Iditarod 2020 - March 17th

Episode 10- Elim to Safety

By Michael Rogers

Tuesday has been all about Thomas Waerner. The Norwegian has run a brilliant race and is well on his way to becoming the third of his countrymen to win the Iditarod. At this writing, he is closing in on Safety with a commanding lead over 2nd place musher Mitch Seavey. Unless something extraordinary happens, he will cross under the Burled Arch in just a few hours, likely around midnight. Coming off their 8-hour rest in White Mountain, his team was howling to take the trail. While there is a 5-hour lead from Waerner to Seavey, the gaps from 2nd through 5th are all within a couple of hours of each other. We should see some competitive racing in the lead pack. 

Safety Checkpoint 20 miles from Nome.
PC: Jeff Schultz/ Consider becoming a patron of Jeff's photos at

Mitch Seavey is currently out of White Mountain with 10 dogs at 6:49pm and Jesse Royer left at 7:40pm with 13 dogs in harness pulling hard to catch him. Sass can’t leave until 9:30pm followed by Aaron Burmeister within minutes of his departure. Aaron had to return to Koyuk to drop off a dog that was sore and he yielded position and time. Leaving within a 30-minute span beginning at 11:11pm will be Joar Ulsom, Paige Drobny, Ryan Reddington, Wade Marrs, and Travis Beals. Some of the best action of the entire race will be this pack of 5 gunning for position all the way to Nome. Look for a tight drag race between Joar and Paige. 

One of Paige Drobny's dogs.
Photo by Julien Schroder of Arctic Mood Photography

The chase pack including Jesse Holmes, Raymie Smyth, Michelle Phillips and the likely rookie of the year Mille Porslid are all resting in White Mountain, waiting for the clock to expire and allow them to continue to Nome. Nic Petit and Lance Mackey are both in Elim after successfully navigating Norton Sound last night. Aily Zirkle is on her way to White Mountain. All racers have a mandatory 8 hour in White Mountain and most of them are glad to have it.

Michelle Phillips of Tagish, YT, CANADA on a training run.

Resting in Unalakleet, last minute musher John Schandelmeier is giving his team some extra rest. They were off their food at Old Woman Cabin and he had trouble getting them going again. Luckily, Damon Ramaker came by and John was able to follow them to Unalakleet. He’ll proceed up the trail when they’ve had a chance to recover. Quince Mountain got his team moving and to Kaltag, maintaining the Red Lantern. Scratches today are fan favorites the Berrington twins, Kristy and Anna, in Unalakleet citing a death in their family. They had 8 and 10 dogs in harness respectively.

Kristy Berington rounds the corner at Cordova and 4th avenue in Anchorage with her Iditarider during the 2019 ceremonial start of the Iditarod. Photo by: Jeff Schultz/

Larry Daughtery ended his run in Kaltag with 13 dogs on the line. Aaron Peck scratched out of Unalakleet with 11 dogs and  Jeremy Keller arrived back in Willow this morning without incident.

One of the unexpected players in this race, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven less of a factor than it might have. Checkpoints were hastily moved and arranged, and in the case of Shaktoolik- an abandoned town came to life in just a few hours. Nome, normally a significant multi-day party post Iditarod will see after race activities curtailed. The Musher’s Banquet will be postponed and likely moved to Anchorage. The Iditarod is a relatively unique sporting event in that is takes the better part of two weeks to run and the world stage changed from the start to the end this year. It was only through the diligent effort of a lot of volunteers that the race continued with minimal impact on the teams.

Photo by Jeff Schultz
Consider becoming a patron of Jeff's photos at

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published