The night was relatively quiet here. Jeff King came and stayed exactly 4 hrs and is en route to Ruby. He seems to like having a good 5 star menu there, courtesy of the Lakeview Hotel. He is one of the few people who have 24’ed in Ruby before. Jeff will have some peace and quiet there, till a whole big group of mushers arrives in Ruby sometime later tonight. He is 30 miles out of Ruby and should get there before the heat of the day.
The group of mushers en route to Cripple is large. First up is Brent Sass. He is coming fresh of his 24 hr layover in Ophir. Brent has run a good race to this point, camping past McGrath, getting quality rest away from a busy checkpoint on the trail. Whereas most mushers would consider Ophir a lesser option in term of amenities for their 24 hour layover, Ophir must be a perfect fit for Brent. Hardly any media, a tent to sleep in and good quiet rest for the dogs. Brent will have one of the “ shorter “ runs in here, being 78 miles. Brent is traveling fast, between 8.5 and 9 mph. That should have him do the run over in about 10 hrs.
Right behind him is Aliy Zirkle who is coming off her 24 hr in Takotna. She usually camps on this run to Cripple and then runs through the checkpoint. Time will tell if she deploys that strategy again.
Ken Anderson has a similar schedule as Brent, coming directly from Ophir; he is traveling about 5 miles behind him. So is Nicolas Petit whose team was parked next to Ken’s back in Ophir.
Hugh Neff is still in chase mode. After a very long run into Nikolai, he took his 24 hr there. To the media he said, that he plans to run more” even run rest “ leaving Nikolai. Well…. he ran to McGrath, dropped 2 dogs and only stayed 2.5 hrs. Then went to Ophir and dropped 2 dogs and only stayed 1.5 hrs. Now he seems on his way straight over here, which would be going from Nikolai to Cripple on 4 hrs of total rest. He is traveling about 7 miles per hour.
Kelly Maixner who arrived here last night, did a similiar move. He rested 4 hrs in Nikolai, then ran to Mc Grath, stayed 5.5 hrs there and then came straight here to Cripple in a 16hr plus run. His dogs looked very good coming in here and with 11.5 hrs he had a respectable runtime not any slower than the other teams. The big difference in Kelly’s strategy to Hugh’s is: Kelly’s dogs now get almost 26 hrs sleep here, where Hugh’s team does not have that option.
Mitch Seavey came off his 24 in Takotna and then camped at the Carlson Creek Cabin. He is already on the move. That campout should ensure a fast travel time here to Cripple soMitch does not do the same mistake he did back in 2012, when Dallas won for the first time…
Ray Redington has not camped out yet and is traveling close to Mitch. If Ray goes straight to Cripple, he basically cut out one rest and made up some of the time he was behind the other. That being said, cutting out the rest, will slow a team down. Mitch ran straight to Cripple back in 2012 and his team slowed down after. In 2014 Robert Sorlie did the same, Taktona to Cripple, he had the fastest run over that year an astonishing 10+ hrs from Takotna. At the time he only stayed 4 hrs here in Cripple and his team slowed down drastically and he slid in standings from then on. The key seems to success seems to be to keep the run out of the 24 hrs layover short enough so the team is not dropping in speed. Each musher’s group of dogs has a different threshold for that, depending on how they trained.
Wade Marrs came off his 24 in McGrath. He needed to stop early, to shake a cold himself. He is running a very smart race also, not stopping in Ophir and camping on the trail, without doing any super long runs. He is well on the move again with a very fast speed between 8.5 and 9 miles an hour.
Most mushers run schedules will converge in Ruby again. The teams stopping en route to Cripple will most likely go through here and camp out. When they leave Cripple, it will appear that they are many hours ahead of Dallas Seavey, but on the way to Ruby they need to rest, whereas Dallas, fresh off his 24 can make a big push to Ruby. As Mitch put it in Takotna: “ The only difference will be, Dallas with come fresh out of his 24 hr layover, where I come off a normal rest “
Here a few pictures around the checkpoint. The mushers are out and about taking care of their teams, feeding, massaging, putting foot ointment on their paws.