Racers were met with clear conditions at roughly 0 degrees this morning as they left Nome, notching more miles on their belts until they had a reprieve at Kotzebue for a mandatory 10-hour layover. What was evident between Nome and White Mountain was the consistency across the field of racers, with a few minutes separating the entire pack. The notable split times were as follows:
5- 1:10.24 6-1:10.05 10-1:10.56Just 51 seconds separated the top three teams, with 19 seconds separating the top two teams over the 70 mile distance between Nome and White Mountain, proving these racers are pushing their sleds as hard as they can given the conditions.
Conditions remained clear and temps dropped as racers made their way up and round the Kotzebue loop. Temperatures dipped all the way to nearly 30 below zero in Buckland. This is why Team 2 Dahle/Dohrn returned to Koyuk in need of a windshield repair. This might not seem like a critical component but if you take a 20 below zero ambient air temperature and add an average 50mph running speed, this pushes the windchill to 60 below zero. You can also see in the photo below, racers have white tape on their faces, adding another layer of protection when trying to ward off frostbite.
Team 39 Barber/Conlon ran into a bit of a snag in Buckland as well. Unconfirmed reports are that they lost some bolts in the rear skid on one of their Polaris machines. They were able to remedy this and are currently racing in 9th position out of the Selawik checkpoint.
Team 49 Gumley/VanWingerden have held onto their 5th position in the race all the way from Nome to Kotzebue today. This team has a fervent fanbase and are always a joy to spectators on the trail.
[video width="720" height="1280" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2021-Iron-Dog-Team-49-Trail-KKA.mp4"][/video] Team 10 Morgan/Olds lost one trail position, slipping to 4th place. Likely contributing to this was what is affectionately referred to as a 'get-off' which is 'Iron-Dog-Speak' for a racer crashing or getting thrown from their sled. Mike Morgan broke a track shock on his Polaris machine which needed to be replaced in Koyuk. They are pictured below fueling their auxiliary tanks in Kiana. Team 21 Hale/Hale also lost a bit of positioning on the trail as they encountered some mechanical difficulties today. As I can understand the updates, they encountered both a broken torque arm out of Kotzebue and possibly a center track shock on one of their Ski-Doo machines near Golovin. They were forced to tow one of the machines to the checkpoint and were able to perform repairs there. Just ahead of the Hale brothers is Team 8 Gueco/Moen in 13th position. These racers also ran into mechanical issues with one of the mufflers on their Ski-Doo machines coming into contact with the side plastics, causing significant melting and heat issues. In prior years this same issue plagued other front-running teams and seems to be a known issue that has cropped-up. Team 8 was forced to source and replace the muffler in Koyuk. Team 37, our friends from Canada, gave race fans a bit of deja-vu from last year as they had, once again, found themselves a fair distance off the trail and were headed in the wrong direction as indicated by their GPS locations. Racers often use historic GPS track data from prior years (or if a rookie is lucky enough to copy this data from a kind veteran team) and fans had guessed that either they got confused by their old data from last year or got coaxed onto the wrong trail as locals are indicating there are many hunting trails in the area. Fosty and Hildebrand will encounter this same area again once they complete the Kotzebue loop and head toward Koyuk. Moving split-times across the field throughout the entire Kotzebue loop were incredibly consistent, barring teams that ran into mechanical issues. What could be described almost as a 'photo finish', Team 6 George/Schachle made it to the 10-hour mandatory layover just 58 seconds in front of Team 5 Lapham/Weisz, both teams running wide-open throttle at 90+ mph across Hotham Inlet. With 1,440 miles checked off their lists, teams are just over the halfway point of this race. Today we saw a myriad of issues coming in all shapes and sizes adding to what the racers are faced with mile after mile along the Iron Dog trail. There really is no clear leader at this point as times are very tight, but continued clean racing and a bit of favor from Lady Luck might allow some distance to be placed between these front running teams and the racers chasing their snow-dust. This race is far from over.