As suggested this morning, the list of contenders is starting to materialize as teams approach Takotna. The top ten teams on the current list have all earned contender status, and a handful more also deserve watching. John Baker is certainly a factor with a strong move up today, currently listed as 12th. A handful of teams back in the pack also could contend including Martin Buser who will likely regain the lead after doing his 24 hour rest in Nikolai. Kelly Maixner also bears watching based on his fast dash to Rohn before taking his rest. Mike Williams Jr. is not far off Buser’s pace, but he is down to 10 dogs.
Katherine Keith is solidly in the running for rookie of the year, currently in the top 20 and not that far behind Baker. Her move out of Nikolai after the obviously grueling run into that village shows her durability.
Sonny Linder was the first team out of Nikolai and also first into McGrath, where he is doing his 24 hour rest. Lindner is currently the oldest musher in the race at 64, and many consider him to be a serious contender for the top spot. He has a previous second place finish, and has gradually improved his finishes in the past few years. His day in the lead caused me to remember two Lindner stories that are worthy of sharing.
One story involved the Coldfoot Classic dog race in 1986 when he and I shared a snowbank for a few hours during a break. As most racers will admit, there are times that are less fun than others, and this one of those moments. Lindner asked me that day to promise him that if he was still racing dogs after the age of 50 that I would find him in some checkpoint and shoot him. Of course I promised and I remind him of that every year around March 1st.
The other story involves a visit to a bar in Nome after the All-Alaska Sweepstakes in 1983. Lindner had helped winner Rick Swenson in the race and I finished back a ways. We planned to have a couple beers to rehash the race. The young attractive waitress came by and asked if we were dog racers. Somebody said yes, and while looking at Lindner she gushed “Oh I recognize you, you’re the cute one.” Guess who got stuck with the tab.
There won’t be a lot of movement tomorrow with a bunch of teams taking their mandatory rest, many at Takotna where the hospitality is unmatched. Tomorrow’s report will detail how hospitality at Takotna has changed from earlier years.