Fans and those mushers who have already finished will be greeting another team, Sarah Stokey, shortly this late Saturday afternoon. The other 8 teams have anywhere from 70 to 100 miles left to go, and are all reported out of Elim and either closing in on, or recently out of, White Mountain.
I have to salute the perseverance of all the finished and active mushers, but particularly those still out there at the back of the field. They're a valuable lesson in sticking to it, fighting for an accomplishment for yourself and your dogs, not in relation to others. And I always like when the back of the pack largely sticks together, in this case with a 30-mile spread. Mushers cannot help one another out there, but words ~ in the form of encouragement, empathy, moral support, or perhaps advice ~ aren't against the rules and frankly is encouraged by way of the race's Sportsmanship Award.
Which isn't to slight those teams who made the decision to scratch during this year's race in any way, shape, or form. I've said it before and I'm going to say it again... simply qualifying for the Iditarod is an impressive accomplishment and doing both that and conquering any portion of the trail is worthy of applause. Incidentally, I nearly said "difficult" decision to scratch earlier ~ whatever the root cause, I know the decision isn't difficult for mushers when scratching is in the bet interests of their dogs. And I'll also repeat the standard mantra ~ Safe and Swift Travels to your home kennels to all teams coming off the Iditarod Trail.
Speaking of coming off the trail, your Mad Blogger is finally back at her home in Toronto. I had to sit down to think this through but... I checked into the airport in Nome at 11:30am Alaska time Friday. I walked in my front door around 1:30pm Eastern time Saturday afternoon. I then had a brief respite for a shower, fresh attire, and coffee before fighting crosstown GTA (Greater Toronto Area) traffic in an area home to some 5.5 million people to pick up my fur kids. After each trip to Alaska I grasp with greater clarity why some people end up with a one-way ticket to ANC.
On that Deep Thoughts whimsy, I'll subject you to a painfully random spewing of tidbits from the twins and a couple media links to give you plenty to chew on as your work your way through the weekend.
KTVA, a major news source in Alaska and the greater Northwest, gave the twins their own Top 20 Feature!
Read about how tough it is on a year like this to stay dry, especially with respect to one's feet. Catch this with KNOM and Kristy.
This race isn't easy, even when you're healthy. Poor Anna was plagued by a stomach issue for the first few days, and for a good deal of the end Kristy was mushing with a freshly fractured tooth!
Speaking of things breaking, Kristy also had a problem with her drag pad brake late in the race. I looked at it in Nome, and I could see where the base structure had torn nearly completely through. She had managed to gouge holes in it and wire it back together with her emergency repair kit.
Both of the girls and other mushers spoke about the tough trail over the latter two-thirds of the race this year. Of course there were the crazy tussocks, large dense clumps of exposed grass, between Ophir and Iditarod. Anna told me of one that caught her sled up and brought her entire team to a screeching halt, a small miracle that nothing on her sled broke. Their sleds may be an older, heavier, more traditional style, but they were largely handmade and can withstand some serious punishment.
There wasn't much cold, by Iditarod standards, this year, with the coldest they recounted around -15F ambient air temps. But there was wicked overflow after Eagle, requiring 30 miles of active sled driving navigating multiple snow machine trails and water holes.
In addition to not much cold, neither Kristy nor Anna reported much wildlife. A couple moose, albeit on the enormous side, watching from a discreet distance and ptarmigan.
Anna was struggling a bit with a key female leader in heat, limiting who she could run with and distracting all the boys. At one point, when the team was getting a bit lethargic, she tied something around her sled's handlebar and her waist and pulled out a second ski pole ~ poling the sled for miles with both arms. The girl is ripped, but that would be exhausting by nearly anyone's standards.
They described one night later in the race when they stopped to camp trailside. Anna was gazing back east, looking at the sliver of rising moon and momentarily clear skies when Kristy mumbled her name. She gazed west to find Kristy enjoying a glorious sunset. This twin thing... sheesh.
It was certainly a wet race and, I guess upon greater reflection and the twins' own insights, one nearly as hard as the snowless bashing teams took in 2014. Both extremely challenging, but in very very different ways. Kristy described her first experience in 10 years of reaching the coast, running slightly inland, and hearing the ocean's powerful surf exploding on the shore. The lack of sea ice at the end was something few had seen and seemed to change the trail ambience, if you will, at the end.
When Anna and Kristy took me to the airport in Nome (in the host family's generously loaned side-by-side quad ATV, with my suitcase harmlessly in the open back in a light dusting of snow), they made arrangements to ship their dogs, sleds, and a good deal of gear back to Anchorage. Their diligent returned dog correspondent Aaron will be waiting to collect everyone and everything. They have the finishers' banquet Sunday night and then a late flight back to Anchorage and, at long last, a manageable drive out to Knik. And the kennel. Home.
That should be enough, especially when paired with some exclusive Seeing Double Mad Blogger pictures from Nome, to get your Sunday started. More after I get a no-alarm, cell-phones off, blinds closed, don't-get-out-of-bed-until-it-hurts-to-be-horizontal kind of sleep.
But there will be more! Saint Patty's Day is Sunday, and all us Iditarod fans have good reason to celebrate.
All photos in this post from Seeing Double. Please contact us if you have interest in further distribution, otherwise limited personal sharing is encouraged, with attribution to Seeing Double. Enjoy!! And forgive the airline window photo cliches, but it was rather nice and summed up my delirium at the moment!