Due to lots of demands at the day job and in my personal life the past week or so, I haven’t had the time to follow, or cover, the Iditarod as much as I usually do. I’m hoping that will change this week, as the tops mushers are flying along at the front of the pack, and things should get very interesting over the next few days.
Since I last posted on the “Last Great Race”, two familiar foes have started to duke it out for first place. Three time defending champ Lance Mackey and four-time champ Jeff King are, once again, running first and second in the race. As of this writing, Mackey has gone in, and out, of the checkpoint at Elim, while King is still en route, having passed through Koyuk, in hot pursuit. At this point, there just White Mountain and Safety stand between Mackey and the finish line in Nome, and if King is going to catch him, he’s going to need to be fast.
Behind King, and also out of Koyuk, are Hans Gatt, currently running in third place, followed by Ken Anderson in fourth, and Hugh Neff in fifth. The next five behind them, which includes the likes of Mitch and Dallas Seavey, as well as Sebastian Schnelle, are all into that checkpoint, but aren’t like to contend for one of the top spots.
While we haven’t seen any major blizzards like last year, which left the mushers and their dogs hunkered down for hours at a time, the weather has been a challenge none the less. Gusty winds and cold temperatures consistently dropping to -15ºF have definitely taken their toll on the racers and their pups.
As the turn into the home stretch, it’s beginning to look like Mackey will become the first person to win four straight times. On the other hand, King, who has already announced his retirement from the race, is looking to join Rick Swenson as the only five-time winners of the Iditarod. He was trailing Mackey by 74-minutes as of this morning, and it seems that lead may have grown since then, but anything can happen out there in the wilderness, and the race isn’t over until they’re in Nome.