Aliy Zirkle was the first musher to reach the checkpoint of Iditarod in the wee hours Thursday morning, winning the Dorothy G Page halfway award, complete with a baggy full of shiny gold nuggets. She finally declared her 24 there after a long, slow 80 mile slug from Ophir.
Well over half the field has satisfied their 24 requirement, leaving them free to set their own run rest schedule for a while. The next requirement has mushers taking an 8 hour break at a checkpoint of their choosing along the Yukon River, which covers Anvik to Kaltag.
Aliy's speed from Ophir to Iditarod was only 4.58mph, and the 5 teams behind her didn't crack 6mph. It will be interesting to see if the subsequent teams pack the trail down and speeds improve, if freshly rested teams like the twins' (or like Nic Petit... he also 24'd in Ophir and he topped 8mph on his run to Iditarod) post markedly faster speeds. We shall see.
I am also keen to watch what Mother Nature has in store. At least one musher, Jeff King, is preparing for some serious snow. He switched out his 2" sled runners for 4.5" fatties that will help him float on top of deep snow conditions and make things easier on this dogs. The one thing it sounds like Mother Nature won't dish up, at least not right away, is serious cold. Temps continue to be mild and aren't predicted to change anytime soon. So much so, that mushers are apparently being warned that some drop bags in Shageluk may have thawed, and cautious mushers should consider carrying extra provisions from the prior checkpoint of Iditarod just in case. The trail from Iditarod to Shageluk is slow and hilly, though, so teams will also think twice about things that further weigh them down.
As the final teams wrap up their 24s, we have Nic Petit and Joar both out of Iditarod, running 14 and 11 dogs, respectively. 7 teams are checked into Iditarod, and another 23 out of Ophir. While the GPS trackers show both of the twins also moving down the trail out of Ophir since I began this missive - and moving along at a smart 9.4mph I might add - the Iditarod website has not yet updated the official standings yet. For as anxious as I am to see if Kristy and Anna departed without dropping any dogs, I have an early meeting and desperately need some Zzzz's.
I'll be back with another update Friday afternoon or evening and look for some special Weekend Editions before I pull my own snow hook of sorts on Monday and head back to Alaska.
Remember, this race is only just about half over. All sorts of things can and will lie ahead!
Enjoy some shots from earlier in the race that I found online, as well as a shot of the checkpoint of Iditarod.