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| Notes from the Trail||Fri, Mar. 7th, 2008   |
Heather and the Hardcore Team continue to rest in McGrath. She should depart there for the next checkpoint in Takotna around 10 AM this morning AKST (2 PM EST). The run to Takotna and the next checkpoint in Ophir are rather short at 18 and 25 miles respectively.
Heather has not yet called so nothing new there. We expect that after initially getting to McGrath she had to feed her dogs and bed them down. She probably took time to swap out her sleds. We suspect she ate a good hot meal and possibly got a nice hot shower and then has gone to sleep. Hopefully we’ll hear from her when she wakes up before she leaves. She’ll probably feed her dogs a couple of hours before she departs.
The warm weather continues to take its toll on this year’s race. The temperature in Cripple yesterday rose to the mid to upper 40’s! As of 2 AM AKST in McGrath the temperature was still a balmy 24 degrees.
For the dogs and mushers of the Iditarod, this weather is not a welcome. Unlike most sensible human beings, mushers prefer COLD weather. The reason is simple—the dogs run best at temperatures around –20 to +10oF. Anything warmer than that and the dogs start to get a bit hot while running—kind of like a human getting hot when hiking or jogging with the temperature in the high 80’s.
When the temperatures climb above 15 or 20 degrees, especially with the sun out, mushers must consider changing their running strategies to account for the warm weather. The most preferred strategic change is to rest during the “heat” of the day and run during the cooler parts of the evening, night, and morning. Many mushers will likely opt to go as slow as possible to help keep the dogs cool. In addition, many mushers will take several short (about 5 minute) rest stops at shady places along the trail to allow the dogs to cool down and eat some snow (a common thing that sled dogs do for a “drink” of water while running.
We’ve learned from Hardcore Dog Handler, Heather High in Talkeetna, Alaska that one of the two additional dogs dropped from the race this year was Tweaty. High was not aware of why Tweaty was dropped. She was waiting for the second dog to arrive in Anchorage so she can pick them both up at the same time. We’ll update the information as soon as it becomes available. High speculated that because Tweaty is a smaller female and the trail is soft which makes pulling a bit more difficult for the smaller dogs, she may have a sore wrist.
We have received a lot more messages of support for Heather and plan on posting more of them soon so stay tuned. Keep them coming if you want. We’ll continue to post them from time to time so everyone can see the breath of support she and the Hardcore Tem have from all over the country. Also, even if she can’t access the internet and see them during the race, Heather will definitely read them when she arrives in Nome!
| Hey Heather!!! We All Wish You Well!||Thu, Mar. 6th, 2008   |
The support shown for Heather and the Hardcore Team is a bit overwhelming! As a young musher racing in only her second Iditarod, it is somewhat surprising the number of e-mails being received that offer well wishes to Heather and her Team. From coast to coast, and even from across the bid pond in England, the Hardcore Team is receiving messages wishing Heather and the team the best.
With Heather taking her 24 hour rest in McGrath coupled with the fact there is internet service there, we thought we put together some of the messages into a single post in case that Heather has the opportunity to log-onto her site. So, here is just a sampling of what we have received thus far:
Huge good luck wishes for Heather and the Team, so cool she is running! We`ll be looking out for her and rooting her on from here in the UK! Go Heather Go! Have a great race and hope everyone gets to Nome happy and healthy!
Matt and Ems and the furry ones at team Tanglefoot in England UK
Best of luck this coming week.
Just wanted to wish you good luck from Colorado.
Kick some ass out there. I`ll be thinking about you. Much love and many positive vibrations,
Cheers to you Heather! I will be cheering for you for the coming days that your run will be smooth and less time than last year. I am bragging everywhere I go that I know you and that you are in the race.
Best Wishes for a speedy and safe race!
Mary Mitchell, Bismarck, ND
I`ll be praying for Heather, as I know how excited she must be.
Lois Jane, Hedgesville, West Virginia
Good luck, Heather, you rock!!!
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
Good luck Heather. We`ll be praying for you.
Will be rooting, and praying, for a safe, happy and successful trip.
Jeanne, West Virginia
Good luck Heather! We Love You.
Your Cousins, Victoria & Matilda Covington, Colorado
Hi. I’m eleven years old. My parents met you at the West Rib fund raiser in August. I want to wish you good luck. Tell the dogs I said “Hi.” You signed a photo for me and a shirt. I will be watching you.
Craig, Talkeetna, Alaska
We are hoping that all our prayers for Heather are answered.
Genie and Tom Tobin, Martinsburg, West Virginia
Keep up the great work Heather! We believe in you!
The Gardina Family
HI heather good luck on the way to McGrath. We’re proud of you keep up the good work.
I get goose bumps hearing about how wonderful she is doing this year! There are many people there with her in spirit! Please tell her we are praying for her!!!!!
Jenny Wanderscheid, Colorado
The 5th Grade students at the Fort Lincoln School in Mandan, North Dakota, want to support Heather in her 2nd Iditarod endeavor. We had a bake sale and raised $260! She had visited our school following her 1st race so the students are excited to see her race again. In fact all of thestudents at Ft. Lincoln School are rooting for you!
Tammy Kelly, Mrs. Wolski and Mrs Okerson, 5th Grade Teachers, Mandan, ND
When you talk to Heather, let her know that ND is rooting for her.
Linda Simmons, North Dakota
Hey cuz, just wanted to wish you luck. keep up the pace and i`m proud of my cousin.
Dena Klett, Oklahoma City
This is just a small sampling of the many e-mails we’ve received thus far. If you want to send Heather a message of support, please send it to email@example.com. Who knows, we may post more as the race goes on. Because of the sheer number of e-mails received, Heather may not be able answer all of them personally. But we at the hardcore Team can assure each of you all that Heather will certainly read each and everyone of them.
Thanks for your support of Heather and the entire Hardcore Team!
| Resting in McGrath for 24 hours||Thu, Mar. 6th, 2008   |
Heather and the Hardcore Team rolled into McGrath at 8:32 AM AKST this morning (12:32 PM EDT). It took 8 hours 56 minutes to make the 54 mile run from Nikolai. She and the dogs have now completed 401 miles with 721 more to go to get to Nome. We ex[pect Heather and the Team will now take their mandatory 24 hour rest.
Heather is still about 36 hours ahead of last years pace. She is being shown in 75th position out of the 91 mushers left in the race. While race records show defending champion Lance Mackey is a little over 40 miles ahead of Heather, as he arrived at the Ophir checkpoint a short while ago, that is a bit deceiving. Mackey has finished his 24 hour rest that Heather and her Team is just starting.
Now that mushers are beginning to take their 24 hour break, the staggered times from the race start will be adjusted so that everyone will be on an even field and their true position in the race will become clear. For example, the musher who left last from the starting line will only need to take a 24 hour break. Heather, who left in the middle of the pack, will take a 25 hour and 40 minute break. Defending champion Lance Mackey, who was sixth off the starting line, will have to wait 27 hour and 2 minutes before leaving.
By Iditarod standards, the McGrath checkpoint is pure luxury. That is why it has become a favorite for 24-hour stops in the past few years since the checkpoint has been moved to a house away from the airport. It can still get hectic if you’re in the front of the pack because this 500-person town is a major hub and the media stages out of here for the middle part of the race. Since Heather is more toward the middle of the pack, Heather and her team should be able to get plenty of rest.
As was said in an earlier post, McGrath has several advantages for a 24-hour layover. One of the nicest is a diesel-fired steam kettle outside the checkpoint that provides all the near-boiling water you could ever want. There are a couple of well-stocked stores where you can grab stuff you may have forgotten (or get some hardware and duct tape to fix your sled, if you didn’t have a replacement sled shipped here). The people of McGrath help to staff the checkpoint and there is usually a full-time cook in the kitchen who will whip up whatever you want before you crash in the sleeping room. There is also a coin-operated shower in the laundromat in the municipal building if your dogs are starting to think you’re one of them.
Hopefully after feeding the dogs and grabbing a hot mean and shower, Heather will call the Hardcore Headquarters and let us know how she is doing and what we can expect now that the toughest part of the trail is behind her. We’ll keep you posted.
Finally, Heather, like many other mushers also shipped a replacement sled here because McGrath is served by a major air freight airline and the cost is very cheap. Her swapped-out sled will easily be shipped back from McGrath to Anchorage where she will claim it before returning to her home in Talkeetna. Her replacement sled is lighter which should help her speeds from here to Nome.
When Heather leaves McGrath, the next two runs are short, 18 miles to Takotna and then 25 to Ophir. Just outside of Ophir is where the route changes from last year as Heather will turn north toward the checkpoint at Cripple.
| Bismarck Tribune Covers Iditarod 36||Thu, Mar. 6th, 2008   |
Bismarck native`s Iditarod sled loses 3 dogs
By VIRGINIA GRANTIER
"Shadow" has a sore back, so he`s out.
And two other dogs are no longer running, for reasons not yet explained.
So the 16-dog team that Heather Siirtola, 30, started out with is now down to 13 dogs in the Iditarod Race that started Sunday in Willow, Alaska, north of Anchorage, said her dad, Jim Siirtola of Bismarck on Wednesday.
To read the rest of the story CLICK HERE.
| Onto McGaath for a 24 Hour Rest?||Thu, Mar. 6th, 2008   |
With 13 members of the Hardcore Team still intact, Heather and the Team took off from Nickolai at 11:36 PM AKST (3:36 AM EST on Thursday March 6). They are headed for McGrath which is 54 miles down the trail. It is in McGrath that we believe Heather will take her mandatory 24 hour rest. She also has another, lighter sled waiting for her there.
The trail to McGrath is a fairly easy (but sometimes deceptive) stretch which always seems to be longer than it is, mainly because it is often so boring and there are so many seemingly identical lakes and river bends. The trail cuts cross-country southwest from Nikolai toward McGrath, running along a series of lakes and swamps interspersed with wooded stretches to Big River. It then runs west down Big River for a few miles to the Kuskokwim River, then down the Kuskokwim to McGrath, with several shortcuts across the bigger oxbow bends. This run normally takes four and a half to seven hours. It is usually a good stretch to do at night when the dogs will go faster.
The trail leaves Nikolai on a village street. Once on the overland section, the trail is generally straight and fast, running mostly across lakes with occasional cuts through the trees. This is also the main snowmachine trail between Nikolai and McGrath and it is usually easy to follow. Because she is traveling at night Heather should be able to see the light at the Air Force radar station atop Tatalina Mountain, 15 miles southwest of McGrath. The biggest lake she’ll cross is Guitar Lake, about nine or ten miles out of Nikolai. It’s almost two miles wide and is about halfway to Big River, which is the end of the overland section.
When Heather reaches Big River, she’ll be halfway to McGrath, about 23 miles to go. The trail turns right (west) down the river, coming to the Kuskokwim in 4 miles; the river trail is usually hard and fast. For the rest of the way into McGrath she will see the Kuskokwim Mountains (actually big hills) rising on her right. The river flows generally along the southeast edge of the hills on the way to McGrath.
Just after she gets onto the Kuskokwim Heather might see the old Big River Roadhouse, one of the original stops on the Iditarod, up on the right bank.
After another seven miles running down the river, the trail will climb sharply up the right bank to a cabin. Heather is now 13 miles from McGrath and at the upper end of Stewart Bend, a huge oxbow looping to the south. The Hardcore Team will then across the bend by running along a back slough for a bit and then lurching almost vertically up and over a hundred-foot wooded ridge (very steep up, not quite so bad coming down the other side). Then she’ll come out on a curving slough that will arc you back to the left (south) for a mile or so, where Heather will rejoin the main river.
After the Stewart Bend cutoff, the trail runs southwest along the river for another three miles, then jumps up the left bank again, this time for a four-mile shortcut across another big oxbow sweeping off to the north. This shortcut runs across swamps and sloughs and across beaver dams and up narrow twisting trenchlike creek channels and through the woods. It has some very interesting stretches.
When she re-enters the river, she’ll be one big bend and about five miles away from McGrath. Since she is traveling at night she’ll probably see a red light on a radio tower. This means she is still one more big swing to the north before make the final run south toward McGrath. By now the Hardcore Team is probably bored out of their mind and are hoping they never see another big river bend—sorry, they still have 150 miles on the Yukon after gets to Ruby. Dogs get bored in open areas like rivers because they can see a long way ahead. They prefer to run through winding forested areas where they will run faster just to see what is around the next turn.
When the river starts to bend back to the northwest, McGrath should appear on the left bank. The trail will be well marked to swing the Hardcore Team across the river to the checkpoint, which is right on top of the 20-foot-high bank. The parking area can get a bit crowded, so mushers should let the checkers know immediately whether you’re planning to take your 24-hour layover here so they can park you out of the busy “transient” area.
McGrath has become a favorite for 24-hour stops in the past few years since the checkpoint has been moved to a house away from the airport. McGrath has several advantages for a 24-hour layover. One of the nicest is a diesel-fired steam kettle outside the checkpoint that provides all the near-boiling water you could ever want. There are a couple of well-stocked stores where you can grab stuff you may have forgotten, switch to a replacement sled shipped here, which Heather will do. The people of McGrath help to staff the checkpoint and there is usually a full-time cook in the kitchen who will whip up whatever you want before you crash in the sleeping room. There is also a coin-operated shower in the laundromat in the municipal building if your dogs are starting to think you’re one of them
The original Iditarod continued more or less directly from the Salmon River crossing to Big River Roadhouse. For the short stretch down Big River to the Kuskokwim, you’re almost on the old-time trail. From the roadhouse, the original trail stayed overland on the north side of the river and bypassed McGrath, which was then located on the north side of the river—it only moved to its present location when the Army Air Force built an air base there in 1940. The old trail eventually ended up in Takotna. If you get to McGrath and want to learn more, the Bureau of Land Management has an office in McGrath just a couple of buildings down from the checkpoint. They’ve got lots of information on the trail.