Marrs leads race leaders to Ruby
First out of Tanana, first into Ruby.
Wade Marrs, who led a late-night exit from Tanana early Wednesday morning, led the Iditarod's lead pack into Ruby nearly 18 hours and 120 miles later.
Marrs, a 26-year-old from Willow, arrived at Yukon River checkpoint at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday with a full team of 16 dogs hitched to his sled.
He took most of the day to make the run, the longest stretch between checkpoints in this year's race. He stopped to rest his dogs at least once along the way and reached Ruby while it was still daylight.
Upon arrival, Marrs was presented with the Spirit of Alaska Award, sponsored by Pen-Air and given annually to the first musher to reach Ruby, the hometown of 1975 Iditarod champion Emmitt Peters, known by fans as the Yukon Fox. Marrs received a framed, limited-edition Jon Van Zyle print and a sun catcher.
Dallas Seavey, the defending champion who is seeking his fifth victory, was the second musher to reach Ruby. He was 46 minutes behind Marrs, arriving at 7:26 p.m.
Mitch Seavey, father of Dallas and a two-time champ, showed up at 8 p.m. in third place. Nicolas Petit arrived at 9:06 p.m., followed by Joar Ulsom at 9:27 p.m.
Marrs, Pete Kaiser and Dallas Seavey left Tanana in succession at 1:07 a.m. Wednesday. Several more top contenders soon joined them on the trail.
Marrs is a two-time top-10 finisher who claimed fourth place in last year's 1,000-mile run to Nome.
— Beth Bragg
May scratches in Tanana
Mark May, a 60-year-old from North Pole, scratched Wednesday night after reaching Tanana. He cited concern for his dog team, according to race officials.
May was the Rookie of the Year in 1998 when he placed 20th. This year's race marked his return to the Iditarod.
He's the second musher to drop out, which leaves 70 teams left in the race to Nome.
— Beth Bragg
Cold weather a challenge
As mushers make their way down the Tanana and Yukon rivers, the trail has been smooth, according to most reports. Not one of the top dozen mushers has dropped a single dog.
But what has been a challenge? Cold weather.
Temperatures in Interior Alaska have dipped to minus 30 and minus 40 at night during the first three days of the race. While that's resulted in some cute frosty-dog pictures, it has also meant adjustments in dog care. Making sure dogs are well hydrated and getting extra calories to stay warm are the biggest issues. And the mushers themselves must try to stay warm and free of frostbite.
But relief is coming. The temperature is expected to dip to minus 26 degrees tonight in the Ruby area, according to the National Weather Service, but that's likely the last deep cold mushers will see in this race.
Clouds are expected to move into the Interior on Thursday morning, bringing flurries and, more important, higher temperatures. Thursday's high in Ruby should be around 12 degrees. Friday may hit 20.
Big shifts between the day and night temperatures are a result of warm sunshine in the day, according to Fairbanks National Weather Service forecaster Dan Hancock. The clouds rolling in should act as a "blanket" of sorts, meaning a less dramatic shift in temperatures, according to Hancock.
That warmer shift is expected to last into early next week as mushers reach Alaska's western coast. Unalakleet is expected to see a high of 18 on Monday, with a low of minus 7 that evening — almost ideal temperatures for sled dog racing.
— Suzanna Caldwell
Leapfrog on the Yukon
It's day three of Iditarod 45, and guess what? It's looking like a game of leapfrog.
Defending champion Dallas Seavey led a pack of mushers down the Yukon River toward the checkpoint of Ruby overnight but was trailed closely by last year's fourth-place finisher, Wade Marrs. They appear to be running neck and neck, with trackers showing them flip-flopping the lead, depending on when the trackers update.
They were followed by a contingent of top contenders Wednesday morning, including two-time champion Mitch Seavey, Kuskokwim 300 champ Pete Kaiser and 2013 Iditarod Rookie of the Year Joar Leifseth Ulsom.
It looks like mushers were contending with another frigid morning, with temps in Tanana and Ruby hovering around minus 30. It will make for some cold camping as mushers run the 119 miles to Ruby, the longest stretch of trail between checkpoints.
Expect mushers to stop and rest their teams at least once or even twice as they make their way down the Yukon.
— Suzanna Caldwell