Yesterday Sean made the 75 mile trip from Rohn to Nikolai, completing the final stretch of trail that’s considered the most difficult to steer through. After an 8 hour rest in Nikolai, the team departed this morning at 7:30 am and are enroute to McGrath. Temperatures have cooled along the trail. McGrath is reported at -15°F right now, which is just about perfect for the dogs. Sean has been keeping the dogs at a great, comfortable speed, and their run time between checkpoints is right on par with other mushers in the middle of the pack.
A short way down the trail from McGrath lie the Takotna and Ophir checkpoints. These three checkpoints are some of the most popular places for mushers to take their mandatory 24 hour checkpoint layover stop.
The Start Differential
The race clock starts running for all mushers the moment the very first musher (Martin Massicotte this year) leaves the start line. Mushers leave at two minute intervals, meaning Sean with bib #46 left 90 minutes after the first musher. Paige Drobny, the final musher to leave the start line, left almost two full hours (114 minutes) behind Martin Massicotte, and 24 minutes behind Sean. This might not seem fair, right?
Part of Rule #13 states, “Twenty Four-Hour Stop: A musher must take one mandatory twenty-four (24) hour stop at an official checkpoint during the race. The starting differential will be adjusted during each team’s twenty-four (24) hour stop. It is the musher’s responsibility to remain for the entire twenty-four hour period plus starting differential. The ITC will give each musher the required time information prior to leaving the starting line.”
What this means is that, since Martin Massicotte (bib #2) left 114 minutes before the final musher, Paige Drobny, he will be required to stay in the checkpoint for 24 hours + 114 minutes during his 24-hour mandatory layover. Sean will be required to stay in the checkpoint for 24 hours + 24 minutes during his mandatory 24-hour layover, and since Paige left the starting line last, she will only be required to stay 24 hours in the checkpoint during her 24-hour mandatory layover. This levels the field so that after all mushers have completed their 24-hour mandatory layover, they will all truly have spent the same amount of time on the race trail.
Long story short, the first musher who crosses the finish line will truly have elapsed the shortest amount of time racing. If the above explanation doesn’t make sense, just take our word for it.
Our friend Paige Droby passed straight through Ophir and is currently running at the front of the pack with Michelle Phillips less than a mile behind her. Mitch Seavey, Brent Sass, and Lance Mackey aren’t far behind. However, none of them have completed their mandatory 24 hour layover yet.
Jim Lanier scratched in Rainy Pass, citing concern for his own well-being. His dogs appear to be healthy and happy.
Want to know more about Sean, how he got from Georgia to Alaska, into sled dogs, and to the Iditarod start line? A 25 minute podcast, “Anchorage interview with Sean Underwood,” answering all those questions and more dropped today!