In fact, mushers that have made it to or even through Nikolai already have been quoted saying, 'if you make it this far, there's a pretty good chance you're going to finish the Iditarod this year.' Famous last words? In any event, so far we still have 57 mushers out on the trail and no scratches. Insider GPS has Jessie Royer, of Fair Banks, in the lead - she's checked out of Nikolai and nearing the 300-mile mark on her way to McGrath. Richie Diehl is close behind. Meanwhile, at just over half that distance, is 79 year old Jim Lanier, who recently checked out of Rainy Pass at mile 153. The other 10 mushers bringing up the rear are all resting in Rohn, mile 188.
I expect Kristy and Anna to rest both the dogs and themselves for about 5 hours in Nikolai. After that, the plan was to push through the 48 miles to McGrath, stop briefly to resupply, and then press on through the last 18 or so miles to Takotna. This would put them 329 race-miles into this 975 mile event and about a third of the way Nome. Seems like a mighty fine time to take one's "24", or the mandatory 24 hour break a musher must declare and take at some point during the race. This period is also used by officials to adjust each musher's departure time to even out the 2-minute incremental starts out of Willow. Plus, Takotna is known for its hospitality and pie. How could you not want pie after 329 miles on a dog sled?! Watch for Seeing Double to take their long break here.
You can also start to look for a lot of jockeying of position in the field in the day or two ahead as mushers take their 24s. When and where each musher does this is a function of strategy, what their dogs are telling them, weather, and sometimes their own fatigue. And probably a host of other things I can't begin to think of. There are more common checkpoints to 24 than others (did I mention Takotna has pie?), but we'll see every musher take his or her's sooner than later. After that, we can start to pay a little more attention to where in the field the twins find themselves mushing.
Until my next post... a couple photos, below, to help illustrate some of what I've been going on about. And as I'm always poking around the internet for anything on the twins... here's a link to a goldmine I found on GettyImages. These photos by Lance King of Kristy, Anna, and many of their dogs at the Ceremonial and restart are great!