Iditarod Live: The Sled Blog

Polar bear patrol with Sebastian Schnuelle - 11/15/2012 6:09 pm

Seavey on why he sued: 'I feel like I'm doing the right thing' - 5/22/2012 5:14 pm

Jonrowe wins dog care award; Mackey honored for sportsmanship - 3/18/2012 9:44 pm

Happy trails - 3/16/2012 2:47 pm

Third-place Ramey Smyth: 'I almost didn't get to the start line' - 3/16/2012 7:15 am

Meet the Sled Dogs: Colleen & Penny - 3/15/2012 7:09 pm

WATCH: Rapping dog musher finishes Iditarod, raps about the race - 3/15/2012 3:37 pm

Mackey: 'It wasn't the stellar performance I was expecting' - 3/15/2012 12:47 pm

Polar bear patrol with Sebastian Schnuelle

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Former Yukon Quest champ and Iditarod veteran Sebastian Schnuelle was in Churchill, Manitoba, this month, and boy does he have some photos to share.

Located on the shore of the Hudson Bay, Churchill is famous for polar bear viewing. Schnuelle shows why, in these photos made Nov. 11 through Nov. 13 and posted here with permission.

All pictures and video courtesy of Schnuelle, who helped us cover the 2012 Iditarod by driving a snowmachine the length the trail. Check out some of his all-access race photos here

"These are the first three bears. There is an old wheat dump, where they feed on the fermented wheat.
Here they are having an afternoon nap and some sparring.""These are the first three bears. There is an old wheat dump, where they feed on the fermented wheat.
Here they are having an afternoon nap and some sparring."

"Old fort."

"The ship is the Ithaca which wrecked in 1959."

"Sea ice forming."

"Churchill at sunset, from Heli."

"The Northern Lights shots where on the same night as the lights lit up over Alaska on the 13th. It was neat to think, that this was the night where the bears headed out in mass exodus onto the ice.

"The next morning, except for a few stragglers, all there was left was tracks in the snow."

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Seavey on why he sued: 'I feel like I'm doing the right thing'

Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News photo.Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News photo.

Anchorage Daily News

Mitch Seavey doesn’t want to talk about his finger.

The 2004 Iditarod champion brushed aside questions about the cockeyed, damaged digit on his right hand during a short interview today at a Midtown coffee house. What Seavey wants people to know, he said, is why he filed a controversial lawsuit against an Oregon-based knife maker.

“My goal is to get the knife off the market,” Seavey said of the Kershaw folding blade with which he nearly severed his finger in the 2011 sled dog race.

“At some point I feel like it’s my responsibility to step forward and do something. Even if it’s not maybe a popular thing in everyone’s mind,” he said.

Seavey filed the lawsuit in Bethel state Superior Court in December, court records show. The case was later moved to federal court, and became public in a Daily News story earlier this month.

The musher's right: Not everyone approved of the suit. Some fans criticized the move while fellow former champion Lance Mackey blamed the trail-side mishap on carelessness. Product liability complaints routinely draw a backlash from online readers, and this story was no different.

In Seavey’s case, the musher is arguing that the knife suffers a major design flaw that prompts it to close unexpectedly when used as intended.

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Jonrowe wins dog care award; Mackey honored for sportsmanship

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Just a quick note to pass along the winners of the coveted humanitarian award for best dog care (DeeDee Jonrowe) and other honors tonight at the finishers' banquet in Nome.

Pen Air Spirit of Alaska Award - Aliy Zirkle

GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award – Jim Lanier

Wells Fargo Bank Alaska Gold Coast Award - Aliy Zirkle

Nome Kennel Club Fastest Time from Safety to Nome Award - Mike Williams, Jr.

Horizon Lines Most Improved Musher Award - Rohn Buser

Jerry Austin Rookie of the Year – Brent Sass

Fred Meyer Sportsmanship Award – Lance Mackey

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Happy trails

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

We're back in Anchorage today after a fantastic two weeks on the trail. A big thanks from photographer Marc Lester and me to everyone who followed along on the blog, on and in the paper.

Among the moments I'll remember from this year's race: Sitting at the Nikolai schoolhouse cafeteria at 1 a.m. with raspy-voiced Scott Janssen, listening to his tale of the mouth-to-snout resuscitation of Marshall as the musher's chicken soup grew cold. Or circling the Cessna 185 in slow, wide turns above the Bering Sea coast as we waited for Aliy Zirkle to cross the bare ice for Marc to make this shot.

I always feel lucky to be part of covering the race and it was a particular treat to work with Armchair Musher Sebastian Schnuelle this year.

Hope to see you next year.

Marc LesterMarc Lester


Kyle Hopkins. (Sebastian Schnuelle photo.)Kyle Hopkins. (Sebastian Schnuelle photo.)

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Third-place Ramey Smyth: 'I almost didn't get to the start line'

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

Willow musher Ramey Smyth is the only racer to finish in the top three of each of the past two Iditarods. A ferocious finisher known for surging on competitors late in the race, he said it's been frustrating to come so close only to return home without a win.

Here's the 2012 third-place finisher on how he plans to leap from runner-up to champion, his retiring lead dog "Scott," and how the cost of running the Iditarod nearly prompted him to drop out this year.

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Meet the Sled Dogs: Colleen & Penny

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

Musher: Colleen Robertia, Kasilof
Gender: Female
Position: Leader
Age: 7

It’s a children’s book waiting to happen. The Iditarod musher turns to the littlest sled dog to steer her through the tempest and arrive in Nome.

“As I was going through the challenges in this year’s race, like that big windstorm that people had heard about, that little female I have in lead did it,” Robertia, 35, said under the burled arch. “She went through that windstorm better than I could have. “

Here’s Robertia describing her mousy leader, Penny, in her own words:

Colleen Robertia, with lead dog Penny, finished the Iditarod in 10 days, 10 hours and 4 minutes, placing 21st. (Sebastian Schnuelle photo.)Colleen Robertia, with lead dog Penny, finished the Iditarod in 10 days, 10 hours and 4 minutes, placing 21st. (Sebastian Schnuelle photo.)

What’s so impressive is that she’s so little and I don’t think most kennels would give her the chance to be on a dog team really, she’s tiny.

I’m sure today she only weighs about 25 pounds. It’s been a long, cold couple of days. She’ll probably be up to 30 by next weekend though.

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WATCH: Rapping dog musher finishes Iditarod, raps about the race

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

This clip of rapping dog musher Braxton Peterson was filmed moments after the 25-year-old finished in 28th place in the Iditarod. His dogs paced and slept a few yards away.

That's Lance Mackey's stepson, 2011 Iditarod veteran Cain Carter, joining in. The duo, known as "The Musherz," plan to perform tonight at the "Board of Trade" bar here in Nome.

Read much more about the Mackey Kennel's unique brand of sled-dog hip-hop here.

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Mackey: 'It wasn't the stellar performance I was expecting'

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey wrapped Chatanika musher Jodie Bailey in a hug today as the two Yukon Quest veterans parked side-by-side on the finish line.

Mackey arrived at 11:17 a.m., about 26 minutes ahead of Bailey, who chased him across the Bering Sea coast into Nome.

“I knew I couldn’t catch you, but I wanted you to know I was there," Bailey said.

"Great day to finish the race," Mackey replied in the cold Nome sunshine. "(It’s) 5 O’clock somewhere.”

Still, it was another disappointing year for the Mackey faithful. The Fairbanks musher and cancer survivor conquered the sport with annual victories between 2007 and 2010 before falling to 16th place last year.

I'm struggling to find a consistent Internet connection here in Nome, but I’ll post a clip of the interview with Mackey if possible. For now, here’s the musher in his own words as he talked today about placing 22nd in the race he so recently dominated:

On a positive note, they (the dogs) aint completely thrashed. I’m not completely thrashed. … No, it wasn’t the stellar performance I was expecting.

I made it. I’m not even supposed to be doing this s—t, remember? I was thinking about it earlier today. This is comparable to NASCAR in my opinion. In NASCAR, you have a bad pit crew, or one person in your pit crew has a bad day, it throws off your whole pit crew.

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WATCH: Father and son Busers stage a photo finish

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

DeeDee Jonrowe knows Nome. Over four decades, she’s steered dog teams into the burled arch finish line 27 times.

She knows the Buser boys too. A family friend of four-time champion Martin Buser and his 22-year-old son Rohn, Jonrowe once sent a litter of puppies named after Sarah Palin’s children to a kind of “summer camp” at the Buser kennel in Big Lake.

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Quest champ Hugh Neff on why he couldn't pull a Mackey and win the Iditarod too

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

2012 Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff just arrived in 17th place, passing under the burled arch minutes after Canadian musher Michelle Phillips.

I asked Neff what his expectations had been for the Iditarod, given he'd won the arguably tougher Quest just weeks before.

"Obviously, everybody was building up me trying to win this race as well," Neff said. "But 150 miles into the race realized that not too many people can win the Iditarod with a bunch of 2-year-olds and yearlings in their team. It's really not feasible."

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High stakes: The two mistakes that derailed Ken Anderson's Iditarod

Ken Anderson of Fairbanks arrives at the Iditarod finish line today in 12th place. Anderson said he'd hoped for a better finish, but two seemingly small mistakes knocked him out of contention. U.S. Coast Guard photo.Ken Anderson of Fairbanks arrives at the Iditarod finish line today in 12th place. Anderson said he'd hoped for a better finish, but two seemingly small mistakes knocked him out of contention. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

If you made one big mistake in the merciless 2012 Iditarod, you lost your shot at the win. Two blunders? Top ten was out of the question.

Just ask Ken Anderson of Fairbanks.

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Dallas Seavey: 'It's all you can do to not come to tears'

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

Here's what the view was like under the burled arch Tuesday, moments after 25-year-old Dallas Seavey became the youngest-ever musher to win the Iditarod. Watch Seavey talk with reporters about his dogs, his competitors, and why he didn't always feel as confident as he appeared.

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Top rookie: Salmon-fueled Sass is a musher to watch

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

Running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is normally a surefire weight-loss plan. Lose 19 pounds in nine days!

But despite constant pedaling and ski-poling from the runners of his sled, Eureka musher Brent Sass looked in the mirror today and realized he’d actually packed on pounds during the 975-mile marathon from Willow to Nome.

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Day 11: Your top 10 Iditarod finishers

Beth Bragg in Anchorage --

WEDNESDAY, 9:30 a.m. update -- Even though five of the mushers in the top 10 of this year's race were also in the top 10 of last year's race, it feels like a new guard has emerged.

"It's pretty cool to look up here and see a bunch of new names," Iditarod veteran Jessie Royer, who didn't race this year, said Tuesday in White Mountain as she and Aaron Burmeister checked out the standings.

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Video: Aliy & Dallas catch up after a historic Iditarod

From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --

One of my favorite moments from this year's race:

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Audio: Dallas Seavey discusses his Iditarod victory

Dallas Seavey heads for the burled arch.Dallas Seavey heads for the burled arch.

Dallas Seavey discusses his run to victory in the 2012 Iditarod shortly after his arrival in Nome.

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Grumpy mushers make for grumpy sled dogs

From Kyle Hopkins in White Mountain --

Happy mushers make for happy dogs. And vice versa, Iditarod racers say. Watch a few of the 2012 competitors -- not to mention Armchair Musher Sebastian Schnuelle -- explain why you have to put on a happy face if you want your dogs to run.

Just don't fake it.

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Seavey leads way into Nome

Note: We have updated this with a story about the race's finish Tuesday night.

TUESDAY, 6:45 p.m. update --

Aliy Zirkle is out of Safety and headed for Nome, while a crowd on that city's Front Street awaits the arrival of Dallas Seavey.

Zirkle left Safety at 4:51 p.m. Tuesday, 69 minutes after Seavey left the final checkpoint before Nome. Just 22 miles separate Safety from the finish line.

TUESDAY, 4:15 p.m. update --

Dallas Seavey is out of Safety and on his way to Nome.

The 25-year-old is 22 miles away from becoming the youngest Iditarod champion in race history.

Seavey arrived in Safety at 3:37 p.m. Tuesday, stayed for five minutes and left at 3:42 with nine dogs in harness.

It should take him about three hours, maybe a little less, to reach the finish line.

Dallas makes his final push toward Nome. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)Dallas makes his final push toward Nome. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)

TUESDAY, 4 p.m. update --

Tom Thurston of Colorado scratched Tuesday in Unalakleet, citing concern for his dogs. He was running eight on his team at the time.

Thurston, of Oak Creek, was in his fifth Iditarod with his best finish coming last year when he placed 41st.

He is the 11th racer to end his race before reaching the Nome finish line. The race began March 4 with 66 mushers in the field.

Aliy leaves White Mountain (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)Aliy leaves White Mountain (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)

Dallas prepares to leave White Mountain. (Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News)Dallas prepares to leave White Mountain. (Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News)

* * *

TUEDAY, 9:45 a.m. update --

Aliy Zirkle has left White Mountain, chasing Iditarod leader Dallas Seavey west to Nome. Zirkle must overcome a 71-minute deficit, a nearly impossible task unless Seavey falters along the way.

As Zirkle disappeared, Seavey's father Mitch arrived a few yards behind defending champion John Baker.

When Zirkle first arrived overnight at White Mountain, she said she would focus on outpacing the racers behind her and that Seavey was out of reach. But the musher has also said today that she'll make a run at chasing the 25-year-old down.

Zirkle said she's avoiding the temptation to think about what might have been in the 2012 Iditarod, and is looking to the final stretch ahead.

"I'm not going to have a frustrated run," Zirkle said. "I've had frustrated runs in the past from here and, nah, I'm not going to do that."

Ramey Smyth, 36, was scheduled to leave in third place at 10:17 a.m. Smyth said illness hobbled the team early in the race. Smyth dropped multiple young dogs such as "Yak" and "Walrus" that suffered from diarrhea and vomiting, he said.

The stomach bug wasn't the team's only misadventure. On the first day of the Iditarod, Smyth fell asleep on the sled and tumbled off, he said.

Smyth ran after the dogs for 40 minutes before receiving a 10-minute sled ride and tracking them down.

Could Smyth, who leaped from 30th to third place in the latter two thirds of the race, have won under other circumstances?

"I almost guarantee it," he said.

The Iditarod winner takes home a $50,400 check and a Dodge pickup.

8:25 a.m. UPDATE:

Iditarod leader Dallas Seavey just pulled his team out of White Mountain headed for Nome. It's a 77-mile trip with a stop at the checkpoint in Safety.

Aliy Zirkle, in second place, can leave at 9:25 a.m. She and Ramey Smyth, who can leave at 10:17 a.m., are both up and tending to their sleds.

Seavey said he expects to reach Nome around 6 p.m. The Iditarod put out an announcement this morning saying to expect a finish between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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The payday list: How much each of the top finishers will win

From Kyle Hopkins in White Mountain --

The top 30 finishers in Iditarod 2012 will take home a combined $550,000. Here's the list, by position, according to Iditarod officials:

-- 1st

-- 2nd

-- 3rd

-- 4th

-- 5th

-- 6th

-- 7th

-- 8th

-- 9th

-- 10th

-- 11th

-- 12th

-- $18,200

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Mitch Seavey: '(Dallas)' has it sewn up'

From Kyle Hopkins in White Mountain --

Commanding a once-promising team of “sick and tired” dogs, former champion Mitch Seavey appears out of the running for a 2012 Iditarod win.

His huskies became ill, suffering from diarrhea and occasional vomiting, before they reached the Yukon River, Seavey said. "If things had gone better it was a first class team."

"Now we'll just chug on in," he said.

The 52-year-old entered the race with what he considered one of his fastest-ever Iditarod teams and has been running to win a second title. In a way, he said, it’s been a heartbreaking journey.

One of Seavey's toughest competitors has been his son and, he says, best friend, 25-year-old Dallas.

"If I were on the sidelines not racing, obviously I'd want him to win. And yet I'm trying to race to win, so there's a conflict there," the elder Seavey said today in Koyuk, where he left in 5th place shortly before 1 p.m.

Dallas is leading the race tonight according to the satellite tracker. Barring any surprises, the younger Seavey has the win in hand, his father said at about noon.

"He's got it sewn up if he does what he knows how to do, and that's run dogs," Mitch said.

Here’s more from the 2004 Iditarod champion.

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