Restoring the Sacred

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gold, Silver, Bronze

The above photos are of the top three men and women finishers in the 2009 Iditarod. The music is, I think, extremely appropriate given the venue for the concert: Athens, Greece.
The photos from top to bottom are identified as:
(1) John Baker (in blue), finished in third place.
(2) Sebastian Schnuelle, finished in second place.
(3) Sebastian and John sharing a meal at one of the checkpoints.
(4) Lance Mackey, the winner, at the finish line with Larry (right) and Maple (left).
(5) Aliy Zirkle, third place female and #17 overall.
(6) DeeDee Jonrowe, second place female and #13 overall.
(7) Jessie Royer, first female finisher and #8 overall.

Every musher who suited up and came to the start line in Willow, with a team of dogs and a sled, on March 8, 2009, is to be commended - even those who did not finish the race. The six men and women shown above deserve special recognition, but this blog will refrain from calling them all "winners." They, and every participant in the race, are heroes for sure, but there is only one "winner," and that's the racer who crossed the finish line first. That's why we have finish lines: to determine the winners. To call all participants "winners" diminishes the accomplishment of the one who finished first in the race, and lessens the incentive of all those who didn't to work harder to attain that which they were unable to attain this time. I have a feeling that all those mushers we've been following for the last couple weeks would agree with me. So, congratulations to LANCE MACKEY, the WINNER of the 37th Iditarod - The Last Great Race on Earth.

And so, the 2009 Iditarod is history, but this blog will continue under a new name (Ocean Kayaker) while maintaining the same address. What the blog will cover is yet unknown - even to the blogger.

Last Look at the Dogs

Before wrapping up this journalistic journey, I thought it would be a good idea to post these outstanding photos of some of the greatest athletes in the world. Click on them to make them larger. Enjoy!

Finishers 43 through 52

I know I used this photo before, but it's worth another posting. It shows graphically just how grueling the Iditarod race is, not only for the mushers, but also for the canine athletes. This post, though, is to record for all time the last finishers of the 2009 Iditarod: finishers 43 through 52. On Sunday, March 8, 2009, sixty-seven mushers and their teams left Willow headed for Nome, approximately 1,000 miles away using the southern route. Fifty-two mushers and teams made it to Nome; that's better than a 77 percent success rate. Only 15 mushers and teams abandoned the race for a variety of reasons. Here are the final finishers and their date of finish:

43. Jen Seavey March 22
44. Tom Thurston
45. Rachel Scdoris March 23
46. Tim Osmar
47. Wade Marrs
48. Trent Herbst
49. Michael Suprenant
50. Eric Rogers
51. Heather Siirtola March 24
52. Timothy Hunt

To say that I've become a fanatical fan of the Last Great Race on Earth would be an understatement. The Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series, and Stanley Cup will never again impress me as they once did. The Iditarod leaves them all in the dust when it comes to sheer excitement. The men and women who participate in this race are among the toughest people on earth. I am tempted to put them up there with Navy Seals, and that's a pretty high perch.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Red Lantern Goes to Vet

It's official, Rookie Musher Timothy Hunt is this year's Red Lantern Winner by virtue of being the last musher to reach Nome. Tim was the 52nd and last musher to finish the race; he finished today at 8:06:22 AM, EDT. There were a total of 15 scratches or withdrawals out of the 67 mushers who started the race in Willow, on Sunday March 8, 2009. Here's some biographical information on Tim:

Timothy Hunt, 43, was born in Michigan and lived in Detroit until 1993, when he moved to Marquette, because "I wanted to live where I vacationed." A veterinarian for the last 19 years, he graduated with his DVM from Michigan State University. He began mushing in 1993 and says that after working as a veterinarian on the Iditarod may times, he became interested in actually running it. This was his rookie Iditarod but he has run a number of races in the lower 48 and the Grande Odyssee in Europe. In his spare time, Tim enjoys skiing, fishing, fixing animals and baseball. Tim's family includes wife Mary, stepson Tom and daughter in law, Emiily.

Way to go, Tim. The next one will be easier - maybe.

Last Seavey in Nome

The last of the Seavey's, Jen, arrived in Nome at 7:47:50 PM, EDT, Sunday night, just in time to make it to the Finishers' Banquet to see her husband Dallas receive the Most Improved Musher award for moving up from his #41 finish in 2007 to #6 this year. Dad MItch Seavey finished #4 this year.

The top photo is Dad Mitch Seavey, the 2004 Iditarod champion. The middle photo is Son Dallas Seavey, this year's Most Improved Musher, and the bottom photo is Rookie Musher Jen Seavey, wife of Dallas, who finished #43 (out of 67 starters) in her first Iditarod. Good year for the Seavey family.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Finishers' Banquet - Nome

Last night they held the Finishers' Banquet in Nome at which a number of awards were presented to the finishers. In fact all the awards except the Red lantern Award (given to the last place finisher) were presented. There are five mushers still on the Trail: Trent Herbst, Michael Suprenant, and Eric Rogers are mushing from White Mountain checkpoint toward Safety checkpoint in that order. Heather Siirtola and Timothy Hunt are still on their mandatory 24 hour rest at White Mountain. Heather can leave White Mountain at 11:08 AM, EDT tomorrow, and Timothy can leave at 12:47 PM EDT, tomorrow, so Heather should have an hour and 39 minute lead headed for Safety and Nome, which gives Timothy Hunt the best shot at the Red Lantern.

The IDT Insider had a piece this morning on the awards presented at the Finishers' Banquet last night. Here it is:
Date: March 22, 2009 at 11:11 pm
The Nome Recreation Center was full of hundreds of Iditarod race fans as the 2009 Iditarod Finishers were recognized for their achievements during the thirty seventh edition of “The Last Great Race on Earth.” The Finishers Banquet was catered by the Millennium Alaskan Hotel, as dozens of volunteers from Nome and beyond served the many who attended. Below is a listing of the Awards that were awarded earlier this evening;

PenAir Spirit of Alaska Award- The recipient of the 2009 PenAir Spirit of Alaska award is Aaron Burmeister from Nenana Alaska. The award is a beautiful framed mask depicting the spirit of the “team”. Burmeister also received $500 credit for travel or freight.

GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award- Presented to Lance Mackey from Fairbanks Alaska who was the first musher to arrive in Iditarod Alaska. Lance received $2,500 in gold nuggets and a beautiful trophy.

Millennium Alaskan Hotel Anchorage First To the Yukon Award- Presented to Lance Mackey from Fairbanks Alaska; the first Musher to arrive in Anvik Alaska on the banks of the Yukon. While in Anvik, Mackey received a nine course meal. Tonight Mackey received an additional $3,500 in one dollar bills as the “after dinner mint” for his efforts.

Wells Fargo Bank Alaska Gold Coast Award- Presented to Lance Mackey from Fairbanks Alaska. Mackey was the first musher to arrive in the Gold Coast community of Unalakleet. He was awarded a beautiful trophy and $2,500 in gold nuggets.

Nome Kennel Club Fastest Time from Safety to Nome Award- Presented by the Nome Kennel Club. The recipient for the fastest time between Safety and Nome is Ramey Smyth from Willow Alaska. He was able to complete the trek from Safety to Nome in 2 hours and 27 minutes. He received $500 for his efforts.

2008 Horizon Iditarod Most Improved Musher Award- Was awarded to Dallas Seavey from Seward Alaska. Dallas went from 41st position in 2007 to sixth in 2009.

Rookie of the Year- The Rookie of the Year Award has been sponsored by Jerry and Clara Austin of St. Michael Alaska since 1980. The 2009 Rookie of the Year was Chad Lindner from Brookline Massachusetts. He received $1,500 and a trophy for his efforts.

ExxonMobil 37th Iditarod Award- Exxonmobil presented an Iditarod Gold Coin (valued at $2,500) to Harry Alexi, from Bethel Alaska for being the 37th musher to arrive in Nome

Fred Meyer Sportsmanship Award- This award includes $1,000 in Fred Meyer Gift Cards and was awarded to Aaron Burmeister of Nenana Alaska for helping a musher find his team.

Chevron Most Inspirational Musher Award- Presented to Iditarod musher Trent Herbst from Ketchum Idaho. Trent received the award for the work he has done in the classroom teaching his students all about “The Last Great Race on Earth.” The honor included a trophy and $1,000 worth of Chevron gas.

Golden Clipboard Award- The 2008 Golden Clipboard is awarded to the checkpoint along the Iditarod Trail that exemplifies community teamwork The 2009 recipient is the village of Nikolai Alaska.

Golden Stethoscope Award- Awarded to the veterinarian deemed most helpful on the trail by the members of the Iditarod Official Finishers Club was awarded to Dr. Denny Albert from Denali Alaska.

Alaska Airlines Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award- is based on specific criteria to determine who has best demonstrated outstanding dog care through out the Race while remaining competitive. Alaska Airlines presented the award to Iditarod 2009 Champion Lance Mackey. Mackey received a lead crystal cup on an illuminated wooden base and two free round trip tickets to anywhere on the Alaska Airlines system.

The City of Nome Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award Winner- Originally presented by the late Lolly Medley, Wasilla harness maker and one of two women to run the second Iditarod in 1974. The award honors an outstanding lead dog, chosen by the mushers. This year’s recipient was Kuling a 9 year old member of Jessie Royer’s team from Fairbanks Alaska. Kuling has completed seven Iditarods and led her team to an 8th place finish in 2009. She was Jessie’s lead dog for all seven of her Iditarods.

Northern Air Cargo Herbie Nayokpuk Memorial Award- Presented to the musher chosen by staff and officials as the person who most closely mimics “Herbie” in his/her attitude on the trail. This year’s recipient was Sonny Lindner from Fairbanks Alaska. He received a free freight allotment on Northern Air Cargo, $1,049 cash and a trophy.

Wells Fargo Winner’s Purse Award- Was awarded to the 2009 Iditarod Champion, Lance Mackey. This year’s award was $69,000.

Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Official Truck Award- Was awarded to the 2009 Iditarod Champion, Lance Mackey. Mackey received a 2008 Dodge Ram Laramie “HEMI” 4/x/4 quad cab pick up.

During the Banquet each musher had the opportunity to try starting a brand new 4 wheel Bombardier compliments of Northern Air Cargo. The winning key belonged to Robert Nelson from Kotzebue Alaska.
There was also a very interesting piece on the Iditarod traditions of the Widow's Lamp and the Red Lantern. Here it is:
Iditarod Traditions
The Story of the Widow’s Lamp
During the days of Alaska sled dog freighting and mail carrying, dog drivers relied on a series of roadhouses between their village destinations. Since these mushers ventured out in most all kinds of weather, for safety reasons they found the idea that pilots rely on, known today as the flight plan. Word was relayed ahead that a musher and team were on the trail, and a kerosene lamp was lit and hung outside the roadhouse. It not only helped the dog driver find his destination at night, but more importantly, it signified that a team or teams were somewhere out on the trail. The lamp was not extinguished until the musher safely reached his destination.
In keeping with that tradition, the Iditarod Trail Committee will light a “Widow’s Lamp” at 10:00 a.m., on the first Sunday in March, in Nome at the trail’s end. This lamp, which will be attached to the Burled Arch, our official finish line, will remain lit as long as there are mushers on the trail competing in the race. When the last musher crosses the finish line, officials will extinguish the “Widow’s Lamp” signifying the official end of the Iditarod for that year.
All too often, public and media think of the race as being over when the winner crosses the finish line, yet there are still teams on the trail. We hope you will find this often overlooked part of the race worthy of your attention. There are many very good stories about these other mushers on the trail.

History of the Red Lantern
Often the “Red Lantern” is confused with the “Widow’s Lamp.” They are not the same. An article several years ago in Alaska magazine states that the first red lantern was awarded in the 1953 Fur Rendezvous Race. According to Alaska,
“Awarding a red lantern for the last place finisher in a sled dog race has become an Alaskan tradition. It started as a joke and has become a symbol of stick-to-itiveness in the mushing world.”
In case you're wondering, Andrea Bocelli was not at the Finishers' Banquet, but it would have been nice. I just thought the song was appropriate as probably every musher in the race was thinking, at one time or another, that the task this year was close to impossible.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Finishers 26 through 42

Although Aliy Zirkle finished in the Top 25 (#17), I inserted the video of her finish here, because the only video I have of this next group is this one of her husband, Allen Moore, who finished at #33. These videos will give you an idea of what it's like as each musher crosses the finish line in Nome, regardless of the time of day or night.

The finishers from #26 through #42 are listed here along with the day they finished. The Top 25 were posted earlier as "Top 25 in Nome."

March 20:
26. Judy Currier
27. Gerald Sousa
28. Bruce Linton
29. Robert Nelson
30. Chad Lindner (R)
31. Jake Berkowitz
32. Ed Stielstra

March 21
33. Allen Moore
34. Robert Bundtzen
35. Jim Lanier
36. Ryan Redington
37. Harry T. Alexie (R)
38. Bill Cotter
39. Rick Larson
40. Karin Hendrickson (R)
41. Cindy Gallea
42. Mike Williams

There are 11 mushers still mushing, and 14 scratches. Rookie Alan Peck, who just left Shaktoolik at 1:40 PM, EDT today, appears a cinch to garner anchor-man-of-the-year for 2009. Shaktoolik is 195 miles from Nome, so the final musher should finish (after taking the mandatory eight hour rest at White Mountain, at approximately 3:00 PM, EDT, on Tuesday, March 24. The last musher to cross the finish line in the Iditarod wins the Red Lantern Award. More on the history of that award in a later post.

Focus on the Family

I don't know if Dr. James Dobson (if you never heard of him, try Google) is even aware of the Iditarod, but he should be because The Last Great Race on Earth is nothing if not a family affair. Here are some examples that could cause one to believe the adage: A family that mushes together stays together. Oh, that's not an adage? Well, if we say it every year it eventually will be.

Example #1:

Musher Mitch Seavey fathered Musher Dallas Seavey, who married Musher Jen Seavey, all of whom raced in the 2009 Iditarod (Jen is still racing at the moment, but she's almost done). Both Mitch (#4) and Dallas (#6) finished in the Top 10.

Example #2:

Musher Aliy Zirkle (#17) is married to Musher Allen Moore (#33).

Example #3:

Veteran Musher Sonny Lindner (#11) fathered Rookie Musher of the Year, Chad Lindner (#30). Thirty-one years ago, Sonny Lindner himself won the Rookie of the Year award. There are no coincidences.

Example #4:

Musher Cim Smyth (#5) and Musher Ramey Smyth (#9) are brothers, and both finished in the Top 10 this year. Their father, Bud Smyth, was one of the founders of the Iditarod.

Example #5:

Musher Ray Redington, Jr (#20) and Musher Ryan Redington (#36) are the sons of veteran musher Raymie Redington and grandsons of Iditarod founder Joe Redington.

There may be more family connections in this year's race than I have noted here, and if I have missed any I assure you it was inadvertent.

Time for Inspiration

If the words of Winston Churchill, The Man of the Century, can not sufficiently inspire the 11 mushers remaining on the trail, there may not be any hope for them. The words of Sir Winston addressed to a graduating class at his alma mater when he was a very old man should inspire anyone with any sense of history. He is said to have strode to the microphone, looked out at the graduating class and issued only the following admonition: "Never give in; never, never, never."

Ah, but suppose some of those mushers never heard of Winston Churchill (he probably isn't taught in history class anymore. He believed in violence after all). Well, then I'm sure they've heard of our contemporary American hero who never gave in, and perhaps this remembrance of him can provide the needed inspiration.

The 11 mushers still making their way to Nome and their current locations are:
(1) Jen Seavey, rookie (between White Mountain and Safety checkpoints)
At White Mountain:
(2) Tom Thurston, rookie
(3) Tim Osmar
(4) Rachael Scdoris
(5) Wade Marrs, rookie
At Elim:
(6) Eric Rogers
(7) Heather Siirtola
(8) Michael Suprenant, rookie
(9) Trent Herbst
In Koyuk:
(10) Tim Hunt, rookie
In Shaktoolik:
(11) Alan Peck, rookie

As of this moment we have 42 finishers, 11 still mushing ,and 14 scratches or withdrawals. More on the finishers later. One last quote from Sir Winston for those still on the trail: "When you're going through hell, keep going."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Almost Forgotten Man

Had time last night to review the Blog, and noticed that I did not give enough attention to one of the real heroes of the 2009 Iditarod: John Baker. He ran a heck of a race, and just seems to be one of those guys who labors in obscurity for some unknown reason. Unsung heroes, I'm sure, are rewarded in another life, but this post is to celebrate one of those previously unsung guys: John Baker - a paradigm of Alaska men.
The following is from the Iditarod Trail Committee:

Baker Reaches Nome in 3rd Place
Date: March 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm
Veteran Iditarod Musher John Baker, (Bib # 44) arrived in Nome Alaska at 8:18:51 pm (Alaska Time) completing his 13th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The Kotzebue Alaska musher has now been in the top ten for his tenth year. His 3rd place finish netted him $55,000. Baker arrived in Nome with 9 dogs.

John Baker, 46, was born and raised in Kotzebue, Alaska. He ran his first Iditarod in 1996. Baker is self-employed and enjoys the rural Alaska life with his wife, Iva, son, Alex, 20, a veteran of the Jr. Iditarod, and daughter, Tahayla, 6. A commercial pilot, he says his hobby is flying.
That's John's daughter, Tahayla, with him at the finish in Nome on Thursday.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rookie of the Year - Go Blue!

It looks like rookie Chad Lindner will be the first rookie across the finish line. He's currently in 30th place, and departed the White Mountain checkpoint at 1:05 PM, EDT, which should (barring any more extreme weather conditions) put him in Nome around 8:30 PM, EDT tonight. Here's some biographical information from the ITC.

Chad Lindner, 30, was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is a graduate of Reed College and the University of Michigan Law School, where he was the Editor in Chief of the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform. Chad returned to Alaska to run the 2009 Iditarod with his father, long-time musher and Iditarod veteran, Sonny Lindner. (Sonny Lindner, by the way, was the Rookie Musher of the Year 31 years ago.) Chad says he started mushing as a child and in 2003, he completed the Copper Basin. Chad's mother and stepfather, Sharon and Jerry Story, live in Wasilla. After the race, Chad will return to Boston, Massachusetts, where he will begin his legal career as an associate at the law firm of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge. His girlfriend of eight years, Lindsay Kanter, is currently clerking for the Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage.
The University of Michigan has long been noted for its excellent football, basketball and hockey teams, but who knew it could also produce promising mushers? Go Blue!
Update, 3/21: Chad arrived in Nome last night at 10:21:50 PM, EDT, in 30th place, with 13 dogs. He is the Rookie of the Year. Must be something in the genes.

Top 25 in Nome

That's Sebastian Schnuelle, who finished second, at the finish in Nome with 1985 winner, Libby Riddles. Libby was the first female (and still one of only two) to win the Iditarod. After Libby's historic win in 1985, Susan Butcher began her three straight wins prompting the saying: "Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod." Take a look back at my post, on March 6, 2009, honoring "Susan Butcher," and the post, "Iditarod Lady Mushers," on March 16, 2009, featuring six of the women in this year's race.

Heard someone at the finish this year (on the live stream video) state the musher's credo: "Husbands and wives can be replaced, but a good lead dog is hard to find." That's a joke - I think. There are still 30 mushers making their way to Nome, and 12 mushers who have scratched or withdrawn. Here are the Top 25 finishers in the Last Great Race on Earth, 2009, and the dates they finished.

1. Lance Mackey * March 18
2. Sebastian Schnuelle
3. John Baker
4. Mitch Seavey * March 19
5. Cim Smyth
6. Dallas Seavey
7. Aaron Burmeister
8. Jessie Royer (1st female)
9. Ramey Smyth
10. Hans Gatt
11. Sonny Lindner
12. Jeff King *
13. DeeDee Jonrowe (2nd female)
14. Ken Anderson
15. Hugh Neff
16. Paul Gebhardt
17. Aliy Zirkle (3rd female)
18. Martin Buser *
19. Warren Palfrey
20. Ray Redington, Jr.
21. Matt Hayashida March 20
22. Sven Haltmann
23. Linwood Fiedler
24. Gary Wilomitzer
25. Rick Swenson *

* Past Champions
Lance Mackey: 2007, 2008
Mitch Seavey: 2004
Jeff King: 1993, 1996, 1998, 2006
Martin Buser: 1992, 1994, 1997, 2002
Rick Swenson: 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1991

Thursday, March 19, 2009


George Frideric Handel's "Arrival of the Queen" is in honor of Jessie Royer, who is the first female musher to reach Nome this year. She arrived there at 9:07:25 EDT this morning.

Jessie Royer, the 2001 rookie-of-the-year, 32, has finished eighth in her eighth Iditarod, and is the first female to finish this year - making her the Queen of the iditarod, 2009. Jessie's top finish prior to this year was also eighth, in 2005. Her mentor is Doug Swingley, four time Iditarod champion, and one of only three mushers (the other two are Susan Butcher and Lance Mackey) to have won three in a row. Jessie has finished in the Top 21 in all of her Iditarod races. Way to go, Jessie!

Note: Jessie's photo can be seen in an earlier post: "The Iditarod Lady Mushers."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



Lance Mackey passed under the archway in Nome at 3:38:46 PM, EDT, today and became only the third person in the history of The Last Great Race on Earth to win in three consecutive years. The other two are: Doug Swingley (1999-2001) and the late Susan Butcher (1986-1988). I was fortunate to be able to watch a one half hour live feed of today's finish, courtesy of the ITC Insider subscription I purchased when I returned from Anchorage. Right after the finish, Lance (after kissing his wife Tonya) took phone calls from his father (1978 Iditarod Champion, Dick) and from Governor Sarah Palin, but only after looking after the needs of his beloved dogs. He then accepted the $69,000 check from the representative of Wells Fargo and the new truck from the owner of Anchorage Chrysler Dodge.

Here's the GPS Tracker information on Nome:

Finish - Nome
Course Distance 936 Mi
Latitude N 64°29.784'
Longitude W 165°23.983'
Population 3576 -- The end of the Iditarod Trail! Prospectors established this Seward Peninsula city as Anvil City after adjacent Anvil Creek in 1898. A year later gold was discovered in beach sand and it became a boom town, home of 30,000 gold seekers. The city was renamed Nome in 1899 after a nearby point on Norton Sound, which got its name in 1853 when a British Navy cartographer misinterpreted a chart notation of .? Name. and recorded it as Nome. The gold rush atmosphere still abounds, especially when "Iditarod Fever" hits town with the entire community turning out to welcome the mushers and visitors alike to their community.
Mackey's two closest competitors (now racing for second place): Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker have left White Mountain, but are still hours away from Nome. A group of 13 mushers, including four time champion Jeff King and Martin Buser, were holed up until a little while ago at checkpoint Shaktoolik due to 40 mph headwinds and wind chilled temperatures more than 50 degrees below zero. Others were waiting out Mother Nature at the Elim checkpoint.

If Lance Mackey does not win the ESPY Award for Best Outdoor Athlete this year, they should discontinue the award.

White Mountain - Mandatory Rest

Lance has left White Mountain, the checkpoint at which every musher and team is required to rest for eight hours. With 70 miles to go, Lance told a few volunteers when departing White Mountain: "I can walk to Nome in seven hours." Seven hours is the lead he has over Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker, both of whom arrived at White Mountain just about seven hours after Lance did. Sebastian and Johnny (as Lance calls him) have to rest for another seven hours, and by the time they leave White Mountain Lance should be arriving in Nome. This would seem to be an appropriate time to repeat the line from Henry the Fifth (used in an earlier post): "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." These guys really are a band of brothers, and I wish I could attach the videos I get through my subscription to "The Insider," showing the manifestly sincere camaraderie they all share.

Meanwhile, I'll paste the information about Safety, the last checkpoint before Nome, and direct your attention above to the resting athletes (canine and human) at various check points along the way. Mozart wrote the perfect music (A Little Night Music) for the White Mountain checkpoint, didn't he? Oh, by the way, four time Iditarod champion Jeff King stated in an interview: "Lance Mackey is to mushing what Mozart is to music."

Course Distance 918 Mi
Latitude N 64°27'
Longitude W 164°49.02'
The last checkpoint before Nome, just 22 miles away. Here the mushers are on the coast of the Bering Sea and travel on the beach most of the way to Nome.

See you at the finish.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Summon The Heroes

It's time to summon the heroes, and if Sebastian Schnuelle or John Baker are thinking along those lines, they better get out of Elim right now because Lance Mackey is only seven miles from White Mountain, which is 42 miles northwest of Elim. With only about 77 miles to go for Lance, catching him now would seem impossible, but the weather can change everything (see the last post). Here's the information on White Mountain from the GPS Tracker:

White Mountain
Course Distance 869 Mi
Latitude N 64°40.786'
Longitude W 163°24.413'
Population 209 -- Just 77 miles from Nome, this village is located on the banks of the Fish River. It takes its name from that of a picturesque nearby mountain. The checkpoint is located in the community hall building up the hill from the store.

There are six mushers currently living at the Koyuk checkpoint (783 miles from the start): Aaron Burmeister, Cim Smyth and his brother Ramey Smyth, Jessie Royer (the leading lady), and Mitch Seavey and his son, Dallas Seavey. Must be a good place for a family reunion ( but poor Jen Seavey got left behind - 278 miles behind at the moment - by her husband and father-in-law).

Talk about bunching up, there are no fewer than 11 mushers camped out at Shaktoolik (128 miles behind Mackey) at the moment. Recognizable names in that group are: Paul Gebhardt (who quit drinking 19 months ago), Ken Anderson, Hugh Neff, Hans Gatt, Jeff King, Martin Buser, DeeDee Jonrowe, Aliy Zirkle (who now leads her husband, Allen Moore, by 75 miles), and Ray Reddington, Jr.

Barring a catastrophe, Lance Mackey is headed for a threepeat, and should have it wrapped up by tomorrow afternoon.

T. S. Eliot must have foreseen men and women like these mushers when he said: "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."

Say Goodbye to Lance Mackey

It looks like it's over, and a little too late for any musher who had been entertaining the thought of catching Lance Mackey. He's five miles out of Elim checkpoint, and it does not appear that his two closest pursuers (Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker) have yet reached that checkpoint. Here's a little information on Elim from the Insider GPS Tracker:

Course Distance 825 Mi
Latitude N 64°37'
Longitude W 162°15'
Population 281 -- The checkpoint is usually at the fire hall. From here the trail heads over the hills of the Kwiktalik Mountains inland a little way to the next checkpoint on Golovin Bay.

Mackey is showing on the GPS Tracker at 830 miles from the start (Elim is 825), but he's moving at less than 4 mph; he was rolling along on his way to Elim at an 8-10 mph clip. According to the National Weather Service, the weather along the coast is brutal (what's new?), with temperatures of -15 degrees to -20 degrees and winds gusting to 40 mph in the faces of the mushers. The wind chill is -55 degrees. Think they're having fun yet?

Since Golovin is no longer an official checkpoint (most mushers will probably stop anyway), Mackey has only two checkpoints left before heading in to Nome: White Lake and Safety. Check the route maps on previous posts to locate those points. I'll have more on the former challengers, most of whom appear to be sitting in Shaktoolik at the moment, in a later post. Above are are some pretty neat photos courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News (remember to click on them to make them larger).

(1) Mitch Seavey and Aaron Burmeister mushing across Norton Bay
(2) Jeff King following John Baker out of Shaktoolik
(3) Sebastian Schnuelle coming off Norton Bay
(4) Sebastian Schnuelle alone on Norton Bay
(5) Jeff King leading his team out of Shaktoolik after one got tripped up in the lines