Kristy and Anna were reported out of Kaltag at 1:46am on Monday in 36th and 37th places. Neither twin dropped any dogs here, leaving Kristy with 13 dogs on the line and Anna 10. Contrary to their planned strategy to 8-hour in Nulato, the twins opted to take this rest in Koyukuk. I can only speculate at this point on why that was the case, but knowing my sisters as I do, the decision would have been made with the best interests of the dogs in mind. I also see Anna dropped one dog in Koyukuk, and this dog's well-being could have been further incentive to take their 8-hour when they did.
Whatever the case may be, after Koyukuk, the twins did in fact make short work of the run to Nulato, covering the 22 miles in just over 2 hours. They paused only briefly in this checkpoint before hitting the 47 mile trail from Nulato to Kaltag. As noted above, they reached Kaltag 4 hours and 20 minutes later at 1:46am. They took a rest of just under 5 1/2 hours in Kaltag before pulling their hooks and taking off on the 85 mile run to Unalakleet at just after 7am Monday morning.
Mitch Seavey, the current leader, was last reported into Elim (race mile 856) and has 12 dogs on the line. By most accounts, it's his race to lose at this point. But anyone who followed the race in 2014, when Jeff King was a veritable shoo-in for first only to hit a blizzard and scratch so close to his goal, knows it isn't over until it's over. But if Mitch continues to run the near perfect race he has so far, he will not only take first but may even set a new all-time fastest finish and usurp that title from his son, Dallas. And even if Mitch cinches the victory, it will be interesting to see how the top 10 shakes out. With names like Dallas Seavey, Nicolas Petit, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Wade Marrs, Ray Redington Jr, and Pete Kaiser all at the top of the leader board, I'm proud to say that 2 of the 17 women in this year's race are also rounding out the top 10... Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle. In a sport that has historically been dominated by men, I will put on my feminist cap for a moment and applaud these ladies for proving they're just as tough, just as determined, and just as capable as anyone out there. Another race within the race to watch? Rookie of the Year. With 17 rookies in the field, only 3 are currently reported in the top 40, and only 2 in the top 20 ~ Sebastien Vergnaud and Robert Redington.
News coverage at this point in the race almost always focuses on the front of the pack, and I cannot fault anyone for that. And while that makes tidbits about the twins harder to find, it does give us a good look at what Kristy and Anna will soon be facing. And by most accounts, it's quite lovely. When mushers hit Unalakleet, they will have completed their time on the Yukon River and will mush the final 261 miles along the Norton Sound and Bering Sea coast. This final portion of trail has been known for ground blizzards and extreme winds, but this year is gracing mushers with cool - but not frigid - temps, little to no wind, and a big beautiful moon that must make mushing the trails at night a very surreal experience.
The runs between checkpoints after Unalakleet are also shorter (55 miles or less), so expect the twins to minimize camping along the trail and take most of their rests in checkpoint. Also remember that every musher has one final 8-hour required stop in White Mountain.
To help you shake the last of those Monday blues, check out this article I stumbled across that gives a great inside look at Kristy and Anna and how they feel out on the trail. And here are a few pictures to illustrate the race at this point.