Moira emailed me and asked for my thoughts on the race. I've been trying to think of what to write all day. It pretty much boils down to three words: What a race!
Crazy weather, mixing tropical temps and rain with snow and wind. Revolutionary break-out strategies that almost worked (and might still). Too many leader changes to keep track of. Lost dogs, sick dogs, scratches, withdrawals and true grit perseverance. All building to what may be a neck-and-neck sprint to the finish. What a fantastic Iditarod!
Aliy has been running the SP Kennel Red Team on a very impressive and highly competitive strategy. She has managed her team brilliantly, balancing run and rest times in a challenging context of high temperatures, rough trail conditions and crazy-making goings-on all around her. It's true that the Iditarod is mostly about the dogs and what they can do, but the experience, savvy and stamina of the mushers is playing as big a part as ever. Aliy is a true professional and it is thrilling to watch her race.
At this writing, Aliy and the Red Team are in third position, ten miles behind the leader, with about 150 miles to go. That is by no means an insurmountable deficit, and I won't be surprised to see it tighten up considerably… Maybe even victoriously for her. You've all seen that look in her eye when she's got her game on, and I guarantee you that nobody is working harder than she is to help the dogs. I have to believe that is weighing heavily on the minds of the "old guy" mushers ahead of her. I know I wouldn't want her breathing down my neck!
There's a mandatory 8-hour rest in White Mountain, and we'll know exactly how close this race is when they get there. After that, it's a 77 mile sprint to Nome! Put on another pot of coffee and hang on folks... What a race!