Wow! Jeff left Cripple with 16 dogs! That is a first for him and historically rare, at best, for a front-running team in the Iditarod.

As I was periodically checking the Tracker and watching Jeff and his team approach the checkpoint of Cripple yesterday, I got a phone call. Amongst static and delay I heard dogs barking and screaming.

“Do you hear that?” the caller asked, “That’s your man. He just arrived in Cripple 5 seconds ago. The team looks FANTASTIC and Jeff is even smiling!”

It was the Iditarod Race Marshall, Mark Nordman.

“I had to test out this sat. phone to see if it was working.” he added.

What an incredible treat! That few second sound bite was a perfect
and priceless report from the trail on how the dogs are doing.

Having just completed the first half of this 1000 mile event, the teams are now positioned for the challenge. I lament that Hans Gatt and Rick Swenson are not carrying locator beacons. Those two fellows are having a great race and, I’ll tell you, Rick is scary! He is the quintessential dog man and knows the race like the back of his hand. They both took probably a 6 hour break on the trail into Cripple and are likely running straight to Ruby. There will be a bunch of great teams in Ruby only minutes apart.

Ruby is a popular spot for the teams to take their mandatory 8 hour break. By the rules, it must be taken at one of the Yukon River checkpoints (Ruby, Galena, Nulato or Kaltag). I honestly don’t have a clue why this rule is in place. Most would stop nearly that long anyway. I’ll have to do some background checking on this one. Jeff will most likely be choosing this beautiful Yukon River village for his second mandatory break. He should be arriving at a great time this morning to leave at the perfect time this afternoon to be back on his preferred schedule. You may have noted that he did a couple of things this past 24 hours that go generally against his prescribed run-rest schedule. Sometimes that is necessary for the correct placement of runs further down the trail.

Ruby is also the place to get the 8 course meal prepared in situ by a Master Chef and the $5000 awarded by the incredible Millennium Hotel. It looks like Lance will be eating well this morning! I’m sure that Tonya is happy about that. They will get to enjoy that same meal and a romantic evening at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage some time after the race. (Thanks, Max!!)

Included in Jeff’s team this year are five wonderful dogs owned by Jon and Bree Little. Lobben, Adidas, Guiness, Solomon and Braeburn came to Husky Homestead to live with us last summer. With Jon’s wonderful and growing family and his commitment to his writing, he had decided to not field a team of his own in this year’s Iditarod. What an honor to be offered the opportunity to work with such wonderful athletes. Jon and Bree have done a fantastic job with their blossoming kennel. There are a few other teams in this year’s race that have some of their dogs as well.

I may get a call from Ruby today. I’ll fill you in tomorrow…..