Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
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March 9, 2003
Sunday and the Leaders heading North on return route.

Today the front runners left Grayling and Eagle Island and continued navigating northward back up the Yukon, retracing their steps and meeting other mushers head-on. This was expected to play a part in the mental game of some of the mushers as they wondered what their teams would think of the situation. Robert Sorlie finally saw other mushers on the trail by having to backtrack, as he has been in solitary lead for most of the race. He has been seen taking extreme care with his dogs feet and I noticed that too while we were in Ruby. He salves and reboots religiously, knowing that without good feet, the dogs can't perform well.

Martin Buser, well known for his superb dog care, feeds his canines dry kibble on entering checkpoints to quickly satiate their hunger and knowing that they would instinctively search for a drink after eating. (Hydration is always one of the key concerns for long distance racing.) Once the team has had their initial needs attended to, Martin then starts the cooker for their full meal. I noticed other mushers feeding the dry kibble as a first course as well while we were on the trail. Martin's streamlined checkpoint routine then includes checking each foot, ankle, wrist and toe pad of each dog and supplementing the exam with massage and lineament, using wraps if required, while the cooker heats. Meanwhile the dogs are resting on straw and get to take a good nap while dinner is prepared. Martin is a multiple winner of the Leonhard Seppala Award for his dog care. One can only wonder if Martin can shoot past Robert Sorlie in the standings this year.

Keith Aili scratched today. "Veteran musher, Keith Aili, Ray Minnesota, made the decision to scratch today in Grayling, 604 miles into the race. Aili arrived in Grayling at 7:30 this morning and after resting throughout the day, made the decision to scratch this evening at 5:00. Aili stated that he hadn't had suffiencient training because of lack of snow in Minnesota and said he felt that continuing in the race would cause more injuries to his dogs."

Charlie Boulding also scratched because he did not have enough dogs to continue. According to the Iditarod Trail Committee Press Release, "Veteran musher, Charlie Boulding, Tanana, Alaska, made the decision to scratch today in Anvik, 622 miles into the race. Boulding arrived in Anvik at 11:01 this morning and made the decision to scratch this evening at 6:40. Boulding stated that he was down to nine dogs in his team and he felt it was in the best interest of those dogs that he not continue beyond Anvik." Other sources said the Charlie felt he had nothing to prove by continuing.

The following story is in Joe Runyan's excellent coverage on - "Driving 16 dogs out of Nenana, Bruce [Lee] stopped for a break early in the race. Successfully camped in a cove of trees, he noticed that his female wheel dog had chewed the tug lines of the other wheel dog. His wheel dog now wandering free, Bruce immediately panicked, knowing the dog was liable to retreat back to Nenana. That's bad, because Iditarod rules require that the musher travel with the full complement of dogs or face disqualification. Running to get back his puller, he glanced back, and noticed that his female had now chewed the tug lines of the next dogs and was working on the main towline. Instantly thinking that the cable would hold the dogs, he kept after his loose dog. The ultimate nightmare happened, 10 seconds later. He had one loose dog, and 14 dogs in harness going down the trail without a sled. His only dog was the female. Incredibly, Bruce recovered all the dogs, then tied them individually to trees while he reconstructed the tow line." Sort of reminds us of Bill's story last year when 14 of his dogs headed up the other side of Happy River Gorge toward Rainy Pass leaving him with only his two wheel dogs, Lookout and Smoke, to pull a heavily loaded sled uphill. Twelve miles later, Bill too caught up with the 14, who were said to be running in perfect stride, only without a sled behind them. At least this year's trail did not include the Steps, the Gorge, the Burn or the Pass!!




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