I just got off the phone with Bridgett, following a phone call she got from Aliy in Nikolai. Keeping in mind that we're racing and I can't tell you anything about strategy -- or anything that implies strategy -- in this public forum, here's the news from the trail:
Overall -- It was "a long, crazy ride from Rainy Pass to Rohn." The Farewell Burn had no snow in places, lots of hillocks and at least one "trail groomer" snow machine left for dead, upside down by the side of the trail. Extremely high winds the rest of the way into Rohn. Aliy hadn't planned to stop long in Rohn, but the wind was so bad she decided to camp amid some trees so the dogs could have a break. These conditions continued the entire run from Rohn to Nikolai. It was so bad that for most of the way she could not see her lead dogs despite wearing goggles. She will stay in Nikolai "for a while" then head on to McGrath.
Dogs -- Aliy dropped Snickers in Rohn. He suddenly stopped pulling as they approached Rohn, so she checked him out and believes he has hurt a toe on the rough ground. He was okay to run with the team -- though not pulling -- so she had him in wheel where she could keep a close watch on him until dropping him in Rohn. All the other dogs are in good shape, though she is paying attention to the usual "wrists and shoulders" every chance she gets. Their feet are good and they are all eating well, including "picky" Nacho and Quito.
Leadership -- ChaCha is totally in her groove. Aliy said, "It's Cha's race to win or lose. I can hardly see her most of the time, so she is definitely 'the boss' out there for us." One story is that while crossing a glacier, Cha hesitated about which fork in the trail to take. Aliy gently stopped the team and went up to help figure it out. While doing so, another team came up from behind, took the "wrong" turn and ended up sliding all the way down the glacier to face climbing it all over again. Aliy and Cha looked at each other, looked at the other fork and agreed that was the way to go. Does anyone still wonder why we love and trust our dogs?
Aliy -- She's eating! That may not sound like a big deal to those of you who are new to our website, but it is. Aliy is eating well and resting well. She is, according to Bridgett, "totally focused on the race and really on her game." You can see a glimpse of this in a recent (click here) Iditarod video.
So, it sounds like it's a helluva race so far. Aliy is right where she wants to be in the "top group" and headed down the trail with an almost full team of great dogs… Stay tuned!