A lot of activity throughout the night! [dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith a warm-ish breeze, on rotting snow, by the light of his bobbing headlamp, Lance Mackey reached the the half way mark at 8:36pm last night. Lance pulled in 94 minutes ahead of the second place racer Sonny Lindner. Winning the GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award. This award consists of a trophy and $3,000 in gold nuggets!
The weather this year is bringing an uncharacteristic twist to the race, with warm temps, melting snow, and patches of bare ground. Despite these conditions, the dogs are pulling excellent split times. Sled dogs tend to run better in colder temperatures,(around the single digits) because they tend overheat and get lethargic if its too warm. It seems like they are adapting well and easing into a comfortable pace.
Here are the highlights from last night that will paint the picture for today's events!
At the Ophir, in the middle of the night Aaron Burmeister left around 1 am, Aliy Zirkle and Mitch Seavey followed closely behind. Around 2 am Jake Berkowitz who has already completed his mandatory 24-hour followed was closing the gap behind them. These four are currently being referred to as the “Takotna” mushers. They are heading in the direction of Iditarod, with a distance of 100 miles Trail crews have sent out an advisory for the mushers regarding a “short 2 foot deep section of water in the trees about ten miles before Iditarod.” Yesterday, It took Lance Mackey 15 hours make it to Iditarod. This could be a reason why he decided to hunker down there, instead of head out to Anvik, we can only guess! Most have agreed that its going to be a slow moving run. As of right now, using the handy Tracker tool on the Insider it shows all four seem to be traveling closely together with Zirkle being a touch faster than the others. Mitch Seavey is headed toward Iditarod as well, possibly taking a break before the checkpoint. This will help even up his runs to Anvik and the Yukon. This team is going strong, they just finished their mandatory 24-hour and are slowly chipping away at Martin Buser's lead which looks to be about a three hour gap. Lance Mackey and Jeff King will be following the lead pack of Buser and Burmeister, Martin and Aaron will have an advantage to here since they are just coming off their 24-hour rest.
From Iditarod to Shageluk and Anvik the weather has brought wind at 30 knots with temperatures on the rise with number that are above freezing. This is a big factor on when the musher will head for Shageluk. Kevin Keeler, Bureau of Land Management Coordinator, reported that the trial from Iditarod to Shageluk was not in the best of shape, and that the trail from Iditarod is just now being broken. Its important the teams are strong at this point, with the stronger winds and rolling hills to climb in the Yukon it would be an advantage to have a rested team. At this point the dogs are in race mode resting quickly to conserve their energy.
So what does this all mean? The key players currently are Lance Mackey and Jeff king, both being 4x champs, are at Iditarod and looks it like they are declaring their 24 hour layovers. Aaron Burmesiter is heading towards Iditarod with a strong team and has already declared his 24-hour. Martin Buser now is moving at a slow pace but has leverage since he has declared his 24-hours in Rohn and is in front of the “Takotna” pack. We will need to keep a close eye on Jake Berkowitz as he could also be a contender for the title. Lance Mackey has been known to pull away after this long rest but this is still anybody's game. Remember, the boards may show some swinging changes in the next 24-hours as mushers are on their layovers, once they start up again there will be a more realistic picture of whats going on.