Vern’s Version of the 2016 Iditarod: Vern kept everyone up-to-date via Facebook posts during the 2016 Iditarod. In case you missed it – here’s a replay! Thanks to Mike Kenney for usage of the AMAZING photos! (all photos copyright protected)
March 6: Nathan has reached Yentna Station which is the first checkpoint. He pulled into the long term parking, so it looks like he will rest a bit and feed them a light watered down meal. Most teams so far have gone through the checkpoint. Some will rest on the trail while others will go the full 83 miles to the next checkpoint. Why is Nathan resting so soon? Since he’s been up in Alaska he has only been on one training run. Plus being as warm as it is, keeping a team well hydrated will be key. He will ease the team into this race slowly, resting a lot in an effort to keep their speed. He will make frequent stops, every twenty minutes or so, to let the team dip snow or just roll around and cool off. He plans on snacking every 2 hours, keeping a constant supply of fuel in the fire. Reports are the trail is hard and fast. The ice bridges on the daunting Dalzell Gorge have broken up and given way. The trail workers are scrambling to reroute that section of trail. It was so warm and sunny at the start I sunburned my face, so you can imagine what it is like for a thick furred husky!
March 7: Nathan pulled into Finger Lake this morning at about 7 am. He still has all 16 dogs. It looks as though he is sticking to his schedule. The trails are hard and icy so the mushers must stand on their brake pads constantly to keep the teams from running to fast. The icy trails are hard on wrists and feet, so frequent breaks and bootie changes will help prevent any injuries. I think he will rest here for awhile before he heads out to Rainy Pass. With 84 teams on the trail they will be bunched up for quite awhile.
March 7: Nathan is into Rainy Pass at about 1:30. His travel time and speed are staying consistent. Looks like he’ll be taking a break here. So far his longest rest has been about 3 hours, so maybe he will stay a little longer and get some rest himself. I imagine he’s starting to get a little tired. His back was really sore before the race. Hopefully he can keep it loosened up. He reached the checkpoint with all 16 dogs which is great.
March 7: Well, he must be feeling alright or he’s on a mission. After just under 4 hours of rest he’s off to Rohn. He left with all 16 of his team members. Go Nathan!
March 8: Now that I’m back in Minnesota I can catch up on what’s been happening in the race. Nathan made it into Nikolai around 12:40 after making the run from Rohn in about 9 hours. All the mushers are still bunched up, no one has made any surprise moves as of yet. Nathan’s average traveling speed is 8.4 mph. That is very good and if he can keep it up he will be right up there. With over 700 miles left to Nome there is a lot of things that can and will happen. Steady runs, frequent rests will bode well for the teams later on in the race. Don’t put too much stock into the standings at least until everyone has taken their 24 hour layovers. Most teams will be taking these mandatory layovers in the next 3 or 4 checkpoints.
March 8: Nathan just left Nikolai after about a 5 hour rest. Where will he take his 24? He packed enough supplies at 3 different checkpoints to keep his options open. Not sure how many dogs he left with though.
March 9: Nathan just pulled into Takotna with all 16 dogs. He ran through McGrath with no rest so I’m thinking he may take his 24 hour mandatory here. Some of the lead teams opted to go through Takotna and head on up to Ophir. Nathan’s traveling speed remains steady and will put him in the thick of things as he continues further into the race. With the pace the teams are running, I hope I make it to Nome in time for the finish!
March 9: While Nathan is resting in Takotna, I had a chance to watch an Insider video interview of him. He said there is a bug running through the team. That bug actually started with a couple of younger dogs a few days before the start. We were hoping it wouldn’t spread to the entire team but it looks like it has. On the bright side 1) he has had nice run times 2) the bug showed up early in the race, and 3) the Vet crew is outstanding and will give the dogs whatever they need to work through this. Takotna is a popular place for the 24 hour layover. It’s early enough in the race where the dogs haven’t been pushed beyond their reserves. Also the mushers have a great place to rest and recharge themselves which will help their decision making when the race reaches it’s final stages. The mushers also feast on steak and homemade pies there. I look for Nathan to stick with his race plan which should trim 8- 10 hours off his rookie run.
March 10: Nathan left Takotna with all 16 dogs. After a short stop in Ophir to pickup some supplies he’s back on the trail again headed for Cripple. He will probably rest about 4 hours beyond Ophir, breaking up the long run. He should reach Cripple around 11pm tonight. He will take a good rest there before heading to Ruby. Finally nice to see these mandatory rests end and watch some racing again!!
March 11: Well, Nathan must be on plan B or C now????? He must know something or is dealing with something we won’t know about until he gets to Nome. There are all kinds of scenarios going through my head and anything I write is pure speculation! Now that he is moving again and is about 30 miles from Ruby, I’m “speculating” that he will rest at least through the heat of the day there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started dropping a dog or two to get the team down to a more manageable size. If the team is healthy and over their bug I look for him to take his 8 hour mandatory a few more checkpoints down. If they’re not, than maybe it’s best to take it at Ruby. Like I said, this is all speculation!!
March 12: Nathan is into Galena resting. He had a fast run time. He took his 8 at Ruby and dropped 2 dogs. Last night on the way to Nulato, a snowmobiler hit Jeff King’s team and also went after Aliy Zirkle. I hope they catch this guy and charge him with attempted murder. I think Nathan will stay 4 here and then head out. I can’t help but think something is not quite right.
March 13: Nathan is on the way to Unalakleet. He will stop half way to rest before completing the 90 mile trek. There is little to no snow the closer he gets to the coast. He is currently 24th, still running at a good pace. It all comes down to cutting rest in the final 270 miles if he wants to move up into the top 20. This year’s competition is stacked. Of the mushers ahead of him, 5 have won the race and at least 10 more are consistent top 10 finishers. A lot, good or bad can happen on the coast. It’s just hard sitting here staring at the tracker wondering how his race is going.
March 15: Just a quick update before heading up to Nome. Kerry picked up 3 of the dropped dogs yesterday. They were Donald, Mickey and Metro. Looking at the Vet papers that came back with the dogs it shows they’ve been on medication for diarrhea. This tells me Nathan has been battling with this bug for the entire race, thus the longer than planned rests. He is still on pace to better his 2014 time, so all things considered he is still having a solid run!
March 16: Well I wish I could let everyone know what’s happening, but we only know he checked into Safety and then turned around and went back. So my guess is the dogs didn’t want to go. He dropped Google who has never been dropped before and one of his steadiest performers. When we saw Google he was very tired and his Vet papers said he’d had diarrhea as well. It looks as though it has gone through the whole team and now need the extra rest. Frustrating but the dogs come first.
March 16: It appears that Katherine Keith has stopped and is trying to help Nathan pull away from the checkpoint. Fingers crossed they follow. I’m sure there are a lot of thoughts and emotions running through Nathan’s head. I know he doesn’t want to feel like he’s letting his sponsors and supporters down. Being this close to the finish after 950 miles you know is eating at him. Running into trouble happens to the best of teams. Just to attempt a race of this magnitude takes time, courage and commitment. What ever the outcome it will not be because of a lack of any of these.
Looks like Katherine has moved on.
March 16: Well it’s a double whammy! Carmen was able to get to the Safety checkpoint and see what was happening. Not only have the dogs been sick, but Nathan is extremely ill also. He has been coughing up blood and showing signs of being a little incoherent. He is going to try and go again on a half an hour. If that doesn’t work he said he would try again in the morning. The race officials will keep an eye on him to make sure he is capable of making decisions for the welfare of his team.
March 17: At this point there is still no movement on Nathan’s part. As of yesterday his lungs were clear and had no temp. He was visibly and mentally exhausted. I know he has his reasons for wanting to finish the race. To all of us who care about him, he has nothing to prove. We will let him make one more attempt to leave. One way or another, Nathan and team will be in Nome today.
March 17: 17 miles to Nome. Looks like his team picked up the pace when mushing icon Dee Dee Jonrowe showed up on the trail!
March 17: He and Dee Dee are climbing the last huge hill on the trail. Then down to sea level and home to Nome!!
March 17: 3 miles left on this 10 day emotional Rollercoaster ride! Thanks everyone for the prayers and positive vibes!!
March 17: Nathan and team led by Sheriff and Miss Sally cross under the famed Burled Arch for the 3rd time!!
March 18: I’m back in a Wasilla. Today is packing day, getting everything ready to start our 3400 mile trip home. Kerry and I pick up the dogs in Anchorage tomorrow after their flight from Nome at about noon. We will hit the road from there. Hopefully the roads will be clear and the trip uneventful and trouble free. Not to much to ask is it? I am so overwhelmed and happy for all of the support everyone has given Nathan. He still is under the weather but at least he is on medication and should be fine in a few days. Are there any more Iditarods in his future?? Maybe, maybe not.