I'm afraid we all missed the most exciting checkpoint of the race last night, I haven't seen any reports out of Elim, and the race just happened there. The trail is brutally slow, with teams averaging five mph, which is usually so close to a stop that we don't consider it moving. At first, it was hard to tell whether it was the trail or tired teams, but looking at all the new arrivals to Koyuk shows those better-rested teams going the same speed or slower.
Trudging favors certain teams, mushers, and towline systems. Dallas and Jessie Royer are the best athletes of the group, and they're running/ski-poling now. Aaron is wishing he quit smoking. Mitch is wishing he was 20 years younger, and Aliy is at the biggest disadvantage with her towline system.
For those of you who don't know, Mitch and Jeff King both developed new towline systems around the year 2004. Mitch's system involves spreader bars, doubletrees, and strongly resembles a horse or oxen hitch. Jeff's setup involved a 'half harness' similar to what you'd buy at Petco to walk your dog. Mitch's maximizes power, Jeff's minimizes power. On trails like 2014 where its hard, fast, and icy, Jeff's system was ideal. On trails where teams are going 5 mph, Mitch's system is ideal. Mitch, Dallas, Jessie, and, ironically, Jeff King are all using spreaders. Jeff recognized pre-race what the trail would be like, and was visibly changing towline at the starting line. Aaron has the old system, and Aliy is using Jeff King's system.
Dallas has continued to expand his lead, running over a minute/mile faster than Mitch. He got a full three hour rest in Elim, and left before Aaron arrived, which is an emotional advantage. Believe Dallas was looking at the trackers on the coms computer in Elim.
Mitch and Aaron are slugging it out for second. I almost laughed as I wrote that. They're good friends, and have to appreciate the irony of racing at 5mph. They're probably joking and sharing trail snacks and trying to stay awake. BTW mom, Mitch's out time from Elim is wrong, he left 20 minutes BEHIND Aaron, he's doing fine:).
Jessie has Aliy beat as long as the trail stays slow, and would like to catch Mitch and Aaron. Aliy, as I said, is fighting an uphill battle here. A trail change would change the dynamics, but doesn't look imminent.
I took this photo of Jeff King's wheel dogs in Fairbanks