Monday, March 6, 2023

All teams into Rainy Pass, leaders out of Rohn

Anna Berington's lead dogs during the Ceremonial
Start of Iditarod 51. March 4, 2023.
Anchorage, Alaska.
After a perfectly crisp (read: downright cold for us normal folk) weekend of starts, the Iditarod's first full day saw temps climb into the 40s thanks to the crystal clear blue sky and bright sun. Teams all along the trail chose to rest early and longer than their original schedules called for because it was just too dang hot. Reports of soft trail explained the numerous returned dogs reported so early in the race. Nothing major with the pups, just sore muscles and mushers not willing to take that chance.

Among those returned dogs is Ryan Redington's famed dog Wildfire. Wildfire, fans will recall, was the dog in Redington's team who last year in a training run was hit by a snow machine that then left the scene (and the coward never came forward). Through extensive surgeries and rehab, the goal originally was just for the dog to regain mobility and not lose the leg that ended up broken in several places. Instead, just over a year later, Wildfire was back on the main team coming in third place in the competitive field of the John Beargrease marathon. Redington had to leave Wildfire in the checkpoint of Skwentna late Sunday evening due to Wildfire showing signs of soreness in his leg. Ryan was visibly bummed that Wildfire couldn't continue commenting to Insider, "[all of the dogs] are my buddies, but he's extra special." While Wildfire is not continuing down the trail, Ryan is carrying the pins that Wildfire had surgically placed in his leg to repair it, Ryan had them made into something like a keychain when they were removed.

Also having some difficulty on the trail were rookies KattiJo Deeter and Jennifer LaBar. Deeter is on her second attempt at an Iditarod finish after the musher had to scratch during the windstorm that knocked out several teams in the Topkok Hills. Today it seemed like her race may end before even making it out of the first set of mountains. During a crash down the Happy River Steps, notorious for these sort of issues, KattiJo broke two stanchions on her sled. She had to detour from her planned run schedule to stay in Rainy Pass and try and repair her sled. Thanks to some assistance from a checkpoint volunteer she was able to get the material she needed to make the sled useable again. Deeter is now back on the trail heading for the Gorge (and the checkpoint of Rohn).

LaBar equally had a difficult time on the Steps, and in the first flight she had an epic crash where her left hand became pinched between a snowbank and her handlebar (she thinks). Her ring finger is at the very least dislocated and at worst broken. She still seemed in good spirits when chatting with the Iditarod Insider in the checkpoint of Rainy Pass as she iced her finger. This is a typical mushing injury for humans and while Insider suggested in their caption that the rookie musher was contemplating what this means for the rest of her race, most mushers are already chiming in saying it's no big deal and that she will continue on down the trail. 

The lead pack of Redington, Holmes, Sass, Maixner, Diehl, Burke, Porsild, Kaiser, and Failor are all out of Rohn and headed to Nikolai. Trail reports from Race Marshal Mark Nordman for this stretch of the trail are not looking good. Nordman told the mushers that the moguls were the worst he's ever seen and were roughly four feet high. There's reports of little to no snow (common for the burn, an area that is barren land due to a large forest fire that swept through the area around one hundred years ago and nothing has seemed to grow back. With no trees to block the wind any snow that lands there is swept away quickly leaving bare ground.) which means it's just hold on and hope your sled survives. The burn is roughly forty miles long. Don't expect teams to come into Nikolai until morning (Insider guesses around sun up which would be 7am...ish).

It's still far too early to declare an outright leader. We won't know how that shakes out until teams take their 24 hour mandatory rest (plus their time differential). That won't happen until they start to hit McGrath at the earliest (unless someone's race is going off the rails which no one appears to be in trouble like that) so we have another day of just trying to make it out of the mountains and burn for most of the teams.

Get some rest, Iditafans, the race is still just finding its rhythm. 

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