New Route Makes Some Mushers Feel Like Rookies

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This year’s race reroute has left even the most seasoned of Iditarod mushers feeling like rookies. Race leaders won’t start to appear until after teams complete their mandatory layovers and make up their start time differentials. Many mushers are still surprised at where they’re finding themselves in the standings.

When he arrived in Ruby, Aaron Burmeister had no idea he was near the front of the pack.

“At no checkpoints we’ve been in have we had any idea where we are.. there have been no data, no information available for where we are. I was just taking care of my dogs and tending to things and came in here in third place and was like ‘wow, what in the world?’ I figured I’d be in 20th.”

Burmeister isn’t the only musher who has been surprised about where his team is in the standings.

“I am very surprised at where I am definitely.”

That’s Wade Marrs.  The 24 year old has finished three Iditarods.

“I thought I’d have a lot more catching up to do if I wanted to get in the top ten. Well, right now we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and keep things together and we should be able to pull it off.”

For Paige Drobny, it came as a surprise that she arrived in Galena in 24th place. She says she’s had more rest this year, in comparison to her previous two races.

“The last two years, I felt like I had been pretty on top of things, like running and resting quickly and I was in like 40th place.  I couldn’t believe there were doing it faster than what I was doing.”

This year, no one is running a traditional race plan, because they aren’t travelling a traditional trail. So even for seasoned veterans like 14-time finisher Ken Anderson, it’s not entirely clear even for veterans like Ken Anderson exactly how their teams are performing.

“I’ve run Iditarod so many times you’re like ‘ok the dogs are going to look like this at this checkpoint,’ and you’re just ready for it.”

A third of the way into the race, Anderson wanted his dogs too look the way he’d expect them to look in Takotna, had he been running the normal southern route.

“Come to think of it, they look better, yeah I just realized that!”

Standings will remain something of a mystery until mushers complete both their mandatory eight and 24-hour layovers and make up their time differential from the start. A trail report from race officials warns mushers of a “long, cold slog” along the rerouted trail to Huslia and beyond to Koyukuk.  Perhaps, mushers may find bliss running in subzero temperatures, if they remain somewhat ignorant about the new trail and where they’re running amid the pack.