I grabbed this shot of the checker's sign-in sheet while I was in Takotna, but the significance of it didn't really hit me until I looked more closely at it just now. Take a look and see if anything stands out for you:
That's right! Every musher on the page declared their "24" -- their mandatory 24-hour rest period -- in Takotna. Every other year that I know of, the leading mushers have taken their "24" in a variety of checkpoints. Since everybody takes the same amount of mandatory rest over the course of the Iditarod, where they take their "24" doesn't have any significance in terms of actual time. It often matters greatly, however, in terms of circumstances, because weather and trails can change so much over the course of a day.
For example, if a musher takes the "24" early while others go on by, he or she might later run into bad weather that the other mushers have avoided. Conversely, those mushers who "24" later may have had to slog through bad weather that clears for later racers. On top of these unknowns, it has always been very hard to figure out the leader board until everyone has taken their "24" and gotten in sync. Until then, a musher could be a day "ahead" but still be "behind"... ugh!
With everyone taking their "24" in Takotna this year, there will be few if any of these unknowns. All of the mushers are in the same "time zone" so to speak and will be facing the same circumstances. So, Takotna is sort of a "Re-Re-Start" for the 2009 Iditard, and it's now a straightforward, exciting dog race to the coast... and beyond!