By now you know Thomas Waerner has the Iditarod under control. He can leave White Mountain, the last checkpoint, at 1:35 pm, and will likely be in Nome around midnight. I’ll write all the standard Iditarod disclaimers about how it’s not over till it’s over, but there isn’t much drama here.
Mitch Seavey passed Aaron Burmeister, Brent Sass, and Jessie Royer at various points last night, in an awesome race for second. But now Mitch has a 3 mile lead and the fastest team, hopefully drama over. Jessie Royer is even more secure in 3rd, Brent Sass should have 4th, Aaron Burmeister can probably hold 5th. Still not much drama.
The fun will be for places 6 thru 10. And the burning question is how many teams can Paige Drobny pass in the last 100 miles? If you don’t know Paige, watch the video of her in Koyuk on Insider. We’ll wait… Paige earned my “Favorite Move of the Race” award last night, by not moving.
First the background. Paige has run a near-perfect race, doing much the same thing Mitch has done throughout. She’s been the one team behind him that’s kept Mitch looking backwards. When Mitch got to Elim last night the one thing he asked was “How far back is Paige?” She set herself up beautifully for a strong finish.
She left Koyuk in 8th place, after a longer-than-usual rest. She easily could have left in 7th, or even 6th, but chose to rest her dogs more, and trust them to catch back up on the trail. They did. She arrived in Elim in 7th with the fastest run time in the race. She outran MITCH by 40 minutes! Again, she could have taken 6th place there, with an outside shot at 5th. Instead…
She rested long again. She watched all the teams she’d run with and just passed take sub-two hour rests and leave before her. She stuck to the plan, rested her dogs, doing it right. Her 3 ½ hour rest dropped her all the way to 10th.
Now she’s at the foot of little McKinley and has four teams within an hour in front of her. And she’s gaining on all of them. Joar Leifseth Ulsom (7th), Ryan Redington (8th), and Travis Beals (9th) should almost be in sight, and Wade Marrs (6th) isn’t too far up there. 5th still isn’t out of the question.
She’s got her work cut out for her, to be sure. What looks like little green blips moving on the GPS trackers is much less glamourous on the ground. Right now they’re all running beside their sleds, somehow keeping moving despite not having slept in days. They’re dripping sweat, as last nights chill gives way to the heat of the day and they’re working. 6 miles an hour looks fast in this stuff. It’s kick, ski pole, ski pole, kick. Kick, ski pole, ski pole, kick. On repeat, for the next 7 hours. Over one monstrous hill and then another. There’s one hill I particularly loathe that doesn’t seem to bad until you get to the top, and just then realize you’re only halfway up, there’s another hidden peak behind that. I don’t know it’s name, but I know what every musher calls it.
She couldn’t have picked four worse guys to be racing up the mountains either, Joar, Travis, Ryan and Wade are four of the youngest, most athletic guys in the race. She’s giving up 7-17 years, and a couple inches in each case. But she’s gaining.
So watch the drama today, and someone please give Paige a bottle of water at Golovin.
UPDATE: 12:37 pm Paige has passed Travis and is in 9th!
UPDATE: 2:22 pm Paige has passed Ryan and Wade, now in 7th!