Frankly, I don't really know what's been going on out there on the trail.
Aliy just left Shaktoolik where she has been for the past 24+ hours. She is in a "convoy" of sorts with a number of other premier mushers -- Martin Buser, Jeff King, Hans Gatt and Paul Gebhart to name a few -- and is on her way across the frozen Norton Sound. A few mushers left earlier this afternoon and I have to admit I was a little surprised that Aliy wasn't with them. They made it across to Koyuk, but Aliy didn't and couldn't know that at the time. You see, we have the benefit of watching the GPS trackers but the mushers do not. So, Aliy didn't know whether they would -- or did -- cross the ice safely or not.
As those of you who have been following this website for a while know, everybody at SP Kennel is "dog first." That priority starts with Aliy and is adhered to by everyone at the Kennel, no exceptions. Being "dog first" includes races, and Aliy will trade a few race positions in exchange for dog safety. So, I'm betting that conditions at Shaktoolik "improved" to become "marginal" and some mushers took off. To their credit, they seem to have guided their dogs safely across the ice and made landfall on the other side. Unless I'm mistaken, Aliy chose to wait until conditions were better than "marginal" before making her departure. She would want to have a strong sense that it was "safe" for the dogs to cross the ice, not just "let's give it a whirl and see what happens."
So, Aliy is currently running on the ice in 17th position. As usual, she is in "good company" for the crossing and we're all keeping our eyes glued to the GPS to see that she makes it. From there, who knows what will happen. She and her dogs must have had a good long rest and should be in good shape for the run into Nome. Plus, conditions are cold enough that our "Interior Alaska" dogs could really shine and make some passes along the way. As you no doubt have figured out, there's no such thing as predictability on the Iditarod!
Allen continues to move his team well and is out of Kaltag for the coast at Unalakleet. Hopefully, some of the dreadful weather will have cleared by the time he gets there and he will be able to make a "normal" rest before continuing across the ice. Keep your wallet in your pocket, though, because I'm not taking any bets on anything in this race!
What's really great to see is that Allen still has 12 dogs. Considering the difficult trail they have mushed, it is a credit to his skill and guidance that the crew of "Kids and Kooks" are doing so well together. When you remember that Allen spends the first part of the season as a "speed demon" in the shorter races -- e.g. his typical domination of the Copper Basin 300, the Sheep Mountain 150, etc. -- it is especially admirable that he is able to "change gears" so completely into a "fostering young talent" mode on the Iditarod. An adequate analogy fails me, but I'm thinking along the lines of a sprint car racer switching to an Indy 500 car. It's an entirely different reality, let alone temperament and skill set. Go Allen!
By the time many of you read this in the morning we may have a much better picture of what's going on. For now, though, I'm taking my best shots at guessing. Frankly, I already can't wait to read Aliy's famous post-Iditarod report to find out what actually was going on out there, with the team and in her mind. It's always fascinating, so make sure we have your email address to send you a copy. You can email it to us here.
Meanwhile, like I think I've written in every post for the past 10 days... Stay tuned!