Six teams still are in the running, according to my unofficial calculations, and among those six one is fading from contention. Aaron Burmeister has run a wonderful race, but is losing ground tonight on the run to Shaktoolik, as he did on the run into Unalakleet. That probably means there are only five left, Seavey, King, Zirkle, Ulsom and Redington. Those teams were the first six out of Unalakleet, and the next one out, Berkowitz is probably a little late leaving if he hopes to catch the teams in front of him.
Among the leaders, King has the fastest moving team so he might have a slight edge, but at this stage of the race speed can disappear quickly if a team is pushed hard. This is the tightest group of front runners in recent memory, and the prospect is for an exciting finish. That is not always the case on the Iditarod when someone pulls away the last couple of days.
John Baker has moved up well in the last few days, and has a real shot at the top ten now. He has done it by sticking to a routine he knew his team could handle, hoping that the teams in front would battle each other hard enough to wear out and slow down. In some cases, that has happened. John often moves up in the standings at the end, which means his team has been used well and has plenty in reserve. That style of racing doesn’t always mean first place, but for John is usually means top ten.
Another rural racer Pete Kaiser had a good run to Unalakleet after waiting longer than some at Eagle Island. He was down to 10 dogs there, which is a little low that far from Nome. Best guess is he gave them extra rest to make sure he had enough dogs on the coast.
Night owls will watch the tracker closely tonight because the race could be mostly decided by tomorrow. Shaktoolik is a place where racers sometimes blow right through in a last effort to make up time. The run from there is about 60 miles to Koyuk, and that makes about a 100 mile run from Unalakleet. At this stage of the race that is a long haul with a major break, but it has been done.
Myron Angstman, lawyer, pilot, and dog musher, lives in Bethel, Alaska. Read more about dogs, law suits and rural Alaska gossip by checking http://www.myronangstman.com/