The parts were flying in the Iron Dog garage in Nome as teams worked to fix all sorts of problems that the previous 1100 miles of Alaskan terrain has given them. Missing skis, bent steering rods, missing carbide, broken windshields, damaged suspension, and the list goes on. Many racers were even waiting for parts planes to land for their sleds!
Each team was given 15 minutes of free inspections before beginning to work on the sleds. The father/son team of Andy and Brad George, along with other teams made sure all of the tools needed were laid out, parts were on hand and ready to go, and they had an idea of what needed to be taken off/repaired/and put back on…and in what order, to minimize downtime. Once the clock began, racers worked feverishly to complete all the necessary tasks and repairs were measured in seconds as the stopwatch clicked away. Some racers had machines in fairly good shape and required just over 5 minutes of repair, some teams took up through past a half-hour, other teams requiring work after the banquet, and some racers came to the realization that this was the end of the road as 3 more teams scratched in Nome. The garage was finally quiet around 6 PM so the racers could enjoy a meal at the banquet to celebrate the Trail Class reaching Nome, and to award a SEVERAL thousand dollars in cash and prizes, which was a welcome addition to a proper hot meal.
Along with equipment damage, racers also sported blisters, bruises, bumps, tired blood-shot eyes, dry skin, welted cheeks, chapped lips and probably some sore backs, knees, thighs! This race is hard on the body let alone the equipment the riders utilize to travel over 2,000 miles. Racers talked non-stop about how rough it was from White Mt. to Nome, how they almost all hit the trail harder than they should have. Racers described each bump and bounce, the strong winds, cold temps and admitted they sure enjoyed the first sight of lights coming into Nome. The Airport Pizza shop was an ‘all hands on deck’ operation as racers piled into every corner with notepads and cellphones, checking in with loved ones, compiling repair notes, talking strategy, and reliving the previous half of the race. It didn’t seem like there was enough coffee to go around!
This morning was cold and dark in Nome. Racers looked down the barrel of several hundred miles of brutally rough terrain that they were ALL glad to be done with just over a day ago. Two separate 10 hour layovers must be taken before the mandatory layover in Tanana on Friday for a Saturday finish. Team 10 led the way and departed Nome at 8:00AM, with teams 41, 16, 17 all piling out to begin the chase within 30 minutes of Morgan/Olds.
The racers are stacked in with each other on the trail fairly tightly considering the 1100 previous miles. Last many racers took their first 10 hour layover in White Mountain. That isn’t the case this year. As of 4:00PM, no racers have stopped in White Mountain. Teams 10 and 16 have declared a 10 hour layover in Kaltag while Teams 41, 17, and 6 have declared their first 10 hour break at the Unalakleet checkpoint.
The GPS showed team 41 in a possible compromised position, not moving, and it has been ‘confirmed’ by the loved one of another racer that Team 41 suffered a blown track near Unalakleet and are declaring a 10 hour there. Another front runner to leave Nome to run into trouble quickly was Team 17. Video reports confirmed that they replaced the entire right ski on of their sleds in White Mountain before pushing on farther down the Norton Sound coast.
If everything goes smoothly for the teams still charging up the Yukon River, Teams 10, 16, 23, 40, and 8 will round out the top 5 racing teams so far. I think notably in the top five is Team 8 of Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson, able to get back in the mix after Aklestad and his sled took a swim in the Norton Sound. Aklestad reported to be standing in the icy saltwater for up to five minutes while they got ropes tied off to drag the sled back up on the ice. He was able to secure a clothes dryer along with a hair dryer for his boots at the Unalakleet checkpoint.
Stay tuned for more info on the race and if you have any race info to add, definitely message us on our Facebook page!