Swenson at the start line

Sean has made it to the Yukon River!  The team of 13 pulled into Ruby, the first checkpoint along the mighty Yukon, at 7:15 am this morning.  Race rules state that mushers must take one eight hour stop within a checkpoint along the Yukon River.  Those checkpoints are Ruby, Galena, Nulato, and Kaltag.  Sean has already spent nearly 5 hours in Ruby, so we’re thinking he might just stay a full 8.

Mandatory Stops

Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race Official Rules 2020, Rule 13 — Mandatory Stops:

“A musher must personally sign in and out to start and complete all mandatory stops.

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.

Eight Hour Mandatory Stops: In addition to the mandatory twenty-four (24) hour stop, a musher must take one eight (8) hour stop on the Yukon River, including Shageluk in odd numbered years, and one eight (8) hour stop at White Mountain.

None of the mandatory stops may be combined.”

“Mandatory Rests” are not the only rest the dogs get during the race.  From Iditarod Head Veterinarian, Dr. Stu Nelson, DVM, “Although race rules mandate only 40 hours of rest, that is not the only rest that dogs get!…An optimal run/rest schedule results in best performance.  Kennels have different genetic lines, nutrition, and conditioning programs.  Ultimately, each team will have different rest schedules depending on their preparation and needs.  In a twenty-four hour period, the average team is running only about half of the time.  Certainly, this will be skewed for some of the top teams, but their speed would also be slower during longer runs.”  Mushers carry food and other supplies in the sled at all times and are stopping about every 4-6 hours to rest themselves and their dogs regardless of whether or not they’ve hit a checkpoint.

Though both dogs and mushers benefit from the mandatory stops, this rule was not written specifically for the dog’s sake.  One key point in the rule is that the mandatory rests must be completed within the checkpoint.  This has proven to be extremely helpful where race logistics are concerned.  It gives the race organization time to see the mushers and get a feel for their attitude and how things are going.  It also gives them time to move volunteers and supplies further up the trail.

News from the Trail

Due to concerns within the villages regarding COVID-19, there have been some slight changes made to the trail ahead.

  • Nulato: The checkpoint has been moved down to the river and away from the village.  Checkers, veterinarians, race judges, and all drop bags and supplies have been moved, but are still available as resources to the mushers.  There will be no access to the village or places for volunteers and mushers to go indoors.  As a result, they will all be camping outside, which is not out of the norm, as they’ve been camping at various locations throughout the entire race.
  • Shaktoolik: From Iditarod.com, “The Iditarod continues to utilize best practices and caution regarding COVID-19.  In consultation with the community of Shaktoolik and in the continued interest of public health, the Iditarod is moving its official checkpoint to outside the community of Shaktoolik, the 19th checkpoint along the northern route of the Iditarod trail.  As in all checkpoints, mushers will be provided with their food drop bags, straw for bedding, and HEET, which allows a team to be fed a hot meal, as they continue their journey to Nome.”