The lead pack has arrived in Ruby. I say pack because these first 5 teams have a bit of separation now from the teams behind them. Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Jessie Royer, Pete Kaiser and Hugh Neff are now distinctly a few hours behind. Technically speaking, Aaron Burmeister is in the lead, as he started number 68. Then again, he has not taken his 8 hour layover as Martin Buser did. Neither have the other front teams.
It feels different to be in Ruby. During a normal race route, this is way past the halfway point of Cripple. This time, mushers are only about a third into the race, comparable to Nikolai. Now when you look at the Nikolai standings and then later on in the race, lots has changed. That has to be kept in mind, when looking at where mushers are at right now. Teams which are a few hours behind are in no way out of contention. The actual traveling times vary, same as the run styles.
Notably Aliy Zirkle and Dallas Seavey are really working hard with their teams. They are helping with pedaling or skipoling. Now one can see that as a good thing, or in another way, if they already help now, do they have more to give when the going gets tough? The other 3 front runners, Aaron Burmeister and Martin Buser I sometimes see help a little bit here and there. Mitch Seavey, on the other hand, is sitting on his seat and that is about it. His team is trotting away in unison ahead of him. I guess it is his turn to “buy dinner” for Dallas here in Ruby tonight. At least the dinner comes with another nice bonus, the Spirit of the North Award, normally given out in Nikolai! Sponsored by long time Iditarod race Sponsor Pen Air.
Dog feeding styles are also different from team to team. While Aaron puts down straw first and then cooks his team a full meal without giving any snacks before, Aliy gives each dog some frozen meat and unsoaked dry kibble before bedding the dogs down. Martin Buser dishes out some clear water first thing, which most of his dogs eagerly drink. Different styles, yet the results of nice traveling, well eating teams are the same. Many ways to Rome ( Nome ).
Where will these teams 24? It is a short run to Galena from here, and it is early in the race. Some of the teams might try to run in 2 runs from here to Huslia, then take their 24 there. Time will tell. From looking at them on the river, I like the way Mitch Seavey’s team is moving. Aaron’s has quite a bit of speed right now. He made a bit of time on both Aliy and Martin after leaving Bible Camp. Dallas seems happy to trail his dad, yet he is having the ski poles out.
Happy trails Sebastian more pictures here: