Thursday, March 19, 2015

Iditarod 2015: Podium Positions Set as Race Continues Across Alaska

I wanted to post one last update on the 2015 Iditarod sled dog race before moving on for another year. While the winner of the race has been crowned, and all of the podium positions are now set, there are still a number of mushers and their teams of dogs still out on the course. Some won't reach the finish line for several days yet, and conditions out on the trail remain very cold. "The Last Great Race" doesn't end when the first person crosses the finish line, and for those still racing it is a test of their skill and endurance. 

Yesterday morning Dallas Seavey claimed his third victory in the last four years, with his only loss coming in 2013 when his father Mitch won instead. The Seavey Iditarod dynasty is in full force this year once again, as yesterday Mitch finished second, reaching Nome nearly an hour and a half ahead of third place finisher Aaron Burmeister. Two ladies battled for fourth and fifth spots over the final couple of days, with Jessie Royer crossing the finish line almost three hours ahead of Aliy Zirkle. Since then, another 12 racers have arrived in Nome, leaving 51 teams to still arrive at the finish. 10 others who started in Anchorage have scratched along the way. 

At the moment, Cindy Abbott is running in last place out of the checkpoint at Kaltag. That leaves her with roughly 346 miles (556 km) yet to go before she is done. If she does manage to make it to Nome, she'll receive the traditional red lantern that goes to the final finisher. This is a badge of honor for having the strength and determination to see the race through to the end, no matter where you finish. 

As for the Seaveys, they're enjoying a much deserved and needed rest after a long race. But no doubt they're already thinking about next year, when they'll probably be battling it out at the top of the leaderboard once again. For Dallas, the sky is the limit in terms of the number of potential wins he could have for his career. The current record is five held by Rick Swenson, but surpassing that total now seems like a real possibility for a man who just turned 28 years old. 

For all of the talk about how this year's Iditarod was going to be easier and faster than year's past due to much of the course taking place on frozen rivers, it turned out to be just as difficult as ever. In order to finish – let alone win – this event, the mushers need to be highly focused, physically fit, and mentally prepared for the challenges of the trail. They also have to be in sync with their dogs, knowing when to let them run, and when it is time to rest. A 1000-mile (1600 km) dog sled race through the Alaskan backcountry is serious business, which is why this truly one of the most spectacular competitive events on the planet.

Congratulations once again to everyone who has already finished in Nome, and good luck to all of the other racers still out on the course.

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