And that, ladies and gentlemen, appeared to go pretty much to schedule. Anna stayed in Takotna 23 minutes longer than she was required to, Kristy only 8. Given Kristy had the longer stay requirement to begin with, the whole thing boiled down to Anna leaving spot on 11am Thursday morning with Kristy and her pups mushing out 7 minutes later.
It took them about two and a half hours to mush the 23 miles to Ophir, where they stopped for about 10 minutes. And then it was back on the trail for the 73 mile stretch to Cripple. The stop at Carlson Crossing Cabin between Ophir and Cripple basically breaks the roughly 100-mile stretch between Takotna and Cripple into two manageable 50 mile pieces. Given their training runs and mid-distance races, I can see why this fit into the dogs' rhythm.
I expect them to hunker down in the ghost town of Cripple, eat and rest, for about 5 hours. Then it's back on the trail for a 70-mile push to Ruby. They weren't planning on taking any long stops along this stretch despite it's length. They'll have managed their run/rest very evenly since they 24'd in Takotna. So a 70 mile run when you plan to take the 8-hour rest mandatory on the Yukon (meaning Ruby, Galena, Nulato, or Kaltag) in the checkpoint of Ruby makes sense.
Where are the other teams on the trail? Jessie Royer, who has spent a lot of time at the front of the pack, was the first out of Cripple Thursday afternoon. Behind her in 2nd place is Aaron Burmeister. They have both completed their 24s. Of the other 14 or so teams reported in to, but not yet out of, Cripple as of this posting, half are wrapping up their 24s and the other half are just resting their teams, having already already checked off their 24s. And it's a mixed bag of nuts of mushers reaching back to Nikolia where some have and some have yet to take their long rest.
Iditarod.com recently added a second musher to those out of the race this year. It looks like Jeremy Keller, an Iditarod veteran also from Knik, Alaska, like the twins, opted to scratch in Nikolai. Here's is what is reported on the Iditarod's website:
Veteran Iditarod musher Jeremy Keller (bib #47) of Knik, Alaska, scratched at 3:05 p.m. today at the Nikolai checkpoint. Due to current events, Keller has made the difficult decision to scratch as he wants to be home with his friends and family during this stressful time. Keller is currently mushing his team back to Willow, and his GPS tracker will remain live so that the Iditarod can ensure a safe journey for him as he heads home. Keller had 12 dogs in harness at the time he made the decision to scratch.
I'm sure glad they explained that his tracker remains live, or I would be awfully confused. And it's generous of the Iditarod Trail Committee to keep his tracker running as he does an about-face back to Willow. Given the weather that is brewing to the west, Jeremy may well mush home long before he could coordinate flying himself and 12 dogs there. Safe and swift travels to Jeremy and his team.
That leaves us with 55 teams on the trail to Nome. Speaking of which, Coronavirus strikes again with the news that "welcome Nome" is now "how about next year." Both the musher meet-and-greet and musher's banquet have been cancelled, and officials are actively urging the public to not come to the city. The first positive case of Coronavirus in Alaska was identified and made public today, and while it sounds like the individual had limited contact with the community, has been treated, and is now in isolation in Anchorage, no one is being cavalier when it comes to Corona.
Essential personnel are still in place to make sure the race can continue, not only as planned but safely. And honestly? Being in the middle of Alaska and interacting almost exclusively with local villagers and mushers doesn't seem like the worst idea to me. Contract Coronavirus at Carlson Crossing Cabin? C'mon. (Yes, that may well be the most convoluted alliteration I've ever contrived.)
On THAT note, I'll close this post out and leave you with a few photos of the twins when they left Takotna, courtesy of Sebastian Schnuelle on Iditarod.com. I should be back with a race update for you after I see the twins land in Cripple, and I'm working on a couple more special editions that you won't wanna miss!