Things heated up in the Iditarod yesterday–in more ways than one. Temperatures ran above 40F in the interior, downright hot this time of year for Alaska. It appears some mushers made frequent stops along the trail to keep their dogs from overheating. The ideal temperature for sled dogs is -20F, so those huskies were feeling the heat. However, the weather is starting to change between Takotna and the Bering Sea Coast. Snow fell in Takotna last night, and the warm weather has brought 50mph winds to the coast.
Aaron Burmeister was first out of Nikolai yesterday at 12:25 AKST, followed by Aliy Zirkle, Mitch Seavey, and Lance Mackey. Burmeister was first into McGrath at 6:39pm, but with Zirkle, Mackey, and Seavey on his tail, he stopped only briefly to receive his PenAir Spirit of Alaska Award before continuing on to Takotna. (The award, a spirit mask created by a local artist, is given each year by PenAir to the first musher into McGrath.) Burmeister was also first into Takotna at 8:48pm with Zirkle, Mackey, and Seavey arriving less than an hour later. Mackey’s run between McGrath and Takotna was especially impressive. Although he left McGrath almost an hour after Zirkle, he came in only a minute behind her in Takotna. Seavey, also making a fast run, followed about ten minutes later.
Burmeister, Zirkle, and Seavey are all apparently taking their 24-hour mandatory rests in Takotna. After a 5-1/2 hour rest, Mackey decided to continue on and will likely take his 24 in Iditarod. Meanwhile, Sonny Lindner reached Takotna at 2:34 this morning and also went on to Ophir, leaving a half hour before Mackey.
The big surprise, however, was Jake Berkowitz. He passed through Takotna at 10:40 last night and was first into Ophir at 1:14 this morning, briefly holding the lead for the first time in the race. He was followed several hours later by Nicolas Petit, Sonny Lindner, and Lance Mackey. Lindner and Petit stayed to rest in Ophir, but Mackey left at 3:04 this morning and is currently 10 miles outside of Ophir, so he is now in the lead.
All eyes are now on Martin Buser. He reached Nikolai at 1:15 this morning after several stops on the trail between Rohn and Nikolai. He left Nikolai seven minutes later and is now 5 miles outside of McGrath racing at a speedy 11mph. Although Lance Mackey is technically in first place, Buser, who has already taken his 24-hour layover, will pass Mackey in Iditarod, barring any disasters on the trail.