March 17, 2009

Iditarod 2009 Day 9 and 10

Missed yesterdays Iditarod post but it looks like the Lance Mackey story is continuing unabated. He pushed on through horrendous weather with winds and temperatures down into the minus 50s. Unless he gets lost in the white out conditions on his way to White Mountain he will win his 3rd consecutive Iditarod.

Borrrowed from the Anchorage Daily News:

High winds and bitter cold were brutalizing the leaders of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday night as Lance Mackey continued an assault on his third straight victory.
Though Mackey and his team were in control of the 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, the driver didn't appear to be having much fun.
When he pulled into the wind-pounded village of Shaktoolik tight against the shore of Norton Sound, howling winds were blowing spindrift snow across the trail, and the coats the 38-year-old musher had put on his dogs to protect them against the wind were snapping in the blow.
Buried in several layers of clothes beneath a huge, white anorak, all that could be seen of Mackey was his nose, part of one eye and some frost stuck to his mustache. A fur ruff that rimmed his parka was pulled in tight to try to save his face from 55-degrees-below-zero windchill that can freeze skin in seconds.
A villager who greeted Mackey with a check-in sheet joked that it had been a while since mushers had encountered the fabled Shaktoolik winds.
"I wasn't asking for it,'' Mackey said. "We've been really lucky.''
Despite the harsh conditions, his 15 dogs seem undaunted. They left Shaktoolik into a hellish headwind and still marched across the windswept ice of Norton Bay for about 45 miles to Koyuk at an average speed of better than 8 mph.
Mackey gave them a long rest there as the teams behind struggled. The dogs of four-time champ Jeff King from Denali Park balked at leaving Shaktoolik. At least twice King had to swap out lead dogs in an effort to find one willing to take the team into the teeth of the blow.
Behind King, John Baker from Kotzebue, a nine-time top-10 finisher, stopped his team and waited, apparently unable or unwilling to head out toward the Norton Bay ice.
"The coast is giving us a little excitement, a little weather,'' King had joked before heading out into the blow on Monday. "Nothing the coast hasn't seen before, but certainly something to talk about today.''...

The only ones across the bay by nightfall Monday were Mackey and Sebastain Schnuelle from Whitehorse, Yukon, the winner of the Yukon Quest. Schnuelle made it into Kokyuk just before 6 p.m. Mackey, who had been there since noon, had yet to leave. He was still there at 8 p.m.
It was the longest break he and his team had taken since an eight-hour mandatory stop back at the village of Anvik on the Yukon. It was an unusually long break to be taking at this point as mushers hurry along the coast toward the mandatory, eight-hour layover at White Mountain only about 100 miles on.
Shortly before 9 p.m., the checker at the Koyuk community center was reached by telephone and reported Mackey was getting ready to leave, but that weather was nasty.
Winds of 20 to 25 mph out of the north were stirring soft, loose snow into ground blizzard conditions, he said, and the temperature was about 20 degrees below zero.
"But (Mackey's) getting ready to go,'' the checker added.
"Unless something happens to Lance, then there's definitely no chance of catching him, honestly,'' Baker had observed earlier in the day. "He would have to have a problem."
Mackey still appeared to be on his way to victory late Monday, but this one was clearly not going to come easily.

Jeff King team balks at facing the winds on Norton Bay.
Two teams crossing Norton Bay on the way to
The PETA Corner:
MMMM, dog cicles?

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