Iditarod Update # 5 - Chilling out on the mandatory 24 hour layover
10:30 am March 9 Alaska
It looks like most of the teams are taking their 24 hour layover, with a few very notable exceptions such as Dallas Seavey. Dallas took a short 3 hour break in McGrath, and then ran about 6 hours to a comping spot about 10 miles past Ophir. He stayed there several hours, which may be setting him up to take his 24 hour layover past Cripple - possibly Ruby. If Dallas does decide to do his layover in Cripple, I estimate that he and Ken would be on par and leave at the same time late tomorrow afternoon, but I don't expect Dallas to do this.
Ken has positioned himself nicely. I took a screenshot of him in fourth place early this morning when he arrived in Ophir! Of course, it doesn't mean he is ACTUALLY in fourth place, since several teams stopped for their 24 hour layover in Takotna or earlier. But I do think he has clawed his way into the top 10, although the composition of this group is so fluid and the race is so competitive, this doesn't mean much right now. All I can say is he is well positioned to finish strong this year, if everything continues to go well for him. I don't expect him to be able to call from Ophir - this is an old mining town without any permanent residents. There are some privately owned cabins in resonably good shape and one of them serves as the checkpoint. But communications are likely to be fairly minimal, and Ken will have a nice quiet spot to rest, with minimal spectators or press around.
Looking down the trail, there are basically two main strategies for the route between Ophir and Ruby (through Cripple). This is the most remote stretch of the race. Mushers typically either break it up into 2 long 8 1/2 and 9 hour runs, or 3 shorter - 6 hour segments. Ken hadn't decided which strategy to use before the race start - it all depends on how his dogs are set up. He is down to 14 dogs, so two of his guys are headed back to Anchorage where our friend Julie Estey will be watching them until the finish. I don't know who they are yet.
That's all for now. I'll probably send the next update tomorrow after Ken departs from Ophir. I estimate his departure time to be 3:30am tomorrow morning.