The weather continues to sound downright wicked along this stretch. I found an article on the Alaska Dispatch site mentioning 14 teams that recently waited out a windstorm in Shaktoolik. Mystery largely solved on Kristy's long stay there.
Six teams are in to Nome as of his writing, leaving 44 moving along the trail. The back of the pack is all out of Kaltag, leaving them some 260 miles to the finish. The back of the pack is also all rookies ~ the last 7 teams, to be precise. If they make it through this race, they'll certainly have earned their Iditarod badges of honor. Speaking of rookies, a bit further up, it looks like there's a heated race between Nathan Schroeder and Abbie West for Rookie Of The Year, with 3 other rookies not terribly far behind. With 16 first-timers entering this year, only 2 have scratched so far. Claiming Rookie Of The Year this year would be quite an accomplishment.
Finally, there's a good interview with Aliy Zirkle on the Alaska Dispatch site (and that's good by way of content... the sound quality sadly left something to be desired). If you don't have the 10 minutes to invest in watching it, perhaps reading a synopsis of the finer points will do.
Clearly exhausted, having taken care of her dogs but not really herself, Aliy sat in Nome answering a few questions. She spoke immediately about the gusting winds, pummeling her team and slowly blowing them out to a sea with no ice. Despite everyone lamenting the lack of snow, there were ground blizzard conditions. Her stay in Safety was partially influenced by a report from snowmobilers that had gone out to help Jeff King, some talking about a sled flipped by the winds. Radio reports of hurricane force gusts were added incentive to stay put.
So why did she pull out when she did? She went out to check on her dogs and saw Dallas blow through. Meanwhile, she referenced Dallas, who apparently has said he didn't see Aliy in Safety and pressed on, thinking she was ahead of him. He attributed the headlamp hot on his heels to his dad, Mitch Seavey, and wasn't about to let him catch up.
She spoke about her dogs, noting her concern for several when she got into Safety. She struggled over whether to drop any, knowing that once you got out on the ice, you really can't stop and walk up to your team. She opted to drop one, and made sure to mention each dog taking her across the finish by name. Of note was lead dog Quito, who's responsiveness and drive was a deciding factor.
Aliy summed it up: "Every day was harder than the last."
And, at the end, when asked how she felt about 3 second place finishes? She laughed, "Better than scratchin'."