Hello Iditarod Race Fans,
it is still snowing in Willow. What a race start. In the 16 starts I have been around, this has definitely being the snowiest. That snow provided quite a few challenges, specially for Nicolas Petit, who got stuck in his own ( rather long ) driveway, pulling a big trailer. Eventually he made it to the start in time, things were a bit more hectic than Nicolas would have preferred. Some Mushers were pretty ingenious trying to keep the snow out of their sleds. Kelly Maixner had a garden patio canopy put up: ” It was my wife’s idea and first I laughed at it .”. It sure came in handy doing the mandatory gear bag check. Many Mushers pulling big trailers had their sleds readily packed in there.
For one Musher in particular, things got even more hectic than he envisioned when he got out of bed this morning. John Schadelmeier ( 67 ) from Delta Junction, who is a 2 time Yukon Quest Champion and ran his last 1000 Miler in 2014, stepped in on VERY short notice for his wife Zoya Denure. This is far from the 1st time that Zoya has pulled out from a race at the starting line, for various reasons. In her last start in 2018 she was experiencing medical problems in Skwentna and scratched there. This year she experienced problems once again and had gone to the ER in the morning. A last minute decision was made, for John Schandelmeier to be the substitute driver. Boy last minute it was. A few things had to be organized short notice, be it a new vet book with the dog list, a pair of actual snow pants ( Thank you fellow Musher Dennis Kananowicz ), Trail food for the day ( Thank you Kathy Buser ), Bellaclava, Headlights and a few other odds and ends came from friends driving up to Willow. A crew of dog handlers, a some of us judges all helped John readying his team ( dang it has been 2 years since I put booties on a dog ) …. and off he went as number 42, right on time. Safe travels my friend, enjoy the ride!
Talking with Mitch Seavey prior to the race start about the snowy conditions, he commented on how well his team is prepared for this. Mitch always trains hard. What was different this year, that he could actually train from home, because even on the Kenai Peninsula the snow conditions have been good: ” This feels like the old days, we moved to Seward because it used to have good snow “. Talking to Veterinarian Kate Van Duine, who flew out to Rainy pass and got drafted into hauling straw, helping with making the water hole, they only got a dusting of snow from this storm. So somewhere between Willow and Rainy Pass trail conditions should get a little easier. It is going to be interesting to hear the reports.
Looking at actual runtimes and speeds. In 2019 the first team, Jessie Holmes, arrived into Yentna at 18.00. This year Pete Kaiser pulled it at 19.01, a full hour slower. 4h47 min is a far cry from a blistering pace. The second team in, Quebecois Martin Massicotte took over 5hrs. It is slow going out there. I doubt it that many teams will run nonstop to Skwentna.