The buzz around Fourth Avenue in Anchorage at the ceremonial start for this year’s Iditarod is that musher number 34 Paul Gebhardt would give Lance Mackey a run for his money.
Gebhardt’s dog truck was sitting right next to us at the staging area for the start, one that he shared with Kristy Berington (#7) and the talk amongst the passer-by’ers as well as a lot of the mushers was that Paul had a “real nice looking team.”
Of course anything can happen in the Iditarod right? Gebhardt pulled into the Nikolai checkpoint with three dogs in his sled and scratched later in the afternoon (March 8).
Paul is not the first musher this Iditarod to have what looks like a multitude of dog problems on the trail. It could be the heat. It could be the fast trail and it could be the rumors of a kennel cough virus that is making it’s way up the trail. Gebhart was down to eight dogs with more than 700 miles to Nome in the 1,049 miles race from Anchorage to Nome, and said he just didn’t have enough power to get him there.
Mushers are forced with the decision to scratch all the time in this sport. It is part of the game. Having the knowledge of when to do it is what makes a person a good dog driver. There is a delicate balance between a strong dog team and one that is on the cusp of myriad problems. Knowing what to look out for is what separates the men from the boys (so to speak). Continuing on with a team that is faltering will surely escalate the problems down the trail.
At Nikolai, veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe kissed Gebhardt on the head and said, “I am sorry. I am so sorry.”
Paul said, “I’m not.”
That is a testament to knowing when to fold ‘em…
Other mushers to scratch in this year’s Iditarod:
Melissa Owens (#12) scratched at Rainy Pass
Zoya DeNure (#9) scratched at Rainy Pass
Jessica Hendricks (#36) scratched at Nikolai
Bob Storey (#15) scratched at Rainy Pass
Gerry Willomitzer (#33) scratched at McGrath
Listen to our continuing coverage of Iditarod 2011 on Mush! You Huskies. The show is available on iTunes (search Dog Works Radio) or click Mushing Radio here.