WEDNESDAY, 5:45 p.m. update -- We started crunching the numbers to figure out who truly will be the Iditarod leader tonight when the lead pack pours out of Takotna.
Got halfway through the arithmetic when we discovered Josh Rogers at iditablog.com already had the problem solved.
(Why is it an arithmetic problem? Because when mushers take their 24-hour layover, departure times are adjusted to even the playing field. If you remember, mushers left the start line in two-minute intervals, meaning that even before mushing a single mile to Nome, Ryan Redington -- the last of 66 mushers to start -- trailed Ray Redington Jr. -- the first musher to start -- by 2 hours, 12 minutes. Those gaps are eliminated when mushers take their 24 hours.)
So, with a nod to Josh and the iditablog, here's the scoop:
Mitch Seavey will be the first musher to leave Takotna about an hour after midnight.
He is scheduled to depart at 1:13 a.m., three minutes ahead of Aliy Zirkle, who has been at the front of the race since Monday.
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WEDNESDAY, 4:45 p.m. update -- With most mushers taking their mandatory 24-hour layovers back in Takotna, it appears Martin Buser and son Rohn pushed the pause button in Ophir, 23 miles closer to Nome.
Martin, a four-time champion, reached Ophir at 12:19 p.m. Wednesday. Rohn, his 22-year-old son, arrived at 1:34 p.m.
The official standings show they are still in Ophir, which could indicate Team Buser is bedding down for the night.
Two other teams have so far resisted the lure of Takotna -- famous for its homemade pies and hospitality -- and pushed on to Ophir.
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WEDNESDAY, 11 a.m. update -- The Buser boys made things interesting Wednesday morning in Takotna.
Martin arrived at 8:31 a.m. and left one minute later, a move that gives him the Iditarod lead.
But it comes with a big fat asterisk.
Martin reached Takotna nine hours after Aliy Zirkle did. In fact, 30 mushers reached the checkpoint before Martin and Rohn did.
Rohn arrived at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday but like his dad, he was gone within a minute and on his way to Ophir.
Those who arrived in Takotna before the Busers appear to be taking their 24-hour layovers there; Zirkle has been there for almost 12 hours now.
The Busers still need to take their 24-hour layovers, so their status as race leaders doesn't mean much.
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WEDNESDAY, 8 a.m. update -- Lance Mackey arrived in McGrath late Tuesday night with two dogs in his basket and put his race on pause there rather than chase the lead pack into Takotna.
The four-time champion told Iditarod Insider that he'd take his 24-hour layover at the checkpoint, a choice none of the other frontrunners made.
"I race my team first and my competition second," he said. "I've always said I'm not gonna win the Iditarod at the expense of my team."
Most everyone else who has made it to McGrath has kept going another 18 miles to Takotna, where everyone appears to be settling into their 24-hour breaks.
Mackey, who had been running with the pack pursuing Zirkle, reached McGrath at 11:19 p.m. Tuesday.
If Mackey and Zirkle both complete their mandatory 24-hour layovers now, they'd be free to resume racing at roughly the same time Wednesday night, with Zirkle 18 miles ahead of Mackey.
Zirkle had two dogs in her basket when she arrived in Takotna.
All 66 mushers remain in the race. Besides the 27 in Takotna, three on the trail to Takota, eight are in McGrath, 13 are on the trail to McGrath, seven are in Nikolai, five are on the trail to Nikolai and three remain in Rohn.
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WEDNESDAY 6:30 a.m. update -- With the frontrunners settling in for what appears to be 24 hours of rest in Takotna, Aliy Zirkle continues to lead the Iditarod despite impressive runs by two of the Seaveys.
Zirkle reached Takotna at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Mushers no longer have to declare their intentions when beginning their mandatory 24-hour layover. But it's a good guess Zirkle and company are in Takotna for the day.
Lance Mackey, meanwhile, has been in Nikolai since 11:19 p.m. Tuesday, according to race standings. It could be that he's taking his layover there.
Zirkle, the leader since Monday, made the 18-mile run from Nikolai to Takotna in 2 hours, 54 minutes. Baker clocked 2:57.
Mitch Seavey, the 2004 champion, ran a swift 2:41 to catch Baker. King made it in 2:44.
But it was Dallas Seavey, son of Mitch and the 2011 Yukon Quest champion, who really motored. He made the run in 2:24, gaining a half-hour on Zirkle.
Of the five frontrunners, Zirkle and Mitch Seavey are the only ones running full teams of 16 dogs, although Zirkle arrived with one in her basket. King and Dallas Seavey have 15 and Baker 14.