By all accounts, today is the day. Projected to be late today, we will crown a winner for the 2013 Iditarod Trail sled dog race. Yesterday was a day of rolling the dice, taking chances, and guessing what other competitors might be doing. We all watched as Jeff King pushed straight through Koyuk yesterday with plans to move to Elim for a rest. In this article, Jeff was asked why he was stopping often on the trail between Koyuk and Elim. His response was, “My plan was to just work my way slowly from Koyuk to Elim, but I quickly realized the trail was soft and I wasn’t going to make it without some rest. The sun was coming up and it was so warm. I was drunk with exhaustion.” I mentioned that it was 'his race to lose' previously. Did he make the wrong decision? Was the push through Koyuk too much? It may have looked like it. Being first over the trail with poor conditions does no leader any favors when making a daring move such as that. With King being forced to take a rest, Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle overcame Jeff's small lead and were first and second, respectively, into White Mountain. The numbers speak volumes here and what might mean the most is the 35 minutes that Zirkle whittled into the lead that Seavey had between the previous checkpoints. Into White Mountain, the times look like this:
Basically, this spells out that Mitch has a slight 13 minute lead on Zirkle. Opinions of bystanders were that Zirkle was much more chipper and appeared to be less fatigued than Seavey. That said, Seavey is no slouch in this sport and can certainly dig deep when needed, and I would guess that he knows if his dogs can as well. 77 miles separate the leaders from the finish line in Nome, and with King being only marginally less than 2 hours behind, it still may be a bit much for him to overcome after his exhausting push yesterday that did not turn out like he was hoping.
Mental and physical toughness are what's going to make a winner today. The son of Mitch Seavey, Dallas, rolled into White Mountain at 08:09 this morning, just under 3 hours behind his father, with Ray Redington Jr. on his heels just two minutes behind. Sources say they were both joking with each other and the scene was much different than the mushers of their senior who pulled in hours previously. Youth and vigor might take over if there was more trail to be had, but it would have to be 77 miles of pure misery for the top 3 right now for one of these younger competitors to break the ribbon on the finish line.
I would not be surprised to see the top three finishers mirror the current standings. I would also not be surprised to see Aliy Zirkle pass Mitch Seavey to take the top spot. Jeff King could certainly pull something out of his hat, but I feel he is solidly in third position right now. As far as 4th and 5th, Dallas and Ray can battle that out between themselves. :)