The Seaveys have since been joined under the burled arch by 6 other teams, giving us 8 into Nome. One more team has scratched, bringing our current field down to 68, with 60 mushers still out on the trail. As one might expect, the back of the pack is predominantly rookies, with 13 of the last 20 teams making their first attempt at the last great race. The current red lantern is recently out of Kaltag near race mile 650, some 330 miles from Nome.
And what about the twins? They reached Elim, race mile 856, spot on 2pm Alaska time today. They spent 7 hours on the 48 mile run from Koyuk, at least 3-4 hours of which would have been camping and resting the dogs. That run took them a little longer than I was anticipating, but they only spent 4 hours 17 minutes in Elim which is on the short side of what I was expecting. They were reported out of Elim at 6:17pm. Anna was in 28th place and didn't drop any dogs, leaving her with 12 on the line. Kristy was reported in 29th and also kept all 11 dogs.
It's great to see the girls holding in the top 30, but they're going to have to fight to hold onto those 2-handles on their rank. Veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe was only 1 hour 15 minutes behind the twins pulling into Elim, and she was running 15 dogs. Will her experience and extra canine power give her an edge? Or will the frostbite she's suffered this year plus having the extra dogs to care for slow her down? Time will tell.
Another interesting mini-race to keep an eye on right now is the dash for Rookie of the Year. That is currently being battled out between Norwegian Thomas Waerner, last reported in 18th place out of White Mountain, and Canadian Jason Campeau, also out of White Mountain only 21 minutes behind him. They're both running 11 dog teams, both men are about the same age (42 and 40, respectively). This particular contest could come down to the wire.
As for trail and weather conditions, it sounds like most mushers were hitting some blizzard conditions along the coast, or, at the least, remnants of those conditions in the form of badly snow drifted trail. But once folks got past another blowhole coming into White Mountain, they were being greeted by a reprieve in the form of sunny skies and daytime temps above 0F.
Given some of the drifted trail, it seems teams are requiring a bit more time to cover this last 150 miles or so than they have in the past. In light of that, I'm modifying my guess as to when the twins will reach Nome... I'll budget 8 hours for them to run from Elim to White Mountain, putting them in by 2:30am Thursday. They'll take their 8hr and pull out of WM by 10:30am. Well rested and excited for the finish, let's say they cover the next 55 miles to Safety in 7 hours, putting them in this checkpoint by 5:30pm. They'll spend as little time as possible here before tackling the final 22 miles from Safety to Nome. That should be a 3 hour run. So let's make our lunch date a dinner date and call them into the finish by 9pm Alaska time Thursday night. As I'm blogging in Eastern time, I'll take this as more proof that there is just no rest for the wicked!
I'll wrap up by reminding you to check out the Iditarod's Photo Gallery. They're pretty serious about their copyright warnings, so I haven't poached any for the blog. But it's a great way to see what it is like out there. Be sure to scroll down and back to March 14th (specifically part 1 of 3). There is an amazing close-up of Kristy where she is so frosted over it defies description, another of Anna's dogs in much the same condition, and a great back-lit shot of Kristy and her team pulling into Huslia through the fog. I'm getting chilled just looking at them.
... and a few cute dog pics, because I can't resist.