The Burled Arch of Nome
By: Michael Rogers
The 2019 Iditarod Champion is Pete Kaiser of Bethel with an arrival time in Nome of 3:39a for a total elapsed race time of 9 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes and 6 seconds.
Joar Ulsom of Norway, who claimed second place, joined him in the chute just 12 minutes later. Jessie Royer with a fantastic run claimed 3rd at 9:34a this morning in her 17th race to Nome. Aliy Zirkle finished her 19th Iditarod race in 4th place at 5:26p for her 8th Top Ten finish. For Aliy, it’s maybe described as “always a bridesmaid and never a bride” much to the disappointment of her legion of fans. Zirkle frequently gets more cheers than the actual winner when she’s in the chute. Travis Beals has claimed 5th with an excellent run this evening at 6:37p.
Still on the trail and rounding out the Top Ten are Paige Drobny at Mile 985, Matt Hall at Mile 984, Ramey Smith at Mile 974, Mitch Seavey at 970, and Aaron Burmeister at Mile 966. I would suspect at least one or two position changes before they hit Nome as the back of the top ten has been very competitive to date. The top ten should all be across the line by around midnight tonight.
Jesse Holmes has finally departed Elim after 36 hours of rest. He had run in the front pack consistently and had what is arguably the fastest team on the course until a stomach virus reportedly hit his team hard. Well off his earlier pace, he crept into Elim at 1.32 miles per hour. Food is the fuel of a sled dog and during racing they can burn over 13,000 calories per day. Even a mildly disruptive stomach ailment can render a team stationary. Well wishes to Jesse as he limps his outstanding team toward Nome. I would wager we would see him next year in his third Iditarod race. Matt Failor has similarly fell from the front pack to the middle as well.
Also stationary is current Red Lantern Blair Braverman who left Kaltag at 9:48a yesterday and made it nearly to Old Woman Cabin is a series of fits and starts. She then reversed back up the trail toward Kaltag and arrived at Tripod Flats Cabin at 7:15p and hasn’t moved in the last 24 hours. I would suspect a similar issue as Holmes with her team as well. Just down the trail in Unalakleet, Sebastien Dos Santos Borges has scratched at 5:25p with 11 dogs in harness. Much like Braverman, his run from Kaltag took over 40 hours and his team is clearly not running well.
At this point in the race, the middle pack is stretched from Koyuk to Elim and is made up of up and comers just getting Iditarod experience and some mushing legends like King, Buser, and Mackey just doing what they love and taking more time to enjoy it. The back of the pack is stretched from Koyuk back to Tripod Flats and is made up largely of rookies or folks with just a race or two under their belt. One exception is Cindy Gallea of Wykoff, MN; this is her 15th Iditarod and she generally finishes in the 12 to 14 day mark. At 67 years young and a fraction of her age tough, she’s only scratched twice since her first race in 1998. She said of this year’s race, “I’d decided to retire from the Iditarod…a couple of times before…but here I am, back for one more run.” For her, this race has always been about the dogs and the allure of the North.