If I had a dollar for every time someone stops me on the streets and asks, "Hey, Ryan, what's the latest with the Iditarod??!?" I'd be a very rich man.* Lucky for you, I am here to quell your Iditarod-thirst.
Thursday's leg, from Cripple to Ruby, Alaska (the longest of the race at about 112 miles), was won by Lance Mackey, the defending Iditarod champion. (In fact, according to his Wikipedia page, in 2007, Mackey "became the first person to win both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in the same year. This feat was considered almost impossible by many and is considered one of the most impressive feats by a musher. Lance was nominated for a 2007 ESPY Award based on his performance.")
Mackey, a Fairbanks, AK, native, was rather handsomely rewarded for being the first to arrive at the Ruby checkpoint, the first stop on the Yukon River.
Mackey won the Millennium Hotel $5,000 award and a gourmet meal prepared by executive chef Keith Culhane and served by Director of Food and Beverage Brooke McGrath of the hotel.
Poke fun if you wish, but I bet after six straight days of standing on the back of a sled staring at dogs' backsides, a gourmet meal would hit the spot. The extra money (the cash award used to be $3,500) was especially appreciated by Mackey.
"That's wonderful," Mackey said of the expanded cash reward. "(But) I wish that wasn't public so my wife knew it was only $3,500. I'm still unsure what to do with this money. I've considered buying a sit-down sled. My feet are so beat up. I'm leaning over the handlebars doing everything I can to take the pressure off my feet."
Mackey believes he is suffering from lingering damage from frostbitten feet on the way to victory in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race just weeks ago.
Another musher who is having a tough go of it is rookie Zoya DeNure, who, years ago, was modeling Europe. Now, she is spending her time trying to fix her broken sled.
Reaching Nome was her main thought Tuesday when she negotiated the harrowing trail that snakes through the Dalzell Gorge with a broken left stanchion and badly bent brake pad. DeNure was tossed around like a rag doll when she hit a stump and crashed. She recovered, but her sled didn't.
For the next three hours, she tightly gripped her wobbly handlebar on a wild ride into the Rohn checkpoint. "I couldn't steer and everything was coming apart. I couldn't use the brake or the pad because they were bent."
A volunteer checker at Rohn drilled a six-inch piece of hockey stick to her sled as a temporary splice. That was good enough to get her though the next 150 miles to reach this checkpoint..."
And to think that today I complained because it rained just after I got my car washed.
With just a few days left, things are coming down to the wire, as four-time champ Jeff King is closing in on Lance Mackey, and even talking some trash.
Iditarod 36 is really starting to heat up! (Get it??? Because its cold in Alaska!)
Current Leader: Lance Mackey
Next Leg: Ruby to Galena
About Next Checkpoint: Galena, AK - Population of 675, is inaccessible by road.
Current Temperature: 28 degrees
*Not in any way factual