Our scratch count has ticked up one more to a total of 14 mushers. I think it is worth pointing out that of those 14, only one was running as a rookie in this year's race. The other 13 are Iditarod veterans. Moral of that story? Take nothing for granted in the Iditarod. Not the trail, not the weather, not past success being an indicator of likely future glory. Ask Lance Mackey, or Jeff King... remember Jeff made it past Safety in 2014, all but named the winner, only to get caught in a wicked ground blizzard and have to make the difficult decision to scratch so close to his goal.
One of the scratched mushers this year also got a poignant reminder that sometimes the rules are the rules. Ellen Halverson, a former Red Lantern winter, was withdrawn by Iditarod race officials who cited rule 36, which pertains to a team's ability to compete. Embodied in this concept, I'm sure, is the organization's ability - via volunteers, vets, funding, etc - to extend the race sometimes days beyond the majority of finishers and remaining racers. This rule has been enforced before, and doesn't reflect poorly on the dogs or the musher. It's a rule, like the gear you have the carry or the number of dogs required in harness.
I've had a chance to watch the recorded version of the twins' arrival in Nome on the Iditarod Insider. For any readers that don't subscribe, here's a quick recap: the dogs looked great on both teams coming in, trotting energetically with their heads up, looking happy. Their whiskers were frosty and they were wearing jackets with bright reflective strips on the sides. Kristy said it was a great feeling to reach Nome, "indescribable." She mentioned she only had one puppy on her team this year when normally she would have a few. But the one youngster did really well and Kristy was proud of her. She had a small pool of lead dogs but they did great. Anna gave props to Bison and Razor, who led the team into the final checkpoint, and Venom and Jandall. She admitted it was a devastating blow to drop one of her main leaders, Rooster, early in the race at Finger Lake. And at one point wondered, given the rate she was dropping dogs (a rate higher than she is used to, anyway), if they would make it to Nome at all. But you can't get discouraged, she said, and the remaining team really rallied and did great.
Kristy pulled her snow hook and with friends on the runners, she and her dogs headed to the lot. Anna was right behind, doing the same. From here they would have taken care of the dogs, removing coats and harnesses, making sure all their portable dog houses had plenty of straw, feeding each dog, applying ointment to paws and any they suspect had slightly sore shoulders. With the dogs settled in, they could finally grab a shower, change of clothes, and sit-down meal! And then I'm sure, with undue ceremony, they face-planted in the first real beds they would have seen in eleven nights.
I've gotten a couple of texts saying they had a great time out on the trail, and one on St. Patrick's day referencing Hobo Jim, an Iditarod staple with a catchy tune about, "I-did I-did I-did the Iditarod" which a lot of folks in this crowd can sing along to with sincerity. Wish I had been there.
But with any luck, after the twins get a bit more rest, sign some autographs, and before they hit the finisher's banquet on Sunday, I'll get a phone call with some details. But in any case, more soon...!