THURSDAY, 5:30 p.m. -- Someone in the Lanier family is going to be happy. We just don't know who yet.
Jim Lanier, who held off the freight train that is Mitch Seavey on Wednesday afternoon to collect $3,000 in gold nuggets as the first musher to reach the race's halfway point in Cripple, said he knows what he wants to spend the money on.
A new lead dog.
But, he said, the gold just as likely to wind up hanging from his wife's neck.
Listening to Lanier talk about plans for the money was Trent Herbst, who was third into Cripple this year after winning the GCI Dorothy Page halfway award last year.
Herbst said he hung onto the nuggets, and he's glad he did. The price of gold has soared in the last year.
(Bonus trivia: Lanier's wife is Anna Bondarenko, who in 2000 became the first Russian to finish an Iditarod.)
* * *
Lanier, 71, grabbed the money Thursday afternoon, despite squandering much of the 4-hour, 27-minute headstart he had on Seavey.
Lanier reached Cripple at 1:55 p.m. Seavey arrived at 2:16 p.m.
Seavey closed a huge gap on Lanier by making the run from Ophir in 10 hours, 24 minutes to Lanier's 14:30. He was driving a team of fresh dogs, while Lanier's team is not as fresh.
Lanier pushed through to Cripple without stopping for a 24-hour mandatory layover. Seavey did his 24 hours in Takotna.
* * *
THURSDAY, 6 a.m. UPDATE -- Lots to report as the fifth day of racing begins -- a run for the money, a dwindling Mackey team, a battle for the lead between Aliy Zirkle and the Seaveys and the race's first scratch.
First, the scratch.
Silvia Furtwangler of Norway pulled the plug on her race Wednesday night in Nikolai, citing concern for her health, according to a report from Iditarod officials.
Furtwangler, a rookie from Rauland, had 13 dogs in her team when she scratched at 9:17 p.m., marking the end of what had been a remarkable run for mushers in this year's race. All 66 teams made it to Nikolai, about 260 miles into the 975-mile race.
At the front of that pack is Chugiak's Jim Lanier, 71, although he is the race leader in name only.
Lanier left Ophir at 11:25 p.m. Wednesday with 13 dogs in harness. Seventy minutes later, at 12:35 a.m. Thursday, Anchorage's Trent Herbst, running 15 dogs, followed.
Cripple is 73 miles away, and waiting at the old mining town is $3,000, which will be awarded to the first musher to reach the race's halfway point.
They're the real leaders because they've all taken their mandatory 24-hour layovers. Lanier and Herbst have not.
Seavey left Ophir at 3:52 a.m. Thursday. Close behind were Zirkle (4:01 a.m.) and Dallas (4:13 a.m.).
At 4:51 a.m., Jeff King hit the trail, followed by John Baker (5:09 a.m.) and Sonny Lindner (5:41 a.m.). King and Baker each have 14 dogs; the others have 15.
Here are the numbers that really count -- run times for the 23-mile stretch to Ophir from Takotna, where the six frontrunners were driving fresh teams coming off 24-hour layovers:
King was the fastest in 2 hours, 30 minutes. Mitch did it in 2:33, Dallas did it in 2:40, Zirkle in 2:41, Lindner in 2:44 and Baker in 3:06.
Meanwhile, Lance Mackey joined those who are in and out of Ophir. He's in 11th place, about 3.5 hours behind Mitch Seavey.
Mackey, who took his layover in McGrath, the checkpoint before Takotna, stopped in Ophir for 11 minutes before leaving at 6:28 a.m. Thursday.
He left a dog behind at the checkpoint and is running with 12 dogs in harness. Hugh Neff, who left Ophir in 12th place at 6:44 a.m. Thursday, is the only other musher out of Ophir who is down to 12 dogs.
Thirteen mushers are on their way to Cripple. All but Lanier and Herbst have taken their layovers.
Martin Buser and son Rohn are doing their 24 hours in Ophir and are due to depart around 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
By then, another dozen or so mushers who did their layovers in Takotna and are currently on the trail to Ophir will have pushed ahead of them. Included in that group are Rick Swenson and DeeDee Jonrowe.
* * *