Flying home from Anchorage by light plane at 120 miles per hour I
barely beat the front runners through the Alaska Range. I don’t keep
records but I sure don’t recall anyone arriving in Rohn earlier than
Kelly Maixner did today, and there were several more teams not far
behind. As noted last night, the traveling speed has not been unusually
fast but the rest time has been shorter than ever.
Buser rested a bit at Rainy Pass and then blew through Rohn, and has a
19 mile lead over Aily Zirkle at this moment. Both Team Baker outfits
rested at Rainy Pass and should be arriving at Rohn shortly.
Interestingly, Katherine Keith beat John Baker into Rainy by 13
minutes. Of course those minutes are meaningless at this point, but
anyone who expected Katherine to lag far behind is in for a big
surprise. She has had excellent preparation for her first Iditarod,
and has a good shot at rookie of the year. She mentioned before the
race that in training she would sometimes beat John home. A weak team
rarely beats a strong team home, but of course John attributed that to
her failure to keep the dogs’ speed under control. Right now Katherine
is the top rookie but there are a bunch of strong rookies in the same
for other rural teams, Mike Williams Jr. is speeding along and was the
third team into Rohn where he rested. Richie Diehl and Pete Kaiser
left Rainy a bit before the Kotzebue pair.
accounts describe rough conditions on the back side of Rainy Pass.
Most years that run is a challenge. Many of the current bunch of top
racers has done the pass 10-20 times or more. They still admit that
getting through can be dicey. In my only run through the pass as a
total greenhorn, I remember dropping onto glare ice at the bottom of
the pass on a flat stream that runs toward Rohn checkpoint. While
glare ice is not great trail, after the pass it seems like a treat to
be on flat going for a bit. Before the race Pete Kaiser mentioned he
looks forward to that ice as well, even though he is a skilled racer
with several races in his resume. I don’t remember much of the pass
though because my eyes were closed much of the time.
long run to Nikolai from Rohn usually sorts out a handful of teams
who try unsuccessfully to stay with the front runners. The winner of
the Iditarod is almost always among the top ten out of Nikolai, and
usually in the top five. But in recent years the eventual winner is
rarely the first team to leave.