The 2018 Iditarod is proceeding at a brisk pace. With good trail conditions and plenty of snow, the dogs are able to travel at good speeds, making this a fast and furious race to follow at the moment. But now, strategy is starting to come into play as well, as the mushers plan their mandatory rest stops and start looking ahead to the Yukon.
Race-favorite Mitch Seavey claimed the coveted Spirit of Alaska Award by being the first person to reach the McGrath checkpoint, located at the 311-mile (500 km) mark. That award includes a commissioned, one-of-a-kind piece of artwork that symbolizes the partnership and teamwork of the musher and his or her dogs. It is just one of several awards that are handed out across the course of the event.
Seavey spent little time reveling in his achievement however as he was in and out of McGrath in just a matter of a few minutes. He sped off to Takotna, which is 18 miles (29 km) further down the trail where he has now stopped to take his mandatory 24-hour rest. This has allowed Joar Leifseth Ulsom to slip past him in the rankings, as the Norwegian has chosen to not rest as of yet.
Behind Seavey, a number of other mushers have stopped for their rest period as well, in both Takotna and McGrath. Most are preparing for the long, more demanding sections of the trail that still lie ahead, and want to be well rested and ready to go as they push on towards Nome. We’re still several days from that happening, but the musher’s are jockeying for position now.
While Seavey currently enjoys a comfortable lead, there are some talented mushers not far behind him. Ray Redington, Jr. is also Takotna, as are Jessie Royer, Linwood Fiedler, and Aily Zirkle. Any one of them could be in contention down the stretch, with a spate of other big names not far back and currently resting in McGrath.
Sadly, there have been a couple of musher’s to withdraw from the race already, including fan-favorite DeeDee Jonrowe who pulled out due to health reasons. She called it quits at Rainy Pass, while Zoya DeNure was the first to exit the race in Skwentna.
Currently the clock for the race says we’re still in day 2, and typically it takes about 8-9 days to reach Nome, so there is still plenty of racing to be done. It should be fun to watch the event unfold, which you can do at Iditarod.com.
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