Andy in the other Seeing Double dog truck and a borrowed trailer. We each had a couple errands to run and were looking forward to rendezvousing back at the kennel and getting a jump start on all the last minute stuff that has to be done right before the restart. Anna and I were making our last stop when her phone rang... Ensue panicked look, Kristy informing us they had been in a multiple car accident, the truck was totaled, and our jump start had just fallen apart.
What could have been a disastrous situation, all things considered, ended up being a manageable lesson in adversity. Kristy, Andy, and the dogs were all rattled but fine. The airbags didn't deploy and the dogs seemed none the worse for their adventure. Kristy's race sled, secured on top of the dog truck, was not damaged. You can read a bit more about the accident on ADN.com. Fortunately, a vet was passing by at the time of the 9-car incident caused by wicked black ice and was able to confirm the pups seemed a-ok. Other friends and good Samaritans passing by had a conversion van, and were able to secure the dogs from the box on the truck (as it was totaled and not going anywhere) inside the van and tow the still-functional trailer containing the rest of their dog teams back to the kennel. Other friends gave Kristy and Andy themselves a ride back. Anna lobbed a call into a good friend and Yukon Quest competitor who came to the rescue with a back-up dog truck to tow the trailer with Kristy and Andy's teams to the restart the following morning. The trailer was checked to make sure it was indeed sound and reinforcements were made, sleds were packed, and maybe a couple hours of sleep was grabbed.
The Sunday morning trek to Willow Lake was uneventful, despite still questionable roads and upward of 10 moose sightings by yours truly. The remainder of the day was... quintessential Iditarod. The weather that caused the accident also left the trees glazed with ice, sparkling under a brilliant sun. Tiny snowflakes drifted through the air early in the morning, catching the sun and twinkling like tiny diamonds. The dogs were howling and clearly excited. I saw Anna off the start, made it back in time to wish Andy well, and then saw Kristy down to and then off the restart line. I gave an immense sigh of relief when Bib 20 raced out of sight.
And there you have it. Not quite the 'travel by map' made famous in Indiana Jones, and parodied in a Muppet movie, but then again ~ I warned you about the long-winded prose! Until tomorrow's update, enjoy a few photos. You can spot Kristy about 22 seconds in to this great video as well.
Kristy is psyched to be making the run to Nome with this amazing dog team! As with her twin's team, Kristy's dogs were all in excellent shape, with the extensive training regimen and dietary changes introduced this season evident in their thick healthy coats, excellent weight and apparent energy. There are 10 boys and 6 girls on the team, ranging in age from just under 2yrs to 8. There is an even 8/8 split between Iditarod veterans and rookies, and7 of these amazing pups are Seeing Double dogs, while 9 are on loan from other mushers.
Click on the gallery pictures to learn more about Haley, Jack, Serac, Blowhole, Duramax, Gutten, Pace, Beaetris, Susintna, Bootleg, Foxtrot, Pop, Bulliet, Wallace, Colt, and Henry!
Anna is very happy with the dog team she has put together for Iditarod 2018, and I can confirm her team looked in top shape, with thick glossy coats covering solid muscle and all at a nearly perfect weight. Of the 16 dogs making the journey with Anna, 11 are boys and 5 are girls. That's the most male-dominated team she has ever run in Iditarod, although it was just how things worked out and not by design. 7 dogs are owned by Seeing Double while 9 are on loan from fellow mushers. They range in age from just shy of 2 years and 6, and weigh anywhere from 45 to 70 pounds. 10 of these amazing athletes are Iditarod veterans and 6 are rookies.
Click on the gallery below to learn more about Little Bit, Kiwi, Bob Barker, West, Timmy, Beaker, RT, Hale, Cannonball, Ruby, Sweetums, John, Pilgrim, Quintes, Tornado, and Rizo.
I'm sure a number of folks have visited the blog since the opening events commenced and an equal number are wondering where on earth my updates are! Never fear fans, I have not abandoned you.
It has been a wild few days since I touched down in Anchorage late on Thursday. I think I've slept a collective 15 hours since leaving my home in Toronto, and I'm actually looking forward to my return redeye flight so I can catch some much needed Zzzzz's. A couple cold Alaskan beers at the airport in advance of said flight should help.
Most importantly, all 3 Seeing Double teams are now on the trail to Nome!! The twins and their dogs were in great shape off the start, and I have to give Andy props for being a pretty cool cucumber before his rookie run. I have lots more to tell you from the last few days, and I promise it will be worth the wait. But I need to ask for a wee bit of patience... I'll be back in front of my command center mid-day Monday and not returning to my esteemed day job until Tuesday, so I'll have ample time to do it right. I won't crawl into my own bed until I've posted a proper update and gotten the dog team biographies out to you all.
Yikes, there's my boarding call! Gotta fly, stay tuned!
Go to Iditarod.com!