Zoom Lens: Catching Up

How crazy is it that you can be right in the middle of all the Iditarod action but not know what’s happening along the trail? I’ve worked as a communications specialist at Skwentna Checkpoint for eight years and the same has been true for all eight years. The race runs through the checkpoint sitting below the Delia homestead on the Skwentna River and then it’s gone. It’s gone in a big hurry, often less than fifteen hours. This year is was just over twelve.

As the teams pass under the banner that marks the checkpoint, pertinent information – bib number, time in and number of dogs is recorded. That information is then relayed to Anchorage Race Stats where it’s made live for fans watching from afar via Internet. Mike Williams Jr. was wearing the first headlamp spotted bobbing along the horizon. He pulled into the checkpoint, parked and cared for his team then took advantage of a hot meal inside the Delia Outback Cabin and three hours later he was on his way to Finger Lake. Thus it went for the whole night. A headlamp or headlamps would be spotted bobbing along the horizon and soon enough the silhouette of a dog team would appear on the trail and within less than a minute the team would be checking into Skwentna.

Paige Drobney, Robert Sorlie, Aliy Zirkle, Martin Buser, DeeDee Jonrowe and Michelle Phillips followed Mike Jr. Martin, running an aggressive schedule snacked and moved on but the others camped for a few hours. The final musher to make the checkpoint, Alex Buetow, set his snow hook on the Skwentna River at 5:30 in the morning. All said the trail was hard and fast. One musher in the middle of the pack who tried to set a snow hook under the banner and just kept going until the river runners were able to stop the sled laughed and said, “That’s the reason I got here so fast, I couldn’t stop!”

The evening was pleasant with calm winds, clear skies and moderate temperatures. The thermometer read minus five degrees midmorning as the final teams prepared the dogs for the run to Finger Lake. Running a Buser puppy team, Elliot Anderson left the checkpoint just before 10:00. With the teams gone, so is our connection to the race and all the excitement.

In the bush, Internet service can be obtained but the bandwidth often doesn’t permit the viewing of large files like Iditarod Race Stats or the GPS Tracker. It wasn’t until the comms team arrived back at the Millennium Race Headquartes in Anchorage at suppertime that we were “re-connected” to the race. It wasn’t through Internet though, we all gathered in front of the big stats board in the lobby of the hotel. At that point Martin Buser had departed Rohn without resting. Aliy Zirkle and Sonny Lindner had followed suit.

Just passing along a story handler sent me by email.

Born to Run,