Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"It Ain't Over 'til It's Over"

The following quote was written 3/15-16 by Jon Little, a journalist for 20 years and a veteran of five Iditarods, in his daily race blog for the Anchorage Daily News.

"While it is true that Mackey has an all but insurmountable lead on the final leg of the Iditarod, the last 77 miles from White Mountain
 to Nome is no victory lap. It's not like the final leg of the Tour de France, where the bicyclists take laps around the Arc de Triomphe. Mackey and those who follow will get an easy start, gathering steam up the Fish River. They cut overland and begin a gradual, undulating ascent until they reach the Topkok Hills, which are mostly treeless, bubble-like mounds. Their sides are steep and the wind can be cruel, with the lack of trees. After going up the final, tiring uphill, the trail drops sharply back to sea level, where the mushers are greeted by one more challenge - the infamous Solomon blowhole.
The blowhole is not to be taken lightly.
There are shelter cabins at either end of this small stretch of harmless looking trail that borders the sea coast on the left. On a good day, this driftwood-lined trail seems benign, even boring, if not for the oddly frequent poles and trail markers slathered with reflective markers. Every so often, the cold air from the state's Interior comes rushing out of the nearby Topkok Hills, which form a perfect chute, channeling the breeze into a funnel aimed right at the blowhole, filling it with hurricane force winds and a blinding ground blizzard. Which is why the trail there is lined with trail markers and shelter cabins at either end.
Once teams make it past the blowhole, and past the aptly named Safety Roadhouse, their final hurdle is a steep uphill over Cape Nome. From the top, they get a gift, which is bittersweet. It is their first view of downtown Nome, and it can be emotional to see the goal within sight, and also realize that the adventure is nearly over."

Lots of prep has gone into this race and lots of work continues.
The Nome Finish Line yesterday late morning looked like this with flags from all the participating countries flying over the arch.  (The Jamaican flag is 3rd in from the right)
In past years I watched this live cam but it only refreshes every 30 seconds.  It's amazing how much movement can happen in that short time span.  The most I ever saw before was some shadow or a dog and then a crowd under the arch.

A member of our Iknitarod forum posted a link to a radio station in Nome that was doing live coverage with a webcam.  I sat glued to that web page for a couple of hours listening to the two broadcasters talk about interviews with Lance and other mushers.  Lance, evidently listens to his iPod while mushing.  He has classical, jazz, pop and reggae music on it.  He claims the diversity is from his wife, Tonya, his two teens and his Jamaican house guest. Yeh mon.  
Thousands of cheering fans lined the fence. 
My reward for staying on so long was seeing a couple of dogs, then a lot of dogs and then the whole team arrive.  LIVE in real time, from NOME, 5 hours earlier and over 4500 miles away.  I cheered too.

And an official pic of the First Place team, Lance Mackey (now a 4 time consecutive winner) and his lead dogs, Rev and Maple wearing their roses.  His 2009 winning lead dog, Larry, was loaned to Newton who is running Lance's 2 year olds.

As of this writing, 14 teams are officially in Nome with Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle due shortly.  All teams must take a well mandatory 8 hour rest in White Mountain before pushing on through Safety into Nome.

There is an Iditarod rule about end runners.  They must be within 92 hours of finishing when the first musher comes in.  hmmmn   So where is Newton?  Is he too far back to be competitive?  A musher in Nulato scratched.  Granted he was trailing the pack way back in Red Lantern place (last), running Siberians but slowly moving along.  My guess is he was encouraged to scratch as end runners only get slower near the end of the race, not faster.

Newton came through Unalakleet early this morning, with 12 dogs, holding on to 47th place out of field of 56.  He will finish, barring anything like the blowhole happening to him.   A fellow Iknitarodder who lives and teaches in Unalakleet took these pictures, knowing how much I am Rootin' for Newton.

No comments: