Bridgett just called and relayed the following from her phone call with Aliy in Ruby:
Dogs -- Nacho was dropped in Ophir. Quito and Spot were dropped in Cripple. All were due to "triceps" which is shorthand in the mushing world for "sore front legs." Considering how hard the trail has been, this is entirely "expectable" and the dogs can be very proud of how well then have done.
One current "standout" is Bullet, who Aliy has been using in lead to "pull through" checkpoints when dogs typically want to take a break. You know how we feel about Bullet the wonder dog, and this is an example of how she will do absolutely anything Aliy asks of her… Including run past what must look like very comfy piles of straw in checkpoints!
Cha is still "the boss" out there and looking great. Her co-leader Bullet is a "specialist" who helps her out from time to time. All of the other dogs are in good shape, eating and sleeping well as they should and must. It was Aliy's goal to have "double digit dogs" heading out of Ruby, so the team is in good shape according to plan.
Trail -- We know that the trail has been very hard and Aliy confirmed that it has been one of the hardest she's ever encountered. In the "good and bad" category, the temperatures have plummeted to as low as -50 degrees. That's "bad" because it makes camping out more difficult and uncomfortable. That's "good" because it is what our dogs (and mushers) are used to, and probably better acclimated to than many others.
The Teams are well equipped with jackets and blankets for the dogs. You can be sure that Aliy is passing out plenty of those snacks we cut up and sent out on the Trail, especially all those turkey skins the dogs love so much when it is cold. Aliy has plenty of great gear and added the "comfort" of her "bag dog" Homebrew in her sleeping bag last night.
Human -- Aliy is in great shape, eating and sleeping well whenever she has the chance. She has enjoyed being in the area of her old stomping grounds and is very happy to be heading down the Yukon. She is also looking forward to heading to the coast, one of her favorite runs anywhere in Alaska. According to Bridgett, Aliy is as focused, upbeat and positive as she has ever been.
Strategy -- Here's what I can tell you: The run down the Yukon is long, flat and boring, much like driving on an interstate highway. It also comes at a time when the dogs' initial energy has been used up. Now we will get to see the benefits of training, condition -- and above all -- the heart and soul of the dogs. To deal with this, different teams employ very different strategies, including fewer longer/slower runs or more shorter/faster runs.
These strategies will remain in place not only down the Yukon to Kaltag, but across to the coast in Unalakleet. For those of you who are watching the GPS and leader board, good luck trying to figure it out!