“I wish he would just go away.”

That is what Jeff expressed yesterday on the phone from Unalakleet. Of course, he was talking about Lance! Jeff is having to work this race to the last coastal mile to earn his placement. Jeff continues to be extremely impressed with Lance’s dogged determination and brilliance.

A quick assessment at this point: Lance took half as much rest as Jeff in UNK in hopes of putting some time between his team and Jeff’s. Jeff’s team is consistently posting faster run times, half an hour in a 7 hour run for Lance. That calculates to more rest for the home team. Rest positively correlates to speed. However, we know that Lance’s team can perform well with less rest. The outcome? Assuming the trail and weather ahead remain relatively clear, the paperwork says that Jeff’s team should ultimately pass Lance simultaneously increasing the distance between them. Sounds good to me.

I was glad to see that Lance stopped and rested in Shaktoolik. I know that Jeff would not have gone through this windy village without a rest there, at least 4 hours. Both of these savvy dog drivers are very aware of the fragile balance of run and rest, especially along the coast in the last 200 miles of the Iditarod. Poor judgement on the part of the musher now is fatal to the outcome of his/her race. Jeff is historically very conservative along the coast and extremely attentive to the speed and well-being of he dogs to insure an energetic finish down Front Street in Nome.

And WOW! 16 dogs leaving Shaktoolik??? We will have to do a little checking in the history books to see how this adds up. I know his team is still strong, eating well and sound. It has got to be very fun and uplifting for Jeff. I remember when our great friend, Don Lyrek, ran our second team (was that in 1996?) and he finished with all 16 dogs. The finish chute in Nome wasn’t long enough to fit the whole team comfortably.

For any avid race followers, you will know that these last couple of hundred miles of the Iditarod are what stories are made of. Some of the most thrilling Iditarod victories had Mother Nature pulling a few strings; Libby Riddles in 1985, Rick Swenson in 1991. Martin Buser is noted for making the comment one year in Koyuk, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings”. With skill, focus, determination and a bit of fairy dust, she’ll be singing our song this year.

Ellen and I head to town (Fairbanks) today to catch our flight to Anchorage and then Nome in the morning. I’m not sure if I will be able to get an update out early tomorrow or not. By then, Lance and Jeff will probably be in White Mountain on their mandatory 8 hour break, 77 miles from the finish line. The winner should be crossing the finish line around 2 am Wednesday morning.

Enjoy the race!