Lance Mackey did indeed declare his 24-hour mandatory rest in Iditarod last night after a grueling 80-mile, 14h 51m slog from Ophir over a wet, lumpy dirt trail with patches of snow. Mackey left Ophir yesterday at 5:45am. Sonny Lindner and Jeff King followed Mackey out of Ophir a few hours later. Interestingly, Lindner actually overtook Mackey at one point on the trail as Mackey decided to rest for a couple of hours at Don’s Cabin about halfway to Iditarod. King, meanwhile, had also stopped to rest further back on the trail. Mackey ended his rest just as Lindner passed him. It’s not clear if Lindner’s passing prompted Mackey to go or if he was planning on going anyway. Mackey eventually caught up to Lindner and retook the lead after Lindner’s dog team got away from him at one point. Insider reporter Greg Heister just happened to be passing on a snow machine and helped Lindner retrieve his team.
Mackey reached Iditarod at 8:36 last night, receiving the GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award for being the first musher into the checkpoint halfway to Nome. He received a trophy and $3,000 in gold nuggets. There was some speculation that Mackey might continue on through Shageluk to Anvik and declare his 24-hour layover there. Iditarod is a bit of a Podunk checkpoint, and awaiting the first musher into Anvik is a seven-course gourmet meal. However, Mackey looked exhausted after his nearly 15-hour trek and decided to declare his 24 in Iditarod. Another thing that may have influenced his decision was word that the trail between Iditarod and Shageluk is chewed up. Mackey may have decided it would be better to let Martin Buser and the other mushers who last night ended their 24-hour layovers in Takotna do the heavy work of breaking new trail.
Sonny Lindner reached Iditarod at 10:07 last night and Jeff King followed three hours later. Both mushers also declared their 24-hour breaks. Mackey won’t be able to leave Iditarod until after 10:30 tonight. Because of the start time differential added to Mackey’s layover, Lindner will actually be able to leave Iditarod a half hour ahead of Mackey. King won’t be able to leave until about 2am tomorrow morning.
Martin Buser reached Ophir at 4:10pm yesterday and after a 3-1/2-hour rest continued on to Iditarod. He is currently 5 miles outside of Iditarod. Once there, he’ll likely take another long rest before continuing on to Shageluk. At that point, Buser will be at the front of the pack. But just 4 -5 hours behind him are Aaron Burmeister, Aliy Zirkle, and Jake Berkowitz, all of whom are fresh off their 24-hour layovers. Another large group of mushers are just behind them. Buser’s lead may not last long, especially if he’s having to break trail.
Anvik will likely be the key to everything. We should have a good idea of who looks to be in the best position with the freshest team by Anvik. But of course, anything could happen. Fierce winds on the Yukon River or a blizzard on the Bering Sea Coast could slow everyone down or even stop them in their tracks.
The second half of the race should prove to be as exciting as the first. Stay tuned.