For those of you who haven't received my emails. I thought I would post a quick update on Tamara's blog. Including a picture of her after she lost her contacts and was forced to mush with her glasses when it was 25 below. This picture was taken when she came into Nikolai.
Tamara is doing great. Right now she is in Kaltag ending an 8 hour break before she heads out to Unalakleet. This is a very long run which is taking most mushers anywhere between 10-18 hours. She will have to stop for a rest somewhere along the way. The coastal runs are known for extremely high winds and cold making the mushers journey pretty tough. So, a good rest before this section is essential. Her run times are faster than she had predicted however, she has decided to slow down her pace a bit and take longer rests at checkpoints. She is feeling like her dogs need longer rests than she had originally planned. She is determined to reach Nome with a good healthy, strong and motivated team. So, if you notice her times being longer this is why.
If you are watching the Iditarod website and have access to the "insider" portion there is a great video of her coming into Galena. She talks about the cold.
Tamara has some dogs which are a little gimpy but for the most part they seem injury free, just tired. She dropped Weaselly back in Ruby due to a sore leg. So, she is down to 11 dogs. Unfortunately, she has had to drop all of her good leaders. Now she is just trying to rotate dogs through lead position who are willing to take that role for bits of time. Some of the dogs will, but not for extended periods of time.
For those of you who aren't in the know about mushing, the lead dogs are critical to a dog team moving forward. Without a dog or two who is willing to lead, the team will not go far. Lead dogs are a special bunch, basic leaders are able to learn commands like Gee and Haw (left/right), they are able to take the stress of having 14 dogs behind them and most importantly they are the cheerleaders of the team. The team follows the leaders spirits and direction, good leaders can raise the attitude of an entire team and get them to get up and go in some of the worst conditions. Many dogs don't like the pressure of the lead position. Also, many sled dogs don't have the attention to be a lead dog. A lot of sled dogs will turn around and go back towards the musher pulling the entire team with them, or they may goof off with the dog next to them and get the team in a big tangle, or decide to go hunting for grouse and rabbits. Some sled dogs are to social and want say "hi" to their neighbor or passing teams. A good lead dog will line out the team, stay focused on moving forward and following the mushers commands no matter what. They will never look back or goof around, and be able to take subtle directional commands like "Gee over". The best lead dogs are the ones who really "dig" this role..and get into figuring out what the musher wants.
Now she is running on the Yukon which is notoriuos for being windy and cold. She did mention that she is switching out her parka now to an even bigger one that should keep her warm on this very cold section.
Being a foody I always ask about the food on the trail. We had heard that The Iditarod is known for having some really good food available for the mushers at the checkpoints. Meals which the locals get really into preparing. Pies in Tokatna, Steaks, etc. Apparently that means that if you get there with the leaders you're guaranteed a good meal. Poor Tamara is arriving at the checkpoints sometimes two days after the leaders, to find the same pot of stew which was fed to the top mushers as an accompaniment to a bigger meal two days ago. Doesn't sound like she has come across any fresh steaks or pies yet. Or maybe she just forgot to mention it :)
While she says the locals are all very sweet and thoughtful, she just can't bear the thought of getting sick, so, she is eating her own food which was prepared by a friend of ours. Calorie packed meals like extra cheesy steak and bacon burritos, pancakes and sausage, extra rich stroganaff. They are shrink wrapped in seal a meal packages which she can toss in the water she boils for the dogs. She's also drinking lots of bottled water and Gatorade which she shipped out to the check points for herself.
On a side note: I was at a potluck this weekend where I was offered seal oil and fish eggs. Definitely an acquired taste. I wanted to like it but honestly, I have never smelled any food quite like it. It's supposed to be really good for , I just couldn't get past the smell..who knows she might be so hungry by the time she gets to the coast she'll even be willing to eat seal oil and eggs....:)
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