Part 2, Days 1-7 Summary

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"The Race—Day 1"

The Iditarod begins in Anchorage. The first time Paulsen participates in this incredibly arduous undertaking, he pulls the thirty-second spot, right in the middle of the seventy-team race. Paulsen's team of fifteen dogs are insane with anticipation as they wait for thirty-one teams to be sent out before them. Finally, they are on their way, only to have to repeat the process again a short time later: the start from Anchorage is a sham, staged for publicity. In reality, a freeway blocks the route to Nome; thirty miles out of town, the dogs are stopped and taken in trucks to Settler's Bay, where the race truly begins.

By the time Paulsen's team leaves the second starting point, it is close to dark, and "with darkness comes chaos." After running for a short time, the dogs suddenly stop; the lead dog has run into a moose on the trail, and the huge creature will not get out of the way. Chastised by the racers behind him, Paulsen tentatively kicks the moose in the flank, and to his surprise, the animal lumbers away. Paulsen continues on, but in the confusion, his dogs make a wrong turn, and go over forty miles in the wrong direction. The teams behind him follow, and when the mistake is discovered, all must turn around on the narrow trail, creating a situation of unqualified bedlam.

"The Race—Day 2"

Dawn of the second day is breathtakingly beautiful, and the dogs run magnificently. By the end of the day, Paulsen is exhausted, but the dogs will not sleep so he lets them continue on. Sleep deprivation causes him to hallucinate and he envisions flames spurting up between each dog's toes; naturally, when he stops to fix the imagined problem, he finds nothing. At one point during the interminable night, Paulsen becomes convinced that there is a man sitting in his sled; he engages in an altercation with the imaginary man. Finally, as daybreak nears, the dogs are ready to rest.

"The Race—Day 3"

Paulsen's team is slower than most, and he realizes that he will "be very lucky to finish the race, let alone do well. The dogs are healthy and eager, however, and the beautiful scenery around him lifts his spirits. Paulsen experiences a sense of euphoria, "like becoming a true human...before [man] became cluttered by civilization."

"The Race—Day 4"

The race proceeds over Rainy Pass and down a dangerous gorge. Worried that he might lose his team along the treacherous passage, Paulsen foolishly ties his left arm to his sled, and is promptly knocked off the vehicle and dragged along painfully as the dogs careen down the steep terrain. Fortunately, he is not killed, but when the ordeal finally ends, he is "tattered, bleeding, ragged." He spends the rest of the day recovering.

"The Race—Day 5"

Upon reaching the Rhone River checkpoint, each contestant is required to take a tweny-four hour layover. Paulsen finds that the area where he must sojourn is "the most beautiful spot [he has] ever seen." He is on a small island on a frozen river, surrounded by mountains that rise up to the sky. It is like a cathedral, and although word circulates about mushers who have been maimed and killed in various mishaps, Paulsen remains placid; he knows the rumors are not true. The author gets some much-needed rest and is renewed in body and spirit.

"The Race—Day 6"

The Burn is "a ninety-mile wide stretch of broken country where a forest fire took everything out." There is not much snow here, and...

(This entire section contains 776 words.)

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the going is exceptionally difficult. The sled jams repeatedly against burned trees, and Paulsen must stop each time and saw himself free. He continues to hallucinate, and when the wind kicks up and snow begins to fall, the dogs lose their way. Exhausted, Paulsen cannot think, and kneels beside his sled in surrender. Amazingly, the illusory Eskimo man who appeared to him previously when he was sick arrives, and again guides him until he has found his way out of the Burn.

"The Race—Day 7"

Things are going well again when "in the middle of nowhere," he comes upon a bar, and a man offers Paulsen a soda. Out of kindness, the man slips three cans of the refreshing liquid into Paulsen's sled, but the cans soon burst and soda soaks into the cloth booties used for the dogs. The lead dog, Wilson, cuts his foot and needs a bootie; he is captivated by the sweet smell and runs on three legs, sucking his foot. That night, Paulsen sees crowds of people cheering along the trail: he is hallucinating again.

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