March 14 8:36am Mitch Seavey departs Wht. Mtn with ELEVEN on the Tow Line
Mitch Seavey quietly booted his team of eleven and then manavuered them to the main trail on the Fish River. The checker informed him he had a minute before allowed to go on the final 77 mile leg to Nome and the finish. “You are free to go, it’s 8:36am.” The team summarily and uniformly broke into a slow lope and gradually disappeared into the very gray dusk. Once again, the power and speed was on display as he and team disappeared into a big bend on the river. The temperature was 2F but felt colder with a breeze on the river.
The trail will follow the Fish River, then portage over a notorious steep and vulnerable coastal mountain called Top Kok, descend quickly to a shelter cabin at the foot of the descent, and then follow the BEring sea coast , encounter several blow holes, areas known to receive fierce winds that come through the coastal mountains like a venturi, to Nome. Weather today is forecast benign and the mushers should have good passage. The trail is known, however, to be difficult. In places, the trail is marked with angle iron steel tripods for good reason—-the wind blows out timber tripods and obliterates temporary markers. No one takes this section of trail for granted.
My phone rings several times from true race fans. Dean Osmar, the 1982 Champ wants to know the real story, and I tell him that the team of MItch Seavey has solidified into an incredible trail hardened machine. Thinking about it, the only way one could experience the feeling of animals in such a physiological state is do the unthinkable and drive them for a 1000 miles, provide them 10,000 cal day, and witness the magic as they physically transform. Few know or understand this state of physicality. Personally, I was happy for Mitch, and tried to imagine the experience of driving such a team on the Fish River. The team are wise veterans, experienced and know the finish is NOme and will drive hard once he turns off the river to ascend Top Kok. The descent to the Bering Sea Coast will be controlled chaos, Mitch standing on the brake to control speed. He will snack the team, feed the biological furnace, every hour and a half, and feel the leaders surge to go even faster.. He is driving the fastest, strongest team of sled dogs in the world, and must feel, I imagine, a certain relunctance to conclude the race. The rhythm of the team, the quiet, the feeling of power, are reserved for the few.
Dallas and Nic Petit
The two are separated by 13 minutes and will depart in the first light of arctic morning around 9:30am. Both are nursing injuries of their own—-Dallas with painful tendonitis in his wrist and forearm and Petit hobbling with an ankle sprain.
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