Three teams are in the Iditarod checkpoint, the halfway point this year, where the dog teams turn back the same way they came. Brent Sass, Aaron Peck and Mille Porsild reached the halfway point first, but it is another musher that leads the race, Dallas Seavey!
Dallas in lead
Dallas has been driving hard after the long rest at McGrath. He has only had a couple of short stops and went through Ophir. Now he is resting on the trail after Ophir, after running for about eight hours.
Dallas Seavey at the Finnmarks Race 2019
As a rule of thumb, running the dogs for long stretches over six to seven hours often takes too much out of the team. With such a long run it is easy to lose some of the effect from the long rest, says Thomas Wærner.
At the same time, it was just such a long run of twelve hours, which gave Thomas the upper hand in the race last year. He took a chance and drove from Kaltag to Unalakleet without stopping, a total of 85 miles.
I think we will see more mushers who take such long runs in the second half of the race. says Wærner
Desolate and lonely
The run between Ophir and Iditarod is one of the most desolate and lonely places you experience in the wilderness of Alaska. There is rarely traffic here, except when the dog teams travel through the area.
It is not uncommon to spend 12-13 hours on this run, with a short rest on the trail. What's exciting now is to see if anyone tries to run the long way from Ophir all the way to Iditarod, or back, in one run without rest in an attempt to gain time.
Rest versus speed
Ryan Redington has taken both of his two first mandatory rests and is a few hours behind Dallas Seavey. If Ryan now decides to drive from Ophir to the Iditarod without stopping, it will mean that he will be able to catch up with Dallas by a few hours.
The advantage for Ryan is that he can keep his next rests relatively short, as he only has one mandatory stop left. At the same time it can also be a disadvantage, because he has less rest in the second half of the race, and it will then be more demanding to maintain speed in the team.
A positive COVID-19 test
Illness also haunts the trail; veteran Iditarod musher Gunnar Johnson (bib # 11), of Duluth, Minnesota, has been withdrawn from the 2021 Iditarod race due to a positive COVID-19 test at the McGrath checkpoint.
The danger of getting Covid right before or during the race was one of the reasons why it was too great a risk for Wærner to participate this year.
I knew that if I got sick, I would have to cancel the race. It would not be a good situation to be in, when you have spent a lot of time and money to travel from Norway to Alaska with 16 dogs.
The organizers have continuous testing at the checkpoints to everyone involved.
We cross our fingers that we will not see more cases of infection in the next few days.
There will be some exciting hours ahead, because both Joar, Ryan, Richie, Jessie, Peter and Aaron are coming fast!