Well, so much for what I had predicted last night. The weather threw a curveball in there. Dallas did pass Jeff and Aliy from behind, that was until he stopped. He made it within 1 mile of Aaron Burmeister, when we were taking pictures of Aaron. And then Dallas stopped. Jeff stopped, too. Now some of the mushers are going to Plan B, an adapted race strategy while Aaron Burmeister pushed through.
Both are on the move again. For Dallas, I suspect the following: He saw the wind picking up. That also means it is going to be windy in the Unalakleet checkpoint and the dogs might not get the best rest. Luckily, the locals have pushed up a couple of nice big snow (ice) berms. A few teams can rest on the lee side of that, but not too many teams; room is tight.
I now suspect that Dallas will go straight through here to Shaktoolik, hoping to find a sheltered spot for his dogs to rest in the lee side of the Armory building, which serves as the checkpoint. Jeff, on the other hand, I expect to stop here in Unalakleet to regroup.
Aliy Zirkle, the next team in, should stop to rest, too. It is about 50 miles from Tripod Cabin and in these conditions that is a tough run. That puts Aliy 3.5 hours behind race leader Aaron Burmeister here. Time will tell what each one of them does in Shaktoolik. Things can get dangerous in a hurry out there with strong winds. It has warmed up to about 0F, yet with the wind-chill, the cold is substantial.
It now comes down to who manages their team the best. It is a fine line of pushing hard, and pushing a little bit too hard. At this point, all early race leaders have paid a price. Martun Buser is currently in Nulato, he has taken the foot off the gas pedal. If Jeff now does the same here, it has shrunk the front of the pack considerably. That also opens a door to teams like Jessie Royer who has been very patiently lurking in the shadows while driving a big string. Has Aaron picked the right point in the race to run out front? Or has he done his move a little bit too early. Time will tell.
While the internet is great here in Unalakleet, it is slow in Shaktoolik. We will work our way over there eventually, time will tell how much we can post from that connection.
Happy trails! Sebastian