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In Unalakleet: Jeff King and Hans Gatt

Lance Mackey may currently be in first position, but he has two solid competitors in close pursuit: Jeff King and Hans Gatt. King and Gatt both rested in the Unalakleet checkpoint on Sunday morning, and our trail reporter Laureli surveyed their impressions of their runs thus far.

King says that he likes Mackey – but also that he wants to “catch that rascal.” King discussed the differences between his run/rest strategy and Mackey’s; he also commented on his difficult run to the Tripod Flats cabin (a common resting place 35 miles up the trail from Kaltag, on the way to Unalakleet). King is a a four-time Iditarod champion and still wants to make it five in Iditarod 2010, which he hopes will be “a race to remember”:

Supporting Jeff King in Unalakleet was King’s friend Rod Keft. Keft is a nature photographer from Anchorage who’s made a habit of coming to Western Alaska to observe King’s run in the Iditarod. Keft talked with Laureli about his admiration for King, as well as the musher’s race mentality:

Laureli also spoke with Hans Gatt in Unalakleet; he discussed the rough trail after Kaltag (including the rough run to Tripod), the tradeoff between fast runs and longer rest periods, and his take on Lance Mackey’s long, “crazy” run from Nulato to Unalakleet:

At the time of writing, Jeff King is in 2nd position; he left Shaktoolik at exactly 8:00pm Sunday evening with 13 dogs. Hans Gatt is in 3rd position; he left Shaktoolik with 12 dogs at 9:25pm. Unofficial GPS tracking suggests that Lance Mackey, Jeff King and Hans Gatt are holding their respective positions (1st, 2nd, 3rd) on their run to Koyuk.