UPDATE 7:15 p.m. Thursday:
From Beth Bragg
Martin Buser is in Ruby, and as long as he doesn't stay for more than 12 hours, he will leapfrog past Jeff King and Sonny Lindner.
Buser arrived at 6:44 p.m. King and Lindner arrived about 12 hours earlier and are taking their 24-hour mandatory layovers there.
King's layover ends at 6:41 a.m. Friday, but then he has to make up the stagger from the race's two-minute-interval start. He started 16th among 70 mushers, so another 106 minutes will be added to his layover time -- putting him out of Ruby at 8:27 a.m. Friday.
Lindner's layover ends at 7:41 a.m. Friday, and he doesn't have to add time to his layover because he was the last musher to leave the start line. So he can leave right at 7:41.
Buser has already taken his 24-hour break. He can leave Ruby whenever he wants.
UPDATE 3:30 p.m. Thursday:
From Beth Bragg
It's that time in the Iditarod when fans must do a little math in order to determine who's winning the race.
Jeff King and Sonny Lindner are the mushers closest to Nome. They're hanging out in Ruby, at least one of them with a full stomach (King won the gourmet meal awarded to the first musher who reaches that Yukon River checkpoint).
Four or five hours behind them is Martin Buser, who mathematically appears to be in the lead. Here's why:
Buser left Cripple at 8:25 a.m. Thursday. King and Lindner made the run from there to Ruby in 10 to 10 and a half hours, so if Buser runs a similar pace, he should reach Ruby around 7 p.m. Thursday.
If King and Lindner decide to take their mandatory 24-hour layover in Ruby (according to Iditarod.com's Joe Runyan, King has decided to take his break there), they won't be able to leave until Friday morning -- King can't leave earlier than 6:41 a.m. and Lindner can't leave earlier than 7:41 a.m.
Buser has already taken his 24-hour rest. He is sure to rest his team for a few hours in Ruby, but unless he stays 12 hours -- which is highly unlikely, barring injury or illness -- he will leave the checkpoint hours before King and Lindner. How many hours depends on how long he rests there.
Also on the way to Ruby are Aliy Zirkle and Robert Sorlie. Zirkle left Cripple at 11:56 a.m. and Sorlie left at 12:15 p.m. Both have completed their mandatory 24s.
Aaron Burmeister, John Baker and Paul Gebhardt remain in Cripple and appear to be doing their 24s there. Runyan said Burmeister is still nursing an injured knee.
Here's another thing for race fans to ponder: Sorlie, the two-time champion from Norway, appears to have some serious speed on his team.
He had the fastest time by far on the run from Ophir to Cripple -- 8 hours, 9 minutes. That time is more than an hour faster than King's run-time of 9:15. The third and fourth fastest times on that stretch, at least so far belong to Buser (9:46) and Kelly Maixner (9:56).
Sorlie's time was so fast, according to Iditarod.com, that officials who handle race standings hesitated before posting it, thinking it must be wrong.
UPDATE 8:30 a.m. Thursday:
From Kevin Klott
The good news for Sonny Lindner is that his team is 70 miles up the trail from the third-place musher. The bad news is that he is second behind Jeff King, who beat Lindner to the Yukon River village of Ruby.
For reaching the Yukon first, King won $3,500 in cash as well as a five-course meal prepared by an executive chef at the Millennium Alaskan Hotel in Anchorage. The meal included king crab, mussels, sablefish, fried oysters, sockeye salmon and smoked spotted shrimp -- and, of course, wine and champagne.
It is King's fifth first-to-the-Yukon award, which ties Big Lake's Martin Buser for the most in Iditarod history. King pulled into Ruby at 6:41 a.m., while Lindner arrived an hour later. Both arrived with 14 dogs in harness.
UPDATE 6:30 a.m. Thursday:
From Kevin Klott
Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King is cruising toward the Yukon River this morning with breakfast on his mind.
Soon, the 58-year-old Denali Park musher will pull into Ruby, the first village Iditarod mushers visit along Alaska's longest river, and feast on a seven-course meal while sitting next to his second award for getting there first: a bucket full of $3,500 in cold, hard cash.
This, of course, is assuming that Sonny Lindner of Two Rivers doesn't catch him.
King and Lindner have been leading this 1,000-mile race, which started Sunday in Willow, since they each checked out of the tent community of Cripple on Wednesday night. King left at 8:30 p.m. and Lindner took off 39 minutes later.
About eight miles separate the two, according to GPS trackers. In previous years, each GPS tracker included a report of the temperature along the trail -- apparently not this year. According to Iditarod Insider reports in Cripple, the temperature has absolutely plummeted in the last 24 hours.
On Wednesday night, race judge Jim Gallea announced a 30-degree temperature change since the start of his day in Cripple, a temporary checkpoint of wall tents and Arctic Ovens nestled in the heart of Alaska's wildest country. At the time of Gallea's announcement, the temperature was minus 18 and still dropping. Others at the checkpoint predicted it would continue to plummet, perhaps to minus 30 or even minus 40.
When King and Lindner arrive in Ruby this morning, it is expected they will stay put and declare their 24-hour layovers. Going this far into the race without serving that mandatory break bucks recent trends. The majority of mushers utilize the layover anywhere between McGrath and Ophir.
According to race archives, the farthest King raced before using his 24 layover was to Unalakleet back in 2003. Race rules say mushers can use it anywhere along the trail.
Whether this strategy works remains to be seen. Behind him is a slew of mushers who have already finished their layovers, including fellow four-time winner Martin Buser, who mathematically is regarded as the true race leader. The Big Lake musher has been resting in Cripple since 3:46 this morning.
Anchorage Daily News / ADN.com