The race was into Nikolai this morning, and Nome’s Aaron Burmeister arrived in first position at 8:11am, followed less than an hour later by Lance Mackey in second position. The two front runners are surprised not to find more teams into the checkpoint. Several were camped along the trail, getting extra rest before making the run to Nikolai.
Aaron Burmeister says he’s sticking to his planned schedule, and running his dogs to reserve their energy for what lies ahead in this long, 1000 mile race. Looking at the team in Nikolai, he’s feeling confident about their energy: “There’s a lot of juice left in them…they’re barking and ready to keep rolling. It’s my job to be able to harness that energy to be able to prolong it, and let it last the rest of the race, and keep them together.”
Looking down the trail, the group of mushers in Nikolai will be planning a stopping point for their mandatory 24-hour layover. Aaron wasn’t expecting to be in the lead at this point, and tells trail reporter Laureli Kinneen, “I don’t know what everybody else is doing, maybe people are having trouble with the heat that we’ve been traveling through.” Hear more about his plan for the race ahead:
Lance Mackey, second into Nikolai at 8:52 this morning, says that same heat is affecting his dogs’ appetite: “It’s warm…the stuff that they usually eat, they aren’t real interested in. The things that they want to eat doesn’t have a whole lotta fat in it…It’s hard to keep them well-rounded in warm weather.” He says he’s driving his team according to their ability, and was surprised to pass so many teams camped along this stretch of trail.
The team Mackey is racing this year is young, and not the team he was planning on racing in the 2013 Iditarod. During this year’s Yukon Quest, his team fell ill, causing him to scratch. Lance was forced to bring younger, less experienced dogs from his kennel to this year’s race. He seems laid back about the race this year, not anticipating to be battling for a top position. He was shocked to arrive second into Nikolai. He talks to KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen about his hopes for a decent finish, utilizing a little bit of strategy along the way: “If I can get twelfth with this puppy team, I will be ecstatic.”