Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
12–20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
March 6, 2003
Sorlie makes the Halfway Point first and takes a 24-hour rest.

The Norwegian musher who was 2002 Iditarod Rookie of the Year, Robert Sorlie, reached Eagle Island on the Yukon River at 3:29 a.m. Friday, maintaining his lead. He won $3,000 in gold nuggets for reaching the halfway point first. His nearest competitors are Jeff King, Martin Buser, Johnny Baker, and Rick Swenson. Sorlie's style reminds me of what Swingley has done in the past, get out in front and stay there. One of Sorlie's contacts says that is indeed part of the strategy so that the Norwegian dogs will not pick up any virus or infections from other teams as these dogs have not been in Alaska long enough to acclimate and build up resistance to common bugs here. Ramy Brooks had a small glitch when he was told in Ruby that drop bag two of three was lost. That was where Ramy's important items and best meat would've been. Mushers can use meat from other mushers' bags who have scratched but by doing so, run the risk of upsetting their dogs stomachs by introducing new rations during race conditions. The look on Ramy's face definitely showed dismay while he decided how to handle the situation.

If you check the standings, several mushers have scratched already, Jason Barron of Montana being the latest. Jason had dropped several of his good leaders and felt that he did not have enough good lead-power to continue on. Also scratched from the race were Lance Barve who had to drop some of his leaders and scratched in Manley; Karen Land had the same upsetting situation with leaders and dropped out in Tanana; Blake Matray scratched in Tanana due to illness in his team; Bob HIckel had dropped seven dogs and felt that he did not have enough to go the rest of the way with the remaining team; Peter Bartlett said his dogs were not eating properly and, sadly, it was in their best interest to give it up in Tanana.

Lynda Plettner had some trouble on the trail caused by those crazy souls who are walking, yes WALKING to Nome, the IditaSport group. They are walking on the same trail where the teams are mushing but human feet will punch through the snow crust where dogs and sleds will not. She was not happy to have to drop a favorite dog whose wrist was sprained by stepping into a footprint hole. According to Joe Runyan, Lynda was still in high spirits, upbeat and the team was eating well and looking good. Rick Swenson was one musher who thought about the soft snow conditions and had specially purchased extra wide plastic, a little over two inches wide, to replace the narrow plastic that is standard on modern sleds. The wide plastic is much better in soft snow because it gives the sled some lift. Rick, being a trapper, knows that wide runners are better for a load in soft snow. Little things like this can be an advantage when conditions are challenging.

Rookies are having an different race this year than most and rookie Randy Chappell of Texas is hanging near the top, maybe a candidate for Rookie of the Year. Most of the complaints I have heard on the trail so far were due to snow conditions being "punchy," attributable to the weird winter Alaska has had. The next challenge of the trail will be the passing of teams on the segment of trail between Grayling and Kaltag where teams will travel down to Shageluk and Anvik meeting teams heading back up to Kaltag the second time. With this loop, the total distance of the trail will be about 100 miles longer than the traditional Southern Iditarod loop. However, the situation will be more normal when teams then go towards Unalakleet on the coast. Unalakleet is a town of about 700 and typically has fierce winds blowing off the Bering Sea. This race may be anything but normal. We will have to wait and see.


Top Headlines from the Anchorage Daily News