I've been able to piece together a bit more information on how the twins are fairing thus far, also leading to an educated guess as to why Anna has sometimes lagged Kristy by an hour or more. An update posted on the Alaska Dispatch site from early this morning noted that Kristy "has both elbows banged up after being dragged behind her sled. Her sister Anna has a banged up knee and swollen hip." Given the amount of "pedaling" the twins do from the backs of their sleds to help their dog teams, Anna's injuries are likely hampering her progress a bit. Another article from that site discusses the Gnarly Trail the mushers have seen thus far. Click on the link to read for yourself, as it is a vivid account of what various mushers have endured. It includes a description of Kristy anxiously waiting in Rohn for Anna to arrive after knowing she had tangled with a tree, and quotes from Anna on her disappointment with trail conditions.
Mushers are allowed to use up to 3 sleds during the race and most will take advantage of this rule and ship at least one sled out to a strategic checkpoint of his or her choosing. Kristy and Anna are no different and had extra sleds waiting for them in McGrath. It is very likely Anna spent an extra hour in McGrath swapping her gang lines and gear to a fresh ride. Another race rule mandates each team declare and take a 24 hour rest at the checkpoint of his or her choosing. The twins were planning to declare and take their 24 in Ophir, two checkpoints from McGrath. Knowing my sisters, if Anna needed a little extra time to swap sleds or care for dogs, she probably encouraged Kristy to hit the trail, assuring her she wouldn't be far behind and would see her in Ophir.
The run from McGrath to Takotna is 18 miles, followed by another 23 miles to Ophir. Pictures of this section of trail, such as the one shown here, are encouraging. At least there is snow on the ground! In fact, trail reports for the next 100 miles or so to Cripple are finally starting to sound more like the Iditarod I am familiar with, with full blankets of snow and early evening temps finally getting down to 10F and below.
When the twins do reach Ophir and park the dogs for a well deserved break, it will look quite similar to what you see here, captured in the prior checkpoint of Takotna.
As we wait for Anna and Kristy to reach Ophir, what of the other mushers? As of this writing, there are still 57 teams on the trail and 12 scratches. The 3 front-runners are in to Cripple (race mile 425), among them 4-time champ Jeff King. For any Iditarod Insiders reading this blog, I strongly encourage you to track down the 7 minute footage from Jeff's GoPro camera as he went through the Gorge, apply titled "Amazing Exhibition of Sled Driving". It truly is amazing... the dogs are flying down the trail as trees whip by on either side. Jeff bounces off a number of trees, teeters precariously as he bounces over rocks and branches, and is even dragged behind the sled when it tips over a couple of times. The video has sound, and I have to give Jeff credit for keeping his language in the Rated-G category. Had it been me? Not a *#$@&* chance!
Last but not least, a couple of cute dog photos from recently in the race to put a smile on your face.