Aily Zirkle and her team mush out of Anchorage on Saturday.
This weekend was Iditarod weekend in Anchorage & Willow. The ceremonial start to the “Last Great Race” was on Saturday in Alaska’s largest city. The race officially began, for the 52 competing mushers, outside of Willow the next day.
Sea ice image of Norton Sound; Satellite image credit: NASA
This year, the race will follow the southern route, which goes through the old mining town of Iditarod, the race’s namesake. Normally, mushers travel the sea ice of Norton Sound when they approach Nome. This year, however, the sea ice is at a minimum, and the trail has been routed over land, adding approximately 40 miles to the 1000 mile sled dog race.
The Last Great Race started this past weekend, and leaders arrived in the village of Takotna (Mile 329) on Tuesday night. Many mushers, including Mitch Seavey, who was leading at the time, stopped here for their mandatory 24 hour rest.
Norwegian, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, gambled and flew through Ophir (Mile 352) at 4:52am on Wednesday. Ulsom is expected to take his 24 hour layover further on down the historic trail in Iditarod.
Trail temperature was at 32 degrees on Wednesday, which will slow down travel. Depending on what happens with the weather, Ulsom’s gamble may or may not pay off. It should be noted that the 31 year old musher from Norway has never finished outside of the Top 10, and his best finish was last year when he came in fourth.
The next check point for Ulsom is the trail’s namesake: the abandoned mining town of Iditarod. The first musher to enter Iditarod, the halfway point in the southern route, gets $3000 worth of gold nuggets. Ulsom, is still running a full team of 16 dogs.
A musher comes into the Nikolai checkpoint. Photo credit: Loren Holmes/ADN
Mitch Seavey, with lead dogs Pilot & Crisp in Nome. Photo credit:AP
Mitch Seavey, of Seward, Alaska, won his third Iditarod. Not only did Seavey beat his own record on being the oldest to win the Iditarod at age 57, but he also won the race in record time: 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds.
The elder Seavey already won “The Last Great Race” in 2013 at the age of 53.
Dallas Seavey took second place, with Nicolas Petit coming into Nome five minutes later for third.
As of 09:46am Monday, two time Iditarod winner, Mitch Seavey, was the only musher out of Koyuk. Nicolas Petit had arrived at Koyuk, approximately 45 minutes after Seavey had left. Defending champion, Dallas Seavey, Mitch’s son, was out of Shaktoolik, and running in third.
When asked about Mitch’s performance, Dallas had this to say about his dad: “He’s beating the crap out of us and everybody else in this race. I’m not upset, I’m impressed and kudos to him”. Dallas Seavey is looking for his fifth Iditarod title.
There is 171 miles of trail between the village of Koyuk and the burled arch in Nome.