It’s day two of the Iditarod, and after the mushers spent their first night on the trail, Martin Buser remains ahead of the pack, having already checked in and out of Rainy Pass checkpoint around 5:40 this morning (AKST). He’s currently approaching the summit of Rainy Pass, after which he’ll tackle the infamous Dalzell Gorge. Sebastian Schnuelle had a chance to talk to him over on Iditarod.com, and Buser said the sometimes tricky Happy Rivers Steps were a pretty easy ride this year.
Buser is not holding back. Analysts are surprised at his blazing the trail so early in the race and are trying to guess at his strategy. One wonders if he has his eye on taking back the speed record he lost to John Baker in 2011. After spending nearly 19 hours on the trail, he has only rested 2 hours! (Most other mushers have rested 6 – 10 hours). That’s remarkable considering the warm temperatures. Last night, Joe Runyon reported the temperature at Finger Lake checkpoint was 40F, and even at the summit of Rainy Pass this morning it’s a balmy 25F. Buser is definitely taking full advantage of his first position out at the restart in Willow, but it will be interesting to see if his high run to rest ratio will come back to haunt him and his dogs later down the trail. The video of him quickly checking in and out of Rainy Pass on Iditarod.com suggests he’s fresh as a daisy, and looking very determined. He seems to be taking a number of brief rests along the trail.
Matt Failor has leapt into second, having checked in and out of Finger Lake around 4:30. Aliy Zirkle left Finger Lake a little more than an hour later and is now in third, zipping along at 8.5mph as she ascends to the Rainy Pass checkpoint. Close behind her are Paul Gebhart, Justin Savidis, DeeDee Jonrowe, and Brent Sass. A large group of mushers are currently resting at Finger Lake.
This morning, I awoke to the surprise of seeing that Lance Mackey was the second musher after Buser into Finger Lake. He checked in and out of the Finger Lake checkpoint at around 4:20 (AKST) this morning but appears to be resting on the trail now. Mackey’s average speed (includes rest) is only 5.8 mph thus far. He’s had 7 hours and 20 minutes rest, so he’s likely more rested this morning than Buser.
Currently at the back of the pack are Cindy Abbott, Mikhail Telpin, and James Volek. All three mushers are resting at Skwentna, and all three have rested longer than they’ve been on the trail.
We’re already seeing some dropped dogs. Paige Drobny Rudy Demoski Sr., Michael Suprenant, and Ramey Smyth each dropped a dog at Skwentna. Matt Failor and Kelley Griffin each dropped a dog at Finger Lake. There was some early speculation that Jeff King had dropped two dogs at Yentna, but it turns out he had them in the bag, reserving their energy for further down the trail–a move he’s done in the past.