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Checking Back with Iditarod 36 After Day Five

by Ryan Hudson
 

I think my second favorite thing about the Iditarod (tops on the list is how well the dogs are treated) is that you can read sentences that you'll never come across in any other sporting event. For example, this was the opening line in an article from the Anchorage Daily News today about an Iditarod rookie: "William Kleedehn tossed chunks of frozen lamb to his lead dog Fajita..."

OK, I guess that's not the best example -- I'm sure something similar was penned in the Miami Herald after a Dolphins game with Joey Porter.

Anyways, onto Wednesday's happenings...

Here is DC, the weather has been pretty warm the past few days, and apparently the same applies in Alaska. And that's not good.

'[T]he biggest factor affecting his dogs were temperatures that have reached into the 40s, far from the subzero weather his dogs love. Mackey said his team was thriving during the Yukon Quest, when temperatures plunged as low as 60 degrees below zero.

"The warm weather just saps them," he said, rubbing his eyes as he sat in the Takotna community center. "I'm pretty good about reading my dogs and they were telling me to stop."


Today, the teams began to reach the halfway point, Cripple, AK, where if they were the first to arrive, they'd win...$3,000!!! Woo!

Paul Gebhardt, who was the first to leave the checkpoint of Ophir, seemingly got lost on his way there.

DeeDee Jonrowe, who left the previous checkpoint of Ophir nearly six hours after Gebhardt, showed up first in Cripple, about 60 miles down the trail, to collect the Dorothy Page Halfway Award of gold from GCI. She told Iditarod Air Force pilot Bruce Moroney that she passed Gebhardt going the wrong way -- he was headed back toward Ophir.

Oops.

The mistake is an easy one to make. There is nothing to mark the Cripple checkpoint in the middle of a couple hundred miles of vast, rolling wilderness between the old gold mining town of Ophir, itself largely deserted, and the village of Ruby on the Yukon River.

As a result, the checkpoints end up being placed wherever it is most convenient for Iditarod trail breakers and pilots. Sometimes, too, snowmobile tracks -- which are really all the Iditarod Trail is in that part of the country -- can end up going wide of the checkpoint.

Combine all of that with a musher's brain fog from lack of sleep, and it's easy to understand how Gebhardt might get confused. Most mushers by this point in the race are only getting a few hours of sleep, if that, per day. Most of the time they are either on the sled riding or tending to their dogs to make sure the animals get enough food, water and the maximum amount of sleep.


There are a lot things I will never do in my life. Running in the Iditarod is probably somewhere near the top of the list.

Current Leader: DeeDee Jonrowe

Next Leg: Cripple to Ruby (first checkpoint on the Yukon River), about 112 miles (longest leg on the race)

About Next Checkpoint: Ruby, AK - Population of 185, winner gets a "gourmet dinner" (probably caribou or something).

Current Temperature: 22 degrees